Arlington Garden Club celebrates 75 years

ARLINGTON — A very special guest speaker attended the Arlington Garden Club’s 75th anniversary party Feb. 9. Eleanor Roosevelt seemed truly honored to be invited to the event, since, as she said, she was a huge advocate of gardens and gardening.

“When you plant a seed, it’s miraculous,” Roosevelt said. “With just a little rain and some attention, it is magic.”

“You may remember, I started a Victory Garden in the White House lawn and caused quite a ruckus in the farming community. They thought I was too much competition,” said the guest speaker, who was played by Margie Wilson, of Skagit County.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the perfect personality for the celebratory luncheon, where more than 50 of the club’s nearly 100 members dressed in the style of the 1930s.

The garden club was founded in 1934 when 24 ladies gathered at City Hall and elected Minnie Myer president, said club member Bea Randall, who planned the program.

Their goal, Randall said, was to beautify Arlington. Founding members included the wife of then-mayor, Mrs. J. Boyd Ellis. They provided decorations for the Stillaguamish Fair and offered classes on the art of flower arranging, Randall said.

In the effort to put the birth of the garden club in context, Randall noted some prices of groceries in 1934 that she found reading the archives of The Arlington Times.

Soap was 10 bars for 19 cents; Four tires were $16; coffee was 29 cents a pound and you could buy 49 pounds of flower for $1.59, Randall said.

“I asked my mom, if soap was so cheap, why did you bother making your own,” Randall said.

“She said, ‘I had all that grease that needed to be used.’”

Among some special guests at the luncheon were Mayor Margaret Larson and Betty Arnold, age 90, who came from the Greater Seattle Garden Club.

“I hate to admit it, but I knew those founding members,” Larson said.

Long-time members, past presidents and those missing were honored over lunch served on fine china.

Sadly one of those long-time members and a former president who served two terms in 1980-1981, Johnadine Wolf, was not present. She died recently, but her sister and stepdaughter represented her there.

The club’s treasurer for 60 years, Myrtle Ruckert, who turns 100 this year, was not there because she was out of town, announced the club’s president, Tina Wilson. Ruckert served as president in 1970-71.

Other past presidents included Inez Kuhnhausen who served three times, 1984-1986 and again from 1999 to 2001. Kuhnhausen recently completed a display of garden club history for the Stillaguamish Pioneer Museum, which was exhibited at the luncheon, and she admitted borrowing her costume from the museum collection.

Also present, Connie Dreke served from 1989-1990 and Gloria Carlson was president from 1997-1999. Absent presidents were also honored, including Linda Follett who held the office four years, from 2003 to 2007, and Virginia Hatch who was president from 2001-2003, Wilson said.

“All the fine China cups and saucers belong to Carol Jacques,” Wilson told the room full of people dressed up to the hilt with mink stoles and hats from the era of the club’s beginning. Sally Doss helped set up the beautiful table settings, with help from Priscilla Johnson, and the food was coordinated by Dee Peseau, who rallied donations of chicken salad from Haggen and fruit from Costco.

At the end they selected the one in the most authentic costume from the ‘30s and ‘40s.

Jean Olson won the award — she was wearing a dress that her mother sewed at age 17, in 1944.

It fit Jean perfectly. Kuhnhausen won second place for the outfit she borrowed from the museum.

Eleanor Roosevelt honored all the members of the club for their service to the community.

“I personally found much joy and a sense of purpose in community involvement,” she said, explaining that, since she was not a beautiful girl, her mother called her “granny.”

“I decided as a young child, if I could not beautiful, then I could be useful.”

Eleanor Roosevelt told the group, “I do believe there is a direct relationship between gardening and good citizens.”

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