Bessie Shepherd and I took a trip to Carcassonne Community Center and Quilting Club.
The weather was cold and wet. We had nearly had a flood the night before. But the cold, wet weather did not matter once we got to the community center. The welcome we received was so warm we felt like the sun was shining.
The ladies at the center were so helpful. They showed us their unbelievably beautiful quilts and answered all of the many questions that we had.
The Carcassonne Quilting Club started July 14, 1966 for the purpose of hooking rugs, quilting for use in the home and teaching young ladies in the community to quilt. How wonderful is that?
The original members were Ruby Caudill and Mae Fugate. Ruby will be 92 years old June 19. She was born in 1917. Mae Fugate will be 85 years old on Sept. 6. She was born in 1924. These ladies are still active and still quilting, and they totally amaze me. They look and act 20 years younger than they are.
There have been many quilters in the club over the years, and they have such fond memories of them. The other original members were: Susan Jent, Thelma Smith, Bell Jent, Valina Frances, Latisha Smith, Louise Dixon and Lorene Halcomb. Many of these are now deceased.
Ruby told of Louise Dixon, who lived on lower Elk Creek, and how she walked several miles to Carcassonne each Wednesday morning to quilt, and how she would sing as she walked.
They told stories and nicknamed many of the quilters over the years. Some of the quilters were Thelma Chapman, June Smith, Teresa Hilton, Teresa Collins, Debbie Fugate, Janie Whitaker, Virgie Eldridge, Michelle Miller, Ellen Combs, Margaret Brown, Gwen Dixon, and I’m sure I missed many. The quilters at present are: Ruby Caudill, Ella Mae Fugate, Von Hall, Loretta Henrickson, Sue Jent, Mary Jane Back and Freda Combs.
When I asked the question, “How long do you hope to continue the quilting?” Freda said, “Until I die.”
That is dedication. These ladies make a list of the quilts to make, and they all take turns quilting so no one feels slighted.
Ruby’s husband, Clifton Caudill, made the quilt frames they still use. Clifton passed on several years ago.
They celebrate each member’s birthday and they draw names at Christmas. Ruby said one year at Christmas it snowed until they couldn’t get to the community center, so they had their Christmas party at Ruby’s house. And they just continued to have it there. She didn’t say for how many years.
Ella Mae gave us a tour of the Carcassonne Community Center and it had been decorated for Christmas. The huge tree was still up and decorated and the cedar smell was still there. You could see a loving touch in every corner of the building. They were grateful for the new windows that Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto had helped them get.
I asked how many quilts that the quilters had made since the club had started and they had not kept a list, but they say it has been in the hundreds.
Ruby has taught most all of the ladies who have come to the club to quilt. Ella Mae said that she prayed every day for Ruby’s health to continue, because she is such an asset to the Carcassonne Community and to the club.
These ladies have had their quilts displayed in many events throughout Kentucky, and they have demonstrated quilting in Frankfort and at many events.
Ruby told me about a bow tie quilt. She said that she showed some children in Frankfort how to quilt and let them guess what the bow tie was. That was the Kentucky Folk Life Festival.
Ruby Caudill remembers moving furniture out of the living room of her and her husband, Clifton Caudill’s, home in order to square dance there after a day’s work. In the past the living room also served as a gathering place for quilting bees where women worked on quilts and socialized. Today, dancing and quilting and socializing are preserved and perpetuated when people gather at the Carcassonne Community Center.
When Ruby’s father-inlaw, Hendricks Caudill, started the Carcassonne School in 1924 and the high school in 1948; he wanted to have a community center (gathering place) and he got his wish. It is still going strong.
The day we were there Loretta Henrickson and Mary Jane Back had their very young grandchildren with them. Everyone was enjoying the children, and it was such a joy to think that someday these very small children could be carrying on this wonderful tradition. Mary Jane said that she learned to quilt by bringing her mother and grandmother to quilting. Loretta’s grandchildren are Ella Mae’s great-grandchildren. So think what a tradition to pass onto the young children.
Ladies, we want to thank you all for such a pleasant morning. There is a sign on the door that says, ‘Friends Gather Here,’ and I believe that.
Bessie and I were representing the Letcher County Tourism Convention Commission Committee and the Festival of Quilts Show, sponsored by the committee. The Festival of Quilts will be at the Harry Caudill Memorial Library in Whitesburg, Feb. 5-21. If you have a special quilt that is homemade and has fond memories, please share it with us. Or, if you have quilted it yourself, please let us display it for you. Call Bessie Shepherd, 633- 9123, or Doris Adams, 632- 3777.