A diverse network of community organizations shaped the fabric of life in Corinth during the years that George Holland was editor of the EMBA News. Each organization carried out its specialized mission and at the same time provided its members with a context for social discourse with other people who shared similar interests.
Holland’s photographs capture a community with numerous service-focused organizations. Organizations with service missions included the Corinth Emergency Squad, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Emergency Squad, the Hospital Auxiliary, the Corinth Fire Department, and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Corinth Fire Department. While some citizens joined civic groups with commercial interests, like the Corinth Rotary Club or the Corinth Grange, these groups also included community service as part of their missions.
These organizations provided both a sense of belonging and reinforced cultural norms and values, suggesting that Corinth possessed a healthy social network in these years. Membership in civic organizations enhanced an individual’s “social capital,” the personal resources that are gained from social connections and being part of a social network. Those who belonged had opportunities to gain useful information about Village and Town affairs, the operation of the school system, or county services available for children, the elderly, and families. Such information, which is often not available to an entire community, is typically shared informally through contacts with individuals in community clubs and activities. These organizations also provided a context where Hudson River Mill employees who worked in different parts of the paper mill, or worked on different shifts, might meet and exchange news about plant operations and personnel.
Men’s fraternal organizations, such as Corinth Lodge No. 987 of the Free and Accepted Masons and Corinth Lodge No, 174 of the International Order of Odd Fellows, could trace their origins to the 19th century. Hudson River Rebekah Lodge No. 61, whose origins also dated to the 19th century, provided Corinth women with the opportunity to join an organization whose purpose was to visit and care for the sick in the community, and to administer to the needs of families of I.O.O.F. members. The members of Corinth’s lodges enjoyed fraternity with each other while working to provide aid and financial assistance to the local community and throughout the region.
The Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies were children’s organizations that offered instructional development and community service projects for young people. Corinth children had the opportunity to become involved in a short-term civics project each October by collecting money for UNICEF in specially designed orange milk cartons during their Halloween night rounds. They would return their coin-filled milk cartons to the Elementary School Cafeteria and then enjoy holiday treats with other kids from throughout the community.
The Holland photographs suggest that Corinth adults and children were socialized to both local and national cultural norms and values through participation in these organizations. Many of the clubs reinforced the value of service that was consistent with the political messages of the era that emphasized the responsibilities of citizens to others, and to the country as whole. Many of Corinth’s organizations also had roots in Christianity, and so their missions tended to reflect Christian principles.
Other groups socialized participants into cultural norms for gender. For example, the Girl Scouts taught domestic tasks and rewarded the knowledge of skills deemed culturally appropriate for females in the era, such as cooking, sewing, and domesticity. For adult women, the mission of Rebekah’s reinforced the role of women as caregivers, and women who belonged to the Fire Department and Emergency Squad auxiliaries provided a supporting role to the men directly engaged in rescue work. The service that Corinth women offered in these community’s organizations was a reflection of American gender roles in that era.
Shared interests and the desire for fraternity motivated people to join civic groups, yet community organizations during this period were often based on culturally prescribed notions of “interests.” The formal and informal barriers to membership and participation in civic organizations, based on categories such as gender that are evident in these photographs, reflected the social norms that were common in the larger culture at the time.