What would a community be without its social and service clubs?
Atascadero has many excellent ones.
But the oldest club, outside any of the local church “circles,” was the Atascadero Women’s Club, which was founded by the earliest residents of Tent City in 1915. The group was originally chartered as “The Live Oak Circle.” It was both social and service oriented.
The women organized first as a unit of the Women’s National Republic Club, which was the idea of Mabel Gertrude Lewis and her husband, Edward Gardner Lewis, back in University City, Mo.
The club quickly reorganized as a member of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs during a meeting held in the home of Marguerite A. Travis, the group’s first president.
The early members were at a point in their lives when they could put their collective energy into forming a club. They didn’t yet have households to maintain.
So it is no surprise that a women’s club would be an important part of Atascadero’s earliest days. Living in Tent City until their respective homes were built, members would get into discussions about all manner of subjects, from raising children to favorite foods and the news of the day.
As explained by Travis in her book “Birth of Atascadero,” there was a great deal of diversity in the early membership because the women came from so many different parts of the world, each bringing a variety of habits and ways of doing this or that.
“One would hear at all meetings of club members or committees the familiar phrases: ‘… back east we did it this way,’ ‘… down south it was always like that,’ and ‘… in England it was always done in this manner,’ ” Travis wrote.
While passing the time as residents of Lewis’ temporary Tent City, the women established a number of sub-groups of the Atascadero Women’s Club before they got caught up in the task of caring for their newly built homes.
They became a sort of “booster club” for the young Colony even as it was taking shape. It was their collective intention to boost the “Atascadero Plan” as outlined by E.G. Lewis. They staged plays and pageants and other entertainment made up of the talented members of the new community who were settling here.
The club continued to grow as the Tent City dissolved and homes began to spring up throughout the Colony. Its activities continued to range from social to intellectual, and the club survived through all the years.
Travis was a featured guest at the 40th anniversary of the club held in September 1956.
The Atascadero Women’s Club continued to offer scholarships to Atascadero High School students up until 2006 and supported Meals on Wheels, a program providing nutrition to elderly shut-ins.
Many years ago, the club had been given a piece of property to do with what it wanted. Its members sold the property, banked the proceeds and used the funds to maintain its ongoing projects for more than 90 years after that early beginning in Tent City, before disbanding.