They also enjoyed good food and fellowship.
Members, women all, met on Saturdays because many were teachers and unable to gather on a week day.
They made it an official federated, service club and called it the Saturday Reading Club. Officers were elected and annual dues were $1.50.
That was 100 years ago.
Today, the Saturday Reading Club continues living the motto first spoken by its charter members in 1910 – “We gather together to spread abroad.”
Officers are elected each year, but now annual dues are $10.
However, the club is no longer service-oriented. “It would be a rare exception,” said Frances Sheffield, 77, a club member since 1963. “Today, it’s mainly reading, reviewing and entertaining.”
Most members are retired educators or businesswomen. And they believe theirs is the oldest book club in Tupelo.
Book reviews are presented at each meeting – the second Saturday of the month – by a member, with guest reviewers sometimes invited.
Membership is limited to 25, “because we meet in homes,” said longtime member Wright Poland, 81, who joined the club when she moved to Tupelo in the early 1970s.
And today’s members still appreciate good food and fellowship.
On Saturday, the Saturday Reading Club will celebrate a century of reading with an afternoon tea at the home of club member Margaret Fikes, 1942 Pecan Grove. The public is invited to the celebration.
“We are looking forward to the tea,” Poland said. “And we hope others in book clubs or who love to read will join us.”
From 1910 until present day, members of the Saturday Reading Club have kept meticulous minutes.
The club’s recording secretaries through the years have recorded everything from roll calls and special guests to the hostess’ decorations and refreshments served.
“It was always understood those minutes were to be good, well-recorded,” said club historian Frances Williams. “I was so pleased to find out from old minutes that it was October 1979 when I became a member. I had thought it was in the ’80s.”
Early newspaper clippings gave the public a glimpse into the goings-on of the club.
In the Oct. 12, 1917, publication of The Tupelo Journal, the Saturday Reading Club’s service orientation became clear: “During September the members hemmed 10 pairs of sheets and one pair of pillow cases as their Red Cross work.”
“Back then, the work members did was for the war effort,” said Linda Caldwell, a retired English teacher and club member since 1988.
Changes in time
“When I joined the club, Mrs. John E. Rankin was still in the club,” Sheffield said. “Back then there were quite a number of what I thought to be very old women who were probably the age I am now.”
Sheffield chuckles at some of her memories of club meetings in the ’60s.
“I wore a hat and gloves to all meetings, and, of course, no pants were worn,” she said. “Everyone wore a dress or skirt of some sort. It was all very proper, as I’m sure it had been for 50 years before.”
Hats and gloves are no longer the norm – attire is more relaxed.
There have been other changes.
“We have more young people in the club now,” she said and then chuckled. “Of course, when I say young, I mean middle-aged. But I’m so pleased to see this happen so the younger members can keep the club going.”
Contact Leslie Criss at (662) 678-1584 or email@example.com.