The Orange Leader
The Bengal Guards held their annual reunion at the Sunset Country Club, 2900 W Sunset Drive in Orange on Friday.
Alexine Adams said the group used to send out over 200 invitations. This year there were 13 members present for the reunion.
“The numbers are dwindling,” Adams said. “The Bengal Guards was from 1936-1945 and that was over 60 years ago.”
H.J. Lutcher Stark started the group during the Depression to give the girls in town something as the Lutcher Stark Boys Band was already formed.
“It was the Depression, and there was nothing to do and so many out of work,” Adams said.
Stark furnished everything for the girls.
Shirley Webb Hudson, Bengal Guard from 1941-1942, said it was a wonderful experience for a bunch of country girls.
“Stark chartered a train for us to go to Chicago. I recall him going through the train making sure each girl had some spending money,” Hudson said. “My parents scrapped some money together for me. Mr. Stark gave money to the girls that had none. I always that it was the sweetest thing.”
All these years later, the ladies will say the lessons learned during the years as a Bengal Guard made them who they are today. Each one attending the union agreed it was the experience of a lifetime for them.
Dorothy Linscomb Meadows said being a Guard helped the ladies stay active in church and community even today.
“We are not stay-at-homes,” Meadows said. “It is because of what was instilled in us as members of the group then.”
Adams said she discovered a mission statement for the group while working on a pictorial history of the original Guards.
The pictorial history will be part of the new displays available at the Heritage House when it reopens.
“I never knew the mission statement,” Adams said. “But the statement was instilled in us, not told.”
Ruby Bohme Parks was one of the first groups of recruits for the group in 1937-1940 and the oldest Guard in attendance at the reunion.
“Being a Guard taught us to strive for perfection,” Parks said.
The youngest member in attendance was Helen McDonald Reese who was a mascot for the group at age 6.
The ladies agreed the Bengal Guards gave them a chance to travel to places they otherwise would not have gone if it were not for Stark and the Guards.
According to the web site bengalguards.com, the Bengal Guards was formed in 1935 by H.J Lutcher Stark; the group made its first public appearance at the football game between Orange High School and Jasper High School on Oct. 5, 1936. The Guards had several other noteworthy performances over the years, including a visit by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1936, the dedication of the Rainbow Bridge in 1938, the 1940 Sugar Bowl and the Chicagoland Music Festival; the group was also featured in LIFE magazine in October 1940.