The Friendly Club With A Proud Tradition
The Young Mens Club of Bloomington is part of a long and proud tradition. It has been a source of lasting friendship and public service for over 90 years. The membership consists of approximately 140 local businessmen and professionals.
Since the club was founded in October, 1916, it has been known as the most relaxed business and professional club in town. Attendance at the regular Tuesday noon meetings at the Ozark House has never been required, but members attend regularly to enjoy the companionship, entertaining programs, and friendly heckling of officers and fellow members.
The Young Mens Club has needed no outside help or affiliation to survive and grow into one of the largest and strongest of community organizations. The club has taken its civic duties seriously, but does not commit its membership to participation in scheduled fund raising activities. We have no special assessments. Dues are for meals only, and our treasury grows from credits against meal charges when members miss meetings. Our treasury finances the members costs at our parties.
The Young in the clubs name brackets ages from the 20s to the 80s. Several of our members have belonged continuously for 50 or more years. The Young Mens Club has a lasting appeal.
Space is much too limited to tell about all of the good times Young Mens Club members have experienced over the years. For many years, before we moved to the Ozark House, meetings were held at the Illinois House (the old Illinois
Hotel) and the Elk Club. Friendly heckling of fellow members and officers was often accompanied by the throwing of a biscuit. This practice died out as the casualty list grew. Summer meetings were sometimes held at local country clubs, and a midsummer snow ball fight at the Lakeside Country Club was a tradition for several years.
Biscuits and snowballs were not the only surprises in store for members. Hoaxes have been popular with the club for many years. But probably the biggest hoax ever pulled was one involving a Russian count, purportedly associated with a Hudson Bay Company trading post. The late Joe Bunting and Oil Brown, manager of the Irvin Theater, worked up the program in mid 1941. They invited other service clubs and their wives for the meeting at the Masonic Temple. Protests from local veterans associations preceded the meeting. The speaker, a professional actor, started immediately to expound on the greatness of Russia compared to the United States. Eight or 10 men got so mad they walked out half way through his talk and gathered bricks outside the temple to get him good on his exit. But the speaker continued, carrying his audience just short of the riot point before announcing that hed never set foot in Russia. His encore was a piano recital.
Another time, a prison priest was booked as the Clubs speaker. He brought along a couple of inmates, who he explained were being transferred to another prison. For safekeeping during the meeting he handcuffed his charges to two club members. One of the inmates talked his guard into making a trip to the washroom. The thoughtful club member wound up handcuffed to a water pipe while the phony inmate slipped out of his cuffs. When the hoax was disclosed to members at the end of the meeting, they all marched through the washroom to observe their fellow member still handcuffed to the water pipe.
The initiation of new members has always presented the Club with an opportunity for fun. By the time one is initiated, he certainly realizes that he will not have to endure a stuffy and stilted atmosphere. Several years ago, Walter Punke helped stage his own initiation, and it was a shocker. By prior agreement, Larry Cooper embarrassed everyone by objecting to Walts membership. Larry, with a full glass of water in hand, approached Walt who was preparing to give his initiation speech. Without warning to the other members, Walt received the full glass of water in his face. Yes, you never know what to expect at Young Mens Club.
No reference to the regular Young Mens Club luncheons could be complete without discussing the annual installation of officers and some of the unusual offices held. The annual changing of the guard is one of the big events of the year. It is always scheduled for the first Tuesday in February. The incoming administration is in charge of the program, and each outgoing officer is roasted without impunity. The best is usually reserved for the outgoing President. Ray Baxter can well remember leaving office dressed in pink long underwear and locked in an outhouse. After the meeting, members moved Ray and the outhouse to the lobby of the Peoples Bank for public display. And speaking of officers, what other club ever formally elected its Cigar Passer Outer? For years, Dr. George Fearheiley held this position and did an admirable job. Many of us will never forget old Doc giving rousing appeals for members to get to work on their love life so he could pass out more cigars.
Young Mens Club functions are not limited to Tuesday luncheon meetings. Every summer the club has its annual golf stag. This involves golf at one of the local golf courses and usually a steak dinner. Many times the stag dinner has been held at Oscar Cohens home on Lake Bloomington. One year Jack Bowles was in charge of a gala affair that included fresh lobsters and clams flown in from Maine. At a recent stag, we were entertained by an authentic banjo band. At every stag there are plenty of prizes and awards, many of which are based upon an ability to show lack of golfing skill.
Ladies Nights Out have been a Young Mens Club tradition for many years. Each year the club sponsors at least four evening events for members and their wives or lady friends. In recent years, there has been a lovely dinner dance at Bloomington Country Club. The Conklin Dinner Theater at Goodfield and local university theaters have been popular with club members. Other parties have included crazy auctions and treasure hunts. Dinner is usually included at Ladies Night Out parties, and our club treasury has been generous enough to cover the members expenses.
Among the charitable interests furthered by Young Mens Club, the boys of Victory Hall and the girls of the Morgan-Washington Home early became special interests of our club. In recent years, helping the children of these two institutions has become our happiest civic activity. Both homes have now been consolidated into the John M. Scott Center.
A new Community Program is being launched by the club to serve deserving junior high youth, and is named our Youth Opportunity Awards. The program will provide an opportunity for several youths to attend camps, workshops and clinics in sports, music, arts and other interests which they otherwise might be unable to attend.
As Young Mens Club moves beyond its 99th year, it has never lost that spirit of relaxed fellowship which has made it so unique over the years. Anyone attending meetings today can easily see that the old traditions are still alive.