A club dedicated to what is sometimes considered a dying art — conversation — met last night on its 90th anniversary and proved that conversation is not nearly so moribund as some Jeremiahs have been letting on.
The Monday Evening Club, a literary, social argumentation and eating organization, founded in Pittsfield on Nov. 11, 1869, gathered at the Wendell-Sherwood, took in nourishment, gave out with bon mots, and saluted its founders across almost a century in time, but no gap at all in spirit.
The club broke with precedent by inviting the ladies. The only other regular meeting at which this has happened was on the night of Nov. 11, 1918, which turned out to be Armistice Day. For its 90th anniversary, the Monday Evening Club called another temporary truce with the ladies, although it didn’t let them talk.
The club’s format all these years has been a dinner, a paper read by one of the members, and a discussion. Last night the paper, read by Joseph C. Nugent, was a once-over-lightly of the club’s greater and lesser moments. Each member then pitched in with variations on the theme.
Here are a few grace notes:
Norman Rockwell — “I have to give my first paper on Feb. 1 and it’s got me scared stiff. If I could only paint a picture. I’ve got a son who’s doing a little ghost writing for me; maybe he’ll write the paper for me.”
Thomas F. Plunkett Jr. — “I am facing a crisis. I’ve been in the club five years and I’ve now run out of college papers to rehash.”
Gardner F. Knight — “This club is devoted to conversation, but I can remember one meeting, while Charlie Van Doren was at the height of his glory, when discussion was discontinued for 20 minutes so we could see “Twenty-One” on TV.”
James M. Rosenthal — (who was called on last because he is considered the club’s “heaviest artillery.”) “This is the first time I’ve been referred to as the biggest bore.”
Robert G. Newman — “What I like about the Monday Evening Club is that it doesn’t do any good.”
The club was organized at the home of Thomas F. Plunkett, whose great-grandson is a present member.
In the early days, the members met at each others homes. In modern times, however, when homes are smaller, the meetings are usually at a public place, often the Crane Inn. At each meeting one member is host and another gives a paper. They meet every three weeks, except during the summer.