Happy birthday to the Mary J's

Friday, May 9, 2008
Past and present members of the Merry J's extension homemaker club gathered at the Final Approach Bistro Thursday to celebrate the club's 50th anniversary.

Louise Pershing remembers well how the Merry Jills -- the extension homemaker club she is a charter member of -- came to be.

"Way back in 1958, my neighbor said, 'Why don't you get together some of your friends and start a club?'" she said. "There were eight of us I'm the only original member left."

On Thursday, past and current members of the Merry Jills -- now known as the Merry J's -- gathered at the Final Approach Bistro in Greencastle to share memories over brunch and celebrate the club's 50th anniversary.

Louise Pershing, a charter member of the Merry J's extension homemaker club, reads historical notes Thursday at a 50th anniversary celebration for the group.

"That first group of eight between us, we had 18 children under the age of 5," Pershing said. "Were we crazy or what?"

The club now boasts an average membership of 20.

Pershing read some notes from the group's history.

"In 1960 we had our Christmas party at DePauw," she said. "They served us turkey plates for $2 apiece."

The major fundraisers for the group in 1963 were a Tupperware party and a bake sale -- which many of the members recalled. That was also the year the club's Christmas party was held despite a snow and ice storm -- and a member transported refreshments to Pershings' house on a sled.

The club's financial beginnings were humble: The November 1970 report showed $1.84 in its coffers.

Betty Fox, who joined the club in 1959, offered an idea about why the bank account grew so slowly.

"Our dues were 10 cents a month," she said. "They've really gone up a lot now they're 25 cents."

June Albright reads a poem she wrote for her fellow Merry J's extension homemakers at the group's 50th anniversary celebration Thursday.

Marian Ullrich has been with the group for 10 years. Aside from the educational aspect, she said, being a part of the Merry J's has been like having a kind of extended family.

"Our families have grown up together," she said.

Elaine Huber, who has been a Merry J since 1987, said she has enjoyed getting to know people from all walks of life and backgrounds.

"These are people we never would have met if it hadn't been for this club," she said.

Huber remembered a time many years ago when her young granddaughter helped the club construct a teddy bear-themed float for the Putnam County 4-H Fair parade.

"She must have been 10," Huber said. "We were lining up, and she ran up the parade route and back. She said, 'No problem, we're gonna win.' And we did. She's graduating from college now, and she still talks about helping the homemaker ladies with the float."

Norma Hurst is the current president of the Merry J's.

"It's great to have people come here and share their stories," she said.

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