It began as a knitting class; 75 years later Girls Club, once The Hillside Girls Club, has taught girls a lot more than knitting and sewing. It has since transformed into a Monday night club for girls to learn new skills like crochet, embroidery and crafting.
Today, Ellen Murphy and Sandra Hattie run the club with a dedicated bunch of volunteer leaders to help guide the kids and come up with crafts for them to do each week. The original founder of the group, Anna Carmichael, passed the club on to Hattie in 1967 and when she found herself caught up with other commitments she passed it along to Murphy in 1972.
Since then, a lot has changed but the pair reminisced over some of the old traditions as they recalled the history of the club.
“In the first couple of years they kept everything until the end,” said Murphy, adding that when the club was done for the year, all the crafts the girls made each week were kept and sold as a fundraiser to help the club operate next year.
“Box socials were a big success,” added Hattie. The group used to hold a box social where each girl would make a lunch, put it in a decorated box and auction it off to raise funds. The local Cub Scouts were even invited one year. Hattie also recalled the Girls Club Choir that would perform when there was a church service.
Summers, the girls would go to the MacLellan Camp, shared Murphy, a privilege they earned by cleaning up the camp.
It was after Murphy and Hattie took over the club that they began the still running tradition of the Mother-Daughter end of year banquet and the annual tea and sale. For quite some time, the club was stationed in the church hall in Hillside, where it got its name The Hillside Girls Club. Although it has since moved to the North End Recreation Centre in New Glasgow and has found its home there for the past five years, the same spirit and traditions still remain.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Hattie about the experience of teaching and watching the girls grow. She shared a story about meeting a former club girl one day and how the girl, although grown up now, remembered Hattie and talked about her memories of Girls Club.
Murphy shared the same feelings, mentioning that it’s wonderful to see girls come out of their shell and gain confidence.
“It’s seeing the satisfaction on their face that they can do something,” Hattie said.
Some might see sewing and knitting and embroidery skills as something of the past, but with so many options available to kids now, both women feel it is still beneficial to know these skills.
“It’s hard to believe,” said Murphy about how the club is still flourishing 75 years later. “I really think Anna would be proud of us.”
Ellen Murphy left, and Sandra Hattie hold a portrait of Girls Club founder Anna Carmichael. Girls Club celebrates their 75 anniversary this year. (Brimicombe photo)
Tea and sale: The annual Christmas Tea and Sale will be held Saturday, December 2 from 2 to 4 p.m., North End Rec Center, with bake, craft and new-to-you tables. Admission to the fundraising event is $3.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Reporter Heather Brimicombe is a former Girls Club member….
Although the leaders cannot put a finger on what makes the girls come back year after year and new ones join, it is both them and the atmosphere they create that attracts participants.
I was five years old when I began Girls Club. I love painting and making things and with two brothers, it was nice to have some girls to do it with, too. I learned how to make crafts, follow instructions, be creative, have fun, crochet, knit, embroider and even how to make a quilt. Once I reached high school, although I no longer participated in making crafts I couldn’t take myself away from the Monday evening group and continued to return and help out the leaders, teaching the smaller kids how to do all the things I had learned in the very same place. Growing up, some people have called me shy but that’s not something those who knew me from club say. Because although many of the same people I knew from school were there, I knew that girls club was a safe place I could go and have fun, feel accepted and make new friends.
Having the chance to learn new skills in a supportive environment with great friends is something that gives even the shyest girls a confidence boost and brings out the boldness to be creative. To me, it is no surprise why the charms of Girls Club managed to bring in more than 40 girls this year. It is truly a unique organization that has seen hundreds of girls, if not more, go through its ranks.
Girls Club will be holding a 75th-anniversary celebration on July 21 at the North End Recreation Centre, New Glasgow. More details will be announced later on.