By Ann Cipperly
With a legacy of Opelika’s most prominent families, the Twentieth Century Study Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Members have been hearing programs on the club’s interesting history over the past 100 years. Beth Brewer is president, and Betty Letlow is chairman of the program committee, which included Louise Brasher, Gail Swarthout and Judy Smith. The club will host a historical celebration tea April 14 at the Brownfield House.
The club began when Mrs. W. T. Andrews, a member of the Opelika Book Club, became concerned about the lack of scholarly activities for younger women in Opelika. In 1919, Mrs. Andrews enlisted the help of Margaret Williams, a young high school teacher.
On Feb. 3, 1920, a meeting was held at the home of Miss Williams to organize a book or study club among the young matrons of Opelika. Along with Mrs. W. T. Andrews, others attending were Mrs. T.D. Samford, Mrs. Andrew Dowdell and Mrs. N.D. Denson, also of the Opelika Book Club, to graciously assist in establishing the new club,
Charter members of this new club included: Mrs. R. A. Carroll, Miss Estelle Butler, Miss A. Frances Crossley, Miss Mary Denson, Mrs. Bullard Harris, Mrs. John Harwell, Mrs. J. E. Hackney, Mrs. Velma Meadows, Miss Corrine Palmer, Miss Gladys Renfro, Miss Elizabeth Rush, Mrs. O. H. Tatum, Miss Marion Taylor, Mrs. A.J. Thigpen Jr., Mrs. J. D. Tollison, Mrs. C. S. Shealy, Mrs. Ira Mayfield, Miss Helen Williams, Miss Margaret Williams and Mrs. Walter Wilson.
In addition, four young women, who were away at college, were listed as “elected members,” including Miss Inez Duke, Miss Fannie Merritt Jones, Miss Elizabeth Samford and Miss Gertrude Ross.
In addition, honorary members were Miss Margaret Gillis, Miss Bertha Hudmon, Miss Frances Lamb, Miss Mariam Pearson and Miss Ruth Youngblood.
An executive committee was formed with Margaret Williams as chairman. The executive committee was charged with drawing up a constitution and bylaws, as well as selecting a name for the club.
They decided on the name Twentieth Century Study Club, which would meet twice each month. Mrs. A. J. Thigpen Jr. agreed to host the next club meeting Feb 17, 1920.
The bylaws required that a certain percentage of the members be public school teachers. This was done “to ensure a scholarly element.” Membership in the club was considered prestigious.
Each meeting of the early club featured two literary presentations, an occasional musical presentation and elaborate refreshments. For a few decades the club was as late as 6 p.m. adjourning, while today the club is usually adjourned by 5 p.m.
The 1920-21 year began Sept. 7, 1920 with Miss A. Frances Crossley as hostess. The topic for the first full year of meetings was American novelists. The September program topic on Winston Churchill was presented by two members with the “Life and Works of Winston Churchill,” while another member concluded the program with a musical solo.
During roll call of the club each member was asked to answer with a current event.
Current events continued to be the choice for roll call in 1921-22. The club’s program committee chose the theme famous women, which included a program on “How will suffrage affect the women of America and future politics?”
Other themes for the first decade of the club included art, playwrights, travel to other countries and U.S., modern drama, the south in contemporary literature, recent tendencies in the theater and creative reading.
Preparing a club program was not an easy task in those days. Since there was not a public library in Opelika until 1941, members depended on Auburn University’s library to research assigned topics. In the 20’s many depended on public transportation. Some of the young ladies were hesitant about going to Auburn without an escort because the student body was comprised of mostly males.
During the 30s, the Depression did not deter the club. Among its members were family names that would become prominent in contributing to the growth and prosperity of Opelika, including Barnes, Brown, Denson, Dorsey, Duke, Floyd, Hall, Harwell, Horsley, Hunter, Lee, Lowe, Mardre, McClure, Meadows, Palmer, Ponder, Renfro, Samford, Shaffer, Shealey, Tatum, Taylor, Roberts, Watson, Whittlesley and Williams.
At this time, a member who did not notify the hostess of an intended absence by noon of the day of the meeting would be fined 25 cents.
The April 1934 program featured a “Historical Expedition,” which was conducted by Dr. George Petrie of API, founder of Auburn football.
In 1936, phone numbers of members were listed for the first time in the yearbook. The club began holding a business meeting in January, which is continued by the club today.
As the club began its 20th year in 1940, World War II had begun. Programs through 1946 included “Women’s Part in the War,” “Winning the War and Peace” and “The Bible, Our Heritage.”
In Sept. 1948, under the leadership of Mrs. O.N. Strickland, the club held a Saturday luncheon at the Cozy Tea Room in West Point, Ga., with a tour of handsome new homes.
In 1949-50 Mrs. Yetta Samford Sr. was listed as president. The topic was “Our Last Fifty Years-1900 to 1950.”
In 1951-52, a “purpose” was printed in the yearbook. It read, “The Purpose of this organization shall be for reading and discussion of such literature as shall broaden and enlighten those engaged therein.” The purpose is still listed in the club constitution.
On Oct. 8, 1951, the guest speaker was J. Edward Bungay, head of the home decorating department at Rich’s in Atlanta. He introduced Mr. Griffin, a member of his staff, who spoke on “What’s New in Interior Decorating” for the year’s theme, “What’s New in Our World.”
In Jan. 1953, the annual club luncheon and business meeting was held in the private dining room at The Chicken House restaurant in Opelika known for its fried chicken and white tablecloths.
Dues at this time were $1.50 per year.
When the club celebrated its golden anniversary in 1970, the topic for the year was “Highlights Of the Last Fifty Years.”
Inez Duke Searcy was a charter member when the club celebrated its 75th anniversary. In commemoration of its diamond anniversary, the programs were a walk down memory lane, reviewing the changes in art, architecture, fashion, entertainment, medicine, transportation, communication and literature over 75 years.
When Hurricane Eloise arrived in 1975, it did not stop the club from meeting. The hostess, Eleanor Hall, didn’t have electricity, causing her to alter the refreshments. Members had to drive around downed trees to ger there, but the club met.
They excused Inez Searcy for a few minutes when her son came to report her house was without a roof. She told him to get it fixed and went back to hear the program.
The last 25 years of the club have continued with interesting programs, reflecting current interests. Themes have included giving back to the community, celebrating life, Food Network chefs and many others.
In 1998, First Lady Mrs. Fob James gave members a tour of the Alabama State Capital.
In 2002, members attended the dedication ceremony of the Inez Duke Search Genealogy Room at the Lewis Cooper Memorial Library. The club has donated books to the library.
In 2000, there was a discussion to change the name of the club to the 21st Century study club, but it was voted down.
The club changed from having two meetings to one meeting a month. Dues are now $15.
As the club starts another decade, the membership is strong and determined to keep the club going with fellowship and interesting programs for the future.
Following is an assortment of favorite recipes from club members.
Cipperly can be contacted at email@example.com.
Orange Dream Mini Cupcakes
Beth Brewer, Club President
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1 Tbsp. orange juice
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup butter, softened
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup orange marmalade
Preheat oven to 325.
Line 48 mini-muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in orange zest, orange juice and vanilla.
In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.
Fill prepared cups two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 11-13 minutes. Cool in pans 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
For buttercream, in a large bowl, beat butter and salt until creamy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth.
Using a paring knife, cut a 1-in.-wide cone-shaped piece from the top of each cupcake; discard removed portion. Fill cavity with marmalade. Pipe or spread buttercream over tops.
Rice-Green Chili Casserole
Betty Letlow, Program Chairman
6 cups cooked Minute rice
½ lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 cup sour cream
Small can chopped green chilies
Dry chopped chives
Garlic powder to taste
Salt & pepper to paste
Add all ingredients to hot rice and put into greased casserole dish. Bake until semi-set, (about18 minutes) at 375 degrees.
This recipe dates to the 70s. I often used it at teas/receptions when teaching at AU School of Human Sciences. Can also use to make dainty open-face sandwiches for a tea if spread on firm bread and cut into rounds or triangles.
3 pkgs. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. horseradish
1 jar seafood cocktail sauce
Dash of hot sauce
1 lb. cooked and peeled shrimp, finely chopped
Crackers or toast rounds
Combine cream cheese, horseradish sauce, and enough cocktail sauce to yield a mixture with consistency of a thick spread. Blend in shrimp. Chill 2-3 hours. Serve with crackers or toast rounds.
Note: I buy 1 ½ lbs. fresh shrimp at the grocery and have them steam in creole or old bay seasoning.
2 egg whites, beaten stiffly
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
1½ cups cornflakes
1 cup coconut
Combine sugar and egg whites.
Fold in flavorings, cornflakes and coconut.
Drop by spoonsful on cookie sheet.
Bake in slow oven at 300 degrees just long enough to dry and brown a little.
My Mother’s Carrot Spread
My mother always served these little sandwiches when she did wedding receptions or teas, and they were very popular.
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1½ cups finely grated carrots
¾ tsp. onion juice (2 tsp. grated onion and juice)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped nuts
Mix and let sit in refrigerator for a couple of days. Add a little mayonnaise when ready to spread, if desired.
From my grandmother’s dog-eared copy of “Our Heritage Cookbook,” United Methodist Church, Abbeville.
1 box lemon supreme cake mix
4 oz. Cool Whip
Mix all ingredients together and drop by teaspoon onto cookie sheet. Do not overcook. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
Punch for a Crowd
6 cups sugar
4 cups water
Two 6 oz. pkgs. Jell-O – the color/flavor your preference
16 oz. container frozen orange juice
16 oz. container frozen lemonade
Two 46 oz. cans unsweetened pineapple juice
1½ oz. almond extract
1 gallon water
3 quarts ginger ale, chilled
Bring water and sugar to a boil in a large pot.
Then add the remainder of ingredients and mix well.
Freeze mixture in gallon Ziplock bags.
Defrost punch until mushy before serving
Add ginger ale to defrosted punch and serve
Makes 3 gallons.
Caramel Apple Dip
2- 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese softened
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
1 cup regular sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. Health Almond Brickle
Granny Smith Apples
Mix the cream cheese, sugars and vanilla together.
Stir in the Heath Brickle.
Serve with apple wedges soaked in pineapple juice.
9 chicken breasts, boiled and chopped
1 medium can olives, chopped
1 small bottle artichoke hearts, chopped
2 small cans cut pimento
2 medium onions, sliced into rings
1 extra-large bottle Wishbone Italian Dressing
Mix and let marinate for two days.
Maida Heather’s Lemon Cake
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tightly packed Tbsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Solid shortening for greasing the pan
Lemon icing, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 325.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs one at a time, blending well.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt.
Stir in alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add zest and lemon juice.
Grease a 10 inch tube pan and pour in batter.
Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes; test for doneness. Do not cook longer than 1 hour and 15 minutes. Put cake pan on top a bottle or a rack to cook for ten minutes.
Remove cake from the pan and spread icing at once while the cake is hot. You can use a toothpick to poke holes in the cake to absorb the icing.
3 ½ to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup butter, softened
3 tightly packed Tbsp. grated lemon zest
½ cup lemon juice
Blend sugar and butter thoroughly.
Mix in the lemon zest and lemon juice.
Two 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese
4 slices thick bacon, fried crisp
5 oz. can mild Rotel tomatoes with chilies
½ medium onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp. chili powder
Soften the cream cheese.
Mix cream cheese with a mixer until creamy.
Add other ingredients and mix well using the mixer.
Chill and serve with your favorite crackers.
Apricot-Sour Cream Tea Cookies
1 roll refrigerated sugar cookies
1 cup pecan halves
¾ cup dried apricots
¼ cup apricot preserves
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups powdered sugar
⅓ cup milk
Let cookie dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes to soften.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 350.
In the food processor, place pecans, apricots, preserves, cinnamon and cloves. Cover and process with on-and-off pulses 20 to 30 seconds or until pecans and apricots are finely chopped and mixture holds together.
In a large bowl, mix pecan mixture and sour cream.
Crumble cookie dough into pecan mixture, stir with wooden spoon until well blended.
Stir in flour until well blended.
Drop dough by 24 heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown.
Cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes; remove to cooling racks.
Cool completely, about 20 minutes.
Place waxed paper under cooling racks.
In a medium bowl, stir powdered sugar and milk until smooth.
Dip tops cookies into glaze; place on racks and let stand 5 minutes.
Dip cookies again; let stand 5 minutes longer or until the glaze is set.
½ lb. sharp cheddar cheese
1 stick margarine
2 cups sifted flour
Red pepper, if desired
1 lb. pitted dates
Let cheese and margarine softened to room temperature. Put cheese in the mixer and whip until thoroughly mixed. Add margarine and continue beating.
Add sifted flour and mix well.
Chill mixture in the refrigerator.
Stuff each date with a pecan half.
When the cheese/flour mixture has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and pinch off enough to wrap around each date.
Place wrapped dates on ungreased cookie sheet and bake in preheated 305 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Poppy Seed Chicken
Linda Warren and Joan Kelley
1 bag boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins, cooked
1 can mushroom soup
16 oz. container sour cream
1 small can sliced mushrooms
3 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1 stick butter
Cut cooked chicken into bite sized pieces.
Add soup, sour cream and mushrooms.
Place into a greased 2 quart baking dish.
In a second bowl, crumble Ritz crackers. Then add the poppy seeds and butter and mix.
Place the cracker mixture on top the chicken mixture and top with the sliced almonds.
Bake uncovered at 350 for 35 minutes.
This recipe serves six people and can be served over rice.
Miniature Pecan Pie Muffins
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup flour
⅔ cup melted butter
⅔ cup chopped pecans
Melt butter. Add other ingredients and mix well with a spoon.
Bake at 350 in greased miniature muffin pans.
Bake for 15-17 minutes. Makes 2 ½ – 3 dozen mini muffins.
Overnight Fruit Salad
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups green grapes
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained
1 can (15 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
2 medium firm bananas, sliced
2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped
½ cup chopped pecans
In a double boiler over medium heat, cook and stir eggs, sugar and vinegar until the mixture is thickened and reaches 160.
Remove from the heat; stir in butter. Cool.
In a large serving bowl, combine grapes, marshmallows, pineapple, oranges and bananas; add cooled dressing and stir to coat.
Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Just before serving, fold in whipped cream and pecans.
Pretzel Jell-O Salad
2½ cups pretzels, coarsely crushed
1/3 cup margarine
Two 3oz. pkgs. strawberry Jell-O
8 oz. cream cheese
2 cups boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 large Cool Whip
3 Tbsp. sugar
2-10 oz. pkgs. frozen strawberries
Coarsely crush pretzels and mix with margarine and 3 tablespoons sugar. Place mixture in a 9 x 13 dish and bake for 10 minutes at 350. Cool completely.
Cream the cheese and blend in 1 cup sugar. Add Cool Whip and mix well. Spread the cream cheese and Cool Whip mixture over cooled pretzels. Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water; add frozen strawberries and mix to break up the strawberries.
Chill until slightly thickened. Pour over the Cool Whip layer. Chill until set.