Nevada History

   Written by Mrs. Becky Eminger, Past Grand Deputy, Henderson Assembly #17, April 1991

The Reverend W. Mark Sexson started Rainbow in McAlester, Oklahoma in 1922, with Mother Assembly No. 1, and one hundred and 70 girls as the first members.

At Nevada Grand Chapter in 1924, Judge Maestretti approached the group regarding sponsoring a youth group; he suggested either Rainbow Girls or Jobs Daughters. The committee returned with the decision that in Nevada, Rainbow would be the most logical group to sponsor and support. The committee consisted of Hattie Downey, Worthy Grand Matron, and Clarence Young, Worthy Grand Patron, W.M. David, J.M., Rhodes and, and G. L. Swartz.

The age for Rainbow was then 14 to 18. The work was exemplified at Grand Chapter in 1927, and was called Nevada Assembly. The Nevada assemblies worked “under, or closely with” California Rainbow, as Nevada did not have enough assemblies to hold its own Grand Assembly. The first Worthy Advisor was Ethel Leanord; the first Mother Advisor was Tecia Caender; and Past Grand Matron Iva Rhodes was the first Supreme Deputy.

In 1924 Supreme Assembly was held in Tacoma, Washington. The Nevada Grand Chapter send Iva Rhodes, Worthy Grand Matron, and Mrs. Ruth Mattews to Tacoma, along with Mrs. Caender, to witness their first Supreme Session. At that time, Mrs. Ceander was appointed Supreme Deputy by Reverend Sexson, who was in attendance at this Supreme Session. After the sessions in Tacoma, Reverend Sexson and his wife, son and secretary, Leta Summers, came through Reno where a picnic at Lake Tahoe was held in his honor. Mrs.Donna Matthews Bovett took them all to the Lake, and because they requested an opportunity to see Virginia City, went that route, which, of course, made them late for the picnic. According to Donna, Rev. Sexson was dressed in white, with a white panama hat. 

The next day, Nevada Rainbow held a reception in the Red Room of the Masonic Temple in Reno. Donna Bovett is one of the few still living who received the Grand Cross of Color at that time. 

Through the dedication of Iva Rhodes and many others at the time, Nevada Rainbow grew and in 1935 had ten assemblies, enough to organize our first Grand Assembly. (I believe number 7 through 10 were under Letters Yellow ArrowTemporary.)

The following are some of the highlights taken from the third issue of the Grand Assembly Rainbow Trails dated May 18, 1935. Miss Elizabeth Juniper (Carr) of Reno Assembly was the first Grand Worthy Advisor; Ruth Bails was the Grand Associate Worthy Advisor; and Patricia Rathbun was Grand Inner Observer. All other Grand Officers had the same titles as they do today. Six Nevada cities were represented at that first Grand Assembly Session: Elko, Ely, Fallon, Yerington, Sparks and Reno.

The Grand Session began Friday evening with the entrance of combined choirs of Reno and Sparks, and presentation and escort of dignitaries. Welcomes were given on behalf of Rainbow Girls, Masons, Eastern Star, and Mother Advisors; tributes to the American Flag and the Rainbow Flag were given; formal opening was performed by Fallon Assembly.

Announcement of the 1935 Grand Officers were made, along with announcement of the designees for the Grand Cross of Color; formal closing was performed, along with a play, “Just a Little Coo-Coo.”  Saturday morning had a meeting of the Sub Deputies and Mother Advisors and practice for Grand Installation. That afternoon, Elko, Ely and Yerington exemplified the Initiatory work with balloting by Sparks Assembly and the Majority Degree performed by Reno Assembly. On Saturday evening the banquet was held, followed by the Grand Cross Degree and Grand Installation.

Taken from the article on the Grand Cross of Color were these thoughts:

“No fixed formula can be set down as a method for earning the honor. The Grand Cross of Color does not come because you are working for it, but because you do things for Rainbow and your Assembly.” 

In the article titled "Grand Assembly", the following was written:

An open book lies before us now; it is our duty to write indelible lines upon its pages. On the first white page is the unwritten constitution of our Assemblies. We turn the page and at the top of the sheet is written a date, May 17, 1935, the opening date of Grand Assembly. Our history will be written by these Grand Officers. They have nothing behind them for a guide, but they have the future before them to plan and establish, and they need the help of each Rainbow Girl to succeed. Rainbow was established for the girls and it is the girls who must make it a success, not the officers alone.  They have in the past, and now they can make the future even better.

Things have not changed that much in the past 56 years, have they?

The first notation of Grand Representatives was in the 1943 Rainbow Trails. They were printed on construction paper, contrary to earlier editions which were professionally printed on heavy, high gloss paper. Fashions, hairdo’s and popular activities were included in theRainbow Trails, along with patriotic messages, words of encouragement, and photos and stories of Rainbow Girls who had joined the service. 

World War II changed every aspect of the average American’s life - including Nevada Rainbow Girls. In 1943, just 8 short years from our first Grand Assembly, it was announced there would be no Grand Assembly. Gas was a rationed item, very precious, and it was unheard of to waste it. The newly announced Grand Worthy Advisor, Marjorie Iverson, was installed as GWA in her own Assembly. 

The Annual Report for Nevada showed state membership in Rainbow to be 700 members strong, with a gain of 63 girls!  In 1942, Doris Bond of Las Vegas No. 9 was announced the first GWA from the south. However, the first Grand Assembly held in the south was not until 1950. During these early days of Grand Assembly, those privileged to attend did not stay in hotels; they were housed in Masonic and Eastern Star homes, as well as in the homes of Rainbow Girls. Grand Assembly even then might have lasted an entire 2½ days.

It is difficult to determine when Grand Officer mascots come into being. Jennilee Gibson remembers the Official Visits back as far as 1944, and the GWA having her mascot as a traveling companion. Apparently, a rabbit named Flopsy was the first grandie mascot. Yes, there was only one, and Flopsy was handed down year after year, until he apparently was too floppy to stand. Then, the newly appointed Grand Worthy Advisor Patsy Graham was the first to sport a new teddy bear, named Buck; they traveled throughout the State in 1954. Nita Kay Layton was the first GWA to have a new mascot each year - that was 1954, however the GWA was still the only Grand Officer to have a mascot.

In 1951, Grand Officers wore dresses of their choice, usually in ballerina  length and often strapless. Grand Worthy Advisor Jennilee Gibson and her officers attended California Grand Assembly and were impressed with the matching Grand Officer dresses. They asked and received permission to have the first matching Grand Assembly dresses; these dresses were aqua taffeta with a white organdy overskirt. GWA Jennilee made up to 15 of these dresses herself for her Grand Officers.

In 1952, with the death of Tecia Ceander, Mervylle Payne Ross was appointed Supreme Deputy, however she resigned this appointment in a short time due to the fact she was going through the chairs in Grand chapter. Mrs. Margaret Kofoed was appointed Supreme Deputy. A short time after Mrs. Kofoed’s appointment, the Rev. Sexson passed away, however, Mrs. Kofoed always noted she felt fortunate to have known this great man.

According to Mrs. Kofoed, one of the first Grand Assemblies held in Las Vegas also hosted a torrential rain. The committee had planned a day at Twin Lakes with a picnic, boating, swimming and games. While almost everyone was having a great time, some had already left the picnic to prepare for the church service at Grand Assembly.  With the church service came the rain – in sheets! Not only were the streets flooded, cars were sinking through the street on the strip. Mother Advisors were worried when their girls did not return from the picnic. The roads were closed, but Mrs. Kofoed assured everyone she had left the girls at the Lake with her hubbie, Ernie, and another adult. A bus driver knew a back road between the Lake and Grand Assembly that was “high and dry” so the day was saved!

However, the musician and the music were stranded in Boulder City so they “scraped up some music and a musician ... Started the church service and low and behold... the girls showed up .... safe and sound.”

In 1952, the girls chose Ernie Kofoed as their State Rainbow Dad.  He and Gordon Bovett worked so hard helping get Grand Assembly ready each year, all behind the scenes, and for such long hours. After Mr. Kofoed’s death in 1978, the girls chose Mr. Bovett as their State Rainbow Dad. According to Mrs. Kofoed, no one was more deserving of this title than these two men. Mr. Bovett continued to work for many years with every Grand Assembly with the help of Mr. Gordon Wessell and Mr. Charles Middleton helping especially with the sound.

Mrs. Kofoed’s beloved Ernie was her constant companion, dedicated to Nevada Rainbow and its members. Being a skilled pilot, he, Mrs. Kofoed, and the Grand Worthy Advisor would pack up, board his airplane, and off they would go. In the early days of Nevada Grand Assembly, only the GWA traveled to Official Visits with the Supreme Deputy as her chaperone. Flying from town to town, this tradition continued for many years.

In 1958, Mrs. Kofoed was elected Associate Grand Conductress of the Grand chapter. She was installed Worthy Grand Matron in 1961. Mrs. Maxine Anderson was appointed Acting Supreme Deputy for 1961 and 1962 while Mrs. Kofoed assumed her obligation as the chief officer of Nevada Grand Chapter. 

In 1984, at the 50th anniversary of Rainbow, Mrs. Kofoed resigned her position as our Supreme Inspector, after 32 years of faithful service to the many girls who knew and loved her as “Margaret.”  She was fortunate to have many dedicated men and women to assist her in the tremendous task of “running” Nevada Rainbow. Some of those adults included Polly Norton, Kay Williams, Mitzi Lani, Florence Martin, Clara Stoker, Eunice Layton, Mayme Iverson, Maxine Anderson and Esther Allison. In 1966 Mrs. Kofoed created the position of State Grand Deputy and appointed Esther Allison; Mrs. Allison and Mrs. Kofoed became constant companions until their retirement in 1984.

Mrs. Kofoed appointed Mrs. Betty Buxton Supreme Deputy, with Mrs. Georgia Wacker at her side as the State Grand Deputy. These two ladies served Nevada Grand Assembly for two and one-half years.  Mrs. Kofoed was later quoted in her memoirs, “In 1986, Mrs. Norma Campbell was appointed Supreme Deputy and was assisted by Mrs. Dee Talbutt as the State Grand Deputy; they have added love, dedication, and success; I just don’t have enough words of praise to say to these two ladies who have given so much to our Rainbow!"

In 1967, Nevada Rainbow had a membership of 1,386, with a net gain of 117 members in 1968, bringing the total membership in 1968 to 1,503. The Annual Report of December 31, 1981 reflected a gain of 22 members, bringing the total membership to 837. In 1982, we suffered another severe loss in membership; as of December 31, 1983, we gained 48 members, showing a total membership of only 372.  Do you remember the quote from the 1935 Rainbow Trail at the onset of our first Grand Assembly?  “They have the future before them, to plan and establish, and they need the help of each Rainbow Girl to succeed.” Adult leaders cannot make Rainbow work alone, and neither can a handful of members do it by themselves. It is up to each of us to strive for the best interest and increase in membership of our beloved Rainbow. Girls are experts when it comes to talking. Talk Rainbow; wear your t-shirts; ask your friends to join. You will be surprised at the interest you can generate simply by talking about something you love and enjoy.

In some ways, Rainbow history in Nevada has seen many changes, and in other ways, things are surprisingly similar. This weekend is yet another milestone in our history, and you have been a part of it, our first Rainbow Camp! We pray for your safe return home, and hope you leave renewed in love and service. May the fellowship of this weekend be a wonderful memory for all of us.  Now it is your turn to start another page in Nevada Rainbow history! I hope to see you in Winnemucca for our final official visit of the year, and in Las Vegas in June for Grand Assembly.

In closing, I would like to quote Flopsy, the Grand mascot, from an article in the 1953 Rainbow Trails entitled “Here an’ Thar.”  “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff and nudge me when I’ve said enough!" Well, I just felt a nudge!

Mrs. Talbott  Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Talbott

Letter from a Past Leader

I was Grand Worthy Advisor for Nevada in 1949-50. For many of you that may seem like the dark ages. As far as technology is concerned, it was. We didn’t have email or texting, even ‘snailmail’ was not used.  Nevertheless, the one thing that existed there was Rainbow Spirit.  As I traveled the state from Elko to Las Vegas or Ely to Reno, I met girls from different environments and with different ideas.  Each was an individual but all produced the same warm feelings and ideals of Rainbow.

Today, Rainbow is not as large as it was when I was an active participant. I guess I can relate that to the fact that there are so many, many more places to expend your productive time and energy. I do not believe that the warm feeling of Rainbow is any less than it was “back in the old days”.  You are the future of your area and state. It will be up to you to go out to the country and keep the course  even or in a better direction so the continuation of Rainbow and her ideas will not be lost.

Remember girls, you are Rainbow.  What you do and how you do it will reflect on the following generations of citizens where girls will play their equal parts in pointing the ways to how we will ultimately live together with and for each other.

LaVerne (Crosson) McVae
Past Grand Worthy Advisor of Nevada

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