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MAE Belles celebrate 70th anniversary

Elma Jessup and Eleanor Donahue, founding members of the MAE Belles, admire corsages they received Sunday at the club’s 70th anniversary celebration.

Current members of the MAE Belles gathered at the 70th anniversary celebration. From left: Annette Vallieres, Margaret Gosling, Heather Dodd, Peggy Donahue, Edith Evans, Neisje Vanden Dool and Flory Fraser. Front: founding members Eleanor Donahue and Elma Jessup.

They said it wouldn’t last, but the MAE Belles celebrated their 70th year Nov. 18 at Ardenville Social Centre.
About 40 people turned out for the unveiling of a sign outside the social centre celebrating the 70-year-old women’s club
“This dedication is for everybody — the MAE Belles who are and the MAE Belles who were,” member Edith Evans said.
One hundred and 11 women have belonged to the club since it was formed in 1948, with MAE an acronym for the disbanded McBride, Ardenville, and Ewelme school districts.
Charter members Elma Jessup and Eleanor Donahue were on hand Sunday to recall the first meeting on Nov. 16, 1948 at Ellen Chester’s house.
Donahue recalled that when she came home from that first meeting and told her husband Leo that a women’s club had been formed.
“It’ll never last,” he predicted.
The MAE Belles encountered many doubters, but the club persevered and has served the community in many ways.
The club has staged an annual Christmas party starring children from the district.
The MAE Belles have fund-raised and directed improvements to the former Ardenville school, which they took over and turned into a social centre that served as the hub of the rural community.
Card parties, raffles, theme nights and other events brought friends and neighbours together on a regular basis at the social centre.
Early members canvassed the district to raise money for the Community Chest.
Member Margaret Gosling read the minutes of the first meeting, where nine women met to discuss forming a handicrafts club in conjunction with the Hazelmere Beavers Club.
The minutes note such decisions as the election of Beth Fraser as president, Ellen Chester as secretary-treasurer and Eva Chester as reporter.
Members agreed upon a 50-cent membership fee, plans for a Christmas gift exchange at the next meeting, and to hold meetings at 2 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.
Each hostess was to have two helpers, with lunches “kept simple” consisting of not more than two kinds of sandwiches, cakes, cookies — “and pickles if desired.”
“And of course a lovely lunch was served,” Gosling noted, referring to what became a staple of each MAE Belles meeting.
Another regular feature of meetings was an active roll call rather than a boring noting of members’ names.
Over the year members have answered the roll with readings, favourite recipes, and even whether they had considered self-improvements such as face-lifts or botox.
Recently, members discussed the women’s rally after Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, and stated their opinions on the legalization of marijuana.
“I’m totally impressed with the discussions that take place at roll call,” said Neisje Vanden Dool, the newest member of the MAE Belles. “There’s really no out-of-bounds questions, and some lovely, lovely discussions.”
Raffles were held at each meeting, with prizes being something made by members.
Evans noted that while the MAE Belles accomplished many things, they had plenty of help along the way.
“They were very good at volun-telling people what they should do,” Evans said with a laugh.
Helen Dodd read some reminisces prepared by member Michelle Toutant, and members Flory Fraser and Annette Vallieres shared their recollections.
MD of Willow Creek councillor Ian Sundquist brought best wishes, and former councillor Alfred Vallieres praised the club for its work.
Elma Jessup and Eleanor Donahue cut a cake specially made for the anniversary.
And, or course, a lovely lunch was served.

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