Reminiscing with the girls

Former members of Girls Inc. program gather for reunion

Former members of Girls Inc. program gather for reunion

May 22, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Known as "The Tarner Sisters" when they went to Girls Inc.'s after-school program in the late 1960s, the three girls were part of every activity and every contest during the years they attended.

"We did everything," said Tina Baechtel. "If it was happening, we were doing it."

Baechtel and her sisters, Sandy Hoffman and Jodi Tarner, all of Hagerstown, were just a few of the 50 women who gathered Sunday at Girls Inc. on Washington Avenue for a reunion.

Marjorie Grumbacher said she organized the reunion after speaking with several former board members, counselors and members who wanted to plan a reunion.

The women were able to go through old photographs, scrapbooks and newspaper articles Sunday and also get a tour of the building at 626 Washington Ave.


"Most of them haven't been in the new building," Grumbacher said.

The building now used for Girls Inc. was built in 1963.

Grumbacher was on the first board of Girls Inc., then called Girls Club, in 1948 or 1949, she said.

Margaret Guessford of Williamsport was at Girls Inc. on its opening day in 1949, when it was in a building on Jonathan Street.

"It kept me out of trouble," she said. "I just wanted someplace to go."

Guessford said she was 12 when she began attending the after-school program. She said members' activities included cooking, bingo, sewing and dancing.

"I looked forward to it every day," she said.

Wilma Beauchamp of Big Spring attended Girls Inc. when it was in a building on Church Street and believes she was a member for at least seven years.

Beauchamp said she remembers paying a monthly membership fee of about 10 cents.

"When you're growing up in the West End, you don't have anything to do," Beauchamp said. "Here, we learned to cook, sew, play games and have good manners. It kept kids off the streets."

Judy Ridenour said she joined Girls Inc. about one year after Beauchamp and went every day after school for about six years.

"It was just a wonderful place," she said.

Barbie Myers of Hagers-town was a Girls Inc. member in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she said.

Now, her 8-year-old daughter, Page Myers, goes to the Washington Avenue facility after school. She said sending her daughter to Girls Inc. had a lot to do with the positive experience she had there as a child.

"It's a good opportunity," Myers said. "I work full time, and it gives her something to do besides watch TV."

She said the program is similar to the one she remembers, but now there is more structure for her daughter, and some different activities, like learning Spanish and a computer lab.

Baechtel and Tarner began going to Girls Inc. when they were just 5 years old. Hoffman was 7 when she started.

"This was our life," Hoffman said.

When they were old enough, each of the sisters worked as camp counselors at Girls Inc., where they believe they earned $7 each week. They also talked about fashion shows, sewing competitions and other events they participated in while flipping through scrapbooks at the reunion.

"(Girls Inc.) affected every aspect of our lives," Tarner said. "It kept us out of trouble, taught us about leadership and growing up. It's how you better yourself."

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