Moving through the years: Local Progressive Club marks 50 years

Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The three charter members of the Progressive Club Shirley Beggs, left, Mary Talley, center, and Dorothy Penzel look through scrapbooks full of memories from the last 50 years Tuesday, June 21, 2011 inside Penzel's Jackson home. (Laura Simon)

In 1961, high school friends Shirley Beggs, Dorothy Penzel and Mary Talley started a club to learn all the things they'd need to know as young wives and mothers -- cooking and cleaning, decorating and sewing, and raising a family. Fifty years later, the three charter members of the Progressive Club have raised their children, retired and become proud grandmothers.

They've accumulated about 15 other club members, shared vacations and family picnics, celebrated milestone anniversaries and cared for each other through joint replacement surgeries and battles with cancer. They're pros on everything from creating dried flower arrangements to sewing drapes to serving "hurry-up meals" -- "What other kind is there?" laughs Dorothy, of Jackson. "If we haven't learned to do that yet, I don't think we're ever going to do it," says Shirley, who lives in Cape Girardeau and is currently vice president of the club.

The ladies will celebrate the club's 50th anniversary Aug. 23. Looking back, they say, there's no question what's kept them going all these years: their friendship.

"We all had kids and were raising them at the same time, and we all hung out together as we got older," says Dorothy. It was good for the busy wives and mothers to get away and spend time with each other, she says, and the Progressive Club continues to meet the fourth Tuesday of every month.

The club had 11 members when it first started, and monthly meetings included a potluck dinner, fellowship and an educational program, usually coordinated with the Missouri Extension Council's Homemakers Association, with which the club was once affiliated. It capped the membership at 20 ladies early on, because members met in one another's homes and knew they wouldn't have space for many more members.

"We each used to carry in a dish. Now we've been known to meet at restaurants," says Dorothy.

Now that the ladies have raised their families and mastered the homemaking skills they set out to learn, their programs are based on other suggestions and interests of the club members. A few recent highlights were seeing the "Church Basement Ladies" at the River Campus; taking the Amtrak from St. Louis to Kansas City, Mo.; visiting one another's gardens; and touring a local alpaca farm.

"We wouldn't have had time to do that before," says Mary, of Jackson.

Now, they enjoy the freedom to travel and even invite their husbands, who have also become close friends over the years. "It just takes us more time to move around," says Dorothy. "We had a little more energy back then."

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