After speaking with Margaret Johnson of the Thimble Club for a few minutes, not much she says can take you by surprise.

"Now don't emphasize me," she says. "I don't want people thinking I do what I do just to get my name in the paper. Emphasize the Thimble Club. I'm just one of the group."Well, we'll compromise.

We'll do it both ways.

Feisty, bright, witty, young-at-heart, Margaret Johnson drops tidbits of information that might floor you if uttered by your own maternal grandmother. But for Margaret Johnson, it's just more pepper in the spice of life.

"I drove a Yellow Cab in Salt Lake City for 21 years," she says with a matter-of-fact tone.

"My mother was totally blind for 54 years, and I was chosen to be her eyes. That's why I always look at the bright side of life, see. Because I never wanted to alarm Mom."

This year Margaret Johnson and her fellow Thimble Club friends have been helping Salt Lake kids celebrate the holidays. The group showed up at a home for autistic children recently, tree in hand, to bring the kids a little cheer.

"We love it when they see us and say, `Oh, it's the Thimble Club!' " she says.

At 86 Johnson is the oldest member of the club, and hates the fact she can't get around as much as she used to. ("Makes me so d--- mad," she says.)

She's also been a member of the Neighbors of Woodcraft for 70 years. The Thimble Club forms part of that group. And yes, some sewing does go on in the club, but at heart the group's a service organization.

The local membership of the club has dwindled from 30 to nine or 10 now. But those who remain are still busy and active. They travel. They sponsor events. They can work women half their age under the table.

"I hope to tell you we're active," Johnson says with a touch of injured pride. "We get together at least twice a month. We go to lunch, then go to someone's home and have our meeting. One of our members is 16 years old. Think of that."

The Thimblers also sponsor a drill team that travels to Oregon each year for a competition.

"I can't march anymore," Johnson says, as if that's a rather amazing fact. "But I do play the piano so others can."

Living in the house where she was raised, she keeps track of her 19 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren on a large calendar there and welcomes visitors at all hours.

"If you don't think it's something getting presents wrapped for that many kids, I tell you," she says. Then she smiles. "My oldest great-grandchild is 12 years old, and I'm hoping I live long enough to have a great-great grandchild."

Her biggest frustration? "Names," she says. "I'm finding me and names don't hang together for very long now."

"I don't know what I would have done without that club," she says. "The other day I was going through some boxes and found notes from Thimble Club meetings in 1924."