By Hilda B. Hoham
Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Ogden Dunes Woman’s Club had an active membership of 50 to 60 women who regularly attended the monthly meetings which were held the third Monday of the month from September through May, except in December when the Woman’s Club and the Book Club held a joint meeting the first Monday to celebrate Christmas. The meetings were held at the Ogden Dunes Community Church Fellowship Room with the exception of the October Salad Bar Bingo Party which was held at the Fire House and the May meeting which was installation of new officers held at a local restaurant. In 1964-65, I served as secretary when Irene Nelson (Mrs. Robert Nelson, Sr.) was president and she made a list of possible projects early in September which she wanted the Board to consider. Her suggestions were refurbishing some of the mail box racks, trying to improve the safety of Hillcrest Road at the railroad crossings, purchasing a community Christmas tree. There may have been others projects she mentioned, but these are the ones I remember. As of this date in 2006, all the mail racks have been refurbished through the joint efforts of the Town Street Department and the owners of the individual boxes at each rack. The entrance to the Town was improved about ten years ago with timed railroad gates, new stop lights, turn lanes and good roadways, thanks to the efforts of the Town Council and Tom Clouser, Town Council Member. But the one project that appealed to the Woman’s Club Board in 1964 was the Christmas tree. The Town had recently straightened Hillcrest Road, taking out the big bend to the east where there are several racks of mail boxes now. This formed that nice point of land which was a perfect spot for the Community Christmas Tree. Irene arranged with Linderman’s Nursery (which today in 2006 is Clarke Nursery on Highway 6 east of Meridian), and Mr. Anderson, Linderman’s son-in-law, walked us through their woods to show us four nice trees that were about 20 feet tall that he thought we would like. We all agreed on the same tree and Mr. Anderson assured us he could get his equipment in that area to dig up that tree for us. On that first Monday in December, the day of the Woman’s Club and Book Club Christmas Party Meeting, a crew of men arrived with huge equipment and this beautiful tree which cost about $200. It looked magnificent and it served very well and grew nicely for about 25 years. Mr. Ed Kratz was always very concerned because the tree seemed to have two tops and he thought one should be trimmed off, but Mr. Anderson assured us it would be all right and one top would dominate. Some time in the 1990’s, an ice storm took off a huge branch and destroyed the tree. Originally the Woman’s Club took the responsibility of decorating the tree at Christmas until 1988 when Marilyn Senior as president of the Woman’s Club made two suggestions. One was to change the name of the club to Ogden Dunes Women’s Club (instead of Ogden Dunes Woman’s Club) and the other was to turn the responsibility of decorating the Christmas Tree over to the Town. Both suggestions met with the approval of the membership and it was a good time for both changes. Marilyn also had an underground electric line put in to the tree for the lights to replace the electric cord from the nearest building. Through the years, they tried lighting the tree with flood lights, but that did not seem like Christmas and they went back to the Christmas lights. As the tree grew, it became more of a challenge to do the tree justice and the Town has always handled that challenge very well.
In 1965 when I was asked to serve as president, with utmost confidence, I accepted, little knowing what lay ahead in the year 1965-1966. Jane Warner (Mrs. Charles Warner) was vice president. Jeanette McDevitt (Mrs. Robert McDevitt) was secretary, and Lee Hibbs (Mrs. Duane Hibbs) was treasurer. Dot Paas (Mrs. Walter Paas, Sr.) was in charge of the phone books and did an excellent job for the club. Sally Olsen was Social chairman and since it was her responsibility to secure places to meet, she and I had some work ahead of us. You see, the Portage School System added kindergarten for the first time, which required adding class rooms to each elementary school. Due to the fact that the new school rooms would not be ready for use until January 1, 1966, the schools held classes for Ogden Dunes students elsewhere, places like the Fire House (grade 6) and Ogden Dunes Community Church Fellowship Room (grades 4 and 5). Grades 1, 2, and 3 met in a very old church building at Hope Lutheran Church (the building has since been razed), and kindergarten met at McCool Methodist Church. Up until that time, Ogden Dunes children attended classes in the old Crisman School (now also razed) at the corner of Crisman Road and Portage Avenue, and the old Crisman High School Building next door. In January 1966, when the new additions were finished, the Ogden Dunes children attended Jones Elementary School.
Some time in the middle of the summer of 1965, Grace Barnhardt, Church Secretary, phoned to tell me that the Woman’s Club would not be able to meet at either the Church or the Fire House. So Sally Olsen had to find four suitable places to meet, September, October, November and December. In September we met at the Izaak Walton Club House and it was the hottest day of the month. Joyce Sass was chairman of the Newcomers’ Tea with the program by Lenar Lindahl, Special Events Director of United Airlines. Jane Warner as vice president was program chairman and I must admit I gathered a lot of this program information from an old phone book at the Hour Glass House. I recall instead of the October Salad Bar Bingo Party which was always so much fun, we went to a rather newly built hotel in Miller on Highway 20 and everyone came and had dessert. As I recall Barb Homme was chairman of that social and the program was about Magic of Microwaves by General Telephone Co. In November our program was Famous and Curious Wills given by Walter Pickart, Sr., Past President of Gary Historical Society , and that was a wonderful afternoon. Mr. Pickart gave a very interesting program. We gathered at the meeting room in Chapel of the Dunes in Miller. For the December meeting with the Book Club, Sarah Bailey generously offered the use of her down stairs room for the Christmas Party. Margaret Benninger made her Christmas Glogg and Dorothy Foldessy gave a program entitled “Sparkle of Christmas.” By January we were back in the Fellowship Room at the Church and the program “Visual Poise and Physical Fitness” was given by Evelyn Lahaie of Evelyn’s House of Charm and Modeling. The February program was piano entertainment by Jim Doyle and Mr. Doyle charmed us with his talent and the songs he played.
Back in the summer of 1965, Jane Warner and I attended a show at Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute which consisted of maybe 20 presentations by people interested in giving programs. They would have about 5 minutes to give a short program and the presidents and program chairmen who attended the show would have the names and phone numbers of all these people. The first time we attended this show, Irene Nelson asked me if I would take her place as hostess for the morning. She assured me I would not have to do anything, which sounded good to me, just tell the woman at the door I was filling in for Irene as hostess. The hostesses appeared on stage at the beginning of the program and were introduced. Very simple. Except that as I stepped out on the stage with about 15 other women, I realized I was the only one with no hat and no gloves. Needless to say I was very embarrassed and luckily we were only on stage for a minute. After the show was over, Jane and I made a bee line for Fields where I bought a hat. (I was never asked back to be a hostess.) Some years later, the lady who organized the whole show week after week grew too old to continue and no one stepped in to do what she had been doing by herself for about 30 years. I just hope she received many thanks and praises for all her efforts.
The March program was a presentation we saw at the show at Fullerton Hall. Dale Messick was asking $300 to give her program, but when Jane Warner asked her to the Woman’s Club, Dale generously gave her program for free. Dale Messick lived in Ogden Dunes with her husband Carl Strom and her daughter Starr who attended Portage schools and graduated from Portage High School.. She lived at 3 Skyline Drive where Sandy and Mark Dvorscak live. As soon as I knew Dale Messick was coming to the March program, I told my mother who lived in Fort Wayne that she had to come to see it. My mother loved Brenda Starr and every Sunday she had the Chicago Tribune in Fort Wayne and we read Brenda Starr, because that was our favorite comic. Dale brought three chalk drawing and told how no one wanted to hire a female who created a comic strip. It just wasn’t done in the 1930’s, until she changed her name and submitted the comic strip to the Chicago Tribune. At the time they called her in for an interview, they thought Dale Messick was a male, and after interviewing her, they were intrigued and took a chance on her. They started publishing her comic and have continued to carry it to this day. The three drawings she brought were attendance prizes and the first name she called was “Martha Brandt,” my mother. Mom walked right up there and took the largest of the three pictures, framed it and hung it in her dining room over her sewing machine which she used every day of her life. Now I have it hanging in my living room and at one of the Tri Kappa antique shows, the dealer valued it at $800. Last year (editor’s note: 2005) Dale died and I really treasure her drawing.
At our April meeting, a fashion consultant, Ruth E. Eckhart, showed us fashion trends. May was the annual spring luncheon at Tinker’s Dam (now I believe it is the Hacienda) in Michigan City and the program was “Music from Musical Comedy” by Phyllis Graham and Children. At that luncheonPat Buzia was installed as president, and she had the very successful year with lots of good ideas, one of which was the New Years Eve Party. In the 1960’s alcohol could not be sold in restaurants on Sundays in Indiana and New Years Eve was on Sunday in 1966. Our New Years Eve parties usually had a floor show, a stand up comic of local talent, food, drinks and dancing. The parties were held for several years and were a huge success to the point they outgrew the Fire House, as well as the ability of the Women’s Club to sponsor them. There are some movies of them as well as murals painted by Arlene Sietzinger Miller (Mrs. Melvin Miller) which had been used as decorations for New Years Eve.
About 8 or 10 years ago Diane Thurber sent letters asking past presidents to chronicle their year as president of the Ogden Dunes Women’s Club, so after much thought and a little research, this is what I came up with. I hope you enjoyed it, because it has been fun to recall the good old days.