Experiencing Friendship for a Lifetime
They were like any teen-aged girls in high school. Some loved athletics, others focused on their studies…and boys were the common denominator!
That was 1941. Yet a bond between a group of twelve girls from McKinley Technical High School in Washington, DC created a lifetime of friendship that endures, seventy-three years later.
Formally, they started the Sub Deb Club (SDC) at McKinley, a group for high school girls coming into their own but too early for the formal debutante route. But through the eyes of Jo Fannon, a resident of Riderwood retirement community in Silver Spring, their connection ran deeper.
“We were ‘all-American’ girls with strong ties to faith and family. And early on, we cared about each other very much. These are ingredients to the joys found in lasting friendship,” described Ms. Fannon, one of the five remaining SDC members who live in Maryland and Delaware.
Their times together followed the American experience. Pre-World War II, the girls would hold monthly meetings at a different family house and plan trips to the movies and skating rinks.
But December 7, 1941 changed history. Following graduation in 1942, the draft called boyfriends and family members away into military service in Asia, Europe and Africa.
The young ladies would start their careers, too, in banking, nursing and in Ms. Fannon’s case, a long stint in human resources with what would become the National Security Agency.
The war impacted Jennie Bauer, too. The senior member of the SDC, she took a different career path. “I found a job at a dental lab as a technician. It had been previously filled by a man, but he enlisted in the service,” said Ms. Bauer.
In 1945, the war’s end resulted in a fresh and hopeful chapter in their lives. All twelve would eventually marry and start families, and incredibly, they continued to reside in the Washington, DC metro area. This proximity lent itself to decades of fun and socialization.
“Our husbands became close, too. They bowled and golfed together and attended our monthly gatherings,” stated Ms. Fannon.
The outings included family picnics, themed-dinner gatherings and mini “acting sessions” of popular TV series such as Dallas.
For a week every summer, the group vacationed with family at the Santa Maria Hotel in Ocean City, Maryland. That trip was the precursor to finding their official “home away from home.” Beginning in 1979, everyone would eventually own property in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, a spot where the ladies still frequent today.
“Our numbers may be diminished, but the spirit of the Sub Deb Club is as strong as ever,” stated Ms. Fannon who will turn 90 in December. “The five of us meet for alumni events with McKinley Tech and trips to the shore, and we include Ben Furnary, a surviving husband who lives at Riderwood, too.”
“We certainly influenced each other. Whether it was parenting or sharing hobbies or good food, we are grateful for our journey together. I couldn’t imagine life without my beautiful friends,” said Ms. Fallon.
“It’s been the best thing in the world,” described Ms. Bauer, as they plan their next trip to Rehoboth in September.