Pages of history: Scrapbooks offer trip down memory lane

Published 9:14 pm Friday, June 29, 2018

Years ago, the Troy bank where James Ketchum worked was moving out and the dumpster was filling up. Ketchum could have easily tossed the stack of aging scrapbooks into the trash but his sense of history kept him from doing so.

Instead, he took the dusty books home and stored them away, “just in case” somebody, someday might want them.

Years later, and almost yesterday, Ketchum decided the seven, big, bulky scrapbooks needed to be in the hands of someone who would appreciate them. The scrapbooks held the history of the Troy Business and Professional Women’s Club that was organized in 1958.

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The scrapbooks were filled with photographs, programs, newspaper clippings, cards, mementos, recognitions and awards — the life story of a club that was an active and vital part of the Troy community for several decades.

Former BPW member Myrt Thompson took temporary possession of the scrapbooks that hold memories of the days when the BPW was widely recognized for its community involvement and “good Samaritan work.”

Thompson said the Troy BPW club was very active and was recognized nationally in 1963 for its work with the hospital and received “BPW at its Best” recognition.

However, it was not the big things for which the club was recognized that Thompson found most interesting as she flipped through the albums.

“The pictures, the newspaper articles, brought back so many memories of people and events,” she said. “Things that I had forgotten and probably would never have thought of again.”

Thompson decided the scrapbooks should be kept at a place where others could enjoy them and where a part of Troy’s history could be preserved.

However, she has not found a home for the history.

“None of the places that I approached have space to display or store the scrapbooks,” Thompson said Friday as she and Joyce Austin were enjoying a stroll down memory lane.

The scrapbooks are bulky and heavy so Thompson only brought along three to share with Austin, who is pictured and quoted throughout the 1963-1964 yearbook.

“This is a part of Troy’s history,” Austin said, as she looked through the scrapbooks. “If it had not been for someone who cared  about history, these scrapbooks would have been thrown away. Don’t people understand that when records, pictures like these are thrown away we are throwing away our history? Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.”

Thompson and Austin said the Troy BPW was made up of working women who were not necessarily friends or neighbors. What they had in common was that they got up and went to work each day. They also had a strong sense of community and were dedicated to improving the opportunities for all women who work.

The national women’s movement peaked in the 1960s and 1970s but the Troy BPW members were more interested in personal development and civic participation. They were also interested in world affairs and kept abreast of them.

As they flipped through the pages of the Troy BPW scrapbooks, Thompson and Austin shared memories of the people, places and times. They both worked at the South Alabama Co-op, so they new each other well. However, many of the club members they knew only through their association at club meetings and activities and events.

Some of the club members were teachers, others worked in medical the medical field, some in offices, some in retail and some in business. 

“We made friends that we would not have otherwise and we had a good time together,” Thompson said.

The club supported the local library, the hospital and had monthly programs of interest to women who worked.

“We participated in all the parades and every parade had a theme,” Austin said. “We built our own floats and decorated them.”

Dr. Ralph Adams was the chancellor at Troy State College and First Lady Dorothy Adams enlisted the support of the BPW at many functions at the President’s home.

“We were working women and we had families so BPW was a social outlet for us,” Austin said. “It was exciting to be a part of events at the college.”

The club met in the homes of the members and enjoyed covered dish suppers.

“Sometime we went out to a nice restaurant and we all enjoyed that,” Thompson said. “But we really looked forward to the BPW conventions in Montgomery. We got dressed up in our high heels and hats and went to town and had the best time.”

Austin said professional women always dressed the part and didn’t leave home without wearing high heels.

“But, when we went to the conventions, we also put on our hats and gloves and carried our pocketbooks,” she said. “Times were different but we knew how to do.”

Neither Austin nor Thompson remembered a single thing about a scrapbook posting of “Night Clubbing in Chicago” or the “Dallas Round-up.” Their memories failed them on those “to-do’s.”

Thompson loaded the Troy BPW scrapbooks back in the trunk of her car. She’ll take the dusty “history” books home for safe keep so they will be available for other club members who would like to take strolls down memory lane.

Hopefully, there is some place where they can be permanently stored for history’s sake. If not, the scrapbooks could become a part of the local history that is being thrown away.