La Retama Club
by Mary Carroll (signed)
La Retama Club was
organized in 1905 by a group of young
unmarried women of
for social enjoyment and study.
In this project, the
prime movers were Lorene Jones, Kathleen
Jones, Alice Borden, and
Lucille Scott. The Club was launched under the guiding hand of the Monday
Club, of which Mrs. G. R. Scott was the president.
The name La Retama (for
a native tree) was suggested by Mrs.
Henry Redmond. The colors of the Club were yellow and green which
corresponded to those of the tree – a flowering shrub with lace-like leaves
that blossomed (bloomed) in a shower of gold in May of each year.
The first president of
the club was Lorene Jones, who served
one year and a half,
1905 – 1906. She was the first member to withdraw – lured away by wedding
She was followed in
office by Nettie White, who likewise bowed
out at the end of her
term in office to the same siren call.
During the first year of
the Club’s existence, it met at the
homes of the members’,
that is, of those members that had sufficient number of chairs to seat the
club. For, due to the reports
of the entertaining
affairs the meetings were proving to be, and the great fun the all–girl
parties were, the membership grew apace.
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The second year, it
became necessary to limit the membership
to thirty – five, and to
accept the invitation of Mrs. E. Morris to meet regularly every Wednesday
afternoon at her home on North Broadway at Buffalo. Her daughter, Cecile
Morris, one of the charter members, and a talented one, was at the time
first vice – president.
Several reasons led the
Club to accept Mrs. Morris’ hospitality.
One was the central
location of her home, and a second was the great size of her front parlor
and of her second parlor with its huge fireplace. She told the Club the fire
had to be lighted early in the morning and maintained all day to have the
chill taken off the rooms before mid-afternoon.
In order to impose of
Mrs. Morris’s generosity, the Club decided
to forego the serving of
refreshments, and strange to say this omission did not check the ardor of
the Club members. In fact
few girls ever withdraw
from La Retama except to marry.
During the first
care–free months each departing member, if
she left us to become a bride, was presented with a gift. However, when the
second year rolled around, the Club found its treasury all but empty and
was, as a result, faced with its first financial problem. At one of the
meetings, that followed, the members while casting about for a way to raise
needed funds, entered into a
rather heated debate.
Some members were too frank in their remarks, …
meeting she rose to
invite us all to her wedding (a church wedding) to take place after the club
year ended and concluded her (invitation) remarks by stating that if we
dared to give her a wedding present she would throw it at us.
our first tactless discussion, the group decided, at the suggestion of our
college-trained members, to study parliamentary law! Every member bought a
copy of Shattuck’s (?) Parlia-
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marriages of Lucille Pope and May Willacy Westendorf, the Club dropped the
maxime number of members to be maintained by La Retama to thirty-five.
Club decided to study George Washington, by
for nine months. For the study each member bought a copy ($1.50). This book
she brought to the meetings, and from it the lesson of the day was conducted
by leader selected at the previous week’s meeting.
Club decided to appoint a program committee to outline a year’s programs on
English Literature stressing the poets. Nannie Lee Caldwell, just home from
her year’s study at the University of Texas, was named chairman.
also voted to discontinue all meetings during the summer months except the
beach parties. These were sun-rise dips in the bay with breakfast prepared
on the sand; and twilight swims with picnic parties, to which each girl
could invite one beau. The refreshments committee was given the privilege of
selecting several club “mothers” to act as chaperones. Occasionally, a
father was also taken along to share with the group in enjoying the
substantial and plentiful “delights” that came out of the lunch baskets.
In the early
years the favorite spots for the swimming parties were the Natatorium, a
pavilion and bathhouse built over the water of the bay at the corner of
and Twigg: and Central Wharf, Water St. at Laguna. Here the bath-house stood
in the water waist deep, water that rapidly deepened as one swam toward the
east end of the wharf. (Dangerous when the waves were high.)
pleasure of the get-togethers at the Natatorium was the fact it had a dance
floor built onto the open pavilion section of the pier, also above the
water. This section had benches running around the three sides and against
the rails. Here onlookers could enjoy the evening breeze and the dance music
as well. In the pavilion, tables could be set up for the supper groups.
These were the days of
the horse and buggy and the family surrey, and so distances, especially in
the late afternoon summer, had to be considered.
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dresses were the style the girls were hesitant to “muss up” their furbelows
laces, their starched linens and stiff white collars; and of fading the
hats, and chiffon
after swimming parties all had to return home carrying satchels containing
wet heavy bath suits (over-dresses with pants beneath and thick black
stockings). For the girls who did not have the exclusive use of the family
conveyance, the walk home was none to exhilarating. At least, not as
enjoyable as was a saunter along Chaparral St. under the lamp-lit corners
with girls companion, and a beau or two, greeting other strollers as they
sauntered past. A walk to the T-head on
was considered the end of the trail, and drew many couples on a moon-light
Corpus Christi was a pretty village beside the bay.It boasted of a
population of 4,000 inhabitants. Its newspapers were three weekly
Corpus Christi Caller,
editor was Mr. Eli
Merriman; The Herald, published by Mr. John Hardwicke, and later by
Mrs. Maude Hardwicke, his widow; and The Crony, put out by Mr.
Malcolm Henderson. Although The Crony was the smallest of the sheets
and only four pages in size, it was filled with brief reports of the town
happenings, and with the wittiest of remarks which were greeted weekly with
hearty laughs and many giggles. Since space was at a premium in all three
papers, only the briefest reports
on La Retama’s social
life were ever printed. To rate a line or two was to have arrived. Only
obituaries were given a column, and sometimes weddings rated equal notice.
No pictures appeared
publicity was out of reach of La Retama girls, Spreading the work around was
a bit arduous, especially for those of us who rode “Shank’s mare.”
president of the Club was Kathleen Jones, Who served 1908-1909 with Thelma
Archer, vice president, and Miss Mary Watts (later Suttle) as secretary,
Mary Carroll, treasurer.
had just returned from college in the East, and was filled with high ideals
and ambitions to make Corpus Christi a progressive town and one in step with
the times. It was not long till Kathleen’s ambitions awakened similar
ambitions in all the members of La Retama; and the Club began to look about
for some way to help to better Corpus Christi. This was the decade of the
rising tide of women’s literary clubs, and Corpus Christi already had
several busy, not only at self-culture, but at some civic enterprise. Corpus
Christi had no library and La Retama girls decided that
in building a library
for their own, they could achieve something of lasting value, for they
sensed that the road they wanted to travel would wind on and on ---into the
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members suggested that they adopt the Spanish saying “Poco a poco se va
lejos” (“Little by little one goes far”) but that motto was never accepted.
Later, a framed copy of the famed
saying of President (of
Mirabeau Lamar was hung upon the library wall—“A cultivated mind is the
guardian genius of democracy, the only that tyrants fear, the only that
In the first
volume of the scrapbook kept by Mary Carroll appears a clipping from the
local newspaper from the year 1908-1909 which gives an account of the first
steps taken by the Club to build the library. It reads:
Has Taken Matter in Hand
At a meeting of La Retama club Wednesday afternoon
call was answered by quotations from The Bells
The study was led by Miss Pearl Crawford and Parlia-
crill was under the leadership of Miss Cecil Morris.
A special committee appointed about a month ago,
of Miss (Mamie) Mary Carroll, Chairman, Miss
Kathleen Jones, Miss
Laura Savage, Miss Hortense O’Leary
reported favorably on
the establishment of the public
Corpus Christi. A play
will be given some
time after Lent, by the
members of the Club, the proceeds
to help swell the funds
to be used in paying for the
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The first successful
money-making scheme carried out as a peanut hunt at which nearly twenty
dollars was raised. Ten cents was charged for admission to the school
grounds which entitled each child to all the peanuts he could find and a
glass of lemonade.
hunt an auction took place. The children bidding peanuts for wonderful
packages put up for auction. Each package contained some trifle, or better
said “junk”, donated by the club
thing about the party was that the children begged for a repeat performance.
next attempted to sell ice cream, cake, and candy, and coffee at the Ladies
Pavilion out over the bay on Water St. just south of
and at the Natatorium, but this effort
proved a failure, the
expense proving to be more than the receipts - to say nothing of the work.
One clipping reads: “La
Retama served luncheon at the Natatorium (during Miss Kathleen Jones’ term
in office) to picnickers from Kingsville, realizing fourteen dollars for the
“The coffee made by Miss
Emelia Daimwood was highly complimented. The dish-washing being especially
odious to the members amid heat and in the make-shift kitchen equipment, the
serving committee enticed teen-ager Barry Orr to lend a hand. He filled the
with headline, “La Retama Book Reception at the Ladies’ Pavilion Yesterday
Afternoon Was a Grand Success”, sums up the Club’s next venture. It reads:
‘The book reception given at the Ladies’ Pavilion yesterday
‘La Retama’ Club was a grand success. There was
number of ladies present, nearly all of whom contributed a
resulting in more than 200 books, being given toward the pub-
which La Retama Club purposed establishing in
Christi at a near future date.
The club-hall was beautifully decorated in club colors,
gold, while festoons of cut out roses added to the
the scene. The punch table was decorated with
luscious grapes. The guests were entertained with
contest. A number of cut-outs (framed) were hung about
representing the titles of books. Guests were given
cards with numbers
corresponding to those on the pictures and
answers. The first went
to Mrs. McNeill Turner, The second
to Miss Anna Ross.
Archer received at the door, assisted by
members of the Club
while punch was served by Miss Nettie
Seaton, Philippine Rankin, And Wilhelmina
“A Card of
To those who generously donated books, the committee
who so generously gave the use of the pavilion, and others
who aided so
worthy a cause – that of establishing a public
library – La
Retama Club offers sincere thanks.
Secretary Pro Tem.”
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secretary pro. tem. is a bit puzzled (now fifty years later) to read that
the Ladies Pavilion was beautifully decorated! The Pavilion was a large
barn-like building with many bare windows and unpainted walls. It stood on
the east side of Water St., well out in the bay and was approached by a wide
ramp that extended from the hard dry-shell center of Water St., to its
broad double door. At
the east end of the building was a stage with dressing rooms on each side.
On this stage theatricals held in town were preformed. The center of the
floor served as the
parquet, a dance floor, and in season a skating rink. The space beyond the
pillars was lined with benches along the wall, furnishing seats for
onlookers for all events.
afternoons Ladies, members of clubs and other women stock holders in the
“venture”, hauled in their gasoline cooking stoves and tables, china, and
cooked and served “Oyster Suppers” in season, ice-cream in summer.
This was one
of the ways those brave women tried to earn the money to repay the stock
and Wildest Venture of La Retama came next. They signed a contract to bring
on during the summer of 1908, the Chautauqua and then set out to canvass the
town in a door-to-door drive to see tickets.
This was the
first time Corpus Christi was to witness paid talent in a whole week of
afternoon and night performances. The site for this momentous affair was the
new Ennis Hotel and Pavilion built at the end of the three hundred foot pier
at the end of Water and Taylor Sts. Perched in piers on the
Riparian Rights of Mrs. Charles Carroll, it rose at about 30 feet above the
level of the bay and was three stories in height. Ennis’ Riparian Rights
were on the north side of the pier. He was stealing my mother’s property.
The case was in court.
lowest level were the bath rooms (for men and for women), the restaurant,
and at the end of the building concealed behind the southside of the café
was a very large bar room.
second floor was a vast dance hall with stage. It had removable walls and
was made open air in summer. On the top floor were the hotel bed rooms,
air-conditioned by nature.
running of this week’s long events, the Club was assisted in every was by
the Chautauqua management.
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planned to divide this arduous and frightening task among the various
committees which would serve in turn, but after the first night, woeful
failure on the part of Mary Carroll and her
assistants, she, the
treasurer of the Chautauqua venture, decided to sit in at the money table
through every performance. There were season tickets, adults’ and
children's’, purchased in advance, single tickets for adults and children.
Some purchasers wanted three adults’ and two children’s, etc., and the
inexperienced treasurer had to make change! All tickets were numbered by the
Chautauqua agents and had to be accounted for!
That was the
day before women, school teachers as well as others, had learned to return
change correctly counted! Judge J. B. Hopkins, our district judge, kindly
returned a five dollar bill to the treasurer, showing her how to count his
change and counseling her not to become so excited and to slow down in her
efforts to oblige.
One clipping read:
Chautauqua Season’s Greet Large Audience Afternoon
Thus far from a standpoint of attendance, the Chau-
tauqua sessions have
been a complete success and the young
ladies of La Retama have
reason to congratulate themselves.
was ‘Sobieska Day’ so called in honor of
Count Sobieska, a lineal
heir to the throne of Poland,
exiled by Russia, who
delivered a lecture at night
entertained with clever interpretations
of folk and child songs.
Parks, reader, showed exceptional artistic
instinct and humorous
expression, She has studied with
some of the country’s
best exponents of dramatic art.”
Another clipping read:
Program Today at Chautaququa Meeting-Women’s Day,
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Both from the artistic viewpoint and financial stand-
week’s Chautauqua course, which came to a conclu-
Sunday night was a success.
The program presented during the week, while not
was interesting and instructive and above all
absolutely free from any
objectionable features, so that
even the most fastidious
could find no fault.
Pre-eminent in the week’s entertainment was the lecture
Tongier on ‘Shasta Daisies and Folks’. This alone,
in our opinion, was
worth the price of the season’s ticket.
Club, which numbers among its membership the
intelligent young womanhood of Corpus
Christi, are entitled to
the thanks of people of this
town, and as Rev. A. J.
Holworthy suggested, “other clubs
and societies would do
well to follow in the footsteps of
La Retama and up the
good work along similar lines.’
derived from Chautauqua after all expenses
have been paid is to be
devoted toward the establishment
of a public library for
Note: As no written
record was kept except in the minutes of the Club, and those are now lost,
in the 1919 storm, the exact amount of money belonging to the Club in the
final settlement with Chautauqua management is lost to posterity.
treasurer recalls suffering such a spell of nerves that she had to throw the
treasurer’s book into her mother’s lap and flee into the yard until her
mother could re-check the book and assure her her first
Additions were correct
and her later additions were in error due to
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clippings it is noted that from the Chautauqua La
“something” over $200.00.
La Retama Club Met
La Retama met yesterday at the home of Miss Mary
Carroll (714 Chaparral, corner of Taylor on the corner
occupied today by the Florence Apts.). Miss Bernice
Palmer was the leader. The Club spent a pleasant after-
noon and carried out the program arranged for the occasion.
The next meeting will be held in the Public Library Room
over Clarkson’s Store.”
decided by the Club that in furnishing the library it would be
necessary to have chairs in the room as well as bookcases and a large table
suitable for the librarian to use. The plaining
mill-wood working shop
made the cases and the table which were paid for from the library’s
treasury. It was then decided that the Club members should each purchase on
chair (price $1.50) t seat the
members of the Club. We
finally ceased to impose on our kind friend, Mrs. E. Morris, at the homes of
members who had homes down town. When they moved, next, to the library room,
they again dropped serving refreshments.
was pushed along in order to open during the presidency of Miss Kathleen
Jones, but due to many unforeseen obstacles did not open until December,
1909, during the term office
of Mary Carroll.
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“Corpus Christi First Public Library is Open
La Retama Gives Reception to Public
Has Been Exercised in Selection (of
San Antonian Assisted
Corpus Christi’s first public library
tendered to the public by the ladies of La Retama Club,
was opened to the public yesterday, the ladies serving
as a committee to receive the people of the city.
The library is tastefully decorated and
About 500 volumes are now on the shelves, and to these
many more will be added
as the patronage of the library
grows and money is
selection of the books the club was greatly
aided by librarian Wyche
of San Antonio Carnegie
had advised the library committee con-
stantly, and Miss
Carroll chairman of the committee
conferred with Mr. Wyche
recently regarding the purchase
of the volumes. The
members of the Club are greatly
indebted to his
Note: Laura Savage,
during the year 1908-1909 which she spent in San Antonio, consulted Mr.
Wyche many times. She returned home ready to begin the selecting of new
books, and cataloguing
of all the books.
“The committee is composed of Miss Mamie Carroll, Laura
Claude Caldwell, Miss Mary Craig, Miss Lillie
have numbered and indexed each volume, entailing
work and the library will publish a catalogue
names of all books.”
Carroll, Ch. of Library Committee
Savage, Ch. of first committee on the purchase of new
the use of the books are sold for $1.25 a full
ticket $1.00 for a
“La Retama to Be Entertained
The members of La Retama, the brilliant
club of this city, will be entertained at the club rooms
this afternoon by Miss Mamie Carroll, president of the
club. La Retama has the honor of being the first club
of the city to start and carry out a bona fide movement
for a public library toward which the young ladies have
already collected several hundred useful and interesting
volumes. It is quite possible that they will shortly
add quite a number more with the proceeds which they
took in from their latest venture, the excellent little
publication called La Retama Special Edition.”
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Retama Library had been housed about two years in the first home—the one
room upstairs in the Lovenskiold Building, the enthusiasm of its friends
began to wane, and the owners of the library (the girls of La Retama Club)
became increasingly aware of the fact that their beautiful baby had to be
housed, and fed regularly. But like some young parents, they were incapable
of supporting their
the girls assembled to a pleasant club meeting, they were confronted with
the same old worry—how were they going to pay the rent? Sad to say as each
thirty days ran around, the girls found themselves deeper in debt.
came up with a plan, that suggested economy. Again, they stopped meeting at
homes where refreshments were always in order. There they had an impressive
number of chairs-35-and few books.
girls found that their abstaining from sweets and coffee would not pay the
library’s bills, much less pay the rent. Again they set to worrying.
suddenly the load slipped from their backs. Early one afternoon, Mamie
Carroll went down to open the Library for the biweekly service to the public
and stopped on the threshold dumb-
founded! Her surprise
was caused by seeing a large rug covering the ugly, dusty floor.
excitement she rushed in the office of Mr. Thos. Southgate.
Then she learned that the donor of the gift was no one less than the
landlord-Dr. Perry Lovenskiold – the good
friend of La Retama.
surprise was over an the doctor’s goodness of heart was forgotten, the
girls’ worries lessened, and they gathered happily each Wednesday, never
again giving a serious thought to that night-mare – the rent.
afterward, on hearing this tale of La Retama’s methods of muddling through,
one listener was moved to ask –“Did Dr. Lovenskiold ever collect his rent?”
In one voice, the group
enjoying to the fullest
the telling of the tale, chorused, “Of course not! Why La Retama was
never a jump ahead of current expenses. After all some one had to support
during the administration of Dr. Lovenskiold, as mayor of Corpus Christi,
that the City of Corpus Christi took over the ownership of the Library and
assumed all responsibility
for its support.