Memories of nation’s first Beta Club, formed in Landrum in 1934

Published 3:18 pm Monday, April 20, 2009

Editor&squo;s note: Martha Walker shared the following comments last week at a ceremony honoring the 75th anniversary of the Beta Club at Landrum High School. The high school was home to the original Beta Club, and Walker shared memories of the school at that time, as told to her by some of the original charter members. Walker was instrumental in gathering memorabilia for a Beta Club display case at the high school that was dedicated during last week&squo;s ceremony.

75th Anniversary

As a former Beta Club sponsor for almost 20 years, I am so happy that the history of the Landrum Beta Club is being preserved.&bsp; The new display case and the monument in front of the school will help future generations to know about the beginnings of the National Beta Club here at Landrum High School.

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I want to share with you some of the memories of the early years as told by our charter members.&bsp; Of the 15 original charter members, there are only 4 still alive, and we are so glad that Mrs. Trammell and Mrs. Wolfe could be with us today. &bsp;

Mary Page Trammell and Ruth Stewart Wolfe were in the 10th grade at Landrum High School in 1934.&bsp; There were only 11 grades at that time, so the Beta Club members were either in the tenth or the eleventh grade.&bsp; Mrs. Trammel recalls that there were few cars in Landrum, and those few were owned by the bankers, doctors, and ministers, so everyone walked everywhere they went.&bsp; Money was scarce as the people were living in the Great Depression years.&bsp; However, Mrs. Trammell said everyone was in the same financial condition so no one felt poor. &bsp;

She remembers Landrum as a wonderful place in which to grow up.&bsp; She recalled a time when a group of her friends, chaperoned by their teacher Ruth Dix, walked to Tryon to see a movie which cost 10 or 15 cents.&bsp; They had to carry a sandwich for their lunch since there were no places to eat near the movie, and they could not have afforded a meal if there had been a restaurant.&bsp; She said that they laughed and talked the whole way to Tryon and back.&bsp; Back then her nickname was &dquo;Giggles,&dquo; and we can still see that trait in her. &bsp;

Mrs. Trammell lived next door to the parsonage of Landrum First Baptist Church, and the church and the school were the social gathering places back then.&bsp; &dquo;We didn&squo;t have much, but we were very happy.&dquo;&bsp; To earn some money, she went from house to house and fixed the hair of the teachers and the doctors&squo; wives.&bsp; She made 15 cents for a shampoo and 25 cents if she shampooed and set the hair.&bsp; She remembered that she earned enough money that way to make herself a dress.

Both Mrs. Trammell and Mrs. Wolfe have shared with me their memories of some of the teachers and administrators of LHS in 1934 and 35.&bsp; Mr. L. J. Willis was the superintendent of Landrum High School, and he also taught French. Mr. J. T. Wood was the principal, and he taught science and biology.&bsp; Each male member of the administration and faculty was called professor. Professor Hawthorn and Professor Howard were two male teachers. Miss Ruth Dix taught English and literature, and Miss Alice Cooper taught history.

However, the teacher who impressed both Mrs. Trammell and Mrs. Wolfe the most was Miss Helen Prince. They remember Miss Prince as a brilliant teacher who dedicated her life to her students. Miss Prince was a math teacher, a guidance counselor, drama coach and Beta Club sponsor. Mrs. Wolfe remembers the day that Miss Prince called a small group of students into the hallway to meet with Dr. John Harris and Dr. Snyder.&bsp; After he presented the ideals and principles of the Beta Club to the students, Dr. Harris asked if anyone would be interested in joining this club. All the students were excited about the idea of a Beta Club and agreed to join with an initial fee of $10. Miss Prince worked quickly to get all of the paperwork completed, so Landrum High School became the first Beta Club to be chartered on January 8, 1934.

Mrs. Trammell said that she never missed a meeting of the Beta Club.&bsp; She credits the Beta Club with teaching her leadership skills and the ability to speak in front of people. She also was the Vice President of her Junior and Senior Class, a member of the French Club, Speaker&squo;s Club, Glee Club, and played basketball. &bsp;

Mrs. Wolfe has fond memories of her experiences in the Beta Club and Landrum High School.&bsp; She was the secretary of her Junior and Senior Class, Secretary of the French Club in 1935, a member of the Wilson Literary Society, and was the Salutatorian of the Class of 1935. &bsp;

Both Mrs. Trammell and Mrs. Wolfe have given me information about some of the other charter members which you will just have to read when the full memories are put in the display case.&bsp; I do want to share a few memories of the other two living charter members.

Mrs. Evaline Nash Smith and Mrs. Ruth Mize McClain were seniors at LHS in 1934.&bsp; Mrs. Smith, who lives in Greenville, could not be here today due to health problems, but she has always been interested in the history of the Beta Club.&bsp; Over the years she had collected many items relating to the Landrum Club, and she has graciously donated all of them to be put in the display case. Mrs. Smith spoke at the first convention of the National Beta Club in Spartanburg in 1934, and she also spoke at the 59th convention of the National Beta Club in Charlotte in 1993 when 10 of the charter members were honored. Mrs. Smith was the Valedictorian of LHS in 1934; she was the first secretary of the Beta Club; and she wrote a three page article for the October 1934 edition of the Beta Club Journal about her impressions of college life.

Mrs. Ruth Mize McClain lives in California, and the story of how she ended up in California is something you definitely will want to read when it is put into the display case. She regrets that she is unable to attend this 75th anniversary of the Landrum Beta Club, but she is in good health and doing well. In fact, Mrs. McClain remarried last year at the age of 90!

We would love to hear the stories of other former Beta Club members and to see any old photos or memorabilia that you have.&bsp; Please contact the school to share these items.&bsp; Thank you.