GUYTON — There is a gang in Guyton that has little respect for authority and is completely unencumbered by rules.
Fortunately, the band of renegades is not a danger to the public.
The Golden Gals of Guyton is a happy, diverse bunch of 50-and-over ladies who love each other’s company.
“When we started this, the only rule was that there are no rules,” said Julia Cochran, the group’s original “queen,” or organizer. “That was the beauty of it, but then it got more and more organized.”
The Golden Gals were known as the Mad Hatters of Guyton until a couple weeks ago. They were members of the Red Hat Society, an international social society that was founded in 1998 by Californian Sue Ellen Cooper.
Exorbitant chapter dues prompted the Golden Gals to withdraw from Cooper’s organization after being in it for about a dozen years.
“I suspect there are quite a few groups that will be pulling away because of the financial restraints,” said Carol Pyles, who succeeded Cochran as queen of the Golden Gals. “It would cost our group more than $1,000 a year to be Red Hat members. It’s just not feasible for us to do that.
“It came down to dollars and cents.”
Higher fees detract from the society’s mission, Cochran explained.
“We started this group so that people from all different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels could get together as one community,” she said. (The Red Hat Society) is separating people by money.”
Cooper was inspired to form the Red Hat Society by the well-known Jenny Joseph poem, “Warning,” which begins “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.”
Her goal was to encourage a friend on the verge of her 55th birthday to grow older in a playful manner. Cooper gave the friend a red hat as a reminder.
“It was an outlet for women whose children were grown,” Pyles said. “Most of them were retired and a lot of them were widows, and they just needed companionship."
The Golden Gals haven’t lost anyone because of their recent departure from the Red Hat Society.
“There is a whole bunch of us,” Lucy Powell added. “We are never all together at the same time. There are probably twenty or thirty of us in all.
“We just come and go as we please.”
The Golden Gals, whose oldest member is 94-year-old Delma Odum, never cared much for Red Hat rules.
“We didn’t follow them as closely as some groups do,” Pyles said. “We never had to vote on anybody (for queen).”
Cochran was perturbed by a video that Cooper sent to Red Hat Society members outlining what they can wear.
“Does that make any sense to you?,” she asked. “That’s not (the organization) we joined.”
“We buy the clothes, we wear the clothes and we present our ourselves as ladies,” Pyles added. “That has nothing to do with what (Cooper) taught us. We are what we have made.
“We knew the dynamics of who we are would not change regardless of what we called ourselves.”
On Saturday at Guyton Methodist Church, the Guyton women picked Golden Gals of Guyton as their new name from a list that included Majestic Ladies, Loving Hearts, Rogue Hat Society, Rare Gems, Guyton Fine Wine Club, Guyton’s Women of Purpose and Purple Adventurers.
Pyles, Cochran, Powell, Vice Queen Pearl Boynes, Lula Harden Seabrooks, Addie Hicklen, Lavora Bazemore, Ellen Budny, Juanita Harding and Candice Warren were involved in making the choice.
As it closed in on a new identity, the group spent a few minutes pondering whether it should be called Golden Girls or Golden Gals.
“We are too old to be called girls,” said Seabrooks, whose remark ended the debate.
Most of the Golden Gals, still sporting their former organization's familiar colors, live in or near Guyton. Rincon is represented, too.
Golden Gals meetings have no agenda or set length. They are over when they are over.
“It depends on what you consider a meeting,” Pyles said.
The meetings don’t follow a regular schedule or have a regular site, either. Any member can call for a gathering at any time at any place.
“Sometimes we go out of town. It just depends,” Pyles said.
Food, however, is almost always involved.
“We eat well,” Powell said.
Despite their loosey-goosey style, the Golden Gals know that they can rely on each other when a need arises. Their bond isn’t solely about fun and games.
“I can call any of these ladies, and I have,” Pyles said, “and they know they can do the same for me. It’s about much more than the red and the purple. You can take all that away and the group is still the same.
“That is not going to change because I have fallen in love with all these ladies. We all know what is going on in each other’s lives.”
“We’ve always supported each other as sisters, not as Red Hatters,” Powell added.
“We are just a loving group of ladies,” Seabrooks said.