Down to the sea

Barbara Dyer: Socializing and such, before television

Myrtle Wheeler really had music in her and students learned. She kept time with a knitting needle and if a pupil hit the wrong note, she would poke a little with her needle
Sun, 04/05/2015 - 10:45pm

Before the days of television, people belonged to groups to enjoy each other and to have a common interest. They looked forward to their time out, all dressed up and enjoying the social connection.

The first Girl Scout Troup was formed in Camden in 1934. Veronica Cammoni Whysong started the first Brownie Troop and when the girls were 10 years of age. They were Troop No. 1 and wore yellow kerchiefs around their necks.

Later, more girls were interested so a second group was formed, and they wore red kerchiefs. Nellie Thomas was their leader for many years.

The first group pictured here met at the old YMCA.  During the Depression, no family had money for uniforms, so Thomas Watson, Sr., who formed the IBM Corporation, gave the girls $50 toward uniforms.  Each parent only had to put $1 with it and they had nice uniforms. They are nearly antiques now, so the Walsh History Center has one for the keeping. 

A group of women loved to bowl and were very competitive.  Every Friday night the Condors bowled against another team at the YMCA.  The women were well known in Camden, but I believe, as it was in 1944, only one bowler is still living. She was only 20 when they asked her to join them, and most of them had children her age.

The Maiden’s Cliff Rebekahs held their installation for officers each year: Noble grand, the vice-grand, secretary and treasurer. Bessie Bowers and Lillian Herrick were active in this organization. They dressed in long gowns, had their hair done and ate at table set for the finest dining at their banquet.

Another was a men’s group, who dressed in their finest for their concerts. They met weekly and were quite an array of wonderful voices of all ages. The Camden Men’s Chorus was led by Robert Laite and Edna Rollins was at the piano. It was a large wonderful group of local men, with such nice voices that everyone enjoyed their concerts.

Camden High School always had girls and boys basketball teams. The picture is of the girls team in 1941. Their uniforms were of red satin with grey numbers and lettering, as the school colors were crimson and grey. 

They wore short shorts, not like the baggy ones of today. They played in two courts, rather than the whole length of the floor as the boys played.  By 1942, there was talk of cancelling girls’ basketball completely, as it was too strenuous; however, someone had second thoughts and the girls played a full court and had some great teams.

Then there were always music lesson groups. The picture is one of Myrtle Wheeler’s classes.  She really had music in her and they learned.  She kept time with a knitting needle and if a pupil hit the wrong note, she would poke a little with her knitting needle.

They all learned to play and held recitals so the parents could hear how good they were.

“The Busy Fingers’ Club” was started after World War II was over. 

Some of the girls who had been in school all 13 years with each other missed seeing them and decided they would meet once a week and do what each one liked to do.

Mary Hatch belonged to a federated woman’s club in Rockland and the girls decided they should become one in Camden and belong to the General Federation.

That was the start of the Camden Junior Women’s Club. 

When they reached age 30, they felt they no longer were “juniors” and it became The Camden Women’s Club that lasted about 40 years. 

They had three large projects a year, and gave the money raised to the community for schools or whatever was in need. 

One year, they were one of 10 General Federated Clubs in the United States to receive a prize for Community Improvement. The judges came to Camden and were hosted by the club for a silver tea.

The Town of Camden even swept the street early, so it would look clean in April. 

Marion Village Restaurant had a dinner for the Camden Club and the judges free of charge.  It was proclaimed “Camden Woman’s Club Day” by the State of Maine. The club ended up winning $1,000, which was a lot of money in those days, and the club divided it up among our schools for equipment.

There were many other groups in Camden, at that time, not mentioned in this article.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all of her life, so far.

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