The ladies of Mount Hope Lutheran Church have been meeting together as a book group for 50 years. When the women first gathered in 1968, they were young mothers who spent their days wrangling little ones and managing their households, but once a month, they set aside a bit of time to do something special, just for themselves. They’d meet at their church to discuss books, enjoying the friendship, and adult conversation with other women. They relished those nights together, a brief respite from the harried schedule of those with small children. As the children grew and began to attend school, the evening meetings at church were exchanged for cozy meet ups in each other’s homes. The women would gather together, sharing pots of coffee, homemade treats, and their thoughts on the books they read. As the years passed, many books were read, and the friendships continued to deepen. With 50 years together, the women decided to celebrate this milestone anniversary at The Pfister Hotel.
To commemorate their golden anniversary as a group, the book club planned an outing that included a tour of the hotel’s extensive art collection led by current AIR Stephanie Schultz, lunch in Café at the Pfister all capped with a tour and talk with me.
I joined the women in the café as they were finishing their lunch, eager to learn more about their group before leading them on a tour. Peer-led book clubs are notoriously difficult to maintain, which makes the longevity of the club all the more impressive. After fifty years as an active book group, the women have mastered the art of the book club and were willing to share their organizational secrets. In the current era, each year they meet in August to develop the book schedule for the year. Readers are only able to propose a book for the group if she has already read the book. If the book is selected for the annual reading list, the reader who nominated the book is responsible for leading the book discussion. The May selection for the group was Have a Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom.
We transitioned from the café and eased into the comfortable couches in the Lobby. As I readied myself to tell the stories of the Pfister that compel me: the tales fathers and sons working together towards common goals, the entrepreneurs who defy odds and the way that, throughout time, the building has managed to be both incredibly modern and classically elegant, the women shared a few of their own stories. The hotel seems to have touched the group in each era of their lives. One member of the group was married in the hotel in October, 1947. The women sitting on the couch cushion next to her, a friend since age 12, had been in her wedding party. Another reader was an enthusiastic fan of former AIR Katie Musolff. She is likely one of Musolff’s earliest admirers, as she was Musolff’s Fourth Grade Teacher. As they reminisced, the women remembered the elegance of the now gone English Room and the many celebrations they had attended in the ballrooms on the seventh floor. Far from being a glimmering memory, The Pfister continues to be pleasurable destination for the women, luring in a portion of the group for monthly gatherings to listen to Dr. Hollander tickle the ivories in Blu.
Rejuvenated from our interlude in the lobby, we strolled the halls together, admiring the historic details that make the hotel so special, and I had the opportunity to wow them with the views of the 23rd floor. Altogether too soon, my time with this delightful group of friends came to an end. I reluctantly said goodbye and returned to the lobby, alone, to reflect on my time in the midst of those remarkable relationships.
Fifty years is a notable milestone in any life. In those years the women rejoiced with each other over successes, welcomed the births of new family members, mourned the loss of loved ones and weathered that changes that come with living a full life- and they did all of it together. The women chose The Pfister Hotel to commemorate a special anniversary at a special place. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to, in a small way, help make their visit as special as the women who were celebrating.