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Celebrating 75 Years!

 

As we are winding down the series on our rich history, I thought I’d fill this month’s section with what I would like to call Bits and Bobs.  After skimming newsletters from the past 50 years, I learned some interesting facts about the club that I think would interest our current members as well.

 

Silver Spoons to Silver Cups

In the beginning years of the American Women’s Club, most of the members were American women married to Swiss, so it was expected that they would remain in Switzerland. So, whenever a member left Switzerland, a silver Basel souvenir spoon was given to the departing members.  This custom was later discontinued due to the large turnover of temporary people and the increasing price of the silver spoons.

 

In 1960, the American Ambassador donated a silver loving cup to the AWC of Basel.  His thought was for the club membership to choose the member who had contributed the most to the club during the past year.  The cup was presented eight times from 1960-1968 with the winner chosen by secret ballot.  In 1969, as the number of devoted and active members increased, there were multiple nominations, but not one clear winner, the award was discontinued and more or less forgotten until 1983 when Joan Etlinger was presented with the Woman of the Year award for her herculean efforts with the cookbook.    

 

Previous Women of the Year were: Florencia Vischer, Mary Steffen, Joanne Fiechter, Kay Sawdey, Nancy Ammann, June Nussbaumer, Margrit Zollinger and Judy Holcombe.

 

Activities ranging from A to Z

Over the past 75 years, members of the American Women’s Club of Basel have had a chance to participate in an alphabet soup of activities -  from aerobics, Bible study, cooking, Deutsch conversation, Easter egg hunts, all the way up to a visit to the zoo.  Some of the more interesting activity names were Boots and Blisters, Odd Couple and Ways and Means.  Others were simply called what they were – Eating Out or Friday Lunch Bunch.  As women, we do like to talk, so there was German Conversation and French Conversation groups and since women can do more than one thing at a time, there is now a Walk and Talk group.  A listing of some of our activities over the years are:

 

   Eating and Drinking – Cultural Gourmets, Wine Tasting, Friday Lunch, TGIF, ROW, Monthly Mingle, Eating Out, Evening Coffee, Cooking Demonstrations, Happy Hour

   Culture – Cultural Outings, Music Behind the Scenes, Opera Group, Antiques, Creative Writing, Book Group, London Theater Trips

   Fun and Games – Bunko, Bridge, Bowling, Games Night, Mahjong, Golf, Movie Night

   Holiday Celebrations – Valentine’s Dinner and Dance, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter Egg Hunt, July 4th Celebrations, Halloween Party, Masked Balls, Thanksgiving, Christmas Party.

 

None of these activities would have been possible, had a member not decided to share her interests with other members of the club or volunteer to help organize something.  It doesn’t take much to start a new interest group.  One of our newest interest group is Mahjong, started by Pat Hermann. Since its inception in Nov 2018, over 20 members have enjoyed learning the game and we were even able to get a few new members!

 

So, if you have a passion or just a slight interest in an activity, why not start an interest group?  Just contact any board member and let us know what your passion is.  It can be a one-off activity or a regular activity. What better way to get yourself more involved in your club and meet other members with similar interests.

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Now that we have read all about the AWC Publications, I thought I should write about the AWC Library.

 

One of our club’s greatest achievements was the American Women’s Club of Basel Library from its humble beginnings at private homes to a major lending library with over 10,000 volumes in English serving the broader Basel community.

 

In the summer of 1973, having a number of books still unsold from our bazaar, Carmen Stöcklin, the AWC president at the time had the brilliant idea to start a Club Library which should be self-supporting.  In order to have enough books to form a nucleus, a loan of 200 CHF from the AWC treasury was made.  Carmen offered up her basement temporarily until more permanent quarters could be found (it actually took 4 years!).

 

The Library, under the chairmanship of Berta Drake and numerous volunteers started as a swapping library (bring 2, take 1) and soon had enough books to entice members.  An annual membership fee of 20 CHF was charged allowing the library to regularly purchase new books. It was generally open one afternoon and one evening per week.

 

In September 1977, the AWC of Basel English Language Library with its 4,000 volumes moved to Holeeschulhaus in Binningen.  In March 1980, the AWC Library found a more permanent home at the Kronenmattschulhaus in Binnngen.  The Library had over 120 members and was run by volunteers and a committee consisting of 5 members under the

 

chairmanship of Jo Seifert.  In August 1988, it moved yet again to another school house in Binningen – Pestalozzi Schulhaus.   By then the Library had over 10,000 books and 180 members and the membership fee was 30 CHF per year.  Here is a link to a newsletter article written in 1992.

 

In 1996, the AWC’s library joined forces with the newly formed English Speaking Community Club of Basel (ESCCB) and moved into a room at ESCCB’s location on Aeschengraben, Basel.  In 1999 the ESCCB, renamed Centrepoint, moved its location to the Lohnhof and the AWC’s library was also relocated to Lohnhof. By this time the Library was no longer self-supporting and the AWC’s budget included the rental space and insurance for the books. Countless volunteers were required to work the Library Desk, maintain a computer data base, process donated books, coordinate the Bookworms Reading Group, and much more. 

 

In August of 2009, the AWC was contacted by the Allgemeine Bibliotheken der GGG and approached with an opportunity to donate our library collection to the local Basel Community.  The membership voted in favor to donate our library collection to the GGG in May 2010.  This move would fulfill the AWC Library’s original goals as envisioned by the founding members of the library committee – accessibility and visibility in the wider Basel community.  In April 2011 the AWC’s English Language Library moved into the newly renovated GGG’s Basel West Library.

 

Today the library has an expansive list of English resources including eBooks, workshops for adults and children and a large selection of today's most popular titles. The AWC is proud to have partnered with the GGG Stadtbibliothek to create the first English Public Library in Basel-Stadt. 

 

The GGG Basel West library is forever thankful to the AWC members. The library appreciates the volunteer time, financial donations and continued support from the AWC.  Members of the AWC Basel receive a 10 CHF discount on a Library membership which gives you access to their 10 libraries throughout Basel, Binningen and Pratteln.  More information about our partnership with the GGG Library can be found on our website.

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As the final chapter on AWC publications, this month I will be focusing on our longest running and still active publication – our monthly newsletter, the Rhine Times.

 

June Nussbaumer started the first newsletter in Feb. 1964 called “News and Notes” which was included in the February meeting announcement. What started as just a few lines in the monthly meeting announcements turned into a major monthly publication.  For the first decade and a half the newsletter was typed on A4 paper and copied.  Sometimes it was only one page double-sided.

 

In April 1979, it took on a different format – the A5 booklet form.  It started as 8 pages (2 sheets of paper) and in Oct 2009 it was a whopping 68 pages!!!  At that time, there was a committee of up to 7 people working on just the newsletter, not including the editor.  There were people responsible for Advertising, Marketing, Mailing, plus the Editorial staff.  There were as many as 12 pages of just advertisements.

 

The newsletter included everything from household tips to changes in American legislation.  In the earlier years, before Internet, the newsletter really was an important source of information for American women living in Basel.

 

In June 1995, a contest was held amongst the members to come up with a name for the Newsletter and a new logo for the club.  The winners were Deb Tyson Multhaup for the name Rhine Times and Melissa Hunter for the star/cross design, both of which are still used today.  The first issue of the “Rhine Times” came out on December 1995 with the new logo.

 

In April 2010, the Rhine Times was also mailed out electronically to save the cost of printing and postage. In March 2011 the format changed to an A4 booklet form in order to save space and use less paper.  By 2015, the newsletter was being sent predominantly by email and only a handful of older members were receiving a paper copy.

 

Even with our Website, Facebook page and frequent emailings, we believe there is still a need to produce our monthly newsletter, the Rhine Times.  We hope you feel the same.

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As a continuation on the AWC publications, this month I would like to write about the Living in Basel books.

 

Living in Basel was first published in 1979 after 4 1/2 years of hard work by numerous women dedicated to making it easier for English-speaking people to settle in the Basel area. It was first mentioned in the March 1975 newsletter that Darlene Grieder took on the project of preparing a welcoming booklet for newcomers to Basel, an aid to coping in the first few difficult months. Further newsletter articles referred to this as the “Book of Basle”.  The project was finally realized in November 1979, when a 62-page book called Living in Basle was published.  It sold for 10 Fr. and was first available for sale at the AWC Bazaar in Nov. 1979 where it sold 120 books!  The initial printing of 3080 copies was sold out in 5 years and raised over 25,000 CHF. Ruth Ciucci and Sonja Weber and were responsible for the sales and inventory.

 

Former President Phyllis Serianni who loved to write poems, wrote this about the Living in Basle. (An excerpt from a longer poem about the AWC Christmas Bazaar Nov 1979)

 

The Book of Basle – though set apart

Was off to a really wonderful start.

The Wednesday before there was a showing.

All Basle VIP’s were going

To Regula’s house to have a lookie

While sipping wine and eating cookie.

minu came and was so impressed

He went right home and wrote his best.

A very fine piece in the Basler Zeitung

He gave real praise to every item.

 

To read the Basler Zeitung article in German, click here.  To read the English translation made at the time, click here.

 

In September 1985, the second edition which was revised by Margaret Robertson and Chris Croisier was published. The printing of the second edition of 4000 copies was financed by Ciba-Geigy. Sylvia Waldmeier was responsible for sales until 1988 when Miguelda Gewelbe took over the job and held that position for over 10 years!

 

As the information in the book was changing constantly, there was subsequently a 3rd edition printed in 1991, courtesy of Hoffmann-La Roche and a 4th edition in 1996.  These editions kept the same format and the same covers. By then, the book sold for 20 Fr.

 

In 2002, the fifth and last edition of LIB was printed, with more than double the pages (129) and an updated cover. A committee of members and non-members, headed by Wendy Olum Roth was given the task to revamp this club best seller. The printing was sponsored by KPMG and Minerva and the book sold for 35 CHF.

 

With the introduction of the internet, it no longer made sense to try and keep the information in the book updated.  So in 2012, with sales declining it was decided to shelve Living in Basel for good. 

 

Although there are a lot of gaps in the financial summary for Living in Basel, it can be safely assumed that this publication raised about 200,000 CHF for the AWC charities in its 30 years of sales.

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Did you know that the American Women’s Club has had several publications?

This month I would like to focus on the various cookbooks that the American Women’s Club of Basel have published.

 

The first cookbook was published in 1971, with Christie Ray as the Editor.  This book offered American recipes in German and Swiss recipes in English.  The recipes were submitted by the members.  It was sold through the club and the price was 10 Sfr. They initially printed 600 copies, which sold out within a year, and made of profit of 800 Sfr in the first 4 weeks! 

 

In 1981, it was decided to make a new cookbook. Joan Etlinger took on the herculean effort of putting together the next cookbook.  Her committee did everything from gathering recipes, testing each recipe, and of course translating and converting each recipe.  This book offered both Swiss and American recipes in both languages. The Basler Zeitung wrote a lovely article about the second cookbook on July 21, 1983. Click here if you want to read the article in German.

 

In September 1999, the club wanted to produce a new Cookbook for the New Millennium.  The club wanted to give its cookbook a makeover, taking into account the changes in food habits, tastes and cooking styles. The third cookbook also took on a more international flair to mirror the make up of our membership. The new Cookbook was finally published in Sept. 2002 with Sarah Nevill as the editor.   This cookbook was available in local bookstores. In 2007, we sold our remaining inventory to Bider and Tanner.

 

All the cookbooks offered translations of the foods and conversion tables. All profits from the cookbooks went towards our various charities and throughout the decades, we were able to raise a handsome sum.

 

 

 

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As May is the month to renew your membership for the new membership year, we thought we would give a bit of history on our membership numbers and dues.

 

In 1947, when the club was first founded, there were 10 charter members and membership grew to 21 members by the end of the year.  The membership dues were 10 SFr.   membership numbers and dues grew steadily through the years.  In the 1980’s and 90’s, the club’s membership was well over 200 members, reaching as high as 281 in 1995.  At the turn of the millennium, the membership numbers were in the low 200’s.  The trend has been going downward the past 20 years, dipping to below 100 in 2016.

 

We have worked hard at keeping our membership fee as low as possible. It started at 10 SFr. in 1947 and was raised to 20 Fr. 1959. In 1968, it was raised to 25 Fr then to 30 in 1974 and just 2 years later, in 1976 it was raised to 35 Fr with much opposition.  It was steadily raised over next 20 years and as our membership peaked in 1995 so did the membership fee, when it was raised to 80 SFr. from 65 SFr. But it has remained the same ever since. Our membership fee has now stayed constant for 27 years!

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This month we will be honoring long standing members at the annual Old Timer’s Tea.  The Old Timer’s Tea is held every year in the spring for members who have been in the club for more than 20 years. Currently we have 41 members who fit into this category. In light of this, I would like to highlight some of these long-standing members.

 

The oldest member we have at the moment is Jo Seifert (93).  Jo was very active in the 80’s.  A talented artist, she lent her talents to the AWC with illustrations for the second cookbook, notecards which were sold to help FAWCO charities and many other projects.

 

The longest standing member is June Nussbaumer, who joined in 1963. She acted as historian for many years and a lot of the fun facts that I have been sharing with you would not have been possible without her archive.

 

We currently have 6 members who have been in our club for more than 50 years!! The other five are Dittmer Ingeborg (joined 1965), Joyce Häfelfinger Borda (1967), Shirley Kearney (1970), Maria Grazia Borla (1971) and Verena-Kate Gasser (1971).  And this year we are inaugurating Kate Edson and Debbie Lindenmeyer as Old Timers. We would like to thank these members for their continued support and interest in the AWC.

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This month, the AWC Basel will be holding our annual Tax & Retirement Planning presentation.  The proceeds from this, and all the Club’s fundraising events, will go towards a designated charity. Donating to a charity is an integral part of our club. It is, in fact, included in our Bylaws: “2. The purpose of the Club shall be: c) to contribute financial aid to primarily Swiss philanthropic organizations when funds are available”.

 

So, I delved into the history of the Club with regards to its charitable donations. Although I could not find the details of every year, it is safe to say that in its 75-year history, the AWC has donated more than CHF 365,000 to various charities, not including donations to FAWCO and the Library.

Different activities were used to raise money for our charities over the years:  bridge tournaments, silent auctions, concerts, tax talks, AWC publications, raffles, galas, costume ball, fashion shows, bazaars, bake sales, scarf sales, charity tennis, breakfast with Santa and an art show.  However, two Galas stood out as having raised the most money. In 1995 the Club was able to donate CHF 25,000 to Jugend in Basel 2000 and in 1996 the Gala raised CHF 43,672 for TixiTaxi.  These are remarkable achievements, and we would like to again applaud all the people involved with these events.

 

The philanthropic aspect of the club continues to be a cornerstone of our Club. We hope to continue our contributions to our community and other worthy causes for at least another 75 years.

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February is the month when Americans celebrate President’s Day.  So, in honor of President’s Day, we would like to recognize some of AWC’s past presidents.

 

The first President of AWC was Grace Hausman.  Since then, there have been 39 different presidents.  The person who served longest as President is Darlene Grieder – she served a two year term in 1987-1988 and then a four year term in 1997-2000.  Only two other people have served four-year terms to date – Carol von Wattenwyl and Janet Galli.  There are currently eight ex-Presidents still living the Basel area.

 

Some of AWC’s past presidents have been instrumental in our club’s past achievements and accomplishments, but this month we would like to highlight two presidents whose legacy has reached beyond normal club activities.

 

Janet Galli founded the International School of Basel in 1979 as a response to a perceived need among expatriates for an English-speaking school. The school began with 15 students and currently has an enrollment of over 1300 pupils from over 50 countries.

 

Shirley Kearney established the Shirley Kearney AWC Basel Award for University Degree Study through the FAWCO Foundation.  Originally for AWC Members only, women from all over the world have now benefited from this scholarship.

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There are several interesting stories that are circulating about the founding of the American Women’s Club of Basel:

 

During WW2, a large number of American pilots ended up in Switzerland, either parachuting from disabled planes or helped across the border by Americans living in Switzerland. American women living in Basel were mobilized to give assistance to them and other Americans assigned to the American Consulate in Basel.

 

Between 1946 and 1947, after WW2, the American army organized R&R trips for their soldiers to Basel.  A group of American women rallied together to help take care and entertain these soldiers. 

 

In 1947, the American Women’s Club of Basel was founded by 3 women – Helen Forrer, Elizabeth Preiswerk and Susan Meyer. 

 

If you have something to share about the AWC or its history, please send it to Nanci at info.awcbasel@gmail.com

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