Tonawanda News — It may have been raining outside, but inside the cozy home of Betty Gardei McAninch of North Tonawanda, the laughter and friendship more than brightened the day.
In 1943, McAninch and six friends started the Septem Puillai, (Latin for Seven Girls), the original name of the Seven Girls Social Club, when they were freshmen at North Tonawanda High School.
“We didn’t want to be in a sorority, we just wanted to meet as friends,” Alice Exner Cowles, who now lives in Florida, said.
One of the members, Betty Zastrow Kohler is deceased, but the remaining members who live locally get together often. This time all six were in town and celebrated McAninch’s birthday, their 66th high school reunion and the 70th club reunion together.
McAninch, Irene Thiele Barrett and Joan Maurer Sidell, who now lives in Arizona, have been friends from kindergarten at Wurlitzer School. Helen Winslow Furman and Cowles met when they attended seventh-grade at the former Felton Grammar School and Judith Voss Buicke joined them a year later.
“Some of us have been friends for 80 years,” Cowles said. “We named the club Septem Puillai because Irene was taking Latin,” she laughed.
The club had a president, secretary and treasurer.
The women recalled making money by selling suckers and cleaning homes. The money was saved up so they could rent a cottage at Olcott Beach in the summer.
“We were very clever and brought canned goods to the meeting that we kept for the cottage,” Barrett said. “And we had chaperones at the cottage,” she added.
In addition to raising funds for their summer fun, the club also made scrapbooks for children at DeGraff Memorial Hospital where Furman worked as a tray girl, doing jobs that ranged from delivering food trays to washing floors.
“All for $1.50 a week,” she noted.