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Published Sat, Oct 06, 2012 08:00 PM
Modified Fri, Oct 05, 2012 08:11 PM

Halcyon Club began in 1912

The 2012 version of the Halcyon Book Club celebrated the club's 100 anniversary with a dinner Monday night.
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The Halcyon Club celebrated its 100th anniversary Oct. 1 at the Woman’s Club in downtown Clayton. The evening festivities were hosted by the program committee and included dinner, entertainment, a memorabilia table, and a special guest speaker.

The Halcyon Club held its first meeting Oct. 1, 1912 according to Jane Barnes who shared interesting facts detailing life in 1912 with attendees. For example, in 1912 the average life span for a man was 48.4 years, for a woman, 58.1 years.

Barnes noted that the average annual income in 1912 was $750 and one could take a 12-day cruise for $60. Of course that was also the year the Titanic sank. A gallon of milk cost 32 cents and the national debt was $1.15 billion. The divorce rate was 1 in 1,000.

Typical dress for charter members was a linen suit trimmed in lace, with a price tag of $4.98. Kitchen stoves in 1912 were wood burning and the refrigerator was an icebox on the back porch that was attended to every other day by the iceman traveling in a horse drawn wagon.

During this meeting Ginny Smith thanked club members Ramona Cash, Jessica Creech, Karen Snyder and Glenda Toler for creating decorations for the meeting. They used watercolors to paint Halcyon birds on containers and displayed throughout the clubhouse.

Bet Barber and Jane Barnes created the memorabilia table. Helen Ellerbe made paper fortune cookies for each place setting, with each one containing a different quote about books.

Anna Grace Austin and Mary Stanford Austin, granddaughters of Ginny Smith; Lily Ellerbe, granddaughter of Helen Ellerbe; and Ellie Stephenson, granddaughter of Glenda Toler performed two songs “Change the World,” and “I Don’t Want to Go.”

The guest speaker was Dr. Jerry M. Wallace, president of Campbell University. Helen Ellerbe introduced Wallace, commenting that he and her husband, Jim, have been lifelong friends. The two grew up together in Rockingham, graduated from the same high school and were roommates at East Carolina College. Although they pursued different careers, they have remained close friends, and were eventually colleagues at Campbell University.

Wallace earned his BA degree in English and Government and became an ordained Baptist minister after attending the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. He earned his Master of Science and Doctor of Education degrees from N.C. State University. He joined the Campbell faculty in 1970, working in various departments over the years. On May 29, 2003, Wallace was elected the fourth president of the university. Prior to joining the staff at Campbell, Wallace served for 15 years as pastor of the Elizabethtown Baptist Church. The News & Observer named him Tar Heel of the Week May 13, 2012.

Wallace said he was delighted to see how the Halcyon Club has thrived over the last 100 years, and mentioned how the club has been part of the most rapidly changing era in the history of the world. In 1912, he reminded members, women were not allowed to vote. He said he imagined that must have been the topic of conversation at many meetings. In 1918, there was a flu epidemic that claimed the life of his grandfather. He noted that the club suspended meetings during the outbreak. The club also did not meet during the First World War, a time that was an enormous challenge to this country.

In 1917, Karl Marx wrote a book about socialism and communism, and the result of that book created wars, cost lives, and caused economic collapse. According to Wallace, 1912 was the first year the New York Times had a bestseller list. On that first list was the book, “The Melting of Molly,” and Wallace wondered if the Halcyon ladies might have read and discussed that book.

Wallace said books were scarce in his home when he was growing up. The only two books they had were a well-read Bible, and a treasured dictionary that was at least one foot tall. The Charlotte News was delivered to their home every afternoon. While he had access to books in the library and school, it was college where he developed his love for books. His plan was to attend law school, but his love and enjoyment of reading books changed the course of his life and led him to seminary. He said books inspire him and cause him to reflect.

Wallace says it is “marvelous conversation to be in the presence of people who have read the same book.” He especially enjoys historical novels. Some of his favorite books include “Lost in Shangri-La,” “Citizens of London,” “The Biography of Harry Truman,” and the story of Vince Lombardi, “When Pride Still Mattered.” His favorite books of the Bible include Genesis 1-12, the Gospel of John, and Paul’s letter to the Romans.

According to Wallace, books are a wonderful experience that we share and they impact our lives. He ended his speech by saying “I salute you on your 100th birthday, and may the Lord bless you good.”

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  • The Halcyon Club, a Clayton institution since before World War 1, celebrated its 100th anniversary.
    PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN BARNES

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