Bay Men's Club celebrates centennial

Past presidents of the Bay Men's Club recently celebrated the club's 100th anniversary at a party at the Clifton Beach Club. Photo by Nancy Clark

This year marks the centennial of the founding of the Bay Men’s Club, which lays claim as the oldest club organization in the city.

Formally known as the Community Club of Bay Village, the men’s club was founded in the summer of 1917 when a handful of village men, gathering on the steps of what is now the Rose Hill Museum in Cahoon Memorial Park, met to form a non-partisan organization whose purpose was, and is, to promote good fellowship.

With an eye to the future, its platform from the start was sponsorship of civic, social and moral activities for the benefit of the village.

The new club began meeting in the old red brick schoolhouse at the southeast corner of Lake and Bassett roads, and dues of one dollar per year were assessed.

In the old days of the schoolhouse meeting place, the club became quite theatrical and leaned in that direction for a number of years, up to as recently as 1931. Minstrels, vaudeville and even a circus were featured.

A favorite theatrical was the staging of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and a favorite sport was burlesquing the town fathers on village council.

As the years rolled on, fewer theatricals were held and other methods for boosting the ever-shaky club treasury, which all but faded in the darkness of 1929, were tried: Hard-times dinners were served, a Monte Carlo party was held, turkey raffles became traditional, as did the yearly clam bake.

Finally, in the 1936-37 season, the club moved its meetings to the newly completed Community House and the rickety old red schoolhouse had seen its last men’s club meeting.

A transition in club activities seems to date from this time. The club was incorporated as a non-profit organization, and a new constitution, still in existence, was drawn up.

In 1953, the Bay Men’s Club founded the summer baseball program, which is now one of the city’s largest and most successful baseball programs.

During the 1960s, the club held sports nights, father & son nights, wives’ nights, family nights, science nights, finance nights, candidates’ nights, past presidents’ nights, clam bakes, baseball appreciation nights, merchants’ appreciation nights, and, of course, stag nights.

Sports nights featured radio and television commentators and local sporting figures. A typical program for wives’ nights consisted of Bay Village resident and local furrier Elmer Swilek speaking on “The Husband Pays.” He also brought a collection of furs for the wives to model. Science nights featured speakers from NASA. Finance nights featured local financial experts talking about the importance of having a will and the new investment called a “mutual fund.”

In 1965 the club hosted Capt. Newman Larsen, captain of the Edmund Fitzgerald, who spoke on “Shore Life and Ports Visited.” Of course this was before the ship sank.

Stag nights were started by President Bill Walsh in 1963 to increase membership, and apparently they were quite successful. The stag in 1969 was raided by the Westlake Police; members were seen climbing out of the windows of the Cahoon Winery. The stags consisted of films, poker, food and drink. At one point the stags featured live entertainment with an admission charge of $5 per person. “We could raise $125, which was a lot of money in the 1960s,” according to the minutes. The meeting minutes for one stag ended with the line, “Someone closed the meeting, but I don’t know who and I don’t know when.”

Today the club meets the first Thursday of the month at the Bay Lodge, 492 Bradley Road, at 7 p.m. Dues are $60 per year, which includes all you can eat and drink at 10 meetings. The club still features interesting and varied speakers most every month.

The October meeting is the annual perch fry, where members donate their catches of Lake Erie perch to the club. The December meeting is the annual Christmas party and white elephant gift exchange, where you donate a crappy gift and get one in return.

Members of the club also participate in a “rake out” in the fall, where volunteers rake and clean the yards of Bay Village residents in need.

The club awards scholarships every year to deserving Bay High seniors. They and their families are honored each year at the June meeting, which also features a golf outing and pig roast.

Membership is open to all men from Bay Village, as well as adjoining communities (Westlake, Rocky River and Avon Lake), although those members cannot hold office.

For more than 100 years, the Bay Men’s Club has provided a cross-generational gathering place for Bay Village men, promoting civic responsibility, camaraderie, networking and good fun, all to help strengthen the fabric of our beloved community.

The Bay Men’s Club maintains a Facebook page, where meeting announcements and other information are posted. For more information call 216-386-5997.

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Volume 9, Issue 16, Posted 10:16 AM, 08.15.2017