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The rise and fall of service clubs, part two

By Darrell Arnold

Part 2

WALSENBURG- In Walsenburg, the most influential service club since 1950 has been the Walsenburg Club, started originally as a chapter of the Lions.  At the end of World War II, the community’s young warriors returned from the war, full of ambition, ideas, and a make-things-happen spirit. Longtime Walsenburg attorney Floyd Murr was a charter member.

    "The reason we started the Lion’s Club," recalls Murr, "is because the Walsenburg Rotary Club, made up of our fathers, didn’t have a place for all of us young men.  There was an Elks Club, also, but they were elderly, too.  We were the young punks."

    He continues, "We were young and energetic and independent minded.  We were used to getting things done, and we wanted to do things.  We were involved in everything.  We had jobs and professions.  We were very productive."

    Floyd’s wife, Norma Lou, remembers that there were about 40 young men in the club in 1950.

    She remembers, "The Lions Club was involved in eye care and getting glasses for people who needed them.  Floyd and Mac McDonald were musicians. Floyd played trumpet and piano and Mac was a drummer.  They wrote some minstrel shows and variety shows, and we started performing them all over southern Colorado.  They charged admission and raised a lot of money."

    "We dropped out of the Lions organization in 1952," says Floyd, "because we wanted the money we were earning to stay in our community instead of going to the national organization. So we started what we called the Walsenburg Club."

    Norma Lou says, "the club did a lot of good, and we all had a lot of fun.  They raised money for the Walsenburg hospital, and they built the original swimming pool, tennis courts, and bocci ball court.  They helped build the Walsenburg golf course, and they started up a couple of ski areas, first on what used to be Jameson’s Ranch (now the Yellow Pine) and later on up on old La Veta Pass, across from the restaurant at the head of Trujillo Creek."

    "We raised a lot of money," declares Floyd, "and we spent it all on local charities and civic improvements."

    While the men were active in the Walsenburg Club, their wives formed the Junior Civic League, affiliated with the initial women’s club, the  Senior Civic League, which had been started back in 1925.

    Norma Lou says, "We built the tennis courts over on Piñon Street and also the Civic League Park."

    Floyd was also a secretary in the Elks Club.  "They were a strong service club, too.  They built their own building, and they hosted a lot of dances.  Our band played for the older people, and they also held dances for the teenagers."

    Like the La Veta Rotary Club, the Walsenburg Club is, today, merely a shadow of its formal self.  Floyd is blunt in assessing what happened.

    "Those clubs have died away because most of the people are now in their 80s or 90s or they’re dead.  I’m 87. There aren’t very many of us left around."

    Norma Lou says, "People were just more service oriented in those days. Young people don’t seem to be as dedicated.  It might be because they don’t need to get out of the house for entertainment.

    "Now, we older ones don’t want to go out to meetings at night, and the younger ones can’t attend meetings during the day because most of them are working."

    About service clubs in general, La Veta Rotarian Gene Vories reflects with humor, "We always had a saying  ‘The Kiwanians did all the work, the Lions had all the fun, and Rotary owned everything.’"

    The service clubs were places people could go for fellowship and fun, and where they could organize projects and events that benefited the local communities.  Each had its own bylaws, methods, and purposes, but all have benefited their communities in ways to numerous and profound to properly recount.