The following history was summarized from “Baltimore Carats 1975-1985”, written by Janet Wooldridge. Information was received in conversations with Joan Phillips, Minnie Smoot and Frances Pennington.
-The First 10 Years-
It all began with a friendship between Cleveland Pivot Clover Elliott and Baltimorean Vera Carrington. Vera shared information about the Pivots’ activities with Helen Birt, Jeanne Davis, Helen Gattis and Ada Woodland. Each of them then asked others to join them in forming a new chapter of Pivots. Soon, Joan Phillips, Minnie Smoot, Janet Wooldridge, Gourdine Blount, Gerri Desbordes, Lil Jones, Helen Whittaker, Frances Henderson and Patricia Seldon were all excited about becoming Pivots. In 1968, these friends came together in Baltimore, Maryland and formed the Pivots in Preparation. At the suggestion of Janet Woolridge, they called themselves PIPs and their sponsors were the Cleveland Chapter of Pivots. The Baltimore chapter was installed in May of 1971 with Vera Carrington as President. Frances Pennington became the first new member installed as a Pivot. Alice Russell followed as the second new member.
In 1975, the Baltimore Pivots joined other Pivot Chapters in forming a new organization. During June 27-29, The CARATS, a national social club was born at the Posh Boca Raton, an internationally famed resort in Florida. The formation and installation of the new Carats provided a weekend of many exciting activities. Amanda Webb, National CARATS President stated the foremost goal and purpose of the new CARATS was “dedication to unadulterated enjoyment.” Baltimore members who attended the historic event were: Helen Gattis, Joan Phillips and Janet Woolridge. They were accompanied by their spouses who participated in the many activities planned for them.
On October 8, 1975, the CARATS’ organization was incorporated and received its official charter. Joan Phillips was president at the time and her name is affixed to the document along with that of Ada Woodland who was secretary during that formative period. Joan also served on the new Carats’ constitution committee.
The first year’s theme was Crystallization of Friendships. The program included the following activities:
December: The first annual Round Robin was held with great excitement, renewed dedication and enthusiasm. It included a cozy Cocktail Hour at the home of Jeanne Davis, a yuletide Dinner at the home of Lillian Jones and the Grand Finale at the home of Gerri Desbordes. Gerri served as the Chairwoman and Janet Wooldridge served as the club’s journalist. The evening was highlighted with members exchanging Christmas gifts and then the presenting of gifts to the husbands.
January: The husbands joined us for a Soul Food Dinner at Helen Whittaker’s house. Each member came dressed in colorful outfits representing various soul foods. A booklet of the history of soul food, with recipes was given to each couple. The booklet was compiled by Helen Whittaker and her committee. Some of the recipes were bequeathed by the members’ families.
February: The new Carat Spirit prevailed with “Everybody’s Birthday Party”.
April: The celebration continued when the Carats and their families worshiped together at the Morgan State University Christian Center, followed by a family brunch at one of Baltimore’s leading restaurants.
May: The club planned an exciting weekend at Schraffs Motel, which featured Broadway shows at its dinner theater.
June: The closing activity was a poolside picnic. Each member invited two couples to join the outdoor activities.
Carat Helen Gattis passed away on February 13, 1976, after a long illness. She was an active member until her death. Helen was memorialized at the Detroit Conclave in 1976. Carateer Lionel Desbordes wrote her beautiful eulogy.
Other highlights during the first 10 years as Carats were:
- 1977 Helen Whittaker composed the club’s song, which was submitted to national. It was accepted as the Carats official song.
- 1979 “Gem Fantasy” was the theme of the first Baltimore Conclave. The club voted to give all outgoing Baltimore presidents gold
- 1980 Helen Wise became Baltimore’s first general member. The Baltimore Carats sponsored the Washington, D.C. Chapter of
Carats. Joan Phillips played a leadership role in the installation of the Philadelphia Chapter of Carats.
- 1981 Norma Bracy, Marlene Downs and Jean Adams were installed as new members.
- 1982 A group of Carats and Carateers met with Lena Horne in her dressing room after enjoying her show in New York.
- 1984 Alice Russell was installed as a new member.
After the 1999 Baltimore Conclave, several members of the Baltimore Carats relinquished active membership. They have continued to have great fun together over the years and remain an active but unstructured group of former Baltimore Carats. Emeritus status is not required. They call themselves, The Diamonds. With the passing of diamonds Norma Bracy and Gerri Desbordes, the remaining Diamonds are Gourdine Blount, Joan Phillips and Minnie Smoot, Ada Woodland and Janet Woolridge. They can be found having unadulterated enjoyment on the 1st Friday’s in January, March, June, September and December.
Historical perspective was compiled by Carat Jean W. Lewis.
Today, The Baltimore Carats continued the Legacy of CARATS, Incorporated. Carats are Charming, Actively involved in the organization and the communities in which they live, Appreciative of our heritage, Truthful and Sincere.