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Ladies of the club meet again

Dottie Garrett, left, Robbi Nagashima, Monica Viotto and Carolyn Carter, right, along with other members of the Costa Mesa Junior Women’s Club, raise a toast during the club’s first-ever reunion on Thursday.

Some 40 years later, they jokingly say they were once the “lowest group on the social register in town.”

Nothing fancy, not too dressed up.

But the ladies of the Costa Mesa Junior Women’s Club assert they never had an inferiority complex. As an active volunteer group amid a burgeoning Costa Mesa in the 1970s and ‘80s, they all paid their annual fee — $15 — and did their duties around town, which decades later seem too numerous to remember them all.

But remember they did, Thursday afternoon at their first reunion at the Costa Mesa Women’s Club building on West 18th Street. Sixteen of them came from near and far, laughing over memories of fun times and community spirit, talking over scrapbooks, newspaper clippings and old photos.


For some, it was the first time they’d seen each other in decades. The club disbanded sometime around 1988.

Ann Mound talked about a few of the club activities: organizing a baby clinic, baby-sitting training, working toward passing an ordinance regulating signs, fundraising for South Coast Repertory, rummage sales.

“We’d just get a good idea and we’d just go with it,” she said. She lived in Costa Mesa for 20 years, but now calls San Diego home.

“Nobody told us no, and so we got to do whatever we wanted to do,” she said. “We spent very little money, I can tell you. It was mostly volunteer. None of us had any money to spend.”


Over salads and drinks, the women talked of what they’ve been up to since their Junior Women’s Club days: traveling, new jobs, other volunteer work, husbands, children, grandchildren.

Some spoke of major changes; others said many aspects of their lives are very much the same, right down to having “the same kids” from 40 years ago.

The Junior Women’s Club had an age requirement: no one older than 35. They eventually upped it to 40.

Maureen Di Domenico reminisced about one of the club’s major accomplishments: beautifying Newport Boulevard.

“You have no idea how ugly it was back then,” she said. “It was weeds, right down the center of town.”

A Daily Pilot photo from the early 1970s shows an ecstatic Di Domenico over a shovel in her quest to make the street better. She was “shoveling ugliness to make room for beauty,” the caption reads.

As was the newspaper style of the day, she was identified as “Mrs. Robert Di Domenico.”

“That’s just the way it was back then … that was before feminism, I think,” she said with a laugh.


Gerri Shah, who now lives in Corona del Mar, said she loved the camaraderie of the club. Shah and others remarked that their Junior Women’s Club days just don’t seem so far behind them.

“Oh, we’re still young,” Shah said with a smile. “Of course, our kids are older now.”

Twitter: @bradleyzint