Athenean Book Club

The Walkertown Athenean Book Club is celebrating its 80th anniversary and the club is looking to expand membership
According to the Athenean Book Club’s history, the club was organized after a suggestion was made by Mate Morris on June 13, 1939 during a bridge luncheon given in her home. A few months later on August 3, 1939, the group met at the home of Mrs. Jack Marshall to organize the club and on August 17 of that year, club members voted to name it The Athenean Book Club and included 11 charter members: Mrs. Rex Bishop, Mrs. Bertie May Fussell, Mrs. Jack Marshall, Mrs. Wade Marshall, Miss Cora Mecum, Miss Fannie Mecum, Miss Jennie Mecum, Miss Kate Morris, Mrs. Reuben Morris, Mrs. P. L. Sapp and Mrs. Tommy Waggoner.
Although none of the founding members are still alive, the oldest former member still living is Nancy Garrett and the oldest current member is Lucille Ashburn.
During a recent meeting to discuss the 80th anniversary with current and former members of the club, as well as Mike Morris with the Walkertown Area Historical Society (WAHS), Peggy Leight from the Walkertown Town Council, and Walkertown Mayor Doc Davis.
After being introduced, Davis shared a resolution that was passed on August 22, and said the book club is one of the oldest organizations in Walkertown. Current club President Karen Dillon accepted the resolution.
Other current members include Vice President Mary Hutchins, Secretary Paula Davis, Treasurer Lucille Ashburn, Historian Janice Wall, and members Vickie Surratt, Carol Lackey, Heather English and Trish Cooke, ranging in ages from 36 – 91.
As part of the meeting, club members read research compiled by former member Josephine Walker about Athena, a goddess from Greek mythology, whom the club is named after. They also reviewed one of many scrapbooks that have been saved throughout the years.
“We have scrapbooks from 1939 to the present. I have the ‘39 – ‘69 here. There are pictures and newspaper articles. Apparently during this era, the Winston-Salem Journal came out and reported on the club quite often,” Dillon said.
Dillon added, as she thumbed through the scrapbook, that it looked like when the club first started, they met year round and later skipped the months of June and July. Now they also skip August.
“I think at first they started meeting at night perhaps, but now we are on Saturday mornings,” she said.
Former club member Sarah Rossi mentioned that in the earlier years the women dressed a lot different, often coming to the book club dressed up and wearing dressy hats.
As she continued looking, Dillon showed some small booklets that were like programs for each month, one of which had a large red V and was a booklet from 1944. It included the constitution for the club and the bylaws printed. She wondered if the V on the booklet had something to do with WWII.
“They were also quite poetic,” Dillon said, as she mentioned there were lots of quotes and poems in their booklets.
Further into the scrapbook, Dillon noted that the women had a Civil Rights talk in 1948 and discussed European travels.
“The subject of study in that booklet was ‘Good Literature,” she stated.
Several of the former members who were at the meeting shared their memories.
“It was a good group of people and they did a lot for Walkertown. A lot of them were also members of the Walkertown Garden Club or taught at the elementary school. There was a lot of community involvement,” said Rossi.
They also mentioned that some of the themes they discussed in past years included “Around the World” and “Around the Country,” where they would read books from around the world and different states around the country. They even had food during the meetings from around the world and around the country.
“We’ve always had a theme but in the past four to five years, we’ve been reading the same book and talking about it during our meetings,” said Davis, as she mentioned that previous to that, they were all reading different books and then presenting what they read to the group.
“We’ve had guest speakers and we usually have a leader to lead a discussion, taking turns and building the menu around our theme,” Dillon said, as she mentioned that last year’s theme was Strong Women in body, mind and spirit.
As they received scrapbooks from the past 80 years, Dillon said they always started their meetings with a collect (prayer).
To commemorate the 80th anniversary, this year the club is reading books that were read in years past from the 1940s to 1990s. The theme is “A Walk Down Memory Lane: Celebrating 80 Years.”
During their next meeting, which will be held at the Kernersville Library at 10 a.m. on Oct. 19 they welcome anyone interested in joining the group to attend. During that meeting, they will discuss the highlights of the Athenian Book Club in the 1940s and discuss some of the books members have read over the month from that era.
Davis noted that the club has continued because of the women in the club.
“They are like-minded and we just enjoy being together. So, I think what started with those 11 people 80 years ago, the atmosphere and attitude has continued. That part is still very special, the unique bond as we read and we grow intellectually, emotionally. We grow together as we read and share the books,” said Davis.
The Athenean Book Club will complete their 80th anniversary celebration on May 19 with the WAHS at the Walkertown Library at 6:30 p.m. with a special presentation and refreshments.
For more information about The Athenean Book Club, send a message to AtheneanBookClub@gmail.com.

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