Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1996

A History of the Riverside Garden Club

by Ruth Eiler

The Riverside Garden Club was organized November 21, 1950 in the home of Mrs. Lizzie Pottenger. Twenty-five Members plus three ladies from the Manchester Garden Club attended. It was decided to meet on the fourth Tuesday afternoon or evening of each month and to wear print dresses. They chose a program committee for 1951 and elected officers: Mrs. Joe Bechtold, President; Mrs. Elbert Hippensteel, Secretary; Mrs. Will Pottenger, Treasurer; Mrs. Louie Shanahan, Historian; Mrs. Harry McClure, Vice-President; Mrs. Wilbur Heeter, Assistant Secretary; Mrs. Hayden Garber, Assistant Treasurer; and Mrs. Lloyd Conrad, Reporter.

A Constitution was adopted in May 1951 with 31 members present; revisions were noted in the minutes twelve times between 1953 and 1984. The Club voted in 1951 to become state federated. In 1952 they joined the County Federation of Women's Clubs. They sent a delegate in 1953, sent two delegates in 1954 and in 1959 dropped this affiliation. In 1953 the Club voted to "wear anything we wish."

In the early years monthly meetings were usually in the homes of members. Later meetings were in a church, restaurant, the Public library, or one of the retirement homes. Membership dues began at $l, increased to $2.50, then to $5. Membership was at first limited to 50, then to 40. Average attendance the first ten years was about 35. For several years perfect attendees were presented with a potted plant. In the late 80's as some members moved away, went south for part of the year, or became unable to attend, attendance decreased.

Members were always encouraged to bring guests. Numerous guests (prospective members) attended in the early years when few women worked outside the home. Special guest days were held most years. May breakfasts were for many years in homes, then at Warvel Park, Timbercrest Retirement home, or a restaurant.

There were family picnics in July or August in a park or woods and the Christmas program and party included husbands and other guests. This was a carry-in meal or, more recently, a catered meal. Locations included a member's home, a church or restaurant, the bank, and Timbercrest Home.

Monthly programs of the Riverside Garden Club included presentations by members and by invited presenters. The wide variety of subjects related to Flower Arranging, Edible Flowers and Plants, Care of House Plants, Control of Insects, New Varieties, Animals and Birds and many other topics of interest were sources of interesting programs. Hands-on workshops, hobby and handwork displays, sharing treasured items, and other show and tell activities were featured occasionally. Flower arrangement was emphasized in the early 1950's. In 1957 a schedule of arrangement themes was set, each member bringing to the meeting an example of that special arrangement.

Often members exchanged plants and bulbs or visited other members' gardens. Plant clinics, question/answer sessions, and experience sharing were frequent. The Club took one or more trips each year to explore gardens, flower shows or greenhouses. Program booklets were prepared and distributed each year from 1951 through 1993.

Flower shows were a subject of study in the early years, beginning with private shows for members, judged by member. They attended shows beingsponsored by other garden clubs and soon invited other clubs to attend and exhibit at their shows. Trained judges were used for public shows. A public flower show in 1952 had 258 entries exhibited by 31 members and 62 guests; 300 people attended. The 1956 show held in Chester High School Gym had 280 entries and about 200 attendees.

During the 1960's and 1970's shows were held every year or two in the Methodist church, Church of the Brethren, First Brethren church, or Scout Hall. The theme in 1962 was "A Day in July," in 1965 "Beauty is Where You Find It," and in 1966 "June Comes to Indiana." In 1967 there were l60 entries and over 200 registered. There is no record of participation in flower shows in the 1980's. In 1990-91-92 a few members participated in the Canal Days Flower Show at the Honeywell Center in Wabash. In 1993 the Club held a two-day show, "Celebrate the Seasons," at Timbercrest Home, open to residents and the public, with 250 guests. Most members exhibited, and all served as hostesses.

The Club responded to frequent requests for support from various funds or projects. They chose a Christmas project and a major project for the year. In addition to dues, money for projects was raised with silent auctions, white elephant sales, birthday collections, tasting bees, candy sales, the sale of handmade Christmas gifts and of surplus produce from some member's garden. In 1975-78 the Club grew plants, made containers and hangers for them, and sold them at their Festival Days exhibit (later called Fun Fest)."Make North Manchester a Petunia City" was the emphasis in 1973. This involved much work and donation of time, money, energy, and petunias. Members walked in the Festival parade or rode on their float which won a trophy for best float.

Special contributions of the Riverside Garden Club which have added to the attractiveness of our town through the year include the following: clean and care for the abandoned Krisher Cemetery; Plantings at the east end of the bridge; Plant flowers and 200 bulbs at the welcome signs (east and west); plant flowers around Day Care center, Trees for city park and for Frantz Park; planted roses along the fence in Oaklawn Cemetery; shrubbery for the pool; Trees for the High School, Laketon School and Manchester Elementary; Landscaping the first HABITAT house in town and planting and caring for flowers at the gazebo at Timbercrest.
A twenty-year Celebration of Riverside Garden Club was held in November, 1970 at the Church of the Brethren. Past Presidents were honored, a memorial tribute was given for deceased members, and singers and the Speech Club from the High School entertained.

The vigor and creativity of Club members was apparent particularly in the 1950's and 1960's but continued even through the 1970's and early 1980's. Since these Garden Club meetings were held regularly in the afternoon, a change came about as younger women took jobs outside the home. New members were few. Some members moved away or became unable to attend and participate actively in the Club.

After careful consideration, twelve members meeting at the home of Anna Belle Eller on December 13, 1994 voted unanimously to discontinue the Club. Any future meetings would be on a volunteer basis with plans being made by the hostess. Funds remaining in the treasury were donated to REACH, and scrapbooks and minute books were donated to the Historical Society.

Mrs. Mary Fike was a member of Riverside Garden Club for forty-three of the forty-four years the Club was in existence. As of January 22, 1996 she is living at Timbercrest Retirement Home.

This history was researched and is respectfully submitted by Ruth H. Eiler with the assistance of Dorothy Whitmore, Mary Fike, and Gladys Baldwin.