As I was driving through the quaint little town of Erwin, population approximately 40, I got a nostalgic feeling at the park. Looking around, I pondered how many boys and girls once played on the slide and old swing set that at one time was the school playground. I turned onto Main Street only to see the City Park filled with ladies in lawn chairs and the sound of laughter coming from their voices.
They welcomed me graciously, this beautiful group of ladies who meet at 3:00 p.m. every Thursday. The first Thursday of the month is for celebrating birthdays. Someone brings a cake, and they celebrate who ever has a birthday that month. This month it was Ellen Gilbertson, who turned 93, along with Marilyn Jones, who turned 86. Betty Marken was this month’s host.
This group of ladies call themselves POP. In Erwin, there used to be two clubs, Every Busy and Chit Chat. Every Busy Club is no longer active, but the Chit Chat Club is active and has been for 70 years. Since these ladies decided they wanted to continue their get-togethers to just simply visit about the local Erwin updates, they started meeting at the local Tavern every Thursday.
When I asked what topics the ladies discussed, my curiosity was answered.
“What’s new, who is sick or has anyone we know passed away,” said Holly Penn.
“We also talk about our grandkids, kids, who has moved into town and what house they are living in,” said Joyce Carlson. Again, laughter filled the park.
When the COVID-19 scare hit, the ladies didn’t meet until the weather got nice and the park was available. Usually, six to 10 retired ladies come to the park, some driving in from Volga, Bryant, De Smet and Lake Preston. That is why they enjoy meeting during the day instead of night, sharing with a smile that you go home with the one who brought you!
POP ladies range in age from 61-93. Elaine Kazmerzak and Ellen Gilbertson are both 93 years old and have lots of wisdom to share. There are many different personalities among this group, but they complement one another, showing strong compassion for each lady and her kin.
There is much local pride within these ladies.
“You can’t take Erwin out of the girl,” said Diane (Rossel) Oldsen.
POP also knows a lot of local history about the town they love. When I inquired if they were all from Erwin, the stories abounded! All of them had some connection to Erwin, whether they had lived there all of their lives or married men who grew up in Erwin. One of the ladies graduated from Erwin High School in the mid 1920’s. Another lady taught school there, while two of the younger ladies started school in Erwin but graduated from Lake Preston. Roberta Neu shared that her husband and his dad were born in the same house, in the same room, and they are still living there today. That is a story very unlikely to be heard in today’s world.
So, when silence began filling the air and talk was to start heading home, the ladies, with smiles on their faces, gathered their lawn chairs, and “see you next week “ was the last sound one could hear.