The spring of 2016 marks a milestone for the Cherokee Garden Club of Columbus. The group that formed in 1951 celebrates its 65th anniversary.
Not long ago, members took a stroll down Memory Lane, aided by veteran members’ reminiscences and some history gleaned from the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library archives.
“I went to the library and found the old scrapbooks; they’re amazing — all the old articles and great pictures,” said Margo Toledano, who joined the club about four years ago. Records show that Mrs. William Burgin presided as the first president of the club with 21 original members. Because many of them lived in the “Cherokee area” of north Columbus, the group adopted the name, as well as the Cherokee Rose as the club flower.
Early emphasis was on establishing home gardens, but members wasted little time getting to work in the community, Toledano noted. Several soon opened their homes for tour to raise funds for a civic beautification project. Flower shows, programs, guest presenters, teas and covered dish luncheons would follow in the years to come. There were also gardening workshops.
“We used to have workshops, and I mean when we had workshops, we worked!” chuckled longtime member Dot Langford. “We’d haul buckets of flowers, and the ones that really knew how to arrange them would show us how to do it.”
In the 1950s, members would each bring a floral arrangement created around an announced theme, such as a wedding tea or harvest table. There was also a period of time when the group often hit the road, taking day trips to points of botanical interest.
Veteran member Katherine Horton recalled, “When I first got in the club, Mrs. Dorothy Dale was a member, and she arranged for us to have a lot of out-of-town trips; we’d visit places like Birmingham and Tuscaloosa … ”
Scrapbook pages hold photos and documents that chronicle the life of the club, such as snapshots from an autumn river trip on the Tenn-Tom. Numerous Commercial Dispatch clippings include one of charter members Ruth Webb and Ruth Wallin planting shrubs in a downtown median in 1989. Photographs of elaborate holiday centerpieces at the S.D. Lee Home, new officer inductions and home tour planning committees also help tell the story.
In a program titled “Cherokee Tales” earlier this spring at the Senior Enrichment Center in east Columbus, veteran members — including Martha Bozeman, the remaining charter member — made up an informal panel. They shared memories and fielded questions, with Toledano as moderator.
“It was hilarious — it was wonderful,” said outgoing club president Katharine Woods McClanahan. “They told us about how they celebrated holidays and the teas they had back then and trips they had taken. We have learned so much from this group of ladies about an earlier Columbus, in the days when everybody wore gloves and hats.”
No matter how many years each member can claim, interests shared and friendships formed have created a bond.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Betty West Land. Only two members have longer tenure than hers, she said: Martha Bozeman and Brown Jones. “I’ve met some really nice ladies, and we always had wonderful programs and did interesting things.”
While some garden clubs in the past 65 years have come and gone, Cherokee has kept its enrollment up by recruiting new faces, Langford pointed out. It’s all about making a connection.
“You definitely make friends and stay friends, even if you don’t see them except when the club meets. You just pick up where you left off,” she said. “I’ve really met some people in there whose friendships I enjoy. There are a lot of those girls I would not have known otherwise.”
Toledano and other “newer” members are quick with credit for earlier members who helped Cherokee become and remain an active organization.
“These ladies are incredible. In their first year they were raising money to fund projects, and they were going to beautify downtown and then there they are, in pictures in the newspaper with shovels digging,” Toledano said with a smile. “These ladies should run Columbus.”
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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