History

HISTORY OF THE GARDEN CLUB OF ALABAMA, INC.

Taken from a PRESENTION AT THE 80TH  G.C.A. CONVENTION
By ANN FINDLATER, GCA HISTORIAN, MARCH 30, 2012

On April 28, 1932 at the Jefferson Davis Hotel in Montgomery, 71 delegates representing 50 Alabama Garden Clubs met and organized the Alabama Federation of Garden Clubs.

Alabama could rightfully claim to have the oldest Horticultural Society in the South. A Horticultural Society was organized at Chunnenuggee Ridge (near Union Springs, east of Montgomery) in 1847 with a public garden added shortly afterward.  Chunnenuggee Public Garden Club is still active in G.C.A. today.

In 1941 a Garden School on Flower Show Exhibiting and Judging, sponsored by GCA and the Alabama Extension Service was held at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in Auburn.

GCA won national recognition in 1942 by promoting Victory Garden Harvest Shows to help meet emergency needs of the armed forces and their families. $1,730.19 was sent to the Army and Navy Relief Funds.  This same year, the first issue of the GCA bulletin “Hortensia” (which means ‘Lady Gardener’) was published with 163 subscribers.

In 1943 $2,500.00 was raised by contributions from clubs to purchase an ambulance that was presented to the Red Cross for service overseas.In 1944, Route 31 in Alabama was designated as the Blue Star Memorial Highway honoring military members who’d lost their lives in service.

Mrs. French Craddock, the GCA president 1946-48 had as her theme “In a State Where Gardens Grow, God Walks” which was later adopted as the official motto of the organization. She wrote a Garden Club Collect, which has also been adopted by GCA.

During 1948-1950, state dues were increased to 50¢ per member, which included a subscription to Hortensia.The Christmas lighting program “Every Light a Prayer for Peace” was begun December 1, 1951, and gained attention from National Council.  It is now observed by Garden Clubs throughout the nation.

The first Horticulture Scholarship was established in 1954. It was an annual gift of $250.00 to a student at Alabama Polytechnic Institute. $4,000.00 was raised to endow the fund.  Also that year, the Garden of Memory on the Auburn campus was completed and dedicated as a Living Memorial to Veterans of the World Wars and Korean Conflict at the Annual Convention held there.  The first statewide Flower Show Judges meeting was also held then.

In 1959 a second scholarship in Horticulture was funded. U.S. Highways 11, 29 and 90 were designated as Blue Star Memorial Highways.

In 1961, the membership of GCA reached its zenith – 725 clubs with 15,175 members. The first Prayer Service (now Memorial Service) was held in the Garden of Memory on the Auburn University campus. The Advisory Council of former GCA Presidents began.  The Helen Keller Fragrance Garden was begun at the Alabama School for the Deaf and Blind, funded by contributions from members of 10¢ each.  Fundraising began for the purchase of a State Headquarters building. $5,665.00 was raised.  The South Atlantic Region of NCSGC had become too large, so was divided and GCA became a member of the new Deep South Region.

The State Headquarters Building was acquired on the Auburn University campus, and was dedicated in June, 1964.  The “Every Light a Prayer for Peace” observance was televised for the first time, with GCA President Mrs. Ray Taylor and Governor George Wallace lighting the tree for the cameras.

In 1967 a grant of $400 was given to a student in the School of Forestry. The first School of Landscape Design was held for GCA members.  “The Clearing” at Ivy Green – the birthplace of Helen Keller – was a major project.

In 1972, the State Headquarters was moved to its current location — on Samford Avenue on the Auburn University campus — with members donating $2.00 apiece to defray expenses.

A scholarship in Landscape Design was funded in 1977, and one for Forestry Conservation was established in 1978.

In 1980, a Bartram Trail Marker was erected on Highway 80 at the Alabama-Georgia bridge in Phenix City, a gift from District VII. A Blue Star Memorial was erected by District VII in Enterprise.  GCA Life Memberships provided sufficient funds to permanently endow another Horticulture Scholarship, this one in honor and memory of Dr. L. M. Ware.

In 1988 GCA received a certificate from National Council for its outstanding youth activities. A cookbook “Itchin’ to Get in the Kitchen” was published with recipes from members. Nearly 1500 were sold by the Ways and Means Committee in one year.  Dues were increased from $2.00 to $4.00 a member to help cover the rapidly increasing cost of printing and mailing the quarterly issues of Hortensia.  The sixth scholarship at Auburn University, another Horticulture award, was begun in this term.

In the 1990’s GCA supported the NCSGC’s project of a Butterfly Garden adjacent to the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory in Washington D.C.  17 stone pavers were purchased by our member districts and clubs to support this project.  We encouraged the planting of wildflowers along our highways, and recognized the winning Highway Departments at a luncheon at the Annual Conventions. Habitat for Humanity landscape projects were also a major emphasis.

In 2003, the Alabama Nursery Association leased the State Headquarters from GCA, with the rental money going directly into the Scholarship Endowment Funds. The furnishings were sold, and the various silver Awards were auctioned off at the Annual Convention in Dothan, with our records being archived in the Special Collections at Auburn University.

In 2007, the appointment calendar “Alabama Stars” was published by the Alabama Council of Flower Show Judges. It features designs and gardens from GCA members. Jo Ann Wade was the editor until she became GCA President in 2011.  A web site was initiated, and a Facebook page has been established.

FORMER GCA PRESIDENTS

Verna Ruffin 1933-1934 Rene Miller 1973-1975
Annie Manley 1934-1935 Billie Kearney 1975-1977
Maud Pugh 1935-1937 Marie Callahan 1977-1979
Lucy Harrison 1937-1939 Burma McCrary 1979-1981
Eulette Frances 1939-1941 Irene Kenner 1981-1983
Marion Caldwell 1941-1942 Evelyn Isbell 1983-1985
Julia Woods 1942-1944 Leona Kirtley 1985-1987
Florence Edwards 1944-1946 Edna Morris 1987-1989
Edith Craddock 1946-1948 Betty Castleberry 1989-1991
Martha Bell Sulzby 1948-1950 Mildred Green 1991-1993
Sadin Bolen 1950-1952 Betty Haynes 1993-1995
Margaret Thompson 1952-1954 Mary Fay Crumly 1995-1997
Maybelle Hosey 1954-1956 Chess McKinney 1997-1999
Mary Louise Merriwether 1956-1959 Dot Mapes 1999-2001
Clara Easterly 1959-1961 Carol Keefe 2001-2003
Louise Vines 1961-1963 Mary Summerville 2003-2005
Luta Taylor 1963-1965 Jackie Quisenberry 2005-2007
Thelma Parker 1965-1967 Margaret Reynolds 2007-2009
Betty Thompson 1967-1969 Ann Daniels 2009-2011
Lillian Andrews 1969-1971 Jo Ann Wade 2011-2013
Trece Chancellor 2013-2015
Jan Thomas 2015-2017