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'Party girls' focus on fun 38-year-old social club has 'livened things up'


You don't have to be a fan of Minnie Mouse to join Arundel's Swinging Minnie Mouse Club, but a sense of humor is a must, and knowing the words to that famous mouse song doesn't hurt.

"Wherever we went, we just livened things up. When you've got age on you, you can get away with a lot of things," said Molly Magee, who founded the social club in 1958 with her best friend, Frieda Barnes, who died in 1986.

At its peak, the club had 40 members; now it has 11, including an honorary member who is in a nursing home in Glen Burnie. Once a Minnie, always a Minnie.

"They don't drop out. The old Reaper moves in and takes them away," said Mrs. Magee, 86, of Linthicum, the club's oldest member. Or members move away, she said.

The women want to keep the club small so that mothers, daughters and sisters can fit at one table on nights out and gab at Marie's Hilltop Inn, 44 Thomas Ave. in Brooklyn Park.

The women, many of them widows, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, meet the first and third Wednesdays of every month. Meetings are supposed to start at 8 p.m., but often it's nearer 8:30 p.m.

"You know how we women are," Mrs. Magee said, shrugging.

At the meetings, the women discuss trips to such places a Wildwood, N.J., dinner theater and other club business.

"Of course, we have a few beers, I have to say that," said Mrs. Magee, who has held every club office except treasurer. "When we come to these clubs, nobody brings their sorrows, which everybody has. This is our night."

Trudy D. Minefski, 71, of Linthicum Heights, the president, joined about 1962 and continued a family tradition.

"It seemed to be a family affair. My mother belonged. My sister belonged. I have quite a few aunts who were in. I brought my daughter into it" two years ago, she said.

At 40, Mrs. Minefski's daughter, Arlene M. Cicchiani, is the club's youngest member.

Dues are $4 per meeting, plus $1 for "sunshine" dues, which pay for flowers and cards for sick members. Getting into the club requires only that a current member vouch for you and your sense of humor.

"They've got to have a sense of humor. We're party girls," Mrs. Minefski said.

Members wear Mouseketeer ears and Minnie Mouse sweat shirts and pins. Birthdays are always celebrated.

The club once had a mascot that members took everywhere, on bus trips and to bars. Dolly, a 5-foot-3-inch rubber doll, wore red stockings and dresses with ruffles.

When members went out for drinks, they sat Dolly at the bar, crossed her legs and stuck a cigarette into her mouth. One night, though, someone swiped Dolly after the women took to the dance floor at Denny's Highland Inn in Baltimore Highlands and left the doll sitting alone.

The women posted fliers in stores and offered a reward for Dolly's return, but they never saw her again.

The women have engaged in other shenanigans, but the club isn't only about fun and games. It also provides companionship and emotional support.

When Audrey M. Falter's husband, John, died of cancer in 1985, the women refused to allow her to sit around the house and mope. They insisted that she join them on outings and carry on with her life, said Mrs. Falter, a club member for 13 years.

"We're just a group of ladies who can depend on each other and love each other. And being widows, that's what you need," said Mrs. Falter, 55, who lives in Glen Burnie.

"We still like to go out and have a couple of beers and goof off, though," said Doris J. Palmer, 75, of Pasadena, a club member for 32 years.

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