The Crozet Lions Club dedicated a heavy concrete-base bench to former Lions member Ruth Chiles at the Chiles’ Peach Stand in Greenwood May 9. Ruth Chiles was the first female member of the club, in 1989, and directed the club’s annual variety show, held in the old gym at Brownsville Elementary School, through its heyday years. She died last year at the age of 87.
Opening a brief ceremony, club president Maria Fox noted that “It’s fitting that it’s a bench, because I remember everyone coming up to her when we were selling ice cream.” Ruth arranged for the annual peach ice cream sale days at the stand—usually the first weekend in August—as a club fundraiser. “She loved to sit and watch kids eat peach ice cream.”
Lion Jon Mikalson delivered an appreciation, beginning with the fact that Ruth’s husband Henry’s father was among the founders of the club in 1938. The variety show had a 50-year run and at the 2007 show Ruth’s 35 years of leadership was honored.
The show had what were called “end men,” he explained, pairs who stood at the corners of the stage whose job was to entertain the audience—usually more that 500 people came to the shows—with jokes as the show acts rotated onto the stage. Ruth was normally positioned on the right at the piano (which she played as well) where she could keep an eye on the performances. The end men made a game of trying to get risqué jokes that she had no advance knowledge of past her, Mikalson said. “They were edgy. Did they clear them with Ruth ahead of time? Doubtful.”
Mikalson could remember some of them and suggested to his wife, Mary, that he would tell some again on the occasion of the dedication. He tried to clear them with her. “No. No. No. No,” Mikalson said Mary responded. Finally, she agreed he could tell this one again: “Walter Perkins [then the White Hall District Supervisor] and his wife Jo Ann were in the front row. The end men said Walter went into Wyndham [now English Meadows assisted living] looking for votes. He approached one resident. ‘Do you know who I am?’ he began. ‘No,” the resident answered, ‘but if you go to the front desk, they can tell you.’”
“She’d get embarrassed,” explained her daughter Cynthia, “She didn’t want the audience to think that she had approved those jokes.”
When the show ended, the Lions and the performers all came on stage. The Lions sang their club song, Roar Lions Roar, and Ruth was presented with a bouquet of roses as a thanks for all her work. “She really lit up the show,” Mikalson said.
“We certainly thank you,” said her husband Henry in accepting the bench. “She really enjoyed it all.”
The bench has a commemorative plaque mounted on it and to conclude the dedication, a bouquet of red roses was left on the seat.