July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Lodi Literary Club celebrates a century of meetings

When Jessie Jason Rufner wrote her contribution about Harrisville Township for the county history book published in 1948, she included a paragraph about how much things had changed in the span of a half-century. “Livery stables are a thing of the past and so are the old-time taverns. The railroads are outmoded. Milliners no longer hold forth with homemade creations.

The village store and the hotel steps are no longer the loafing places for argumentative citizens. … Neighbors no longer ‘go visiting,’ but resort to telephone and radio … ”

Although things have changed more since Rufner thoughtfully penned those lines, one constant in Lodi has remained for a century — the Lodi Literary Club.

The group will celebrate 100 years of meetings with a party at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at Lodi Library. Ever since 1907, the group has met to enjoy entertainment and presentations.

Clara Snell, 79, of Lodi and a member since 1952, is the unofficial historian for the group, which started as the Friday Afternoon Club, “an organization for profit and culture through literary work.” Twice a month, they met at members’ homes. Dues were 5 cents, payable at the first meeting each month. The group used the first money collected to purchase a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Members “solemnly promised to give the book to the school should their quest for knowledge fail,” Snell said, reading from the group’s history. Needless to say, the dictionary remained and the group continues to meet, although dues are now $5 a year and the meetings are held once a month at the Lodi Library.

Because the club met in homes for the first 99 years, they voted to keep the membership at 30, a number they continue to adhere to today.

“Actually there could be 32, because during the early years, there were two churches in town, and we always included the ministers’ wives,” Snell said, adding with a laugh, “It was fun meeting in homes; it was a good chance to do your housecleaning.”

To join, member wannabes have to be nominated by someone in the club and then approved by secret ballot.

There are a lot of mother-daughter members, and a handful of third generation members belong, like Pam Bauman and Joan Anderson. Bauman’s mother is Lois Bangert, Hazel Indoe’s daughter. Snell also is the middle of a three-generation membership; she was nominated by her mother-in-law, Zorah Snell, and in turn, Clara brought her daughter, Jan Whitney, into the literary fold.

In addition to whetting literary appetites, the original meetings were designed to promote culture, with songs, poetry and presentation of papers. Meetings always included a spelling contest, parliamentary drill and a period set aside for reviewing grammatical stumbling blocks.

Debates often enlivened the proceedings, with topics like “Resolve that Longfellow had done more for literature than Emerson.”

“One member was selected as the group critic,” Snell said. “She recorded any mistakes made during the meetings. Mistakes were recorded and entered in a question box.”

They dumped the critic’s role in 1911, but continued the spelling contest, and in 1914 changed the name to the Fortnightly Club because they began to meet at 7 p.m. every alternate Monday. Currently, with monthly meetings held October to June, the president and a selection committee choose the theme for the year. At the October gathering, members receive a program listing the theme and the books on which members will give presentations. For example, President Letha Mapes chose “Movies” as the theme, with reviews of biographies of leading ladies assigned.

“I’ve always enjoyed the presentations,” Snell said. “It turned out I always found interesting things I thought I might not like. It’s fun and it’s interesting, because each president strives to do something different, and we take time for questions and discussions.”

Totts may be reached at 330-721-4063 or religion@ohio.net.