Lunch and munch: Pontotoc Woman’s Club provides noon meal for library’s monthly book program

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

It turns out there is such a thing as a free lunch.
On the second Thursday of every month, a group of folks gathers at the Pontotoc County Library for the Lunching with Books series. And at these meetings, a delicious meal is provided by the Pontotoc Woman’s Club.
“From the beginning, the Pontotoc County Library has been one of our pet projects,” said Whitney Smith, the club’s vice president. “We were founded in 1938 as the Child Welfare Club and the goal was the improvement of community and education among our youth.”
The name was changed to the Pontotoc Woman’s Club in 1952. In 1977, when the library began its Lunching with Books series, club members stepped up and volunteered to provide the lunches at no charge to participants. They usually serve between 30 and 50 guests.
For each library event, a hostess is chosen and she picks three or four members to help her with the meal. Each of these committees provides the lunch once a year. The club has 52 active members and six associate or honorary members.
“The main hostess decides the theme and what will be served,” Smith said. “Most of her helpers have day jobs. The hostess usually doesn’t work outside the home, so she organizes everything and does the decorating.”
At the September event held last week, Vickey Gray was the hostess and her helpers were Valerie Caden, Carrie Stringer and Ashley Tutor.
“The speaker was Rheta Grimsley Johnson and she always draws a crowd here,” Smith said. “Because the speaker was popular, we knew we’d have a larger crowd and couldn’t use the tables so Vickey went with sack lunches so that people could eat in their laps.”
The sack lunches contained either chicken salad or pimiento cheese sandwiches made by the Candy Bar in Pontotoc, chips, and a chocolate chip cookie from Endville Bakery and Catering Co. in Tupelo. Bottled water was provided.
But these weren’t ordinary sack lunches.
In keeping with the spirit of the day – Johnson was talking about her newest book about the late country singer/songwriter Hank Williams, “Hank Hung the Moon and Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts,” – Gray decided on a Western theme.
“I took titles from Hank’s songs and wrote them on the bags and stamped them with a cowboy hat and attached a red bandanna napkin on top,” Gray said. “I arranged the sack lunches in a guitar case and blew up a book jacket for the display and hung a cowboy hat on it.”
Gray also placed a lasso on the case, used a galvanized tub to hold water bottles and filled a pair of cowboy boots with flowers from her garden.
“I put a guitar in an empty chair in the front of the room to make it look like Hank had just been there playing. I think we have a good atmosphere,” she said. “If I had had more time I probably would have done jambalaya or some kind of food from Rheta’s book,” she said.
Smith said many months the food is more substantial than a sack lunch, especially in the cooler months.
“Last November, we had vegetable soup and potato soup and wild rice chowder and cornbread muffins,” Smith said. “We have a lot of good cooks in this club. We’re a little family and we step up to help each other. That’s what our club is all about.”

Want to Go?
The next Lunching with Books at the Pontotoc County Library will be Oct. 11 and the speaker will be Tony Kinton, outdoor writer and author of “Summer Lighting Distant Thunder,” the first novel in his Wagon Road Trilogy.

Click video to hear audio