The Naples Clubs
It tumbled from the bookcase where it had been out of sight for years beside the volume I now removed. A thin notebook with a stiff black cover evocative of schoolrooms of the 1930s, it was the secretary's minutes book from the Naples Club of Rochester. Most of the entries were written by my mother.
Although the group had been organized in 1915, this record covered only 1932-1937 and began with the celebration of the club's 18th anniversary. The pattern of this supper meeting was characteristic of those which followed. In alphabetical order, the members, all women and former Neopolitans, hosted monthly get-togethers which had the lighthearted dual purpose of supper and socializing among friends whose chief bond was their attachment to Naples, New York.
The minutes recorded elections and occasional official business and were careful to enumerate items on the menu and to comment favorably on the hostesses' decor, while expressing rather flowery thanks for her hospitality. Newspaper accounts of meetings were pasted in.
At the 18th anniversary party, twelve members were present: Flora Knapp, Genevieve Levy, Rita Crittenden, Anna Frank, Julia Tozier, Leah Rogers, Mary Conklin, Mina Fessenden, Mary Morgan, Maud Schlick, Bertha Walker and Alice Bishop.
Not present but also on that year's membership roster were Mary Guilford, Bess Gelser, Anna Kamps and, Eva Marshall.
Following elections, it was moved that "Five dollars be given to Anna Frank to be used for relief of an ill and worthy lady. The motion was unanimously carried."
Secretary Alice Bishop concluded the minutes: "After a lengthy discussion of zinnia seeds, oil burners, general depression, etc. , the meeting was informally adjourned."
The reference must have been to the Great Depression which had the country in its grip and not to the spirits of the members.
It is interesting to note the foods people enjoyed in the 30's, fashions in menus being as distinctive and changeable as those in clothing. While only mashed potatoes and sauerkraut were mentioned as being served at the anniversary dinner, the next month's potluck supper was described in detail: escalloped potatoes, meat loaf, jellied vegetable salad, black chocolate cake, pudding, rolls and olives." In May the list included creamed dried beef in patty shells and potato chips, cabbage and carrot salad and cake. Some of these are nostalgic to those who remember the 30's.
Everyone looked forward to the August 1932 meeting at Etta Crittenden's cottage on Granger Point, Canandaigua Lake. Twenty-eight turned out, bringing together the expatriates and their friends who had remained in Naples: "Mrs. James, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Leahy, Mrs. Hoban, Mrs. Tozier, Mrs. Noll, Mrs. Borden, Mrs. Story, Mrs. Tobey, Mrs. Frank Widmer, Mrs. Haynes, the Misses Margaret and Matilda Parrish, Cinderella Watkins, Carrie Housel, Jennie Gransby and Ila Mahone. "
At one thirty the 5000 were fed but with far more than the proverbial loaves and fishes. Swift Premium as only Etta can bake it, beautifully served with individual fruit salads, potato chips, pickles, rolls, coffee, ice cream and cake comprised a highly praised and most satisfactory picnic dinner.
Then came the entertainment:
Later a bathing beauty parade was staged, the modern styles followed by those antedating 1910 or thereabouts. The few of us who could remember back to "them days" enjoyed the revival and others were much amused by the contrast of costumes.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in croquet and a round of visiting, and 4:30, leaving time, came much too soon.
The day, the lake, the dinner—each was perfect and the whole occasion one to be happily remembered.
There was excitement in the spring of 1933 when one of the members was married: Mary Conklin became Mrs. F. C. Morrison and was showered with gifts and congratulations. Then members were invited to the wedding of another member's daughter: Ruth Rogers married Leonard Carlsen in Christ Episcopal Church in Rochester. Sadly, Julia Tozier's husband George died, as duly noted in the minutes.
In July, 1934, the Club met the Naples Tuesday Club along with former members from New York City, Binghamton, Penn Yan and Endicott for a luncheon at the East Avenue Tea Room in Naples. For some years this was a popular restaurant in the house which still stands (and looks unchanged) at the foot of Mechanic Street. The following attended:
In March of 1935, the Naples Club began its observation of its 20th anniversary at the popular Green Gables restaurant, then moved on to the Morrisons':
The Master of Ceremonies, Mrs. Marshall, announced that "The March of Time" would be the next number. Mrs. Godey appeared and displayed numerous stylish gowns of the Victorian period.
Then came a style revue:
Mrs. Guilford: a belle of 1865
Two gay young brides: Alice Bishop and Mrs. Gelser
A lady of 1870: Mrs. Rogers
The Gay Nineties: Mina Fessenden
Auto veil and linen duster: Mary Morgan
Hollywood Belle: Mrs. Frank (she was the center of attraction)
The Bishop (Alice) arrived, and a handsome man he was. A wedding march was heard; then appeared in latest styles Mr. and Mrs. Morrison, for this was also a wedding anniversary. In a modernistic ceremony, they renewed their vows. A tableau followed which was greeted with loud applause.
Mrs. Oakley was guest of honor.
The Club met at the East Avenue Tea Room again in August, 1935. Then there are only two entries for 1936 and one for 1937. Empty pages follow, except for one penciled note: "No record of the Club was written from February 1937 to February 1940," when presumably the meetings ended.
In the early years of the century, the Naples Society of New York City and Vicinity was an active organization, drawing members from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Three programs from annual banquets of 1906-1908 were recently given to the Naples Historical Society by Jean Otto McIntosh. The son of Leslie Case, a New York Society member, had passed them on to her. They contain all that we know about the organization so far.
Men seem to have dominated the legislative committees while women are listed on those having to do with social events.
Printed, be-ribboned programs bespoke more formal events than those enjoyed by the Rochester Club. Entertainment appeared to be much less frivolous, as in 1907 when a solo, elections and an address (Hon. Jean Burnett) were followed by "Sketches of early Neopolitans, with illustrations by: Dr. George D. Hamlin, Eugene S. Orgon, Wm. H. Smith, Arthur C. Mitchell, Wm. L. Sprague, Dr. James Knapp, Fred Atwater, and Prof. M. M. Merrill. " Rev. L. Mason Clark, D. D. provided a "review of Naples personalities. "
Menus also differed from the down-town potluck suppers in Rochester. In 1907 the offerings were impressive and typical of those in 1906 and 1908.
Affection and nostalgia for their home town inspired the composition and recitation of locally penned, lengthy poetic effusions, often set to familiar tunes. Listeners appear to have had both the inclination and the stamina to enjoy them to the fullest.
Perhaps best known and most often quoted was "Naples 'Neath the Maples," words by Emery Pottle set to the air of: "Mr. Dooley." Mr. Pottle, well known as the actor and writer Gilbert Emery was a Naples celebrity.
Those attending also raised their voices in traditional song, seeing Nellie home, dashing through the snow, going off to Louisiana and praising the old oaken bucket.
"Nita, Juanita, ask thy soul if we should part," implored the membership, before closing the festivities with "Auld Lang Syne. "
The 1908 event was the fifth annual banquet. How much longer the Society continued to meet is yet to be determined. But the tradition goes on. As recently as a month ago, the Naples Record pictured twenty or so Naples residents who winter in Florida happily gathered at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Rex for a feast and good fellowship and, without a doubt, plenty of talk about "Naples 'Neath the Maples."
© 1997, Beth B. Flory
Naples 'Neath the Maples
by Emery Pottle
Sung to the tune of "Mr. Dooley"
When all of us were very young