In 1948, The Smithfield Herald described the 57-member Pomona-Creech Home Demonstration Club as “the workingest bunch of women.”
Now known as the Pomona-Creech Extension and Community Association Club, the group has 12 members – ladies in their 70s, 80s and 90s. But the women are still going strong, and so is their club, which will celebrated its centennial May 21.
The women held a celebration from 2 to 4 p.m. that day at their community building, a former schoolhouse at 3929 Brogden Road near Smithfield.
The N.C. Agricultural Extension Service chartered the Pomona-Creech Club in 1916. The purpose of Home Demonstration clubs was to give rural women the skills needed to raise the standard of living of their families.
Early on, said club member Jane Hales, the women met in a member’s home for educational programs provided by a Johnston County Extension agent or a member who had been to a workshop.
In 1947, the club bought the former schoolhouse and its acre or so of land. Many club members had attended the school. Mrs. J.E. Woodall and her family sold the school and land to the club for $525, Hales said.
Club members and their husbands renovated the building, which had been used most recently for storage. They dedicated the building the following year and have used it ever since.
The club receives income for upkeep of the building through fundraisers and rentals for family reunions, wedding receptions, church functions and the like.
The women who make up the club today are Linda Campbell, Audrey Creech, Helen Creech, Shirley Coor, Mildred Crumpler, Jane Hales, Nina Lassiter, Helen Lawhon, Roberta Reed, Irene Talton, Hilda Whitley and Laverne Whitley. All live near Smithfield.
Interest in learning to can food seemed to have pioneered demonstration work in Johnston County, according to a Smithfield Herald article in the 1970s.
“Some of our charter club women recall Mrs. Wellons precisely loading her buggy with canning equipment and heading her horse and buggy toward a rural community where families were interested in canning,” Anna H. Cox said in the article. “All day long a group of women and girls would can, chiefly tomatoes.”
Learning to preserve food was especially useful during food shortages of the early 20th century, particularly during World War I and the Great Depression.
Later, the clubs taught food preparation, meal planning, table setting, year-round gardening and home beautification. Health education was another priority.
Clothing also was a big part of the club’s activities, with Pomona-Creech winning fashion shows in which women and girls modeled clothing created by members.
The clubs of Johnston County, including Pomona-Creech, also played a part in the first rural library system Johnston in the late 1930s.
While the women don’t can food or make clothing anymore, they meet for regular lunches and have been involved in community-outreach projects in the past, Hales said.
“It gives me something to do and gets me going,” said Hilda Whitley. “It’s nice to have these ladies to spend time with.”
“It gives them a purpose and helps keep them active,” Hales said. “There’s so much history in this organization, and it means a lot to them.”
For more information about the club, call Jane Hales at 919-934-4760.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett