Nestled between the hustle and bustle of Gaston Avenue and the grand estates of Lakewood Boulevard, Avalon has become known for soaring home values, children playing in front yards and a 46-year-old sewing club that doesn’t. At least, that’s what the members of the Avalon Sewing Club say.
The fourth Thursday of every month since 1954, a group of faithful friends have gathered at someone’s home to have lunch, mend the occasional garment, and chat.
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,” Kennedy says. “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 Lakewood by volunteering for 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,” Loyd says. “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.”
Each member had a special talent she offered to the other members and their children. This came in handy when they hosted one of their famous parties or planned a summer “camp”.
Someone would do the artwork, and another could sew the costumes while another member could host a story time,” Kennedy says. “Our Halloween parties were so popular that we had to stop them after several years.
“They were 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 changed ‘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 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 sitting nude caricatures (backside only showing). Since then, Collier painted the group from the front side, clothed. They still laugh about the surprise when the “nude” was first displayed at the Christmas party.
The memories continue as they recall an 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,” Battle says.
Kennedy recalls another group tradition.
“We sometimes have a theme luncheon and a few years ago we had one where we all dressed in our best grunge clothes, when grunge was popular,” she says. “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,” Townsend says. “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.”
The women also travel together, sometimes visiting members who have moved away.
“We have been to California, Grand Rapids and New York to visit,” Reed says. “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.” He continued to explain that the dads were there to reap what the club would sew.”
Last fall, the members’ daughters and daughters-in-law honored the Avalon Sewing Club with a party; all of the active members attended and were presented with a video tape of their remembrances of the years together.
This video was made prior to the party by interviewing each woman. They also had a group photo made – that photo has become even more treasured because earlier 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.