The 1980s — Three Women and a Smith Day

Hats Off to Smith Day brought the evolving story of Smith Day up to 1983. The Smith College Club of Minnesota had decided to move the location of Smith Day from the private homes of Smith alumnae to a public venue, the Minnetonka Center for the Arts. The move to this bigger location allowed Smith Day to grow — both in the quantity of treasures for sale and in profits.

The depots where alums dropped off goods during the spring and summer — like Carolyn Farnand's Wayzata garage, Nancy Baltins' Fremont Avenue garage, and Alvina O'Brien's Crocus Hill basement — bulged with the gently used clothes of the Baby Boomers, the outgrown clothes of their children, and the unused wedding gifts that had been moth-balled. The Adult Clothes department filled the biggest art studio at the Center, and overflow rooms held piles of sweaters and men's clothes. The Household department spilled out of its room — with bikes, luggage, furniture, and rugs lined up in the long hall toward the Center's back door. And the amount of cash collected grew to such an extent that a security guard was hired to help count, guard, and deposit the proceeds. That guard worked for us for many years, and his successor, Steve Pearson is still with us!

The increase in the size and complexity of the day, coupled with a growing number of alumnae in the workforce, made it harder to recruit alumnae to chair the event. The event was held on the Friday after Labor Day and the move-in and setup began the Sunday before Labor Day. The chairs had to spend most of the week supervising and cheering on the workers. To spread the work around, for several years in the 1980s there were three Smith Day co-chairs. Additional chairs ran the second, public day of the sale — called Phase II at the opening of the decade and later changed to the Super Sale.

The themes for the day and names of the departments continued to showcase the creativity and wide-ranging interests of Smith women: Big Sister Is Needing You (1984), Remembrances of Things Past (1985), and Mastering the Art of Smith Cooking (1989) are some examples.

Despite the move to the Art Center, many longtime Smith Day traditions remained unchanged — the morning daiquiris, glazed donuts purchased at the Wayzata Wuollet's, the raffle, Janet Woodhull's meringues and Sally Pillsbury's dahlias in Bakery, and the limit on the number of guests who could be accommodated for lunch.

And some traditions that had fallen by the wayside were revived at the Art Center. In 1989, when Kathy Coward and Randy Lebedoff chaired Mastering the Art of Smith Cooking, guests at lunch were treated to a surprise skit. "Julia Child," a friend of the chairs in drag with wire whisks stuck in "her" hair and a spot-on imitation of Julia's voice and mannerisms, demonstrated cooking techniques and got very carried away with the cleaver!

Some changes were also introduced — evening hours for setup to encourage more participation, and paid advertising for the Super Sale. The advertising quickly brought results. Super Sale devotees began lining up hours early on Saturday morning. Some shoppers quickly became notorious among the Smith volunteers for their clever attempts to get in early and squirrel away clothes for purchase later in the day when the prices had dropped. (The prices at the public sale dropped by half after lunch and were even lower at the "bag sale" at the end of the day. Patrons purchased everything they could fit in a paper grocery bag, usually donated by Lunds, for $5.) Despite practically giving away the goods at the end of the day Saturday, Super Sale profits became an important part of Smith Day's overall take.

Having Smith Day at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts preserved the country feel of Smith Day — the location just off Lake Minnetonka, the views of fields of wildflowers, the sounds of bugs outside the windows (and sometimes inside the rooms), dust balls the size of hay bales (well, maybe just corn cobs), and the lack of air-conditioning. The peace and quiet was only disturbed by the competition for the great clothes and antiques.

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