As a child, the Girls Club in town was a big part of my life. The Girls Club was a place where girls could go after school to take various classes – and my sister and I took full advantage. I remember taking classes in crafts. I learned to knit and to crochet there, and also tried to tat (I never did get the hang of sliding the little “picots” along the thread …).
I excitedly signed up for baton classes as a second grader, but alas, my lack of coordination followed me there, and it was not very successful. The class teacher had a rule that we couldn’t say “I can’t,” and I remember standing there trying to phrase that idea in a different way.
I took classes in pottery, and still have many of the items I made – including a little Christmas angel with one wing endearing glued on upside down. I fervently wanted to paint the angels colorfully, but my mom prevailed upon me to paint them cream-colored instead. Today, I am grateful I followed that advice.
I took a class in spinning, dying and weaving, and actually made and colored yarn which I used to knit an admittedly-very-homemade-appearing stocking cap. My kids wear it every now and then.
A little online looking reveals that Girls Inc, the organization sponsoring the Girls Club, is still around. I gather that it caters more to inner-city kids, but the town I grew up in lacked an inner city. The Girls Club did have a bus that came to a different elementary school after school each day to transport any interested girls to the club. I remember riding the bus there frequently.
The classes were always free (at least, I think they were). What a great resource! As I got older, I volunteered to teach many classes there as well. I even taught piano there for awhile, trying to use one piano to teach several students at once. During my years there, the Club had several different directors. I mainly remember Mrs. McDougal, a large jolly black lady who was usually sitting at the counter right inside the entrance.
In the summers, the Girls Club offered classes as well. “Let’s Take a Trip” featured field trips to various places of interest near our community. It was on these bus rides that I learned many songs, such as “Plant a Watermelon Over My Grave.”
The Club sponsored contests each year, which high-achievin’ me just loved. The fact that there usually wasn’t much competition made it even more appealing. I raked in savings bonds and certificates for sewing, writing short stories, and creating greeting cards.
As a teen, I was able to advance farther with these contests, and my sewing creation won me a trip to the annual convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I took my first-ever plane trip to get there, and that remains the only time I’ve traveled west of the Mississippi. The next year, my career key essay again won me a trip to the annual convention, this time in Boston. I was able to fly again, and thoroughly enjoyed my honors.
I wish there were a place like the Girls Club for my kids. It was a fun place, and a spot where I learned many, many things.