Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Shared History

     This could have been titled "Another Leaf," but I don't want to scare you off. And it ultimately isn't about the death of Harriet Bracken at age ninety, although I mourn her passing.  Her daughter called me yesterday, saying she knew her mother would want me to know. And then the Columbus Metropolitan Club sent an e mail to notify many people that one of the Founding Mothers and the Club's first president had died.

     I first knew Harriet in the Lazarus advertising department.  She was Harriet Oelgoetz then and my boss. During the war, with Bob overseas, I went to be a copy-writer. I had majored in English so I knew my nouns from my verbs, but I had much, much to learn about journalism. It was a great experience, but as soon as Bob came home, I didn't want a career; I wanted a family. The road I chose was the right road  for me. Even if I could have succeeded in advertising, I would not look back on it now with the sheer joy I feel, looking back on my life as a mother.

     Meanwhile, Harriet moved to become a vice-president of the Huntington National Bank and a Columbus power-house. By then, she had married, had two children and was one of those women who "had it all". 

     In 1976, thirteen women came together to form an organization, the CMC, that would bring to the public the opportunity to discuss and debate in a diverse forum, local, national and international affairs. Our mission was to be the best place to have a community conversation. Harriet and I were two of the thirteen, all with the energy to make things happen.

     We combined our lists from all the organizations to which each of us belonged and mailed a letter of invitation. We expected that our next step would be to make hundreds of follow-up telephone calls.  I think we were all dumb-founded to get so many responses to our letters AND requests from others who
asked to be invited! Everyone was welcomed, of course. That was the point. We tried to keep the dues low, and we actively recruited men and members of the Black community. We were top-heavy with white women.

      We started with a volunteer administrator, who kept the files at her home. Eventually, we could pay an administrator and have a small office. Because women were not welcomed through the front door of the downtown clubs, we  rented a back room of a popular restaurant for lunch time, and had various events there. When they had some mafia-like problems with, I think, a chef, we moved to an office building and had our own rooms, a micro-wave the only heating unit allowed. Marg Haldi was a fabulous chef, and that small office/cum/restaurant was a lovely spot to go for lunch.

     Our program schedule and venue has changed  much since our first meeting. We had a Forum once a month at the Motorist Mutual Building, and then a mid-week conversation in a smaller room, wherever we could cadge a free room. For a while, it was in a room of the law offices of Bricker and Eckler.

     The Forum has been at the Sheraton Hotel, the University Club (now gone) and for the last years at the Athletic Club.  There are marvelous Forums, great special events, evening meetings...

     When we began, we hoped we could be like the Cleveland Club. I think we have left them in the dust. Our membership is somewhere in the neighborhood of 700, and I think we easily have as many, if not more, men than women. To my sorrow, I can no longer attend but can see a complete video of each Forum from the Home Page, thanks to a relationship with WOSU.

       We have become a true community institution, and this is my salute to all those who have shared in the history of the Club, and a sense of gratitude for having been allowed to be part of it all.


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