From wartime aircraft spotting to mattress making, to community service, 60-years-plus experience in Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council (EHC) has led Tressie Bryant of Austin, a member of the Woodlawn EHC Club, and Connie Hardin of Ward, a member of Sylvania Tri-Community Club, on many paths.
"Oh. Things are sure different now. The clubs are not the center of the community that they used to be," Bryant remarked. "That’s too bad. It was such a good way for people to get together," she said.
Bryant and Hardin were among 27 Extension Homemakers Council members recognized in August for 50 and 60 years.
Begun in 1912, Arkansas EHC is supported by the University of Arkansas Extension Service. Its mission is to help individuals "achieve the best quality of life" through continuing education, strengthening families and developing personal skills through the cooperative extension service.
For Bryant, EHC has been an integral part of life. Born and raised in the Woodlawn area, she, her mother, her friends and their mothers, all participated.
For Hardin, EHC, and before that 4-H, was a common thread in moves from her native Seattle, to California, and, finally, several places in Arkansas.
"I was in 4-H to begin with," so the progression to EHC was almost natural and covered a wide range of subjects, she said. "4-H is what encouraged me to join home extension," Hardin said.
Community service and doing of others is a large part of the programs, both 4-H and EHC, Hardin said. She said she started out in 4-H in California during World War II.
"We were making things for the military … We made afghans and that sort of thing for our servicemen," Hardin recalled. "Even as a child I thought how wonderful it is to be helping someone else, somebody you don’t even know, and not expect ‘thanks’ or anything. To do it because you want to help someone," she said.
"Home extension is very much like that, helping senior citizens and others," Hardin said. She volunteers at a hospital, and tells her fellow club members of needs they can help meet. "Some of those young folks don’t even have diapers," she said.
"This is something I can show my children and grandchildren, that life is not just about you," Hardin said. "Do what you can for others when you can, while you can," she remarked.
But there are also other life lessons, Hardin said. "[EHC] is where I learned the safe way to sign my checks," there is much that is taught through the clubs, she said.
That is where I learned how to spot airplanes," as a coastal watcher during WWII, she said. "Not only did I learn how to identify the airplanes, but what to do to report them. So, they gave us quite a bit of responsibility for our ages," Hardin said.
Bryant said that for the older generation of the time, EHC was even more of a central part of life. "They made mattresses during the Depression," which EHC taught how to do, she said.
"I still do things, but I’m not as active as I used to be," Bryant said.
"We would meet in each others’ homes," Bryant said of EHC in the mid 1940s. "We learned to sew and can, that sort of thing. We’d take truck loads of stuff to the [county] fair," she said.
"I made girls’ clothes out of feed sacks," Bryant said of other EHC projects. She recalled that some of the clothes cost about 30 cents to make. "We learned how to make do with what we had," she said of EHC projects.
But EHC was not restricted to food preparation and sewing, Bryant said. "There was always something new come along … there were like five or six divisions, areas to do things," she said.
"I never ceased to learn [through EHC]," Bryant said. Even though she prefers sewing, there is always something different to learn, she said.