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Carson Valley Literary Club serves community

by Nancy Hamlett

Over 50 years ago, the Carson Valley Literary Club was formed as an offshoot from the Gardnerville Literary Club. The members of the Gardnerville organization wanted a forum for their daughters and friends.

The club was known as the Junior Club, but Jeannette Cowden, a long-time member of the Junior Club, said that, after many years, the members thought that they deserved a new title.

“One day we looked around, and we were all about 45 or 50 years old, and we decided we couldn’t be called ‘juniors’ any longer,” said Cowden. “We changed our name to the Carson Valley Literary Club.”

The literary club, The Record-Courier’s featured organization for September, shouldn’t be confused with a book club or reading club. It is a social club with serious ties to the community.

Pearl Plummer, president of the organization, said the literary club raises money for various community projects, including the library, the food closet and scholarships for Douglas High School students.

“We have awfully nice parties, but we also bring in speakers to address the meetings,” said Plummer. “We serve our community by not only raising money, but by becoming more aware of our community through our speakers.”

“We’ve done just about everything to make money, from auctions to mock gambling and Bingo,” said Cowden.

“We even raised our dues from $3 per year to $10 per year,” said Plummer. “That raised a lot of eyebrows.”

“But we do good things with the money,” said Storke.

“One year we gave dictionaries to graduates of the middle schools,” said Cowden. “So, you see, we do get involved in books in one way or the other.”

Debbie Byers, vice president and Mary Stephans, secretary-treasurer, join Plummer on the board. Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month September through May. There are no meetings during the summer months.

“When we formed, we lived in an agriculture-based community,” said Lois Storke, who was the first president of the club and a charter member who is still active. “During the summer, we had other responsibilities.”

“Like feeding all of the hay crews and working, even though in those days they didn’t consider it work, but rather a responsibility,” said Cowden.

Membership in the literary club is by invitation, and the membership is limited to 25 women.

“Not because we want to be exclusive,” said Plummer, “but because it is a workable number that gets things done.”

During the year, the club hosts several theme meetings with progressive dinners, luncheons and Christmas parties. The month of March is traditionally set aside for the annual fund-raiser. And in the summer, when the club is “dark,” they still try to get together for a picnic.

“What has held this club together for so long is that it is a lot of fun. It’s a congenial group,” said Storke. “Plus, we spread out the work so that everybody helps. That way no one gets burned out.”

Although the Junior Club had a hard time getting started, the Carson Valley Literary Club enjoys full participation by its members.

“When we started, we were young women with families, and most of us lived on a farm, not in town,” said Cowden.

“Circumstances change, and our club has evolved,” said Storke.

“We are all civic-minded and committed to our community,” said Plummer. “But I have a suspicion that our good turnout has to do with the penalties. If you have poor attendance, you have to put on a party for the rest of the club at the end of the year.”

The literary club will be celebrating their 50-year anniversary with a dinner party at Sierra Golf Ranch on Oct. 24. Storke and Lois Sarman, another charter member and currently an honorary member of the club, will be in attendance. In addition, the club is inviting all past members of the club and their spouses.

Currently, the members are researching The Record-Courier’s archives for mention of all members since the formation.

“Unfortunately, the first 20 years of the minutes are missing, so we have to be imaginative to discover who has been a member over the years,” said Plummer. “We want to invite all of them to the dinner, and if we miss anyone it will be tragic.”

The club is also filling in the gaps of their scrapbook.

“One of these days the scrapbook is going to be historic,” said Cowden. “We are trying to make it an informative and complete as possible.”

If you have any information regarding past members of the Junior Club/Carson Valley Literary Club, or if you have memorabilia that should be included in the scrapbook, call Plummer at 265-1936.