On the third Tuesday of each month, they park their blue Buick LeSabres outside Faith Presbyterian Church in Hopkins, pay their $9 and find their nametags. ¶ The meal isn't always chicken salad on croissants, as it was last week, and the entertainment hour isn't always banjo. But these meetings of the Hopkins Women's Club are pretty standard affairs. ¶ Just a bit of food and a bunch of conversation.
"I wouldn't miss," said Marcia Gardner, 80, a 15-year member and the outgoing publicity chair.
This year, the tradition turns 100.
As the story goes, a century ago, some Hopkins women were displeased by the men sitting and spitting on Mainstreet.
"So, in 1908 the ladies rustled their bustles and declared something should be done," according to a report by member Ardelle Wenzel Linc for a 1988 celebration of the club's 80th anniversary. The ladies lined Mainstreet with strategically placed spittoons.
The 120 current members tell and retell that story, as well as the ones about the club lobbying for restrooms at the county fair and for parkland downtown.
The club is rooted in such public service, and last week, the membership decided to amp up that theme.
After announcing that card-playing activities would be dropped next year, Bea Robertaccio (who is "just a hoot," by more than one woman's account) proposed that the group begin regularly volunteering.
Sure, the group does outreach now, but mostly monetarily. Each meeting, for example, they plop their Ziplocs full of pennies on the table. The $28 from last month's meeting will end up padding donations to various service organizations, such as Helping Paws. During meetings, they read the thank-you letters they receive from the groups aloud.
And each year, "always and for sure," the group gives a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating young woman at Hopkins High School, said Helle Purrier, 65, the group's outgoing treasurer.
Gardner and Purrier are members of perhaps the loudest, "most inappropriate" of the tables, they admit. Last week, conversation there ranged from literature to roundabouts ("If you hesitate, you're toast," said Kari Aasan, 65).
They chuckled at a list of benefits to getting old. A favorite: You can go to a party and nobody hits on your spouse.
There's talk, from time to time, of recruiting younger women to the club.
"We need young blood," bemoaned Ruth Doyle, a past president, who herself joined after retiring from teaching.
That's changed from decades past.
At one point, in 1987 and 1988, the club had to restrict membership to 250 "because it was getting too hard to manage its large meetings," according to the book "Hopkins Minnesota: Through the Years," published by the Hopkins Historical Society.
Now, the club is losing members, Doyle said. "Women are working now. It's not like it was in 1908 or even 1978."
But it's difficult to recruit new members while retaining the old. Other Women's Club chapters -- many with a much shorter history and a slightly younger membership, such as Edina-Morningside -- hold activities at night.
"That'd never work," Doyle said.
Gardner agreed: "Nobody drives at night."
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168