Gail Proctor

Gail Proctor -- Gardener

Gail ProctorGail Proctor is a Wilton native, and spent 12 years in what is now the “old” building at Florence Rideout Elementary (Florence Rideout was one of her teachers). She graduated from Wilton High School in 1968.

She recalled those school years, and how different it was then. “There were separate stairs for boys and girls. Girls couldn’t take shop and boys couldn’t take Hone Ec. And the girls had to wear dresses.” That could be a problem with that era’s bulky snow pants worn under those skirts, and “most of us walked to school.”

She recalled, “I loved to play baseball, but Little League wouldn’t let in girls. And I was better than a lot of the boys.”

In high school she was involved in musical programs, including two elaborate Broadway-style musical productions. “Oliver was my favorite,” she said. She was also in “Sound of Music.” She carried that interest over into the original musicals written and produced by former Selectman David Stein. “He was so talented,” she said. “Theater was so wonderful. It takes leadership. People need to step up and have patience.”

Gail is a gardener and related a lot of life to that. “Gardeners always have to have patience,” she said. “The garden is never the same twice. There are lots of lessons in gardening, something to nurture, always trying different things.” Her garden was locally well known, particularly during the heyday of the Wilton Garden Club.

The Wilton Garden Club was founded in 1930 with Nell Perham as the first president. That year they had almost a hundred members and eventually included gardeners from about ten surrounding communities. The by-laws state there will be no refreshments served since they didn’t want to “lure” members and that would have made it more of a social club. Those ladies were serious gardeners, affiliated with the National Federation of Garden Clubs. Dues were 50 cents per year.

Among those first members were Beulah Emmet, founder of High Mowing Waldorf School, and Alice Kimball who had started the Lyndeborough Village Improvement Society in 1910. The records detail classes in flower arranging, tours of gardens, lectures and sponsorship of students at conservation camp.

A collection of programs, scrap books, and other memorabilia are now owned by the Wilton Historical Society. The membership lists include most of the town’s leading citizens, but, as was the custom of the time, they are not listed by their names but by their husband’s.

Gail was president when the club folded about 1995. “We tried revitalizing it in 2003,” Gail said recently at the library. “We tried plant sales. People are still interested, and our challenge is to foster that interest.” She noted that there are places where gardeners can go on line, sites that offer help. “But there is not a lot of interest in joining clubs. People don’t seem to have the time.”

The Garden Club did many things, she recalled. “We gave scholarships (to high school students) and had programs.” The records include flower shows, classes such as flower arranging, garden tours, and support of many civic causes.

News clippings show members planting trees at the new high school in 1971 and tending the flower boxes along Main Street. One of the last acts of the club was to donate the remains of their treasury, about $1,500, toward the purchase of the Sheldrick Forest in 1995.

Wilton Peace ActionLater, Gail was inspired to join the Peace Action Committee by long-time civic-minded resident Helen Ring. The local Peace Action Committee is an off-shoot of the state organization

“She was my inspiration,” Gail said of a current involvement. “First it was nuclear disarmament when I was in school. We had demonstrations out on The Flat. She was so committed, but so unpretentious, dedicated, quiet but firm.” Ring was also part of the Garden Club. “She did our programs for us. She had an old mimeograph machine.” She was also part of the Historical Society.

She equated today’s disinterest in joining clubs with a lack of continuity, people not staying in one place. “When I started school, your classmates were apt to stay for all 12 years. That doesn’t happen anymore. And there are few elders around to remember that we tried that before. Something should stay the same.”

We need our roots, she said, getting back to gardening.

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