Mamie Nichols’ Surprise Birthday Party

Women of Mendocino, c. 1900; unidentified, except for: Mrs. Mamie Nichols (bonnet, shawl and child); Mrs. Elizabeth Chambers (front); Mrs. Laura Lammers (man’s clothing); Adelaide Perkins (plaid); and Lulu Ross seated in front. (Kelley House Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

January 28, 1915 – A surprise party was held for Mrs. Mamie Nichols on her 42nd birthday. The front page of the Saturday Beacon described the celebration in detail.

“A good time! Why, it was the best ever! They don’t make any better times than everybody had at the surprise birthday party that was given Mrs. Mamie Nichols at Skating Rink hall last Thursday night.

Forty-odd good friends of the popular matron were gathered together to celebrate with her the anniversary of her birth. Many were old schoolmates to whom it seemed only a short time since Mamie Nelson was one of the jolliest and best liked girls in Mendocino. And the others, though not enjoying such a long acquaintance, were just as hearty and sincere in their expressions of esteem and wishes for a long succession of future happy birthdays.

And it was a genuine surprise. Mrs. Nichols was taken entirely unawares and received the surprise of her life, and she was further pleasantly surprised when in behalf of the assembled friends, Mrs. C. D. Morgan, in a neat speech, presented her as a token of esteem, with a handsome gold lavalliere [pendant necklace].

The hall was prettily and elaborately decorated for the occasion with evergreens, ferns, and potted plants. In the center were placed a number of card tables where whist, lobby, and five-hundred could be played by some, while others joined in the merry whirl of the dance.

And the dances! And the dancers! Would that we had a pen that would fittingly describe the enjoyment of the old-fashioned quadrilles by people who had not appeared upon a dance floor for years. And the Virginia Reel! It was certainly the merriest and happiest crowd that had gathered in Mendocino for many years.

About everybody danced. People who had not danced for years and people who had never danced before. It was certainly a most unusually enjoyable affair, and EVERYBODY – put that in capitals, please, Mr. Editor – had a bully time. And when tasty refreshments were served at midnight, everybody had a good appetite, too. The party broke up at a late hour, and as each one left, after wishing Mrs. Nichols the best of fortune for the future, they one and all declared that they were only sorry that she did not have a birthday every week.”

The anonymous letter was signed, “One Who Was There.”

Final weekend! See the elaborate gown worn by Jennie Blair in 1887 when she was presented at the Court of Saint James in England. Museum hours: Thursday through Sunday, 11 am to 3 pm. The Museum is located at 45007 Albion Street in Mendocino.