La Retama Club

by Mary Carroll

Mary Carroll Papers B9,.8.01


Dr. Perry Lovenskiold:


            After La 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

of supporting their child. Each time 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.

             Then they came up with a plan, that suggested economy. Again, they stopped meeting at homes of the members  where refreshments were always in order and moved their meetings to the bare library which had just two chairs. It then became necessary to buy some chairs and each of the 35 members bought one (price $1.75), thus furnishing the library with an impressive circle of chairs and creating the impression that there were too many chairs for the space, and too few books on the shelves! Presently, the girls found that giving up the weekly round of sweets and coffee would not pay the library’s small bills, much less pay the rent! Again they set to worrying.

Then, suddenly the load slipped from their backs. Early one afternoon, Mamie Carroll went up the stairs to open the Library for the biweekly service to the public and stopped on the threshold dumbfounded! Her surprise was caused by seeing a large new rug covering the ugly, dusty floor. 

            In great excitement she rushed across the hall to the office of Mr. Thomas B. 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 Library! 

            Once the surprise was over the doctor’s goodness of heart ----forgotten and the girls continued to gather happily, each Wednesday never giving a serious thought to that nightmare,--the rent.

            Some years 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 months expenses. After all some one had to support the Library.”

La Retama Library during the first years of its existence was opened twice weekly from two to six, the members of La Retama Club serving as librarians each in turn - and also as janitresses. In those years the streets were shelled with oyster shells and the horse drawn vehicles and wagons created a great deal of dust. Although the two windows and door of the library were promptly closed after occupancy, the place was always covered with dust and this fact created a serious problem. In other words, the young ladies did not like to sweep and mop, especially when they were "dolled-up" for the afternoon. However, they did face up to the job-but reluctantly. Little by little the girls enthusiasm waned and more and more did they find the biweekly task of opening the Library an unbearable chore, especially did they rebel against dusting-when they might have been chatting with the callers. Finally the Club decided the only way they could make themselves comply with this self-imposed duty was pay a fine of $1.00 for forgetting to report! Of course, the fine could be forgiven, if one could get another member to substitute.

Soon Mamie Carroll became the Club's pet substitute. She loved books, and could you-------, loved to make the dust fly! During the summers of 1908, 1909, 1910 (when she was president of La Retama Club) she served as librarian more than 50% of the time. During those summers, the town was crowded with summer visitors from all over Texas, and life at the "Beach" was very gay. Besides, high-five was the popular card game, and everybody was entertaining for her house guests, with card parties, bathing and supper parties, and the girls just had to go.

Mamie Carrol loved books better than she loved cards, and so she was satisfied to substitute for her friends-to take her dip in the bay before sun up each morning and to accept invitations to cards parties only after tea, and be satisfied at the bridal showers at the last gun's fire. Membership in La Retams Club led directly to the Altar, and the turn over in membership was great. La Retama Club was organized as a young girls club, but gradually it beame a married woman's club, as the members refused to part with friends just because they married.


























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