Monday, September 1, 2008

A Pink Ball Gown

My grandmother, Mary Kelly Berry, was a Rebekah. The Rebekah's are a branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows to which organization my grandfather, Kimberly Powell Berry belonged. My grandparents never discussed their social life with me and it was surprising to me as a young adult to discover they had a fairly active one. My discovery came in 1984 when my grandfather died and members of the I.O.O.F. attended his wake.

I didn't learn of my grandmother's membership until we began the chore of cleaning out the house. Grandma had died when I was only 10 and Grandpa saved many of her things for me, feeling, correctly, that at the age of 10 I was too young to appreciate them.

Tucked away on the closet shelf in their bedroom was a box from Flah's, a department store on South Salina St in Syracuse, NY that went out of business years ago. Flah's was an upscale store and I wasn't taken there very many times as a kid. I don't know what I expected to find in the box but remember being surprised it held a ball gown.

At that I point I still had no idea for what occasion Grandma would have bought such a fancy dress. The same day that we discovered the box in the closet my father went through Grandma's jewelry box and selected items for both my sister and me. One of those items was this ribbon.

The ribbon is two sided.
This side would have been
worn to funerals.

The other side is badly damaged.
Shown with the ribbon is Grandpa's
I.O.O.F pin.

That was all I was given at that time. More than ten years later, when I developed an interest in family history, my father gave me a folder full of pictures of my grandmother taken at Rebekah dinners. I have previously posted several of them. I'm guessing that they are from the 1930's & 1940's.

There are several different group shots from the year that Grandma wore the pink gown.

Mary L. Berry, 6th from left. Others unknown.

Mary L. Berry 3rd from left, front row.

Mary L. Berry, 6th from left.

Mary L. Berry, center front row.

I don't know this for certain, but I believe that several different pictures were taken and they could purchase the one that they liked the best. For other years there was only one picture of the group. So why did she buy four different ones from this year and save the gown? (This was the only gown we found.)

It appears the gown may have been worn to the installation banquet, 23 May 1940. Grandma would have been just a couple of weeks shy of her 40th birthday.

Rebekah Assembly of the I. O. O. F.
of the State of New York

I, Maude J. McKeel. President of the Assembly of the I. O. O. F. of the State of New York, with the approbation of the Rebekah Assembly aforesaid, and by virtue of the power in me vested, do hereby appoint and commission

Mrs. Mary Berry. P. N. G.,
of Evening Star Rebekah Lodge No. 52

District Deputy President, and confer upon you full power and authority as such District Deputy President for the Rebekah District of Onondaga No. 1
composed of the following Lodges:
52 Evening Star
257 Charlotte
258 Westminster
417 Morning Star
418 Ka-noo-no

As District Deputy President of said District, you are empowered to act as representative of and in duty bound to faithfully obey the Assembly President.

Unless sooner revoked by the Assembly President this Warrant shall remain in force during my term of office and until the regular appointment of your successor.

Given under my hand the the Assembly Seal, this 23rd day of May 1940.

(signed) Maude J. McKeel
Assembly President

Inez D. Squires
Assembly Secretary

Dad also passed on the gavel that Grandma used during her term of office. I used it when I was in Home Bureau.

I don't know when my grandparents joined the I.O.O.F. Did one join first and then the other or did they join together. Based on the pictures, Grandma was a member from sometime in the 1930's. The last item I have is a program from 1954 which lists Grandma as a member of the planning committee.

Now, back to the gown. It has moved with me at least four times and finds a new home at the back of a closet in each new home. The Flah's box was discarded years ago. There are several small tears, one at the hem line probably caused by Grandma's heel. The rose pattern has worn off in places and there a several small stains.

It it too small for me to wear. I keep it simply because it was my grandmothers. I have considered donating it to the local historical society but it really is not in good shape. I think it is time to pass it on to my sister and perhaps she can wear it to tea next year.

This was written for the 55th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.