Thursday, October 30, 2014

Women's Club Celebrates Centennial In Grand Style

By Burton Cantara, Quilt Staff


It was a century ago today, October 30, when handsome L.C. Kimball, known locally as “the firebrand of Farralone Avenue” gathered up the constricting burlap of her signature hobble skirt from around her ankles, and stamped her sensible high button shoe on the plank sidewalk lining Sherman Way outside the 9¢ Only store (today, 99¢ Only) and announced “Ladies! What we need here is a Woman’s Club! And by Edison’s talking-machine, I’m just the woman to found it!  That way, we’ll have something to do while our husbands are out shopping for spats and buggy whips.”
A vision in gossamer and ostrich feathers:
Women's Club Founder L.C. Kimball.

Whether it was her rousing speech or the sharp, gunshot-like report of the Bakelite heel of her Sears Roebuck-bought patent leather Storm Queens slamming down on the wooden walkway (Kimball played the pump organ fourteen hours a day and was said to have calves the size of Virginia hams), the female contingent of the local populace agreed and the Owensmouth (later Canoga Park) First Wednesday of the Month Women’s Club was formed.

“The local ladies club was essentially born that very day in October,” says Bob Farrell of the Owensmouth / Canoga Historical Society. “And it continued to flourish as an important and beloved part of the Canoga Park community for the next seventy-five years or so, my goodness, well into the early 1990s.”

Today, the club still exists, such as it is. 

Last week, Canoga Park First Wednesday of the Month Women’s Club Vice President In Charge of Neighborhood Cacophony Doreen Farber made a rare non-First Wednesday of the Month appearance at the clubhouse on the occasion of the Club’s impending 100th anniversary to attend to matters in her other official capacity, Chief Financial Officer.

Passing a last-minute yet earnest tribute set up on a rickety TV tray in the foyer on her way to the club’s money-counting area, Farber shrugged, “Oh, right, that’s today, huh? Well, anyway, I better get to work.”

The venerable headquarters of the Canoga Park First Wednesday of the Month Women's
Club, or as it's better known by the surrounding neighborhood, The Copacanoga. File photo.
While she pulled on sleeve garters, donned a green visor, lit up a stogie which she clenched between her teeth, rubbed her hands together excitedly and began “counting up last weekend’s take” - profits from the women’s club’s main source of income: a lucrative reception hall rental business - three other veteran club members milled about and discussed the makeshift centennial shrine.
Flossie Brown donated a lovely balloon to
the gala celebration. Photo: Walter Brown.

“That’s from me,” says Flossie Brown, the club’s Vice President in Charge of Saving Twist Ties from Bags of Bread, pointing to a deflated mylar balloon. “It was Walter and my fiftieth anniversary three weeks ago. My daughter brought that to the party - such a pretty design! - so I saved it. Pretty clever, eh?”

“I put out the pastel mints,” smiles the Women's Club's recently appointed Sciatica Czar, Gertie Johnson. “I found them way in the back of a bottom drawer in the club’s kitchen, although I don't know what I was thinking getting down on my hands and knees like that - I very nearly couldn't get up. Anyway, the bag says they’re from 1983, but I’m sure they’re still good.  They’re kind of clumped together, so if you want one you have to bang the whole wad against the candy dish until a piece breaks off.”
“You’re probably curious about the pretty curls of ribbon on the table and I’m going to tell you all about that,” confides Myrtle Hipkins, the club’s Grand High Exalted Forwarder of Cautionary Emails. “Well, I used to work in the May Company gift-wrapping department when I was a teenager. And we would curl the ribbon as a decorative embellishment on the packages--”
Pulling Out All The Stops: Members outdid themselves with this astoundingly elaborate display
celebrating 100 years of the Canoga Park First Wednesday of the Month Women's Club. Staff photo.
“Oh, goodnight, Irene - here she goes with the ribbon story again,” whispers Brown to the others.

“--And it’s a trick: here I’ll show you. You hold a length of ribbon against the edge of a scissor and you pull it a across like this...  Oh!  Oh dear. Gertie, be a lamb and run and get me a Band-Aid.”

“Did you want a pastel mint? They’re from 1983 but that’s only last year so they’re still good!”

“Has anyone seen my Jitterbug? I had it a minute ago; I swear, I’d lose my head if it wasn’t screwed on.”
100 Years and Counting: Gertie Johnson donated a slightly used '1' candle from her 81st birthday
party, while Myrtle Hipkins, who recently turned 90 saved the '0' from her cake. Ever-resourceful
Flossie Brown drew the additional '0' on an old AARP envelope she had in her purse. Staff photo.
Back at the money-counting area, Doreen Farber deftly jabs the keys on an adding machine, pulls the crank, and tears off the paper tape that ratchets out. Looking over the top of her glasses, she compares the result at the bottom of the paper to that on scribbled on her blotter. Satisfied, she notes the total on a deposit slip and with that, finishes her financial duties for the day. “Well, another week, another big wad of cash. I need to go to the bank and deposit this before they close.”

Canoga Park First-Wednesday-of-the-
Month Women's Club member Doreen
Farber. Photo: Fred Farber.
“But Ethel [Hepplewhite, the Club’s Secretary in Charge of Watching Wheel of Fortune and Notifying Other Members If Their Spin ID Is Announced] dropped off cake and ice cream!  We were going to celebrate our big anniversary!” exclaims Hipkins as she carries a tray from the kitchen with bran muffins and small Melmac dishes of Light ‘n’ Lively ice milk.

“Knock yourselves out, ladies. Just clear out before five because this place is rented tonight. There’s going to be a Who Can Scream the Loudest contest in the parking lot and, dear God, I don’t want to be anywhere near this place when those kids start shrieking.”

Asked what founder L.C. Kimball might think of how the Canoga Park First Wednesday of the Month Women’s Club has evolved into the proud, money-making nightclub-based entity it is today, Doreen Farber, hurrying to her car suddenly becomes pensive - almost lost in thought for a moment - while rifling through her purse for her keys.


Congratulations to the Canoga Park First Wednesday of the Month Women’s Club on their hundred year anniversary, and here’s to another seventy-five years of magnificent community service and relevance!

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