Fourth Sunday of January
“Be it known, that on this sixth day of March, 1946…the name and title of said corporation shall be ‘THE LADIES’ TAMMANY SOCIAL AND AID CLUB.” From the Charter, Constitution and By-Laws as stated on page 1.
Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs are an integral slice of African-American culture in New Orleans. These organizations were created for fellowship and for financial support to bury properly the free people of color and the deceased African slaves. Many currently know of the pleasure clubs “coming out” on any given Sunday from October to March. I “came out” with many elderly women, including Lettie “Momma” Jones Boseman, my grandmother, every fourth Sunday in January for over 30 years of my life. The Ladies’ of Tammany Social and Aid Club allowed me to enter into this culture each year through the anniversary service. Unlike the colorful outfits and umbrellas of the traditional second line members, the tools of trade for the Ladies’ of Tammany were bibles, their Sunday best attire, and hats, or crowns as I love to call them. Instead of celebrating in the streets of New Orleans, they praised God from the pews of churches throughout the city. Article XII-Section 2 states,” two years Baptist, third-year Methodist, and the same Church not under four years. Failing to attend each member shall be fine One Dollar ($1.00).” Our fourth Sunday in January took us all over the city to places of worship in our Community of Desire to far on the other side of town. As a youngster, I considered myself Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist because of these anniversary services and understood that God was the common denominator.
I relished that I got to spend the entire Sunday with Momma alone. Alone, that is, with a hundred or so other elderly ladies in their church finery. I inherited this date with Momma from my older cousin Iris after she became high school age. Before Iris, my youngest aunt Louvenia (Beanie) would be Momma’s companion. I was conveniently located around the corner, so I was summoned into duty. My oldest male cousin, Kenneth, began as our driver, and in later years, Devance III would take on the chauffeur job. It’s funny to think back at how Momma would give a time to pick us up because there was no guarantee the church office would be accessible to make a telephone call for a pickup. It’s incredible how she could calculate how long she believed the service would last by the minister that would be presiding. As I aged, married, and began driving, Momma would open her purse, which was always filled with peppermints for the service. She would hand me $2.00 to gas up the Chevette to get us to and from church. She, of course, insisted that I take it. I always assured her I would stop on my way home to purchase the gas. Back then, it was still ridiculous to ask for $2.00 worth of gas to fill up a car, even a compact Chevrolet Chevette. She was unaware of it, but I would just put the $2.00 in the collection when the “sisters” passed the basket around.
I was always so proud of Momma because she was such a cool servant of God during service. The preacher preached, the choir singing, and as the other members were falling out in the pews, somehow Momma never did. If she “got the spirit,” she was great knowing how to hold on to it. If you did not get anything out of the service spiritually to warm your soul, the snacks in the church’s kitchen surely warmed your stomach. I would sit in church wondering what goodies the old ladies of the refreshment committee were preparing. I would feel guilty as my thoughts left the minister’s preaching and landed in the kitchen. The aroma usually would find its way into the church, and it was challenging to stay focused. The pound cakes were always fantastic, and Momma always managed to sneak a piece into her pocketbook for later. It amazed me how fast she could wrap a piece of cake and slip it into her purse without anyone noticing.
At the end of each fourth Sunday of January, Momma would always thank me and would speak of the following year’s anniversary service. I guess it was her way of informing me not to make any plans for that day. “If I am still around” was her favorite line. The first year she became ill, maybe two years before her death at the beautiful age of 87, was the first time we had missed Tammany. I am sure her membership spanned over 50 years, maybe more. The first, fourth Sunday of January, after she went on to glory, reality hit, and of course, that was the hardest one. This Sunday and quality time with my beloved grandmother had become routine for me for so many years. Lettie “Momma” Jones Boseman was a loyal and faithful member until her death. Momma and The Ladies” Auxiliary of Tammany and the fourth Sunday of January will live in my memory and heart forever.
THE LADIES’ TAMMANY SOCIAL AND AID CLUB