Book club celebrates 75 years

Published 7:43 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ROBERT HOLZ DIAMOND CELEBRATION: The Pungoan Book Club is celebrating its 75th year this month. Pictured are nine of 12 members of the club during a celebration gathering.

DIAMOND CELEBRATION: The Pungoan Book Club is celebrating its 75th year this month. Pictured are nine of 12 members of the club during a celebration gathering.

The Pungoan Book Club celebrates its 75-year-anniversary this month.

According to Linda Wilkerson, a Belhaven resident and 23-year member, the club started in 1940 and continues today with a base of 12 active members.

Though there is little oral or written history of the first decade of the club, longtime member Mary Wood Wallace, a 97-year-old who participates occasionally, is the oldest living participant. Wallace came to Belhaven in the 1950s and joined the club, and her memory is the oldest known history about the club.

“It was just a nice social club,” Wallace said. “I came here at the right time to celebrate all the good things about Belhaven. I worked hard in it and enjoyed every minute of it. All my friends in the club are gone now, but it was a wonderful thing to work with them and enjoy them.”

According to Mary Ellen Wahab, a member for more than 30 years, the club has changed a bit since its earlier days. Each member was required to hold a position in the club at least once, but due to Wahab’s colorful and creative announcement of each meeting’s minutes when she was secretary, the club decided to name her permanent secretary, she said.

“I do know that we were very, very formal when we started,” Wahab said. “When role was called, they would call each woman’s name as Mrs. (last name of their husband). I was responsible for getting rid of that.”

Wilkerson said the club meets September through May and rotates meetings at each member’s home. The hosting member gives a short program, a book review of some kind, and a long program, a presentation on a topic of the hostesses’ choosing.

In the early days of the club, members would meet at the beginning of each year and pick a theme for the year, with all activities and meetings related to the agreed upon theme. Since Wahab joined, however, the theme has been miscellaneous, and she has done presentations on a variety of things like quilts, the history of the button and a Ramses II exhibit in Charlotte she visited, she said.

Each summer, each member purchases a book she thinks the club members will enjoy and the books are then rotated to the next member until everyone has read each member’s suggested book. The books read by members range in topic from very light reading to serious social issues to biographies, novels and much more, Wilkerson said.

“It’s a great way for us to share experiences and interests with each other,” Wahab said. “I got involved because I loved books and reading. I read more than I do everything else. I’ve always had an affinity for the written word. It was an exciting way to get to know other people in town.

Each year, the club hosts a costume party the Thursday before Halloween, Wilkerson said. The tradition was started in accordance with Wahab’s birthday, which happens to be on Halloween. Each year, the group names a theme for the costume party. In past years, themes have ranged from Alice in Wonderland, Blackbeard the Pirate and Wizard of Oz, among others. This year, in celebration of the 75 years of the book club, the group decided to do a fashion-geared theme that requires participants to dress up in the styles of the 1940s, 1950s or 1960s, Wahab said.

“We wanted to keep it where it would be kind of a vintage thing,” Wilkerson said. “Some go all out, some people might slap a badge on their shirt, but we always have a good time.”