90 years of sunshine
YAMHILL — Following a tradition started by their mothers, grandmothers, friends and neighbors, members of Yamhill’s Sunshine Club got together on the first Thursday of the June. This time, they had a special anniversary to celebrate — 90 years of socializing and sunshine.
The club started in the hills west of Yamhill.
“Eight ladies got together,” said Lois Brooks, a longtime member, although not one who was there in 1923. “At the first meeting, the secretary wrote they’d decided on 20 cent membership dues. At the second, they picked the name and decided to have entertainment and aid committees.”
The organization was a lifeline for the women, most of whom were home all day in houses widely separated from the neighbors. One afternoon a month, they’d load up a pot of beans or a pie and head for the home of whomever was hosting.
They might take along their knitting or a half-finished quilt. If they had small children, they’d bring them, as well.
“I remember we little kids would spy on the women while they had a good time,” said Darcy Seward Davis, who accompanied her mother, Fern Seward, who is still a member today.
“They’d laugh and laugh,” Davis recalled. “I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to join them.”
The Sunshine Club hosted pie socials, tied and bound quilts for a price — 50 cents was the charge in the mid-1920s — and used its funds to buy gifts for high school graduates or aid charitable causes.
Members also took turns helping at each other’s houses. “Work party at Mrs. Struchen’s house,” note the minutes of the meeting of May 18, 1927.
Members still do charitable work from time to time.
When the club sold the school, it donated the proceeds to the fire department. The club also helped buy a Jaws of Life tool. It bought book bags for school kids and helped families whose names were on the Tree of Giving, Brooks said.
Not long after it started, the Sunshine Club added a family social gathering on Saturday nights, holding it in homes at first, then at the Hutchcroft School. Husbands and children would join in.
The adults, sometimes 30 or 40 or more, would play pinochle for hours. Afterward, they’d enjoy refreshments — an unvarying menu of sandwiches, Jello and cake.
Carol Cox recalled spending part of her childhood accompanying her mother to Sunshine Club gatherings in the 1940s, when her family lived on the Menefee turkey ranch on Rockyford Road.
“I’d go sleep on the benches while they played pinochle and 500,” she said. “Then they’d wake me up at midnight to eat.”
As an adult, she joined as well. She has many friends she met through the club.
Shirley Cook can’t even remember how long she’s been a member. She can recall hearing about the Sunshine Club when she was growing up west of Yamhill, out toward the Flying M.
Her aunt was a member of the Hillside Club, another social club in the west hills. When Cook stayed with her aunt and uncle in the summer of 1943 or 1944, members came over for one of the club’s luncheon meetings.
She recalled that she was happy to play with the children who accompanied their mothers that day. “There usually weren’t a lot of kids around,” she explained.
Today, Cook and her husband, Jack, live in McMinnville. But they return to Yamhill monthly to play cards and socialize.
The Hutchcroft School, now on display at the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center, was a perfect place for the Sunshine Club gatherings.
The school was located at the four-way crossing of Pike and Turner Creek roads. After it ceased service as a school, the club took ownership and moved it across the road.
“There are several different versions of how they moved it,” Brooks said. “Some say the husbands rolled it on logs and some say it was towed.” No one today knows for sure, she said, since the minutes from that period are missing.
The club was still using the school in 1989, when Brooks joined the club. A kitchen had been added by then, and the whole place was heated by a wood stove. Women heated water on the stove so they could wash up after the sandwiches, cake and Jell-O were gone.
Cards were played on wooden tables built by the men. Winners received candy or white elephant prizes, such as extra coffee mugs.
In 1990, the Sunshine Club sold the building to Ken Whitlow. But he allowed the pinochle players to keep using it until 1996.
Sylvia Herrick recalled driving out to the old schoolhouse in the early 1990s. She and Brooks would usually go together, she said.
“Evelyn Enger got me to start coming and playing,” she said. “But I couldn’t come to the meetings in the afternoons until I retired in ‘03. Then I joined the club, too.”
Herrick said she enjoyed, and still enjoys, playing cards, meeting people and spending time with friends.
Phyllis Riley also recalls playing pinochle in the old Hutchcroft School.
Lavern Lambrick “made me go,” Riley said. “She pushed me out there and I always went, ever since.”
She still enjoys the monthly pinochle games. She still has a souvenir of the Hutchcroft School, too — one of the benches, which she purchased when the club sold the fixtures.
After 1996, when they stopped using the school, Sunshine Club members held their card parties in members’ homes for awhile. They played in the Rebekah Hall in Yamhill a few times. Then they settled on council chambers adjacent to Yamhill City Hall.
New members are welcome at the social events, which start at 7 p.m. the third Saturday of each month. Pinochle and a potluck are on the agenda, just as they’ve been for decades.
Nowadays, though, members don’t wait until they’re finished to break out the refreshments. They snack as they play.
“That’s why we have to keep buying new cards,” one joked. “They get sticky.”
Starla Pointer, who is convinced everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. She’s always looking for suggestions. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or email@example.com.
Golden Rulers join the party
To its 90th anniversary picnic, Yamhill's Sunshine Club invited some special guests: husbands, friends and members of the Golden Rule Club, another social group that started in the Moore's Valley area in the 1920s.
There once was a third organization of women in the west hills: Hillside Club. Its membership dwindled to four mid-way through the 20th Century, and it merged with the Sunshine Club.
Some women, like Bonnie Lee Payne, belong to both the Sunshine Club, which dates from 1923, and the Golden Rule Club, started about 1926.
But the picnic was the first time ever that the two clubs held a get together, Brooks said.
There's no rivalry between the two groups, members assured everyone. But there are some differences.
For instance, Brooks noted, the two groups have different fee structures. The Sunshine Club charges members $1 a year in dues. Golden Rule dues are just 60 cents.