History of the Club
Senior Men’s Club of Birmingham
The Origin. In 1956, Mr. R. S. Gregory visited The Community House, having just moved to Birmingham from Plainfield, New Jersey, where he had been a member of a club called "The Old Guard". He described the club and inquired if there was a similar club in Birmingham. His information was interesting to The Community House people who related it to the Birmingham Department of Parks & Recreation.
A committee was formed and a survey found 68 men who were interested in forming such a club. A meeting of those interested was held on January 11, 1957. In April, Club officers were elected and membership dues were set at a $1.00 a year. A committee of Club members formulated a Constitution and By-laws which were adopted on December 6, 1957.
The Early Years. Parks & Recreation was most supportive of TCH and persuaded the City to finance the building of shuffleboard courts on Community House property. The courts have since disappeared due to the expansion of The Community House.
In the early days, meetings were held twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, with hostesses serving sandwiches and cake for lunch at a price of $0.60. Through the years, Friday lunches have been served by a staff of dedicated volunteer hostesses. Two of these volunteers, Carol Hollingshead and Elaine Dobson, were made honorary members of the Club for their long and continuous service. At Christmastime each year, the Club honors the hostesses as guests while Club members serve them that day.
In the early years, The Community House was closed for the month of August and the Men's Club suspended its meetings. While The Community House is now open year round, the Club still holds no regular meetings in August and has opted for a picnic instead. The first picnic was held at Springdale Park on August 15, 1957. In 1958, the location was changed to the Pontiac Yacht Club, where it was held annually through 2003. Since 2004, the picnic usually has been held at Beverly Hills Park. The first Club Christmas party was held in a private home in 1957. From 1958 until 2006, that event was held in The Community House Ballroom. This popular holiday event is now held at the San Marino Club in Troy which has the capacity to accommodate all who wish to attend.
Active membership, capped at 325 in the early years, has risen to 500 in steps over the years and does not include Associates or Life Members. Attendance at the Club’s weekly Friday meetings typically hovers in the 150 – 250 range. A certificate of thanks and/or token of appreciation is extended to each speaker.
The Discussion Group held its first meeting on August 7, 1958. Games -- golf, bowling, and bridge – are popular and reports of scores, standings and future events are given at the weekly Friday meetings. An Investment Group, Classic Movie Group, Camera Group, Computer Group, Reading Groups, and a Special Events Group have been added over the years with announcements of forthcoming activities published in The Reminder, the monthly Club bulletin.
In 1959, the practice of awarding Life Memberships to members over 90 years old was initiated. In 1968, this became age 85 and ten years of SMC membership.
The Club Today. The Community House provides the Club a variety of services and support including the use of the Ballroom for the regular Friday meetings, and other rooms for the Discussion Group meetings, Executive Board meetings, Associate Member orientations, bridge games and other Club-sponsored functions. In turn, Club members are strong supporters of the annual Community House fund drive as well as the Club’s regular monthly donations to TCH.
In 2004, the life experiences of 86 Club members in World War II and Korea were recorded in a 216 page book entitled “The Wars of our Generation.” Conceived, planned and published entirely by SMC members, more than 1,200 copies were sold. An added photo album and CD entitled “The Way We Were” includes an address on the history of World War II by Rabbi Sherwin Wine.
In 2005, to broaden the membership of the Club, the geographical limits on membership were eliminated. Periodic associate orientation meetings were added to welcome new associates and provide a comprehensive overview of the Club’s history, activities and opportunities. Associate members are now granted active membership upon acceptance of their application, attendance at an orientation session, and their introduction at a regular meeting.
The Club celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007 with a variety of outstanding events and accomplishments. A DVD history of the Club was produced under the direction of member Al Eicher. The Club’s Constitution and By-laws were given major updates. Finally, a Legacy Endowment Giving Fund was created for support of The Community House. The Fund was originally targeted at $50,000 for the 50th Anniversary but exceeded $60,000 by the end of 2007 and has continued to seek new highs.
Member Alvie Smith added luster to the Club’s year-long anniversary celebration, noting that: “We are a Club of 750 retired men that, for over 50 years, has proven that we can extend the enjoyment of life and service to our community by cooperating in programs that nurture friendships, stimulate the mind and challenge us to stay abreast of changing times.” Well said, Alvie! And now, we look to yet another Club milestone as we anticipate our 60th Anniversary in 2017.
20 July 2016/jsf