She found work as a lifeguard at a YWCA summer camp. She feels indebted to the Y for an extra-special reason, since a young man she knew from Baptist Temple church choir came every night to see her at the camp.
Warden wiggled the ring finger of her left hand, flashing the diamond her future husband presented to her soon after. "It was very rewarding thing because I got this diamond ring while I was there."
Virginia Thomas recalled the YWCA's three-meals-a-day dining room, which opened Oct. 19, 1921, with a chicken and waffle supper.
If you had a couple of extra quarters, the YW cafeteria was a place to escape lunch food served at Charleston High School, Thomas said. "It was a treat to go over there and have lunch."
Years later, living in South Hills in the late '30s and early '40s, the YWCA cafeteria would be the place her family often headed to on a certain night of the week, she said. "It was 'maid's night off' on Thursday nights. My mother was not much of a cook and we often went to the YWCA dinner, as well as many of the other South Hills people."
As they grew older, the Y continued to offer itself to the women's changing needs.
Emily Warden found a different purpose for the pool than in the days of "the Plunge."
"In 1988, when I retired from school teaching, I joined the classes for arthritic people. It met three days a week and I was there every day for about 10 years. I became very acquainted with the Y and all the people."
Jody Stalnaker traces her personal fitness regimen to the YWCA.
"I really am very grateful to the Y because they got me started on exercise. I still walk and exercise every day," she said.
"There was one class I really liked, and it was probably in the '80s or '90s. It was Dancerobics. At that time, they had started letting men come to the YW. Our husbands wanted to know if they could exercise with us, we were having such a good time. So they opened it up and had a co-ed Dancerobics class.
"It turned out to just be a circus. The men actually were good. We just had a big time, and it turned into a kind of social event, too. We dressed up for Halloween and exercised in our Halloween costumes."
Stalnaker, a former Charleston City Council member, witnessed as well as helped along the YWCA's own metamorphosis, as new programs came along to meet the changing needs of women and families.
"In the late '70s and early '80s, the homelessness in Charleston had become a major problem, and there wasn't anybody that was doing much. They stepped in."
The YWCA's efforts to develop and grow its domestic-violence and homeless shelters and related social services had its fans on the council, Stalnaker said.
"We knew [YWCA director] Debby Weinstein really well at that point. She knew that there were about four of us on the council -- all women -- that we would be very anxious to get a homeless shelter. So, we were good supporters of the Y."
Stalnaker's Dancerobics cohorts, on the other hand, didn't find much longevity after they took their act to the streets.
"We even thought we were so good that they started parading in parades. It turned out to be a lot harder than any of us ever thought it would be. So we didn't last very long."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.