Local Penguin Club’s focus has changed much since formation

Members of the Penguin Club, formed by a group of high school girls in 1939, celebrate the 90th birthday of the club’s youngest member on Saturday, Feb. 9. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

It's been 74 years, and the girls are still getting together.

"We go out to eat, and then we go back to one of the homes," says Betty Schoeff, the "baby'" of the club.
"Now, we usually show pictures of our grandchildren."

Grandchildren - and great-grandchildren - weren't even close to being in the picture when the Penguin Club had its start.

Back then, its members were a bunch of giggly high school girls with movies (and boys) on their minds.

"We saw a movie and some of the girls in the movie had a Penguin Club, so we decided to have a club, too," says Maribelle Bechstein.

And the name of the movie?
"We don't know," Bechstein says. "We've tried to find out, but ..."

That was in 1939, the year before the girls graduated from Huntington Township High School.

Fast forward to 2013, and six of the remaining seven members of the Penguin Club got together to celebrate with Schoeff - the last of the group to turn 90.

Schoeff and Bechstein, both Huntington residents, were joined by Maxine Dinius, Georgiana Carl and Eva Griffith, also of Huntington, and June Brineman, of Marion; the seventh member, Garnet Williams, of Beverly Shores, couldn't make it.

The Penguin Club originally had 12 members, all of whom were female members of the Huntington Township Class of 1940.

"It was just a social club," Schoeff explains. "We asked everybody, but some of them just didn't want to join."
"When we were still in high school, we would group together in the corner," Brineman says. "We would sing, talk about our dates."

The Penguin Club met on the second Thursday of every month.

"We had rules," Schoeff says. "No dates on that night."

The club still meets on the second Thursday of the month - but only about six months out of the year. Its members have decided not to schedule any meetings during bad weather months.

Though the girls enjoyed the companionship of other members of the fairer sex, they did, after all, have eyes for the boys - leading to a (successful) husband hunting expedition.

"Four of us girls married guys from Union Township (High School)," Bechstein says. "All four of them played ball, and we all went to the ball games."

"They won the tournament that year (1939), and we picked out our husbands," Schoeff says.

"Betty picked hers out, and she told us which one she wanted," Bechstein says. "She told us we couldn't date him."

"I picked out the best looking, tallest one in the whole county," Schoeff says. "I said, ‘That one's mine.' I got first pick."

Schoeff was determined to catch the boy.

"I just stalked him," she admits.

She and Wally were married in 1942.

"We had 56 years together," she says, before his death at age 76.

Through marriages and children, the Penguin Club kept meeting.

"The guys were supposed to stay home and babysit with the kids, but they wanted to come, too," Bechstein says. "We played cards, and the kids slept on the beds."

"When the men started wanting to come, we played euchre," Schoeff recalls. "We had four card tables ... that'd be 16; eight couples."

The games have fallen by the wayside, but the gatherings haven't.

The group usually goes out to eat then heads back to the home of one of the members to chat.

"We still enjoy each other," Schoeff says.

Complete caption: Members of the Penguin Club, formed by a group of high school girls in 1939, celebrate the 90th birthday of the club’s youngest member on Saturday, Feb. 9. They are (seated from left) Maxine Dinius, Georgiana Carl, birthday girl Betty Schoeff and Eva Griffith, all of Huntington; and (standing from left) June Brineman, of Marion, and Maribelle Bechstein, of Huntington.