Friends at 50
By Jeanne Beach Eigner
IT’S WHAT YOU DO AT 50. Look forward, look back. The Country Friends, that august assemblage of women devoted to good causes and good taste, marks five decades of social activism and social activities this year. “We’ve got some phenomenal things going on,” says president Karen Moller, who’s a vice president of Union Bank of California. “And when we get through this year, we’ll be set for another 50 years.” They’ll mark the half-century with a gala this month (“Let’s Dance” on October 16), a one-time substitute for the annual Appearance of Autumn fashion show. Staged on the green of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, the show has been a highlight of the county’s social calendar since the group’s inception in 1954. Moller, in the second year of her three-year presidency, joined the Friends “back in the ’80s, when you had to be a member to get an invitation to the show.” The Country Friends’ “Appearance of Autumn” fashion show
From an initial membership of 167, the group now comprises nine chapters with 1,200 members. More than $10 million has been dispensed to human care organizations, including San Diego Hospice, the Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers and the Friends of Vista Hill. Funds come from the fashion show—“the largest outdoor fashion show in the country”—as well as the annual Day at the Races in the Del Mar Turf Club and the two sites of the Country Friends Shop, which sell antiques, china and silver.
The first fashion show was around the inn’s pool; tea and homemade sandwiches were served. In recent years, show attendance has hit 1,500 and more. In 1954, the tiny Traders’ Shop occupied a $25- a-month storefront in the village. Today, “We’re completing a halfmillion- dollar remodel of our two-story shop, and we’ll be leasing out our smaller shop for increased revenue,” says Moller.
That’s the “looking forward” part.