DIANE MAKAR MURPHY For this group, childhood friendship lasts a lifetime

Dorothy Loveland has a beautiful old black and white photo of children awaiting confirmation in 1932. Twelve of the lovely little girls pictured -- all dressed in fancy white dresses, with white sweet pea corsages at their waists, and fingerwaves in their hair -- spent the next many decades becoming close friends -- almost, in fact, family.
"We had already decided we'd have a group," Loveland said of the 12- and 13-year-olds surrounded by scrubbed little boys in three-piece suits. "We would meet at someone's house each month and the girl's mother would serve lemonade and cookies and we would play games." The group's name was Lycklig, which is Swedish for "happy."
They continue to meet even now. "We may have skipped a month in summer, but then we would have a summer picnic," she said.
Most of the girls ended up graduating from South High School, while Loveland got her diploma from Boardman. Loveland lived in that township, but the other girls lived on the South Side of Youngstown, all joined by their membership at Swedish Mission Church (now named First Covenant Church). They saw one another in church each Sunday and at Sunday school, where their teacher, Vera Madison advised, "Love the Lord, and love each other."
The last new members they added joined 60 years ago, and they intend to keep meeting "until only two of us are left," Loveland said with a gentle smile.
Holding on to tradition
Seven ladies continue the tradition that has gone beyond lemonade and game playing. "We've helped each other through thick and thin," Loveland said. "Two of us have macular degeneration now. We help them with driving -- three of us still drive. I broke my hip last year and one of the girls, Alice Moore, came and stayed with me."
Seventy years ago, instead of helping ailing friends, they were racing around sneaking cards onto desktops and candy into pockets as "secret sisters." "We always got one each year and throughout the year gave secret cards with disguised handwriting. We gave a gift on birthdays and at Christmas," Loveland recalled.
"Sometimes I look in my china closet and think, I got this from so and so. Now," she said, "it's a little harder to be secret. We just have a gift exchange."
"We've had a lot of fun through the years. There have been a lot of weddings, babies born ... funerals. Right now, only two husbands are living and the rest are widows. The girls are like sisters," Loveland said.
Looking back
She pointed to a beautiful little girl near the center of the photo. The resemblance is apparent, though her fingerwaves have turned to silver curls. "We've changed a lot through the years, but maybe we didn't notice it cause we see each other so often," Loveland said.
She pointed to another. "She joined the Salvation Army and went to New York as a Salvation Army officer, then came back." Loveland moved her finger along the glossy surface. "This girl died in childbirth. She was in RN training with me at [Youngstown Hospital]. She was married, got sick, had a baby and died. It was shocking for everybody."
"This girl was a church secretary at Westminster. Eleanor worked at Truscon Steel Company. Berniece Hammer has done the history of our church. This is my good friend Alice. She met her husband while she was selling candy in Murphy's [five and dime]. Now, these two girls, I don't know much about. She moved away 40 years ago at least. We're sort of searching for her."
Those lovely little girls turned lovely women will meet again: Loveland, Moore, Dorcas Hedlund, Edie Anderson, Jane Lutz, Eileen Olson and Florence Carlson are most likely to attend, and Arline Anderson, if she can. Millie Metcalf sometimes makes it back on visits from Florida and Eleanor Beck from Arizona.

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