Local book club celebrates milestone anniversary

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In 1900, William McKinley was president of the United States, postage was two cents for first class mail, and women did not yet have the right to vote.

In December of that year, The Twentieth Century Round-About Book Club (RABC) was established and has been going strong ever since.

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The Round-About Book Club will be celebrating its 120th anniversary on Dec. 3 with a membership consisting of 26 individuals based in the Monroe/Jamesburg area. This unique club relies on its members to pass book selections to each other once every two weeks, giving each reader the opportunity to read a total of 26 books during the calendar year. This allows readers to sample authors who may be new to them and to try various book genres including autobiographies, inspirational, historically based fiction, thrillers and mysteries.

The book club has served a literary and social function since its beginning. In the early 1900s, members of the club consisted of men and women and meetings were held in their homes on a rotating basis. The social part of the gathering might include a piano or violin performance or the reading of a poem written by a member.

Over the years, the club has evolved into being a women’s group and meetings are still held either in the members’ homes or in a conference room at a local church hall.

Green and gold are the official colors of the club and there is even a club song.

While discussing books is customary in most clubs, another unique feature of the RABC is the absence of book critiquing. Since each member is always reading a different book than the other members, it is not possible to share comments until all members have read the book, which takes the entire year. In place of this, the club enjoys enriching activities through the choice of a yearly theme which guides the group and allows for a diverse selection of entertainment and social interaction.

The current club officers are President Donna Notaro, Vice President Carla Soden, Secretary Gloria Martin and Treasurer Elaine Slabinski. Members are Marie Cox, Holly Faas, Ella Filson, Mary Hamm, Margaret Hriczak, Bettie Linke, Mickey Marcille, Virginia Nelson, Lauren Schmidt, Debi Trunko, Ruth Jones, Tonia James, Susan Rudy and Samantha Rampacek.

Membership in the club for many years is not uncommon, with several of the women belonging for well over 20 years. Former members have included Barbara Wheatley, Marcia Kirkpatrick, Louise Kerwin, Freda Dreyling, Helen Oliver, Dorothy Tilton, Emily Owens, Pauline Smith and Gwendolyn Baker, to name just a few of the women well known in the Jamesburg and Monroe area.

2020 has brought new challenges to the RABC. In person meetings were suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and members have been taking advantage of technology by having Zoom meetings via phone, tablet or computer. This has been a learning experience for some of the members.

After researching the archives of the RABC, it was found that the meetings were also suspended in 1918 due to the Spanish flu pandemic. History has unfortunately repeated itself.

Some things don’t change however. The warmth, camaraderie and history of the RABC will continue as long as there are dedicated members willing to share their friendship and love of books throughout the coming years.

For more information about the Round-About Book Club, contact Notaro at Notaro4@aol.com.

  • This article was submitted by Donna Notaro, president of the Round-About Book Club.

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