Civic Club Celebrates 100 Years

The Civic Club celebrated 100 years of service this month. On March 8, 1916 the Lummi Island Civic Improvement Club was formed by islander women. After a group photo with hats made by Tamia Sorensen, the Club's first year of accomplishments of 1916-1917 (see below) was read during the luncheon. Then a time capsule from 2001—disguised as dishwashing detergent pail buried in the cemetery garden—was opened. 

Civic Club members in 1921

As the longest running organization on the island, the Civic Club's spirit of community fellowship and assistance have remained key ingredients for over a century. In just the last five years the Club has: 

  • Helped purchase a vehicle for the Fire Department.
  • Erected an informational sign for the reef netting on Legoe Bay.
  • Refurbished the sign at the ferry dock.
  • Helped purchase AEDs for the Community Church and Grange Hall.
  • Provided funds for the Beach Elementary School garden project.
  • Supported Summer Theater Camp.
  • Provided financial support to Girl Scouts, the Community Church, the Library, the Boys and Girls Club, the Parish Nurses, and the Fire Department.
 

Group Photo

Everyone wore wide-brimmed hats decorated with large flowers and bows for the group photo, then turned hats-back to the camera for a second shot.

 

Opening the time capsule

Inside: letters, old advertisements, family history, a fabric sheet with local messages, and the April 29, 2001 Bellingham Herald with front page "Arsenic laces well water" quoting Lummi Islander Paul Guthrie. 

 

Frankie Small is one of three current Club members to place items in the 15-year time capsule. She wrote a letter that wondered what would become of her Girl Scouts.  

Now looking back, Frankie can say "what a joy it was to work with the girls and lovely to see them grow into beautiful young women. The younger ones still come to say hi to me, calling me "Snowy Owl." And I get a big hug which I cherish."

Excerpt of Frankie Small's letter for the Civic Club Time Capsule dated May 10, 2001

In 1999 I joined in helping with Girl Scout Troop 1950 on the Island and in 2000 I became a Leader. I had been a member of the Girl Guides in Canada for over 20 years and felt I had much to offer the Lummi Island girls.

It has been a challenge, but I enjoy working with the girls and wonder if when this time capsule is opened that maybe some of these girls will belong to the Club??? Our slogan right now is 'where girls grow strong'. In 2016 I wonder what it will be!

The time capsule quilt

This "quilt" sheet was found in the time capsule with messages from islanders. Tap any of the images to enlarge.

All in the First Year...

 Peggy Aiston

Peggy Aiston

Peggy Aiston compiled a Civic Club history for the 60th anniversary in 1976. The following selections from that account were read again at the 100th anniversary celebration in 2016.

Additional notes appear like this.


Island life in 1916

The Lummi Island census of 1910 was 248 people and in 1920 it was 236. So probably in 1916 the population was something over 200. There were few roads but fewer automobiles, so the ladies undoubtedly came to the first Civic Club meeting by horse and buggy.

There was no regular Lummi ferry as we have now, but the boats that brought the mail and freight stopped at all docks then around the island. The Beach Store also had the Beach Post Office in the same building. 

There were regular church services and Sunday School and Reverend A.F. Palmer was the minister. 

There were two schools: South School was about were the fire hall is. North School was on the hill back of The Willows property, on Blizard Road. 

 

Blizard no longer connects and this section of the road where North School was located is no longer publicly accessible.

There was of course no electricity, though a few homes had acetylene plants. However the Aladdin (kerosene) lamps were brightening many homes. There were no telephones. Nor any doctors, though some capable registered nurses for emergencies.

 

Acetylene generators produced gas for lighting.

Jobs centered on three canneries and fishing, with some logging and family farms supplementing cash incomes.

The Civic Improvement Club formed

The Ladies Aid was organized in 1894 to raise money for an organ and to establish a cemetery. On Wednesday, March 8 in 1916, the Ladies Aid held a meeting at Mrs. McDonald’s home and formed the Lummi Island Civic Improvement Club. 

Officers were elected and members signed their names in the front of the minutes book. Thirty-five members joined during the first year, with 58 names listed for the span from 1916 to 1921.

No boys allowed

At the second meeting the constitution and by-laws were accepted. It was decided to limit the membership to women, but hope was expressed that men would feel free to help in the work. The slogan “Get together—pull together” was unanimously accepted.

By the third meeting the Club was already working with the township board about the terminus of Seacrest Road, and the Club was opposed to having the terminus go through the swamp. 

This refers to the intersection of Seacrest and South Nugent Road. It seems the Club’s sway did not deter the plan.

Reaching out

In April the Club had its first banquet with the public invited to hear about the aims and ambitions of the Club and were asked to list some suggestions for civic improvements. 

On May 6th there was a vaudeville entertainment at the South School with local talent.

On May 12th members voted to provide dinner for the men on Good Roads Day.

Good Roads Day was August 9. Starting as a bicyclist movement in 1880, it had shifted focus to automobiles by this time. Rural communities usually built their own roads until Federal Road Aid act was implemented after the first World War.

In June the Club was working on sign boards, mosquito prevention, a daily mail service, and rural free delivery. And a large dancing party—with a three piece band—was attended by 75 couples.

The Fair

But the big event of the year was the two-day Fair organized by the Civic Club. The Reveille headline was “Fair to be Held on Lummi Island…Civic Improvement Club Will Exhibit Island Agriculture and Dairying Products at Lane’s Spit…Program of Sports.” 

 

American Reveille was a daily Bellingham newspaper of the time.

The next day the Bellingham Herald reported “Large Attendance is Expected at Lummi Fair. Boats will run from Bellingham every hour charging 25 cents and jitneys will make hourly trips around the island. Visitors were promised a baby show, a platinum mine, climbing the mountain and salmon cooked in the native style.”

A jitney is a small bus or car that charges a fare on a regular route. Now the Island Chapel van serves a similar duty during events.

The "baby show" was a PAGEANT. On how to judge a baby show: “I would simply pick out the best looking mother, with a due regard to the size of the father.” -Los Angeles Herald, Feb. 23, 1900

Newspapers after the event reported 1,500 people attended the first day and 2,500 people were there on Friday. The Fair closed with a Grand Dance.

No slowing down for these busy ladies

A committee was formed to see what could be done to keep cows out of the cemetery.

The Club joined the Skagit County Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Women’s Clubs began as reading circles. Clubs’ book collections were used to establish many public and traveling libraries. 

The Club voted to hold a Masquerade Ball at the Lummi Hall.

A petition was signed for rural free delivery. 

Prior to rural free delivery, individuals had to pick up mail from the post office (where Beach Store Cafe is now) or pay a private carrier. Now in the 21st century, the US Postal Service loses billions of dollars each year and is under pressure to shutter small post offices and halt rural delivery.

The Club discussed the political duties of women and “the idea of a telephone” was brought before the club. 

The first US coast-to-coast telephone call was in 1915. Women were influential in changing the intended purpose of the telephone (originally a man’s business tool) when advertisers began promoting it as a social device for homemakers.

On February 9th, 1917, the Club voted to hold a concert in the spring, to have an entertainment on Washington’s birthday, and to hold another Fair. 

And so ended the first year of the Lummi Island Civic Improvement Club.

His 1916 campaign slogan, “He kept us out of the war!” carried President Wilson to a second term, but on April 6, 1917 Congress declared war on the German Empire. The “war to end war” would shift the Civic Club’s plans in the following years.