Friends for life
CARROLL – When Doris Meshek married her husband, Gary, and moved from Urbandale to Audubon County in the early 1960s, it took time for the city girl to adjust to farm life.
The transition got easier after a neighbor, Rita Tigges, invited Meshek to attend a meeting of the Viola Homemakers Club.
“This turned out to be a wonderful opportunity,” said Meshek, who still lives on her family’s Audubon County farm. “I’ve made so many incredible friends and continue to have a lot of fun with the group.”
The Viola Homemakers Club was formed by farm wives in Audubon County’s Viola Township following World War II.
While the club’s founders are gone, the 14-member group boasts many longtime participants and continues to gain new members, including many former farm wives who now live in Carroll.
A dozen members met in December in Carroll to celebrate the group’s 2014 Christmas party and reminisce about favorite memories.
“These ladies have provided a positive, supportive environment for years,” said Carol Meiners, of rural Coon Rapids. “Today this is called therapy.
Needed each other
Meiners and her fellow club members understood the motivations that prompted farm wives to start the group.
For young mothers raising children on the farm in the mid-20th century, opportunities for socialization were limited mainly to Saturday shopping trips to town and Sunday morning church services.
Audubon County women who wanted more took matters into their own hands by joining the Viola Homemakers Club, which usually had 18 to 20 members.
“We were all from the farm and shared a lot of common concerns,” said Meshek, who enjoyed forming stronger friendships with her neighbors and watching each other’s children grow up.”We needed each other.”
The club’s structure has always been informal, with no official charters, no dues and no officers. For years, the club met in members’ farm homes once a month on a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m.
Meetings were scheduled from September through April when the children weren’t in school.
“Depending on how many of us had little ones at home, we might have more children at the meetings than mothers,” said Meshek, who noted that club members’ families ranged from two to nine children.
Each afternoon meeting included an educational program or craft project, followed by homemade refreshments provided by the hostess.
Eloise Houser, an Audubon County Extension home economist, offered a number of programs in the early 1960s, from pressure canning to sewing.
“People still made a lot of their own clothes then,” said Joleen Klocke, of Carroll, who remembers Houser demonstrating how to put a zipper in a new dress.
Club members sometimes played games (including croquet on the farm) and often made crafts during their meetings. Members occasionally used materials gathered around the farm for their projects, from wild grapevines in the timber that were used to create wreaths to cockleburs and chicken feathers that were transformed into various home decor items.
“We were our own Pinterest,” said Meiners, who noted that members had to complete some of the preparations for the more elaborate craft projects before club day.
When the afternoon’s activities were complete, club members drew names to see who would host the next month’s meeting (and give their husbands ample warning not to spread manure in any nearby fields on club day).
While club members decided to stop meeting in each other’s homes about five years ago, the ladies still meet the second Wednesday of each month from March through December at tea rooms, wineries, museums and other destinations in the area.
The group is already making plans for its 2015 outings. The Viola Homemakers Club continues to fill a need, even though many of the farms where members once lived are now gone, Meshek said.
“Through the years we’ve celebrated joyous events, such as graduations and weddings, and we’ve also grieved together in times of loss.
As life goes on, we continue to bond as we spend time together.”
Food, fellowship define club memories
By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY
CARROLL – Homemade treats have long been a part of the Viola Homemakers Club, and the group’s 2014 Christmas party in Carroll was no exception.
Doris Meshek, of Audobon County, served a number of goodies, including the following recipe.
8 ounces dried apricots
1 cup flaked coconut
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
Chopped nuts, such as pecans (use as many or as few as desired)
Sanding sugar (sugar with large crystals)
Chop dried apricots in a food processor. Add coconut and run the food processor to mix the fruit and coconut.
Add condensed milk and nuts.
Pour mixture in pie pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Line baking sheet with waxed paper. Take approximately 1 tablespoon of mixture, form into a ball, roll in coconut, chopped nuts or sanding sugar.
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