A book club for the ages

Cultus Club officers include: Cookie Brooks, Mary Jane Wright, Patsy Black, Trev Sherrod, Margaret DuBard and Frances Barnett. Other book club members in attendance were Nancy Stevenson, Marlise Meyer, Carolyn Clemens, Mary Lynne A. Zeno, Phyllis Nichols Gutierrez, Laurens Livings and Sallie Kate Watford. Members not pictured included Dee Dee Branham, Barbara Douglas, Betty Harden, Priscilla Patrick and Janice Wolf. | Darlene Embleton

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – The Cultus Club, whose membership lives mostly the Blythewood and Fairfield County communities, is possibly the oldest continuous book club in Fairfiled County – perhaps even the state. And that history is of as much interest to members as the books they read and review.

The Club’s historian and current president, Frances Barnett, traced the Club’s history back to the beginning of the 20th century when an article in The News and Herald newspaper, dated Jan. 18, 1905, printed a report on a meeting of the Cultus Club, then located in Fairfield County.

Member Margaret DuBard, after further sleuthing, chronicled the history of the Club in a seven-page document that noted member Pinky Dicky’s discovery of handwritten minutes of the Club dating from 1967 – 1985. Those notes were recovered from the estate of member Rebecca Hanahan and produced written proof that the Club existed continuously for at least those 52 years.

Today, the Club’s 18 or so members meet alternately in each other’s homes on a monthly rotation. They most recently met at the Cedar Creek home of DuBard who co-hosted the event with Patsy Black. The meetings are a testament to the fact that gracious Southern hospitality lives on.

The meeting at DuBard’s home began at 4 p.m. and started off with refreshments and a setting that would have made Scarlett proud – decadent lemon and chocolate cakes, spiced tea sweetened with Blythewood honey and coffee were served from silver tea services at tables laden with china, linen napkins and fresh flower arrangements. It was, as Club secretary Cookie Brooks calls it, a very social time for catching up.

As the women sat chatting and nibbling, DuBard’s husband, Bill, appeared outside a picture window to sprinkle a significant amount of bird seed on a picnic table in the rear yard to allow attendees to enjoy the ‘fly in’ of upwards of 20 cardinals who came to feast on their evening meal.

With sated appetites, the group retired to the open living/dining room to sit together and enjoy the anticipated book review provided by Marlise Meyer. On this day, Meyer was reviewing ‘The First Conspiracy – The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington.”

Written by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch, the book was well suited for the event and setting. And Meyer explained the plot within the framework of the setting’s history, thereby whetting the Club members’ appetites to read the book themselves.

Besides Barnett serving as president of the Club, other officers include: Trev Sherrod, vice president; Cookie Brooks and Mary Jane Wright are both the Treasurer and longest living member.

Laurens Livings, whose son Jack’s book, ”The Dog,” was reviewed by the New York Times and won the prestigious Penn Award, is a second generation member of the Club.

“Promoting and supporting literacy, culture and the arts has always been important to the members of the Cultus Club,” DuBard said. “While our individual members have a wide range of talents, interests, concerns and responsibilities, the one thing we have in common is that we all love a good read,” she said.

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