CONNECTIONS: The Thursday Morning Club turns 130

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About Connections: Love it or hate it, history is a map. Those who hate history think it’s irrelevant; many who love the story think it’s about escapism. In truth, history is the clearest roadmap for how we got here: America in the 21st century.

Like Stockbridge’s Tuesday Club, Great Barrington’s Thursday Morning Club (TMC) turns 130 this year. Founded in 1892, both clubs can be proud of their century and a third of service and camaraderie. In her message to TMC members, Acting President Marilyn Dempsey Cameron wrote, “You are women from all walks of life who give of themselves to help others.

On March 15, 1892, 19 ladies came together to organize a club whose aims were to promote sociability, camaraderie, literary taste and culture, and to give back to the community. Then as now, the focus in TMC was on “improving” themselves and their community.

Nine days later, on March 24, in response to an advertisement in a local newspaper, 40 women attended the first meeting of the Thursday Morning Club. For 30 years the name was descriptive until in 1921 TMC voted to meet in the afternoon. Everything else remained the same.

Charity has always been at the center of club activities. Since its inception, it has supported children’s services, veterans, emergency services and many contributions to the town of Great Barrington. According to TMC records, the first deposit into a scholarship fund was made in October 1945. The deposit was $100 (about $2,000 today).

According to club historian Kathleen Plungis, the first scholarship was awarded in May 1948. Miss Bertha Ferguson, a teacher at Searles High School, used the scholarship to pay for a directors’ course given at Stockbridge Playhouse (Berkshire Theater Group today ). Ferguson completed the course during the summer of 1948. In November 1948, Ferguson directed a play, “Ladies of Troy”, to benefit TMC.

Frank Krohm, the son of a farming family in Great Barrington, received the scholarship in 1951. He attended Cornell and became a veterinarian. In June 1952, two scholarships were awarded: Krohm received a second scholarship to continue his studies, and Joan Cook received the first. She took a teaching course and was an English teacher at Searles Middle School. Both also received the scholarship the following year.

TMC has increased the number and amount of annual scholarships. In 1992, after just under 50 years of giving, TMC awarded over $100,000 in scholarships to approximately 94 recipients. By 2022, an estimated additional $100,000 has been awarded, making about $200,000 to about 200 aspiring students.

The intention of the scholarship committee remained to award money to high school students going to college. This year, TMC awarded 22 scholarships to students at Monument Mountain and Mount Everett High Schools. The criteria for awarding a scholarship were need, academic achievement and volunteer activities for the benefit of the community.

During my presidency — a position I was very proud and honored to hold — we expanded the pool of potential beneficiaries to young people attending community colleges, vocational schools and trade schools. We also discussed scholarships for older women returning to college after marriage and motherhood. It was considered a new idea, but Bertha Ferguson knew about the concept as early as 1946.

Winston Lavalee on the podium; TMC Acting President Marilyn Dempsey Cameron in the background. Photo courtesy Claudette Callahan

For nearly 75 years, TMC has supported young people on their way to higher education. Now one has returned. Winston Lavallee was one of the first recipients of $50 a year, for two years, to attend Stockbridge Agricultural School (now part of UMass).

Investing $100 in his future has paid off for this boy from Berkshire. Lavallee attended UMass Amherst where he earned his Ph.D. in entomology. He was a teacher for over 35 years at Holyoke Community College and a lifelong advocate for natural resource management and ecological sustainability.

Lavallee is the author of several short stories and two novels, “Tempest in the Wilderness” and “Dancing in the Dark”. Lavallee first collected documents to record plant conservation and pest control techniques employed in New England during the 1930s and 1940s. Later, however, he used them to create the setting for ” Dancing in the Dark”, a novel set in a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp during the Depression. Taken together, the documents and artifacts provide a valuable picture of the CCC, the men who worked there, and the work they did, such as building roads, reducing fire hazards, and landscaping. recreational.

Lavallée collected the materials he collected to form the Lavallée Collection. The collection includes research notes, publications, photographs, and the memoirs of men Lavallee interviewed about their service with the CCC.

This year, Lavallee — the former recipient of TMC scholarships totaling $100 — attended the TMC luncheon with his wife. He left Berkshire County with a scholarship in his pocket, and this year the octogenarian returned as a donor to the Scholarship Fund. He endowed a special scholarship named after and honoring a teacher who inspired him, Ken Milligan.

Lavallee said of the heroes: “The obvious ones, firefighters, police, doctors and nurses, yes, but the invisible ones who work to make life better and support their community. He was referring to Milligan but also to TMC and its members.

By creating the Ken Milligan Fellowship, Lavallee quintupled the investment TMC had made in him. If a mutually beneficial full circle, with everyone involved having moved forward and done good.

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