Tribune Print Share Text

Friends forever

‘Sub Deb Club’ still going strong after 73 years

Created date

December 17th, 2014
residents from the Sub Deb Club

Sometimes, friendships formed in high school can be fleeting. That is certainly not the case for Riderwood residents Jo Fannon and Jennie Bauer who, along with ten other women, have been friends for 73 years.

During their days at McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C., Jo, Jennie, and their friends created what they called the “Sub Deb Club,” a group for high school girls who were coming of age but still too young to formally become debutantes. 

The girls formed their club in 1941 and were focused on athletics, schoolwork, and, of course, dating. They would hold meetings and plan outings to the movies and skating rinks. Jo says the idea to form a Sub Deb Club was inspired by an article in Ladies Home Journal

While the ladies never did go on to become debutantes, Jo says they had a great time swapping information about how to do their hair and keep their complexions clear, as well as supporting each other through their early romantic relationships.

“The club made us a really good circle of friends,” Jo says.

Building bonds through war, marriage, children

After their graduation in 1942, in the midst of World War II, the young girls saw many of their boyfriends and family members drafted into military service. 

Back at home, Jo, Jennie, and their friends began their careers. Jennie worked as a dental technician, and Jo worked in human resources at what would become the National Security Agency. 

During wartime, the 12 women strengthened their bonds. When the war ended in 1945, they began to marry and start families in the Washington, D.C., area.  

“Our husbands became close, too. They bowled and golfed together and attended our monthly gatherings,” Jo says.

As their families grew, the members of the Sub Deb Club started taking summer vacations together in Ocean City, Md. The families started buying vacation homes in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and the seaside retreat became their home away from home, a place where the gang built beautiful memories to last a lifetime.

“We liked to be together, and we liked our families to be together,” Jo says. “Down at Rehoboth it was great. We’d say, ‘Let’s have a cookout together,’ or the guys would go play golf, and we’d go to the boardwalk with the kids.”

From high school to 90th birthday parties

Those bonds formed in 1941 have stood the test of time, and now as the women celebrate their 90th birthdays, the members of the Sub Deb Club remain very close friends. 

Jo says they celebrate their anniversary in March and Christmas every year. In between those annual events, the group catches up and reminisces over lunch. Riderwood serves as a central meeting place, and the community’s on-site pub is the perfect spot for leisurely lunches. In September, the Sub Deb Club plans to take another memorable trip to Rehoboth Beach, Del.

“It’s been the best thing in the world,” Jennie says of the nearly 75 years of friendship she and her girlfriends have enjoyed.