Plain City has never lacked for groups and clubs of all descriptions. We have or have had Masons, Lions, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, the Grange, the Woman’s Club, the Research Club, the Twice Five Club, the Fish and Game Club, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and 4-H clubs, to name only a few. In 1848 Plain City was even the birthplace of a group called the Rectifiers. According to Beers’ 1883 History of Madison County, “this was a secret society” which “had for its object the universal elevation of the morals of humanity, as well as refined literary attainments. They also encouraged the acquisition of knowledge relating to Mound-Builders. This society only existed for about 10 years.” Perhaps they discovered that the Mound-Builders were lacking in “refined literary attainments.”
For women in Plain City in the 1930s, there was the Woman’s Club and the Research Club, but there was no book club. In 1937 Mildred Byler Allgyer, a newcomer to town, set out to change that. On March 10, 1938, she was hostess for the first meeting of the Book Club, which was attended by nine women. By Nov. 30 of that year, Allgyer and Kitty Chapman Woodruff formally organized the club with a constitution and bylaws. With some revisions, these have governed the Book Club ever since.
From the beginning, meetings have been held on the second Wednesday of the month at 8 p.m. Originally the club met year-round. In recent years the schedule has been September through May with a break in January. After a brief business meeting, the program consists of a short review (in the beginning it was either poetry or music) followed by a long review. The roll call at the start of the meeting has always been the answer to a question: “What is your favorite month?” “If you could entertain at the White House, who would you have performed, and what would be the décor?” “What is your best house cleaning tip?” “Share a childhood photo or memory.” “What school did you attend and how many were in your graduating class?”
Special Book Club activities have included picnics, potlucks and wiener roasts, a style show, one-act plays, and guest nights. According to Donna Dunmire’s 50th year history, Steckie Cary played cello solos, while Hazel Fravel and Laura Jones offered vocal duets. Sisters Helen and “Bibby” Barto made the program books for many years. Santa Claus made regular December visits in the 1950s. It is even noted that in 1971 Hilda Robinson, over her husband George’s opposition, wore the latest fashion — a pantsuit — to give her book review.
But unquestionably the greatest contribution that the Book Club has made to Plain City is its work in the founding of the Plain City Public Library. The State Library of Ohio had contacted John Steinhauer, superintendent of the Plain City Schools, in the early 1940s concerning the possibility of establishing a public library in Plain City. The Marysville Public Library would furnish the books and assist in the organization of the library, but a local group was needed to provide the location and volunteers for staff.
Mr. Steinhauer contacted Marjorie George, then president of the Book Club. She presented the proposal to the club, which voted to sponsor the library. A library committee consisting of Mrs. George, Mildred Allgyer, Mrs. John Steinhauer, Mrs. P.T. Haynes, Mrs. Gilbert Kirby and Miss Elizabeth Barto was appointed. They found a space for the library in the small rooms on the east side of Ben Jones’ drug store on the square. Book Club members cleaned the rooms and made shelves, and on Feb. 26, 1944, the library opened. Its hours were 3-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. on Saturdays.
Book Club members served as librarians until April 1, 1945. Marjorie George was librarian from 1945 to June 1, 1946. . From 1946 on Miss Jane Taylor served as librarian for over 30 years, and is fondly remembered by generations of eager readers. Although the library began as a branch of the Marysville Library, it soon became a school district library. (Its primary service and taxation area was the Plain City, and later the Jonathan Alder school district). In 1962, the library moved to the east side of the Rialto Building at 245 W. Main St., and in 1981 to its own building at 305 W. Main.
The Plain City Book Club continues to thrive, with a different topic chosen by the club president for each year. The fun and fellowship have not changed over the years, and current members would agree with founder Mildred Allgyer’s comment: “Book Club is the highlight of any month.”
Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.