LIMA — They were unabashedly civic-minded do-gooders, and over more than three decades they did a lot of it.
In announcing their annual Christmas dance fundraiser on Nov. 19, 1972, The Lima News listed some of those who would benefit from ticket sales. Transients in Lima would receive food and transportation, a heart patient’s medications would be paid for and a needy family would get help with utilities and groceries. “Other donations were for purchase of a cool-mist humidifier for a child with bronchial asthma, paying a student’s high school equivalency tests and buying a table and chairs for a family.”
And the story listed still larger donations: a resuscitator for St. Rita’s pediatrics unit, a birthday party for nursing home residents, scholarships for OSU-Lima, and a shopping trip and lunch for residents of the children’s home.
In 1947, the year the Lima Area Jay-C-Ettes formed, Harry Truman was president, Henry Ford and Al Capone died, and Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues since 1880. “The Best Years of Our Lives,” a movie about the challenges facing servicemen returning from World War II, won the Academy Award for best picture.
Returning veterans would form the backbone of service clubs for years to come, including the Jaycees (formally known as the United States Junior Chamber). The Jay-C-Ettes were comprised of the wives of Jaycees.
“Lima Jay-C-Ettes was founded in 1947 with Mrs. Charles Templeton being the first president. First meeting was held in the Rose Room of the Barr Hotel with Richard Hardy and Richard Krabach as speakers. There were 49 women in attendance,” the News wrote on May 26, 1963. ”President for the 1948-49 year was Mrs. Robert Redderson. She and her committee are responsible for the spelling of Jay- C-Ettes. It was voted that the club should be called the Lima Jay-C-Ettes and that name is still used today.” There were 79 members the first year.
The club, the News explained Oct. 1, 1967, “has a purpose of assisting the Greater Lima Jaycees with projects; to create and maintain a friendly feeling among the wives of Jaycees; to promote the general welfare of the community; to provide full and free discussion of matters of public interest at club meetings.”
From the beginning the annual Christmas dance was a major means of promoting the general welfare of the community. It went by several names — “Sleigh Bell Ball,” “Starlite Ball,” “Frosty Frolic” — before becoming the “Kris Kringle Kapers” around 1970. The club also held other fund-raisers, notably a fashion show, which like the Christmas dance, went by several names over the years and was usually held at Lima’s UAW Hall.
The club itself, which had a steady membership of around 50, met initially at the Barr Hotel before moving in later years to the Jaycees’ rooms above the Quilna Theater on West Market Street and, still later, the Cook Tower Annex.
Money raised by the Jay-C-Ettes found its way to a wide range of causes. In 1963, the club ensured some need children would have shoes. “The Jay-C-Ettes will complete its ‘Operation Shoes’ project Tuesday when more than 30 pairs of shoes and rubber footwear will be distributed to children at Mizpah Mission,” the News reported Jan. 12, 1963. “Members of the organization will transport children from the mission to Schiff’s Shoe Store. Funds for the project were obtained from proceeds of the ‘Glass Slipper Ball’ held in November.” The club also provided help to the Salvation Army, American Cancer Society and Marimor School.
Ongoing causes included sponsoring a course designed to help teenagers become reliable babysitters, which annually attracted around 100 participants, and the Allen County Foundation for Better Hearing, which screened area school children for hearing problems. The foundation was operated in conjunction with the Junior Service league.
“Sixty volunteer workers contributed approximately 1,100 hours for testing during the 1966-‘67 year,” the News noted on May 20, 1968. “The organization, founded by the Lima Jay-C-Ettes five years ago, has two verbal auditory screening units operated by volunteers from the Jay-C-Ettes and Lima Junior Service League.”
“Still,” the News wrote Nov. 21, 1976, “the main purpose of the group is to assist and support the Lima Area Jaycees, which includes assisting with the annual haunted house. They help with the annual Punt, Pass and Kick competition and will be assisting their husbands on the annual Jaycees Christmas shopping tour for children.”
“More than 80 youngsters will have the opportunity to be Christmas ‘givers’ as a result of attending the Jaycee-sponsored Christmas shopping tour” at the J.J. Newberry Department store in downtown Lima, the News reported Dec. 6, 1965. “Jay-C-Ettes will assist in the party by wrapping the children’s gifts and serving refreshments …”
In the wake of the 1960 Census, which initially set Lima’s population at just under 50,000, the Jay-C-Ettes helped staff booths downtown and at the Westgate Shopping Center to, in the words of the News, “help round up uncounted residents.” Thanks in part to the efforts of the Jay-C-Ettes, the 1960 national count put the city’s population at more than 51,000.
By the late 1970s, as membership in service clubs in general began to wane, the Jay-C-Ettes also began to fade. In the mid-1980s, the Jaycees expanded to include women.
Reach Greg Hoersten at TLNinfo@civitasmedia.com.