Founded in 1936 by 17 members, the Norco Sewing Club met more than 50 years and then faded into memory. But Diane Walker, whose mother, Mable Walker, had been a longtime member, wasn’t going to let it stay that way about a time so special in her life or her mother’s life. It became particularly so when the last known surviving member of the group, Nell Ayme, died last year.
“It would be easy to live in your own little home and little world, but this organization helped to provide a closeness that they embraced all of their adult lives,” Walker said. “The close friendships were certainly more important than the sewing.”
For this Norco native, remembering the group, as well as the community itself, felt like a homecoming.
With husbands working at the Shell Refinery, they came to live in Norco from all over south Louisiana and out of state, she said.
“Most were young mothers with growing families,” Walker said. “No one worked outside the home – all were homemakers.”
Even so, her mother was a librarian in the St. Charles Parish Library System and a library board member.
The Norco Sewing Club met every other Thursday at a member’s residence. This diverse group of locals and transplants met until the early 1990s.
“So here you have this community of young people all starting their families, learning to cook local foods and sharing all kinds of childhood rearing,” Walker said. “It was a rich community in that way.”
Marilyn Richoux, board member of the St. Charles Museum and Historical Society, agreed.
Recognizing the club is also timely as Norco celebrates its centennial.
“The members held lovely bridal showers for respective daughters’ weddings, which were always so much fun,” Richoux recalled. “They were pleasant and witty ladies, and I always enjoyed being in their presence.”
Richoux’s mother, Mamie Mayhall, was among them.
Member Abba Graves was an artist whose gift was usually a painting as a shower gift. Graves gave a magnolia painting to Richoux of which she remains proud of to this day. Althea Erickson crocheted beautiful and delicate lace edgings onto linen handkerchiefs, which the brides usually carried along with bouquets for weddings.
“They remained together for so many years,” she said. “There was a wonderful bond between them… excellent wives, mothers and homemakers. They were excellent role models.”
A retired history teacher who now lives in Mandeville, Walker also fondly recalled her childhood in Norco.
“We lived in a special place at a special time,” Walker said. “To this day, I am a movie buff. We grew up going to five movies a week.”
To the best of her recollection, she watched a movie at the Shell Employees Club on Friday nights. Saturday nights, she watched one at the Royal movie house on River Road, also in Norco. Sunday was a double day with the 3 p.m. movie at the Royal and then 5 p.m. at the employee club. The fifth movie was on Wednesday evenings at the movie house usually in the summer.
“We were so fortunate at that time,” she said. “It was a good place to grow up.”
The Norco Sewing Club certainly added to what the Norco community had to offer in the 1950s when she lived there.
“It was certainly a social organization because they were such good friends for those years,” Walker said. “It was a very supportive group.”
Over the years, member names also included Faye Gugllielmo, Rose Lowry, Inez Folse, Althea Erickson, Althea Peters, Josie Chauvin, Virginia Broderson, Jerri Delaune and Annie Laurie Dill, as well as Enid Waguespack and Billie Bea Snider
“They did sew back in the day,” she said. “They might a blouse, but at home you got the three yards of fabric and the mom whipped up the gathered skirt. Everybody sewed.”
In the ebbing days of the Norco Sewing Club, Walker recalled how those heartfelt bonds continued after the meetings ended and the members died.
Walker called them “the women of Norco” who made sure the baby showers were held for expecting mothers and the flowers were sent to the funerals. They were the fiber of the Norco Community.