“Let’s do lunch?” a very common term in today’s society, but is that what the ladies of the Avalon Sewing Club had in mind in 1954 when they began meeting for lunch? And boy have they lived up to the saying, because in almost 50 years they haven’t missed a monthly get-together. The fourth Thursday of every month, these faithful friends have gathered at someone’s home to do lunch, very little mending, and a lot of talking.
Avalon, a tree-lined street consisting of only four blocks, nestled between the hustle and bustle of Gaston Avenue and the grand estates on Lakewood Boulevard, became the backdrop for these club meetings. The members’ children, better known as baby-boomers, were the first benefactors of this club.
The original group consisted of Jimmie Kennedy, Mary Taylor, Evelyn Hughes, Kathryn Russell, Evelyn Lund, Mary Alice Bloss, Molly Jameson, Lib Story, Clements Buskirk and Margaret Metzger, with Hannah Collier as head Mom.
“Hannah kept us in line as ladies,” says Kennedy. “At our meetings, we would decide what all our kids could do or not do. Many of the kids wished we were not in the club.”
Currently, there are 10 active members: Rosemary Brinegar, Molly Jameson, Florene Reed, Louise Storm, Doris Townsend, Marianne Battle, Mary Taylor, Jimmie Kennedy, Katie Russell and Elaine Loyd.
“At first you had to live on Avalon to be a member, thus the club name evolved. Then, as members moved away, others from nearby would be ‘allowed’ in,” says Storm, one of the members who joined later. “We were standing there with our tongues hanging out wanting to get in.”
While the Avalon Sewing Club didn’t spend much time disturbing needle or thread, they served the Lakewood community well by volunteering for numerous school projects, serving as Den mothers for Scouts, raising money for the YMCA, and hosting a number of American Field Service students.
“We filled Lakewood Elementary with all our children,” says Loyd. “I spent 28 years in the PTA. By the time I had my last child most of the others were almost grown. Mary Brinegar, Rosemary’s daughter, offered to drive my youngest to school on the first day thinking I might be embarrassed to have one so young.”
Many of these ladies were the daughters and daughters-in-law of Dallas’ earliest leaders, and themselves became civic leaders in their own right. But they remained loyal to the group who gave them the much needed support on the home front. When one mom would ring the preverbal dinner bell, they all would come in to eat.
Each member had a special talent she offered to the group and to the children. This came in very handy when they would host one of their famous parties or plan a summer “camp.”
“Someone would do the artwork, and another could sew the costumes while another member could host a story time. Our Halloween parties were so popular that we had to stop them after several years,” says Kennedy. “They were very elaborate, we created mazes for them to crawl through, and peeled grapes for them to touch as if they were touching eyeballs while blind folded. Scary sounds came out of the trees and voices chanted ‘here are the bones of John McGrew be careful it could happen to you.’ Children from all over were coming by — the last year we did it at least 500 came.”
Several years ago the Lakewood Library published an oral history from area groups and residents called Reminiscences: A Glimpse Of Old East Dallas, and one of the Sewing Clubs’ fondest reminiscences found in this book was when Jameson painted the “nude picture” of the Avalon Sewing Club. It all began with a do-it-yourself paint set that Collier gave Jameson for Christmas. She painted a group of 10 nude caricatures, sitting, backside showing, and has since painted them from the front side, clothed. What a laugh they all got when the “nude” was displayed at the Christmas party.
During a recent meeting no one could put their hand on a copy of the nude picture but the clothed one was framed and displayed at Taylor’s home. The merry memories continue as they recalled another embarrassing time years ago when a rumor began that one of them was pregnant. “Three of us came dressed with pillows under our clothes — greeted with screams from the others. Of course no one was pregnant,” says Battle.
Last fall the daughters and daughters-in-law honored the Avalon Sewing Club members with a party; all the active members were able to attend and were presented with a video tape of their remembrances of the past years together. This video had been made prior to the party by interviewing each women. They also had a group photo made — this has become even more special because at the first of this year several of the members died.
“We are so proud of our mothers and know just what this group has meant to them, and meant to us as their children,” says daughter Terri Kennedy Jones.
What is in the future for the Avalon Sewing club? They still continue to meet each month on the fourth Thursday.
“We sometimes have a theme luncheon and a few years ago we had one where we all dressed in our best grunge cloths, when grunge was popular,” said Kennedy. “Rosemary Brinegar won first prize and she even had a taxi bring her dressed like that.”
And don’t forget Townsend’s mystery rambles. “I always throw a birthday party for myself,” said Townsend. “And one year we were eating our box lunches at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens and drinking wine with our meals. We noticed that there was a sign right above us that said NO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES.” Whoops.
The women also travel together, and visit the members who have moved away. “We have been to California, Grand Rapids and New York to visit,” said Reed. “All of us and our husbands, too. On a recent trip the dads joined us and someone asked who we all were. One of the dads replied: ‘The Avalon Sewing Club,’” says Reed. “He continued to explain that the dads were there to reap what the club would sew.”
What does it mean to be a member of the Avalon Sewing Club, either then or now? Well the answer is unanimous with each of the members: Unconditional love between true friends that began over lunch almost half a century ago.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.