Tuesday Afternoon Book Club holds centennial celebration

Published 5:42 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

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A piece of Suffolk history celebrated a major milestone. Members of the Tuesday Afternoon Book Club came together in style and elegance to honor the 100th anniversary of the book club on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Pinner House, located at 231 Pinner St. Dressed up to the nines, the women of TABC donned beautiful dresses, hats and gloves in honor of how club members used to dress during the organization’s early days. During the elegant party, TABC Member Cara Brinkley, who has been with the club for “about 50 years,” expressed how wonderful it was to be together with the girls throughout the years.

“It’s just wonderful being with people that I’ve known for years and years and years, and we’re all still friends and can talk and ‘yak’ for a long time! This has been very, very nice,” Brinkley said. 

First formed in October 1923 with only six founding ladies, it was determined that members would be limited to twelve members, with the club meeting the first and third Tuesday of each month. The book club also included activities such as floral contests and piano/vocal selections by members and guests. The club saw a dramatic change in 1942 in correspondence with the war effort: refreshments were simplified, and prizes were discontinued, with the prize value going toward war relief. Likewise, members would come to meetings to do handiwork to support the Red Cross sewing and donate $1.00 to the women’s club to entertain service members.

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As time and decades passed, the club today continues to bring Suffolk women together with a variety of programs, informational topics, and, of course, discussing their love for books. One tradition the club continues is purchasing a book to present to the Suffolk Library in honor and remembrance of any member who passed away based on their talents or interests. Another tradition that club member Monette Harrell talked about is passing books around with members.

“You put one of your favorite books in and then you have one person you pass it to each month, So you pass the book and then everybody passes it around until everybody has read them,” Harrell said. “And people seem to really, really enjoy that.”

Brinkley said there is no theme to the books that members put in for reading.

“You get to read books that you might not have chosen yourself. And you cannot finish the book if you don’t want to,” Brinkley said. “There’s no rule there, and you can pass it on if you don’t like it, but everybody is going to open it and read a few pages anyway, and you find that you’re hooked, and you read a book that you’ve never read otherwise.”

One aspect of the club that has changed over the years is the dress formality. While the celebration had everyone dressed up to hearken back to the early days, TABC is much more relaxed now.” Jen Beatty, a member since 1966, reflected on the ladies all wearing hats and gloves back then. 

“It’s less formal now than it used to be, but we still have as much fun as we did then,” Beatty said.

Billie Harry, who has been a member for over 50 years, also reflected back to when the women of TABC would dress up.

“I remember also we used to dress up like Jen just said, and had napkins and plates. I mean, we were very formal as we have now, not quite as formal and we have a wonderful time,” Harry said. “It’s just a wonderful group of people.”

Harrell expressed her curiosity about the TABC women from 100 years ago.

“I would like to know what they were eating, I’d like to know what they were wearing, I’d like to know … it would be fun to see the houses that they were in during that time,” she said.

Of the books they love, two mentioned titles were 2009’s “The Elephant Whisperer” and 1936’s “Gone with the Wind.” Finally, the ladies expressed their hopes for younger people to become part of the club.

So many of the people that would be interested in our club work. So I worry about that,” Brinkley said. “But I think we need to draw enough warmth and congeniality and interest in the books … we’ll survive. We’ve survived 100 years.”