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A Brief History of Portia Club

Written by Mrs. Edna Stephenson (about 1965)

In the fall of 1895, some seventy years ago, a small group of Payette women, wishing to improve themselves culturally by reading good books and plays, formed a club which they named "Portia," the name of the wise young judge, their heroine of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice."

For a number of years the club continued as a literary organization increasing its membership gradually and meeting in the homes of members. Later, as was necessary to accommodate the group, meetings were held in the Commercial Hotel and again later in the Hotel Bancroft.

In 1904 of the club became a member of the Idaho Federation of Women's Clubs and sometime later it affiliated with the General Federation. In 1921 the club was incorporated.

It was in 1917 that the members of the club felt a need for a library and issued an invitation to all members to gather up all the books that could be spared from their home libraries and bring them to a club meeting, which they did. And were they ever proud to be seen taking the books up the street in a baby carriage! This formed the beginning of a project that has continued over the years, until now Payette can pridefully boasts of its fine library. Occasionally the librarian is in charge of a club program and keeps the members up to date on good literature.

In the early twenties they felt another need, a place to meet of their very own, and thus the seed was sown they grew into the fine clubhouse where the members have enjoyed their meetings in comfort and quiet with the deep satisfaction that it was theirs because they had worked very hard to get it. No doubt the worries about raising money and all the moments of hope and despair, vanished on the day of dedication, November 1, 1927 when the dream really came true and the clubhouse was their very own. How many interesting events have taken place within these walls! Besides the Portia Club meetings there have been innumerable dinners, dances, wedding receptions, card parties, piano recitals and other events too numerous to mention.

It is to the everlasting credit of the Club that Payette has the Blossom Festival, an annual event that brings thousands of interested and enthusiastic visitors to the city each May. Until just a few years ago there was a beautiful pageant with school children in colorful costumes taking part. Now we have a parade of gay floats and a barbecue dinner. Because the festival became a burden to the women, the Jaycees took over and are doing splendid work.

Several times the Club has been hostess to the Second District Convention and several of her members have served as officers and committee members on the staff of officers.

The programs used at the meetings are, for the most part, those that are suggested by the General Federation. Since the General Federation program covers a vast area the program leaders have to choose carefully the ones that will bring the most interest and entertainment to the Club. Through the years there have been many fine speakers, beautiful films of Idaho scenery and wildlife and many subjects of national and international interest discussed. Each year there is a beautiful and appropriate religious program at Christmas time. Always there are devotionals and a story of the "Song of the Month."

In October 1965, after much thought and deliberation it was decided to give the Portia Club House to the Payette Jaycees. Many of the women had reached the time in their lives when they could no longer shoulder the burden of the up-keep of the building and all felt that the community would be benefited by the exchange of ownership. It was with a deep feeling of Nostalgia and with all a sense of relief that the members had in their hearts when the deed was handed over to Mr. Leon Celmer by Mrs. Ernestine Patch, the only living member who belonged to the Club in the early days.

Portia Club does, however, still have the privilege of holding its meetings in the Club House and will do so as long as it remains a member of the Federation.

To relate on these few pages a history of seventy five continuous years of public service is an impossible and futile undertaking. Suffice it to say, the club still functions regularly with some good years and some perhaps not as good as could be desired but still we sing and mean that:

"Oh, Portia Club, my Portia Club,
With thee I'll ever stay,
And crown thy good with sisterhood,
From day to shining day."

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 From November 1927

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