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The Apple Corps Club, a throwback on Lincoln's East Campus, thrives in a new century
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The Apple Corps Club, a throwback on Lincoln's East Campus, thrives in a new century

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Cindy Lange-Kubick has loved writing columns about life in her hometown since 1994. She had hoped to become a people person by now, nonetheless she would love to hear your tales of fascinating neighbors and interesting places.

Someone spelled the name wrong on the club’s flyer for the annual picnic at Idylwild Park back in 1983.

The handwritten invitation — stuck in front doors of homes up and down Professors Row and beyond on UNL's East Campus — instructed guests to bring their own table service and chairs, a hot dish, a cold dish and a beverage (non-alcoholic, if you don’t mind).

“Come for fun, food and friendship on Friday,” the invite proclaimed. “Sponsored by the Apple Core Extension Club.”

The typo slipped into history in the pages of a fat three-ring binder.

Not that the club, formed eight years earlier by a group of neighborhood women under the auspices of the county extension service, didn’t like a good play on words.

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That’s what the Apple Corps Extension Club was, after all.

“Apple Street was the core of the neighborhood,” said Marge Thomssen, one of the group’s founding members and the wordsmith behind the name.

Thomssen also started the East Campus Starrs, a sister group named for yet another street in the neighborhood.

The Apple Corps met in the morning — the second Tuesday of the month — and Thomssen had gone back to college and eventually entered the working world. The new club would meet in the evening to suit the needs of the modern woman.

“Stars come out at night,” she explained.

The Starrs were out again Monday night, along with members of the Apple Corps, all of them following a man in a floppy hat as he talked about the history of the homes in their neighborhood.

Apple Street Corps, 06.07

Lisa Warren (right) and Mary Belka (left), from the East Campus Starrs, laugh at one of Ed Zimmer's jokes Monday during a walking tour on 37th Street. 

Ed Zimmer, the city’s retired historic preservationist, regaled the two groups (who on occasion arrange a joint meeting) with stories of past residents and architectural intrigue.

George Beadle rented a room here, Zimmer said. (The geneticist of Beadle Center fame.)

There was a great big ginkgo tree there, he said, pointing to a backyard. (“Gone,” someone in the crowd responded.)

For more than an hour, Zimmer showed off timeless American Foursquares and sturdy squat bungalows to the appreciative all-female crowd.

Apple Street Corps, 06.07

Ed Zimmer give the Apple Street Corps and the East Campus Starrs a walking tour about the history of the houses in the neighborhood on Monday. The Apple Corps started in 1975 and met in the morning once a month, and the Starrs followed several years later, meeting in the evening for women who worked during the day. 

The modest home of the Wilson sisters — botany teachers. The spacious home for a family of farmers. A professor of animal science. A janitor.

To start the tour, the Apples and Starrs met on Lora Black’s driveway on North 37th Street. Black, a melodious-voiced public radio announcer, has long been an Apple.

Now she’s a Starr, too.

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“Both groups do wonderful things to support the neighborhood, local schools and other nonprofits,” she explained.

And: “It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors.”

Carol Kendrick and Delores Himmel agree.

The pair were neighbors on Idlywild when they joined the Apple Corps in the '70s.

“There were so many young people, and extension clubs were big back then,” Kendrick said. “Everyone would bring their little ones.”

Apple Corps

Founding members of the Apple Corps Extension Club Delores Himmel (left) and Carol Kendrick reminisce about the longtime East Campus group devoted to education and neighborliness. 

The extension service would provide the monthly lesson.

How to make better biscuits.

The art of homemade noodles.

A lesson on legumes (Do you know your beans?)

Housekeeping in a hurry. (Yes, please.)

The clubs — often called home demonstration clubs — had a long and storied history nationally and in Nebraska, said Mike Bergland-Riese, communications coordinator for Nebraska Extension.

"During its peak, there were hundreds of clubs across the state," he said.

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Lancaster County Extension launched an advertising campaign in 1974, featuring Holly Homemaker, a short-legged cartoon character encouraging rural and urban homemakers of all ages to join a club.

“They’d have all the programs, and you went to pick up the materials,” Kendrick said. “We had so many people and such a variety of women we started doing our own.”

The members took turns hosting in their living rooms and backyards, scouting out speakers.

Dues were $5 a year.

They still are.

“We never had enough money to open a checking account,” Kendrick said.

“I kept mine in a money bag in the closet,” said Himmel, a former group treasurer.

Kendrick once told her kids: If I kick off suddenly, that belongs to the Apple Corps.

The two groups kept minutes. Planned programs.

Guests from the Nebraska State Historical Society. Habitat for Humanity. Talks on restorative justice and travelogues on Africa and India.

Last month, Jenna Bartja enlightened the Starrs with a talk on dark skies and astrotourism. (The adventure specialist for the Nebraska Department of Tourism lives in the neighborhood but, as of yet, is neither an Apple nor a Starr.)

This month, Nikki Moore shared the evolution of her photography business with the Apples.

Each club makes an annual donation to a worthy cause.

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No scandals in the almost 50-year history, said Himmel and Kendrick.

And not much fanfare, although years ago a reporter came calling with questions about zucchini.

She wrote for the food page at The Lincoln Star, Himmel said.

“We decided to have a meeting and have everyone bring a different zucchini recipe,” Kendrick said. “She came back and sampled the food.”

The story is there in the three-ring binder along with the Apple Corps recipes.

Irene Brandeberry’s Vegetable Dip.

Wanda Lancaster’s Zucchini Bread.

Marge Anderson’s Zucchini Soufflé.

Connie Geist’s Zucchini-Tomato Pie.

Kendrick moved out of the neighborhood in 1978, but she’s still an Apple. So is Thomssen, who moved away last year.

There was a camaraderie to the group from the very beginning, she said.

“It’s hard to put into words. Education was important to us. Ag Campus was important. That love of learning.”

The same kindred spirit carried over to the Starrs.

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At the Tuesday morning meeting of the Apple Corps, members sit in the shade of Claudia Lindley’s backyard.

They eat slices of Janelle Lamb’s rhubarb bread. They pepper the speaker with questions. They confirm next month’s meeting at Lamb’s house with school board member (and neighbor) Annie Mumgaard as the featured guest.

Apple Corps member Teri Ourada-Hubka asks if they could host another Teddy bear drive for the Child Advocacy Center. (Of course.)

And someone else wonders about a gift for Zimmer, their tour guide from the night before.

Lora Black — with her dual membership — confirms that the Starrs gave the historian an honorarium.

A short discussion ensues among the Apples in attendance.

We need to give the same amount, someone says.

“We don’t want to be the cheap group.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @TheRealCLK

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Columnist

Cindy Lange-Kubick has loved writing columns about life in her hometown since 1994. She had hoped to become a people person by now, nonetheless she would love to hear your tales of fascinating neighbors and interesting places.

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