This Article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on January 22, 1969
Progress Dooms League Home
You can walk past the three-story house on W. Fourth Street and really never notice it.
Unless you’re one of the faithful whose eaten lunch there for years.
It’s a funny shaped house. A one story room juts off to the left, and a bay front somehow intrudes upon the front porch.
The red roof at one time was a high point along the street. But no more.
Now, the business area has developed and enveloped—the house. Its little front year is overpowered by the rush of people entering the business fronts left of it and the construction sight to the right.
The Young Women’s League house is doomed.
In 18 months the steel ball which razed the Keith’s theater next door and the houses before that will probably take its toll again—demolishing the structure.
And although it probably won’t take long—the building’s been there since the last century—the memories that go down with it are going to be long in replacing.
In 1898 the little white house became the home of the then 3-year-old Young Women’s league. Mrs. Charles Kumler headed the group of 10 women who adopted the house as their headquarters. The league has been there ever since.
OH YES, the popularity of the League has declined. What once was a booming organization of more than 3,000 women is not more than a fifteenth of that now, and membership drives in recent years haven’t been overwhelming.
There are still regular groups of women and men who meet there—like the organization of TOPS and the Friday luncheon of lawyers who religiously meet over lunch in the front parlor—but all in all, the home baked goods and upstairs kitchen are long forgotten.
And so to is, perhaps, the whole purpose behind the league.
More and more clubs meet in private homes or at golf club or the country club or the swim club. And women have, admittedly, gained enough independence to eat out if they work.
But to women like Annette Sweetman, the daily fresh-baked custard and pies will be a personal loss.
Annette, at 86, is a regular Thursday customer at the restaurant. She used to frequent the tea room and cafeteria when they were popular Sunday spots in Dayton. But since they’ve been converted into one large dining room and kitchen in the house—and since Annette has been living at the Maria-Joseph home—her trips are limited to once a week.
“Oh—they do treat me with special attention,: she admits, “because I’m 86. But I’m not sure if I’m the oldest customer or not. The chicken dinner and custard are my regulars and the food has always been grand,’ she says.
Helen Zizert, a board member for 20 years and volunteer on the dining room staff, admits members haven’t decided on what to do with furnishings, let alone on whether or not to continue as a club.
About the inexpensive meals--always a bargain – Helen says: “We never have realized a profit. We just try to break even.”
The cost of a lunch has ‘sky-rocketed” from 10 cents (in the 1920s) to $1.50 today.
Tuesday, 148 people ate lunch at the League dining room and two groups of women played cards in two of the three upstairs meeting rooms.
And yet, Tuesdays and Thursdays are boom days around the League. No dinners are served except to special parties of 20 or more nowadays. . . and they are not nearly as frequent as they were in the past.
The age of the membership has increased with the age of the house. Now, mostly older women are members. And there’s nothing swish about the food or service.
But a year and a half from now, Dayton will miss the old house with the funny yard and the red roof. A year and a half from now, the little white house that not many people notice may be gone.