History

The Peoria Poetry Club was founded in 1941 as the Central Illinois Poetry Club. It is the longest running writers’ group in Peoria. The following is from our early minutes:

Poetry Club to be Organized Here.

“Central Illinois is to have a poetry club with headquarters in Peoria. A group of local writers met recently at the home of Ina L. Mellichamp, 700 N. Madison Ave., to discuss organization. Those present were the Misses Lavetta L. Hummel, Virginia D. Williams, Alice Virginia Smith and Mrs. Mellichamp.

Plans were made for a general meeting, which will be held at the Pere Marquette Hotel Tuesday, January 28, at 7:30 p.m. Peoria poets and others interested in creative writing are invited to be present.

Would we be present? We would, and were; it was a stormy night, snowy and blustery. Those who were hardy enough to attend were nearly blown from their feet and holding an umbrella was virtually impossible; but we were there full of determination. We were evidently a hardy group and it was well that we were, for the first few winters that initial stormy weather seemed to have organized with us. Stormy meeting nights seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. It soon became a joke among us and was referred to as “poetry club weather.””

The following is the newspaper account of our first meeting:

Poetry Club Elects Temporary Officers

“Formed to exchange ideas and help each other in their creative writing, the new Central Illinois Poetry Club elected temporary officers Tuesday evening at the Hotel Pere Marquette, with Mrs. Ina L. Mellichamp as President.

Suggestions for the group’s name are to be brought to the Feb. 10 meeting. Other officers are Miss Lavetta Hummel, Vice President; Miss Virginia Williams, Recording Secretary; Mrs. Catherine W. Davis, Corresponding Secretary; and Mrs. Ethel Caffee, Treasurer. Appointed as Chairman of the Constitution Committee was Mrs. Queenie Altman, with Miss Dora Dinsmore and Ernest Bullock as members. The club, open to all creative writers in Central Illinois, will meet at 8 o’clock p.m. the second and forth Mondays in every month.

The club flourished from the start and the newspapers gave us their most hearty cooperation, carrying accurate accounts of every meeting in those first few years until the war and paper shortage took precedence over all else and club news was either left out or shortened or changed until it no longer accurately recorded our meetings, and for many years it has been very inadequately covered.”

(The writer of this article did not preserve many of the news items in those early years, so we can only record the events.)