Few young women of today have ever even heard of the Gleaner program for young women. But to a group of long-ago Gleaners (or LAGS as they call themselves) that has met monthly for more than 50 years, the Gleaner program was the beginning of 50 years worth of precious memories, recently recalled during a 50th anniversary luncheon and program.
In the early 1940s, the Gleaner program of the Legrand Ward in Salt Lake City was booming. More than 40 young women ages 18-23 were regular attenders. Much of the credit for the program's success goes to the leader, Jean Wale Smith. A young widow, she devoted considerable attention to her little flock and became not only a beautiful example and role model, but also a dear friend.Wanda West Badger, the group's first historian, related that as members of the Gleaner class they "made a large scrapbook shaped like a treasure chest that contained many of our lessons and activities. We had marvelous lessons, wonderful firesides and many great parties and outside activities."
Meanwhile, the young women who served as Gleaner officers under Sister Smith had become very close, and didn't want this rich association to end when their Gleaner days were over. Most of them were war brides with their husbands serving in the armed services, and the companionship of this closely knit group of friends was needed to fill the void left as one by one their husbands went off to war. So in July 1944, the group met at Sister Smith's house to officially organize the LAGS, Long-Ago Gleaners. Today, 50 years later, that name takes on much more significance than it did back in 1944 when "long ago" meant merely one or two years earlier. Their goal back in 1944 was not unlike the purpose of the Gleaner program: to follow in the footsteps of the biblical Ruth, and glean in the various fields of life, choosing only the best in their gleaning.
In addition to just enjoying each other's company and support, the LAGS' meetings included many service projects, such as rummage sales and quilt-making for Primary Children's Hospital.
The LAGS were also well-known for their educational and motivational pursuits. Each year was geared to a special theme. For example, one year's theme was "A Year to Share." It included sharing inspirational thoughts, recipes and Christmas traditions, and sharing "a date with our mate." Another year focused on their roles as LDS women, and as homemakers, wives, mothers and grandmothers. Yet another year's theme was "Appreciation." Each meeting centered on a different subject: humor, literature, friends, beauty of nature, citizenship, privilege of serving others and good music.
Early on, the LAGS began inviting their mothers to their May get-together. Those Mother's Day luncheons became a much-anticipated tradition, as most of the mothers had also become acquainted in the Legrand Ward. Soon the May celebration evolved into a three-generation Mothers and Daughters party that always included wonderful food, delightful entertainment and, of course, renewed friendships.
This year, the LAGS were honored by their daughters with a 50th anniversary celebration. The decor was "Golden Anniversary-style," and a tribute and a rose was given to each mother by a daughter, and to Sister Smith, the leader of them all, by Wanda Badger.
Many touching memories were shared by the mothers and daughters at the celebration held at the home of Jane Knudsen Poulsen in South Jordan, Utah.