By Laura Foti Cohen (October 2012)
The Ebell is a family of accomplished women, a sisterhood of sorts. But for a special group, there’s an even stronger family connection. Among our ranks are mothers, daughters and granddaughters, sisters and cousins, even a great-niece.
The family with the strongest Ebell ties is related to Gloria Carroll, who served as president from 1998-2000. Current members related to Gloria include two new members: her daughter Charlon Franke, who divides her time between Los Angeles and Clinton Township, Michigan, and granddaughter Gloria Franke of Los Angeles. Charlon Franke notes that her stepsister Patti Carroll is also a member. Sadly, Gloria’s sister Charlon Caskey, a member since 1992, passed away just before we went to press.
“I joined in 1981, when Grace Sutcliffe was president,” Gloria Carroll remembers. “My mother, Lillian Mobley, was already a member. She loved to come to Ebell events. I couldn’t wait to retire so I could get involved full time. I loved being on the scholarship committee and President. I especially loved going to the Ebell Christmas Ball.”
Her granddaughter Gloria Franke attended her first Ebell Christmas Ball in 1998 and has not missed one since. Like her mother and grandmother, she joined the Ebell to support its philanthropic efforts and to attend the Ball. Charlon Franke says, “Every year our whole family meets in Los Angeles for the Ball with at least 10 of Gloria’s close friends. It’s a tradition and iconic event in our lives. We all look forward to being at the Ball again this year.”
Charlon adds, “My grandmother Lillian Mobley celebrated her 100th birthday in style at the Ebell in a beautiful beaded dress and high heels! She died at the age of 102.”
As Gloria Carroll puts it, “The Ebell has played an important part in our lives.”
Related members with the longest Ebell ties are Constance “Connie” Crocker and Carolyn Layport. A little history: In 1935, the ladies of the Ebell hired muralist Maxine Albro to paint the exterior of the clubhouse facing the courtyard. Albro painted a series of murals of the four Sibyls – more than seven feet high and brightly colored. The Ebell ladies found them undignified and had them painted over. Harry Kurtzworth, then a critic, wrote, “It is not the artists who lack the courage. It is the patrons who falter most in the arduous task of learning to be patrons.” He would later attend many meetings with those same patrons, and even donate two of his own works of art to the club. A detail from one of his donated paintings graces the front cover of this issue
Connie Crocker’s mother Constance Kurtzworth – Harry’s wife – signed the Ebell bylaws in 1939. Connie joined as a Junior (a level of membership that no longer exists) in 1957. When Carolyn joined as a Junior in 1969, she says, “I was the youngest member of the Ebell.”
Connie relates, “We lived behind the Ebell, on Lucerne and Eighth, and walked over during the heyday for the Monday meetings. The President always wore a long dress and gloves when she presented and we Adrians did the same. [The Adrians served as ushers at meetings, which at the time were held in the Wilshire Ebell Theatre.] The Adrians recited the Pledge of Allegiance. We were called ‘pages’ because the president could have us go up to the office and get things for her. This was true as late as the 1960s.
“My mother brought my father [Harry Kurtzworth] and he also loved the Monday programs. There was always a great speaker, and afterwards everyone had tea in the Art Salon. He continued to go even after mother passed away.”
At age 19, while attending U.S.C., where she met her husband Rowland Crocker, Connie taught at the Ebell’s Cotillion. Later, as a member, she served as Treasurer and Corresponding Secretary, and served on the Nominating Committee. She led the debutante balls for two years, from 1968-70. “The Ebell was just a way of life,” she says.
Carolyn’s first introduction to the Ebell was Cotillion. When she joined the Ebell, she says, “I was living at 56 Fremont Place as a young married woman and could go right through the gate [where Eighth Street dead-ends] to the Ebell. I’ve always loved the Ebell.”
Carolyn served as president of the Juniors from 1978-81; it was a difficult period because her husband died in 1978. “My friends wanted me to stay on, so I did another two years. Some of the Juniors from that time are still my close friends today.” During Carolyn’s presidency, the Juniors published a cookbook and held tennis tournaments in private homes.
Wilma Miller joined the Ebell last year, because of her mother Emma Fulcher, 102, the Ebell’s oldest member. Wilma says, “The first time I went was the first year Shirlee Haizlip was president. Shirlee invited me and I brought my mother. My mother liked the organization and felt so welcomed. With Shirlee’s encouragement she joined as a member. She found so much to enjoy about the Ebell. I started going with her, and it was a wonderful experience.
“One of the reasons I joined was because they welcomed my mother so much. She loves the lectures and lunches so much, and was especially interested in the Scholarship Committee. At her age to feel so excited and involved meant a lot to me.”
Eleanor Meyer’s mother Marian Meyer joined the Ebell in 1958, becoming an Adrian. “I had just gone off to UCLA and she loved it. She joined to play duplicate bridge; she was an accomplished player. She started playing at Friday Bridge luncheons. At that time there were 20 tables of bridge. Occasionally, when I was 15, she would invite me to play bridge, which meant I missed school. I met a number of members, which was helpful when I decided to join.”
At the Ebell, Eleanor says, “Mother took French, Spanish and Shakespeare and participated in crafts. She was a committee member in all of those areas. There were tons of things for women to do.”
Eleanor earned a Ph.D. at UCLA. “In 1968 I was asked to join the Juniors but it was impossible at the time: I had a teaching position, a baby, a husband and I lived in Eagle Rock.” Over the years she had a second child, got divorced and moved several times, “so it was impossible to join. Not because I didn’t think the world of the Ebell, because I did.”
After she retired and moved back to LA, “my friend Phyllis Lanni gave me her Ebell Directory to look for names of people who could sponsor me.” She found several other friends among the members and finally joined in 2004–36 years after being asked to join the Juniors. Since then she has served as an Inspector of Election and on the Nominating Committee.
And here’s another Ebell connection: “Lois Harmon [who chaired Bridge at the Ebell until her death last year] was my Geometry teacher at Hollywood High and I re-met her when I joined the Ebell. Gloria Carroll also taught at Hollywood High, but after I’d left for college. I met her playing bridge after I joined.”
Other current Ebell members with family connections:
• New member Coco Fausone-Wilson and her mother Patsi Simon (former member)
• Past President Shirlee Taylor Haizlip and her daughter Melissa Wildman
• Board member Janna Bodek Harris and her mother Muriel “Mickey” Bodek and sister Marnie Bodek
• Past President Kay Lachter and her daughter Rebecca Menendez
• New member Carolyn Purdy and her great-aunt Maybelle Louisa Mack Brodner (former member)
• Board member Dia Schuldenfrei and her daughter Angelique Campen
• Ellen Sletten, her cousin Polly Grimm and her mother Sally Eccleston (former member)
• Bette Stone and her mother and mother-in-law (former members)
• Board member Evelyn “Sparkle” Toliver and her sister Marilyn Richardson