The 1950's -- Smith Day in Full Regalia

By the 1950's Smith Day in the Country had become a Major Social Event. The Minneapolis Star and the Tribune each devoted hundreds of column inches and four or five photographs apiece to the affair, which was described in flowing terms by Margaret Morris. From 1954:

Pink geraniums blooming atop a wall and huge dahlias nodding from a bright red pail near the vegetable booth were bright splashes of color greeting guests at the George Pillsbury home at Brackett's Point. There were rooms for buying a slightly used champagne tulle gown, size 14; rooms for choosing jams and jellies or a pink and white baby frock size 2, and finally, the dining room for picking up a hot dish and salad luncheon.

There were apparently so many people pushing at the door that the old controversy about who could and who could not attend Smith Day flared up with renewed vigor as club members debated the pros and cons of more dollars versus the delights of uncrowded intimacy. In the 1950's the latter won out ... sort of. (See Ongoing Controversies). In spite of limitations on numbers, we spent more, and profits climbed to well over $3000 by the end of the decade.

Expansion was the name of the day, as all areas of Smith Day became more and more elaborate, including themes. 1955 featured a World Tour with decorations by Northwest Airlines. "The day before Smith Day, Mr. Thomas and helpers arrived at Mrs. Staples' house with the truck of Hawaiian atmosphere. A grass hut was set up for the checkroom and orchid booth. An archway was put up at the dining room entrance made of straw fronds. The table was covered with tapa cloth; and fish nets, glass floats, artificial flowers, miniature outriggers and planes, posters, hats, leis, and sea life were arranged about the room. The atmosphere even included a lifesized hula girl who, when plugged in, did a slow hula. Also furnished were grass skirts, leis, hats for the girls (waitresses), and with them a print top so they would all look alike. The orchids ... sold for $0.25 each, and a plastic bracelet holding two orchids could be purchased for $0.50. People were served luncheon buffet style (menu: egg roll with either chicken or fish filling, covered by mushroom sauce, a molded salad, rolls and relishes, fresh cantalope [sic] and coffee). Music was supplied by Mr. Harry Hubada, and Mrs. Phillip Little III and Mrs. Charles Kelley did some professional hula dancing for the guests."

Departments were similarly expanded. The art department was created in 1953, and throughout the fifties sold items hand decorated by Minneapolis Smith women, including towels, wastebaskets, placemats, doll furniture, apothecary jars, key rings. "Handiwork" was a new department, later renamed "Needlework." It featured items hand made by the Smith women and included doll clothes, suspenders, dish towels, knitted knee highs, pot holders, Christmas tree ornaments, hand knit sweaters, socks, stocking caps. Also aprons, smocked dresses, pinecone earrings, Santa mugs, and lobster bibs. Ann Snyder's felt puppets were the big hit for three years.

The first quiz made its appearance in 1954 in the form of a guessing game whose object was to guess the name of well known personalities, like Cleopatra and Willie Mays. Dreamed up by the mother-daughter team of Mrs. John Dalrymple and Mrs. Hadlai Hull, the game had four sets of clues for each character, each set progressively easier than the proceeding one. Players had to pay $0.10 for the first set, $0.25 for the second, $0.50 for the third. $1.00 bought a give-away hint. This guessing took the place of a skit which had, in turn, yielded to a Dutch Auction. Prizes for the winners of the game were items donated by Wayzata shops.

The clothing department, no longer just "bring and buy," began actively soliciting from non-Smith donors. There was a baking contest. There was a fresh daffodil corsage for the incoming freshmen. There was a large telephone committee who telephoned each and every Smith club member to ask for and confirm specific donations and take reservations for Smith Day. There was an Undergraduate Chairman, whose job it was to get the undergraduates to Smith Day, for by the end of the decade, they "seemed to be scattered to the far winds" by the first Friday after Labor Day. And there was a long and lengthy business meeting. The 1954 meeting included 13 items on its agenda, including thanks to four separate groups, welcomes to and introductions of undergraduates, guests, and incoming freshmen, the reading of a scholarship letter, the announcement of a memorial fund, a discussion of an upcoming president's visit, a treasurer's report, an alumnae fund report. No secretary's report, however. A note of explanation says simply: "Janet Kedney Woodhull's baby 1 week ago."

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