By Jonathan L'Ecuyer
Hampton Union, Friday, August 27, 2004
HAMPTON — Hampton’s coastline changes every day with the ebb and flow of the tides.
Businesses come and go.
But, for the past 72 years, there has been at least one constant in the small, Seacoast community of Hampton called the Hampton Garden Club.
The club, founded on Feb. 10, 1932, remains a mainstay in the community and is composed of roughly 30 members.
(Photo left:) Hampton Garden Club members pose by a garden decoration at the home of Terry Baterman, an avid gardener who plans to attend an upcoming club meeting. From left are Mary Hildreth (Club Secretary), Karin Jacobson (Vice President), Laurel Lent (President) and Sandy Tuabe (Treasurer). [Photo by Andrew Moore]
The historic group even has its own pledge. The "Conservation Pledge" reads as follows: "I give my pledge of an American to save and faithfully defend from waste the natural resources of my country, its soils, minerals, forests, flowers, water, and wildlife."
For an annual membership fee of $10, anyone can join the club, which meets every second Wednesday of the month.
Mary Hildreth is the Hampton Garden Club’s secretary and for the past decade its membership chairwoman. Hildreth said, like many other members, that she joined the club because a friend introduced her to it. She was quick to add that the club is always looking and excited for new members.
The summer season is winding down for Hampton Beach activities, but the Garden Club is just beginning.
The club describes itself as, "A community learning about and encouraging home gardening, home landscaping, floral arrangement principles, planting gardens on public property, and shape tree maintenance while also working toward the conservation of the town’s natural resources."
The club is just beginning its new program, which starts in September. The first orders of business are the office elections. Laurel Lent serves as president while Karin Jacobson is vice president. Sandy Taube serves as treasurer.
During the summer, the club goes on a summer garden tour of sorts. Most members have their own home, floral gardens or decorative landscaping to show and discuss. There are a few vegetable gardeners as well. In the winter months, the club meets most commonly at First Congregational Church, 127 Winnacunnet Road, to see slide-show presentations on a variety of topics; from day lilies to flower arrangements and design to organic lawn care and landscaping.
The cost of these speakers is covered by the club’s plant sale, which is held in May.
Coming up Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. is their "Get Acquainted" appetizer potluck. Members are asked to bring their favorite appetizer and the recipe if they would like to share it. Members will also have a "White Elephant Garden Object Table" to swap; items can include books, pots, tools, plants, accent pieces and other related items.
"This will be one that encourages walking around … meeting and mingling," Hildreth said. "It is a good time for new people."
There are many other special events such as this dinner throughout the year, including a holiday party. The club has a special committee whose sole job is to plan the program of events for September to August.
Just last week, in place of their regular Wednesday meeting, the club was able to obtain a special visit to the Rockingham County Botanical Garden.
One with nature
An ancient Chinese proverb states: "If you would be happy your whole life long, become a gardener."
Hildreth, who is also in charge of the club’s yearbook has put the proverb on the front page of the yearbook.
Hildreth almost couldn’t help becoming a gardener.
She grew up on a farm in Bow, N.H., complete with horses and cows.
Her family grew strawberries and corn as well as pumpkins and had a farm stand for many years. Her brother and sister-in-law still live on the farm, but only sell pumpkins come October.
Hildreth said she enjoys wild flowers the most, especially Jack in the Pulpits. She added that the state has done a nice job planting wildflowers in the land that divides Route 101.
Hildreth has always enjoyed the outdoors, and does a lot for the club. She is quick to divert credit elsewhere, however, and spoke highly of a friend of the club, and the community on whole who recently died.
A longtime Hampton resident has a seaside park named in her honor off Ocean Boulevard; The Ruth G. Stimson Seashore Park.
It is one of three town-owned parks.
On July 14, Stimson, 84, died leaving behind a legacy of community service.
Stimson was a member of the Hampton Garden Club for many years and the keeper of the small club’s historic and humble beginning.
"She was a remarkable woman," Hildreth said, "she did everything."
Stimson had taken care of the club’s official paperwork for many years, until entrusting it to Secretary Hildreth two years ago.
Stimson bound all of the original meeting minutes going back to the first meeting in February 1932, into five volumes.
"We were lucky to have somebody like her to keep everything," Hildreth said, "she was a nice lady and mentor.
"She kept immaculate records and 100 years from now, someone will be able to still read these notes and newspaper clippings."
Flipping through the pages of the historical Hampton Garden Club bound volumes is a trip back in time.
Luxury-oriented technology was just beginning to become more affordable, the women’s movement hadn’t happened yet, and nature was there for survival not enjoyment.
It is comical to read the writing from 1932.
"Mechanical devices have lessened amazingly the labor in the home ... we can now legitimately demand natural beauty in the open space outside of our homes," the minutes of the first meeting read.
It also spoke of the newly expanded boundary for women to enjoy. By having the time to garden and landscape, women didn’t have to work solely inside the home while the spouse was working.
"Hampton won’t delay the national and state (gardening) movement sweeping the country at this time," Secretary Bernice Godfrey wrote at the time.
The first meeting was attended by about 60 people and was held at the Seavey House in Hampton. Margaret Wingate was the club’s founder and its president at the time was Channing Bean. Marion Seavey acted as vice president.
At that first meeting, there was a lecture and a musical portion of the evening. They sang the song "Ever Lovely Trees" and even "responded to an encore" according to the document.
At the club’s 70th anniversary in 2002, the club members gathered in a celebration and sang the same song.
Admission to the club during its first year was 10 cents.
Today, inflation has raised the cost a bit, to $10, but the club is still the same. There were more men in the beginning and the club hopes to regain some of the men that it has lost over the years.
Anyone who has any interest in joining the club, should call Mary Hildreth at 926-3114.