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Davis Journal

Celebrating the history of Centerville’s Literature, Music and Art Club

Nov 10, 2021 12:04PM ● By Tom Haraldsen

Club officers are, from left, Dian Olsen, club president; Pam White, Vice President/president-elect; Twila Van Leer, historian; Debbie Randall, program coordinator; and Judy Cella, secretary.

CENTERVILLE—It was the mid 1930s, and three Centerville residents were getting together regularly “for the sheer pleasure of discussing books and exchanging our own ideas and opinions of the things of greatest interest that we read from time to time.” That was the recollection of Nora B. Miles who, along with friends Vera L. Smith and Lucille Reading, started what would become the Centerville Literature, Music and Art Club.

Last month, the group of current members met to celebrate its nearly 84 years of existence. What a history the club has enjoyed.

Long-time journalist Twila Van Leer, who serves as historian for the club, recounted a lot of its legacy. She said that in 1938, Centerville was “essentially a farming community. But the notion that every family needed at least one automobile was taking hold (and people) moving to the suburbs held an unprecedented promise of growth in Davis County. Conditions were prime for the birth of progressive ideas,” she said.

So Smith, Reading and Miles felt there might be other women in the community who would like joining a literary club.  As Reading later recalled, such gatherings would offer “a feast for the mind, instead of the body. Such things are even finer and more enjoyable when shared with others.” They visited with five other women, and on March 2, 1938, the club was essentially born.

“I have great admiration and appreciation for the founding members of (the club),” said Dian Olsen, current club president. “They were women who loved books and derived great joy from meeting together to share what they learned and exchange ideas. This describes what we still are doing 83 years later.” Besides Olsen, other officers now are Pam White, vice president and president-elect; Judy Cella, secretary; Debbie Randall, treasurer; and Twila Van Leer, historian.

Olsen recalled that when she joined the club in 2000, one of the original members, Sylvia Tingey, was still an active member, and Olsen has also been acquainted with others of the early group. “They were amazing women and it is astounding that what they started is still going. I feel blessed to be a part of it,” Olsen said.

The formal name of “Literature, Music and Art Club of Centerville” was adopted at a later meeting. The only requirement for membership was “an interest in the objectives of the organization.” Membership was capped at 24 so the group could be accommodated in a member’s home. Dues were set at $10 a year and for a time, a 10-cent fine was imposed on those who turned up to meetings late. As general inflation took its toll, the dues increased, standing currently at $20 annually. Today, those dues cover the costs of a spring social event and a $25 donation to the Whitaker Museum in memoriam for deceased members. For a time, the Centerville group affiliated with the national Federation of Womens’ Clubs, but that involved additional fees and the association was dropped. Meetings have historically been on the second Tuesday of each month.

What has kept the club thriving for more than 80 years? Van Leer said it’s the same interests that brought three women together in the 1930s – a love for the arts, literature, history and music. The list of topics that have claimed attention is long and varied. The members have focused on many elements of literature, from classic English and American poetry to folk and modern writing. A topic is chosen for a two-year period and each month (except for a summer and winter hiatus) one of the members is assigned to add something to the theme.

Currently, the club is focused on women who have accomplished exceptional things or who have been instrumental in furthering the accomplishments of their husbands. Just a few of those whose life stories have been presented are Queen Victoria, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Golda Meier. Club members put great effort into research and presentation and present uniformly excellent programs, Olsen said.

In the meeting held Oct. 13 at the home of Bonnie McCauley, the hostess shared insights from the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, whose husband, Charles Lindbergh, gained lasting fame in aeronautics history as the first pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean in one flight. That flight in 1927, did as much to promote the growth of air travel as any other event since the invention of the airplane. Anne Lindbergh’s contributions as a pilot in her own right, and as a writer and successful mother paralleled those of her husband.

Over the years, many friendships have been forged among club members. A sense of shared interests and sociability makes a special bond among them. “There are lots of hugs and laughter,” Olsen said.

The club has always been integrally involved in the larger community and during World War II and other critical times in its history has made significant contributions to joint efforts. During the height of the war, the club auctioned a pair of nylon hose for $70! The ladies contributed to the national drive to restore Independence Hall in Philadelphia and donated shirts to the Utah State Hospital, among dozens of philanthropic efforts they supported.

But the Centerville Club members have always held to the mandate made in the beginning. Keep things simple. The effort has been focused on feeding the finer sensibilities.