Historic club holds sale

It’s high summer and time for the Price is Right Sale at the Baby Island Saratoga Club. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, friends and neighbors will gather to enjoy the 32nd annual open-air marketplace of arts and crafts, plants, second-hand treasures and eatable goodies. Located on Saratoga Road just south of the Amble Road intersection, the sale draws residents and summer folks from all over South Whidbey every year.

It’s high summer and time for the Price is Right Sale at the Baby Island Saratoga Club.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, friends and neighbors will gather to enjoy the 32nd annual open-air marketplace of arts and crafts, plants, second-hand treasures and eatable goodies. Located on Saratoga Road just south of the Amble Road intersection, the sale draws residents and summer folks from all over South Whidbey every year.

The Baby Island Saratoga Club began the Price is Right Sale in 1985 to help out South Whidbey community assistance groups.

From the very first sale, the club rented out tables to artists and craftsmen, as well as to fellow nonprofit groups. Families can also rent a table to sell their own garage sale items and keep the proceeds themselves.

Over the years, members and friends of the group have manned booths to sell handcrafted garden furniture, flowers and plants, local works of art and high quality new-to-you household treasures.

There have been a few surprises through the years. Several years ago a family turned over an entire estate to the sale to help raise funds. This year, one member who is moving away will donate a sizeable batch of household goods.

Plants and flowers will be there as usual, as well as baked goods to nibble with morning coffee.

The nonprofit group Philanthropic Educational Organization or PEO will have four tables this year to sell camping gear, lawn furniture, books, even a kennel and doghouse among other goods. PEO is an organization which supports women’s education.

Recipes anyone?

The Price is Right has a remarkable history of success.

Held each year in July, tables are spread out over the big lawn in front of the Baby Island Saratoga clubhouse. Since 1985, Hanson’s Lumber has loaned sheets of plywood each year for tables.

It’s not just the lure of bargains that draws islanders to the sale in past years.

Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, Herb Bacon and his hamburger crew served burgers and potato salad which provided dollar donations and fun.

Club members are still searching for the recipe of homemade cinnamon twist rolls baked by Loretta Tuttle, Lila Bacon and Winnie McLeod. Members active in the 1980s say people came to the sale early in the morning especially to eat cinnamon rolls, drink hot coffee and chat with neighbors.

Anyone who might know the famous Tuttle recipe is encouraged to call 730-2389 so the club can reinstate the cinnamon twist tradition.

Newborn Baby

The Baby Island Saratoga Club was created in October 1949 by a group of rural neighbors. According to a Whidbey Record story dated Sept. 29, 1949, “A meeting was held at Lee Turner’s home to try to plan for some winter activities for the Baby Island and Saratoga communities. There was so much fun and enjoyment at the picnics that some activity for winter seems appropriate.”

Members also wanted to address some of the local civic issues of the day. One active charter member was Darrell Scott, known to friends as Helen, who was the Langley postmistress.

According to Scott’s brief history of the club, “As I recall in the beginning, we were a disorganized but militant band of homeowners, dissident possibly because we lacked what the rest of civilization took for granted: rural mail service, electric lights, telephones, fire protection or adequate roads.”

Early minutes show a $36 donation to the county for the improvement of Saratoga Road. Over the years, letters to Island County officials show that Baby Island Saratoga members were ardent for better roads. Members became involved in efforts to improve water systems, build a community hospital and to secure better ferry service. They also mounted a campaign to get a rural fire station on Saratoga Road.

The club chartered formally as the Baby Island Saratoga Firesiders in October 1949. In the spirit of the day, the men dressed up in suits and the women wore nice dresses. They hosted luncheons and dinners for each other and maintained minutes referring to members formally as, for instance, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Swanson.

Historic photographs of the club were preserved by Scott, the first president of the Firesiders. She wrote the history of the club in 1973 to celebrate the 25th anniversary.

Baby grew up

Very quickly the group of couples grew too large to meet in homes. It was common for 25 or more guests to come and came from as far away as Seattle and Oak Harbor. New members paid $1 initiation fee and everyone paid dues of 25 cents quarterly.

By the spring of 1951, members asked a committee to locate and acquire land, as well as to decide how to build a clubhouse. Members were eager for a community hall.

In September 1951, perhaps because the members wanted to address the need for better local services, the club’s name was changed to the Baby Island Saratoga Improvement Club.

One of the charter members said “the name Firesiders made us sound like a back-woodsie bunch of old ladies engaged in knitting, tatting, hooking rugs and patching quilt.”

The members also voted to incorporate.

Finally, in October of 1951 eager members settled on a price for club land and voted to offer $5 an acre for 4.6 acres on Saratoga Road.

The location was chosen because it was halfway between the communities of Baby Island and Saratoga near an intersection then called Four Corners. The intersection is now where Saratoga Road crosses Fox Spit/Amble Road.

After the vote came a party to honor the second anniversary of the club’s founding. The ladies served “a delicious birthday cake.”

This was the usual order of business. Hold a meeting to make decisions, followed by a meal, a good dessert, and then relax to play Pinochle and Canasta.

By late 1951, more than 35 members attended regularly.

In November of the same year, facing the need to raise enough money to put up a building, the ladies put on a “box social” for members. Cleverly decorated box meals were auctioned one after another to the highest bidder.

Mrs. Scott’s winning box was put together “like a small club house, and complete with lawn and trees.”

When it was all added up, including “a generous donation of $10 from Miss Ferguson and Miss Laughlin of Saratoga, making the proceeds for the evening $43.60,” things began to look better for construction funds.

Expanded endeavors

In December 1951, members talked about a building “25 by 30 feet built of Asher Building Blocks that would cost $347.50 for the blocks alone.”

According to the treasurer’s report, “in one year, the club had gone from a balance of $406 to $1,012.43.” The hostesses then served “delicious pumpkin pie and hot coffee to the many guests and members.” At this meeting, members also decided to suspend meetings during the busy summer months, a decision that holds true to this day. Nonetheless, summer activities are important, including picnics, a June work day and the July preparation for The Price is Right Sale.

Throughout the years 1952 and ’53 meetings were still held in member’s homes. Almost every gathering included a raffle to raise money to construct the community hall.

In September 1952, members decided to hold a salmon derby at the Baby Island Resort operated by Mr. and Mrs. Verne Johnson. The derby, held in late September 1953, brought in $68.85 after expenses. Members held a dance the evening before the derby.

Building up

In early 1953, a committee headed by Darrell Scott planned the construction of a wood building with wooden floor 30 by 24 feet.

In March, the club voted to go ahead with construction of a clubhouse with one chimney, and to leave the details of building to the committee.

On Sept. 12, 1953, the first meeting was held in the new clubhouse, a few weeks before the salmon derby. At the November meeting, the lights went out and cut short the business meeting, but members managed to play cards by gas lantern light.

That winter, the club met in a building with no interior wallboard, but in February 1954, members voted to pay “ferry fare and fuel for Mr. Goodell’s truck to get our plaster board…installed before the March meeting.”

The club did have a furnace and electric lights, but the restrooms were outside.

In June of 1954, members voted to campaign for a state park on the South End of Whidbey Island. The owners of the Saratoga Grocery at Bell’s Beach were active members. The Johnsons at Baby Island Resort installed the first telephone which they made available to neighbors in time of emergency.

In the earliest years of the club, community electric power was provided by a member who ran a diesel generator. Ironically, the fellow ran the generator primarily in the daytime, shutting down at 9 p.m. so folks had to go to bed early anyway.

The unofficial club motto was “Don’t ever forget — we must all stand together, or fall apart!” first quoted by Gladys Strong.

Members continued to repair and improve the clubhouse themselves. In 1967, members committed to running water and a septic tank.

Nonprofit status

In May 1981, the first discussion arose about the Price is Right Sale. The first photos of the sale are dated 1985.

In January 1983, the club acquired nonprofit status and its main focus switched to predominantly fundraising for community organizations.

In the late 1980s the clubhouse was made into a kitchen. Today a lofty large room with plenty of windows welcomes members and guests.

During the past 20 years, the agenda for meetings has changed a bit. Baby Island Saratoga Club meetings include a lively social hour, a potluck, a brief business meeting and a program on local arts, education, travel, international cultures or emergency services.

Splendid desserts are still a feature of club meetings.

If you are interested in renting a sale table, attending a meeting as a guest, or joining the club, call president Jay Hudemann at 360-730-1654. Members need not live in the Baby Island/Saratoga area.