Yearbooks open the past

Yearbooks from a longtime local club have found a place in the archives of the OhioHistorical Society.
EAST PALESTINE -- Turning the pages of the old, handmade yearbooks brought a sparkle of fond recollection to the former club members' eyes.
The yearbooks were only about 4 inches by 6 inches -- small enough to put in your purse, the ladies noted -- but the history they contain is far from insignificant to those who treasure Ohio's past.
The ladies were former members of the Twentieth Century Literary Club of East Palestine, and the small yearbooks enfolded in their hands were the yearly programs they designed for the club.
Some of the former club members brought their old yearbooks to a recent meeting with The Vindicator at the First United Presbyterian Church on West Rebecca Street. Other club members' yearbooks have been donated to the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus.
Club's purpose: Organized in 1904, the TCLC conducted meetings on literature, arts and culture. The women's social club was affiliated with a national organization from 1914 to 1945. The club disbanded in 1996 because it was lacking in new members. Meetings were held October through June on the third Wednesday of the month, and dues were $5.
When the meetings ended, members donated some of the club's documents to East Palestine Memorial Public Library.
"We were hoping it'd be preserved as a part of our past," explained Nancy Hill, former club member.
Library director Lisa Rohrbaugh stored the yearbooks, but recently she decided it was time to find a new resting place for the club's historical documents -- among the archives of the historical society.
"Being there, it has access to more people than here," she said.
Contacted society: In May, Rohrbaugh contacted Benjamin Helle of the society, and he presented the yearbooks to its Collection Management Team, consisting of museum curators, archivists and educators. The team appraised the collection by looking at its historical significance.
"Nobody hesitated to accept it," he said. "We didn't have that many women's social groups from that area of the state, and that was important for us."
Though the society is contacted daily about potential donations, Helle said that only about 120 donations are accepted each year. The society accepted approximately 200 items from the club May 17, merely three days after Helle picked up the old books from the library.
Helle said that one of the society's current focal points is to find articles from the history of women and minorities -- groups that are underrepresented in collections.
"This is kind of on our 'wish list' of records," he said. "These kinds of records get lost quickly, and to find one that had every yearbook for the entire run of the club is hard to find."
"This is why the TCLC records are important," Helle continued. "This collection provided social and cultural insight on the women of Northeastern Ohio."
What they're like: Yearbooks of various shapes and listing the yearly themes, club motto, officers, members, guest speakers and meeting agendas were made for each member. Members faithfully carried the books to every meeting and took note of changes to the meeting agendas. Composed on typewriters or handwritten, the yearbooks were often decorated and bound with ribbon or thread. One yearbook from 1956-57, "Via the Air Waves," had a blue felt cover decorated with a silver rocket and contained lessons on helicopters, storms and guided missiles. A hand-sketched drawing of a hot air balloon adorned another.
Other documents: The collection also included chorus books and financial record books.
According to former club member Doris Linsley, 74, the club's yearbook committee chose the theme for the year, assigned meeting topics that corresponded to the theme and selected members to prepare presentations. Typically, the officers would conduct a formal meeting, and then the member in charge of researching the meeting's topic would give a presentation.
"It's really like an education," said Eudora Carpenter, former member. "It took a lot of researching of the subject you were assigned."
Longtime member: A retired teacher, Linsley was a member of the club for approximately 20 years. She explained some of the club's history.
"It gave ladies a chance to be a little bit intellectual, and it would practically be their only outlet," she said, adding, "It was their entertainment, I think."
Prestige: Linsley noted that originally, many members were wives in well-off households. The TCLC was a prestigious club in the community. During the club's early years, there was a waiting list for membership, which was by invitation only, she said.
Carpenter, 80, joined the club after her mother became a member.
"It was quite an honor to be voted into membership," Carpenter recalled.
Some antiquated traditions remained through the duration of the club.
"All of the ministers' wives were automatically invited to be members," she said. Also, members' names were listed by their husband's first name; she was "Mrs. Edward Linsley."
Linsley is pleased that the club's records are included in the state's archives.
"It's something of Americana," she said. "This sort of club was common. It gives some flavor to the 20th century."
Rohrbaugh believes the yearbooks have historical value.
"It's interesting to see the changes of our culture," Rohrbaugh said. "Things that they discussed way back we don't even think about now. I think the important thing is that it spans so many years. Groups come and go, but to have lasted 92 years -- that's a long time."

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