RECOLLECTIONS OF THE OPTIMIST CLUB OF CALGARY
By Stutt Pottruff
The Optimist Club of Calgary was born in 1938 at the tail end of the Depression and the onset of World War 11. I knew two of the founding members, Dr. Pat Patterson (brother-in-law of Hal Robbins) and Noel Hutchinson. They were brave and fine men to establish the Club which has flourished now for 70 straight years.
I joined the Optimist Club in 1971. My father had joined in the late 1940’s so I was aware of it’s activities. I was a realtor then in Airdrie and every Thursday I would drive in to the Stampeder Hotel for the noon luncheon meeting. It was so good I hardly missed. Sergeant-at-Arms Ed Perkins would preside and if you failed to put “Optimist” before a member’s name you would be fined. (He also fined without good reason). Doug Lawson would regale you with the Minutes of the last meeting and we always had a great speaker or program. We also had an Optimessenger every week.
Thinking of programs, here are some of the many the Optimist Club of Calgary has had over its’ 70 years. We would put together Easter Egg Baskets and sell them door to door. Later on it would be chocolate bars. We operated Boys Town at Ramsay School near the Stampede which was primarily a tumbling and sports program. Hundreds of boys went through the program under the leadership of George Tillisch. One of my memories as a boy was attending a dinner at North Hill United Church with all the boys to hear Whipper Billy Watson. We all went down later to the Victoria Pavilion to see him wrestle. In later years Doug Cassie would run a basketball league where the club members would be scorekeepers. A lot of work went into the creation of Optimist Park in the West end. One of the late Jack McLaughlin’s crowning achievements was the erection of the Optimist Park sign on Sarcee Trail. (He was shown a photo of the sign just before he died). Another cornerstone is the Youth Appreciation Awards Banquet which has honoured unsung youth over the years who have volunteered in sterling fashion. It is the most heart-warming night of the year. George Tillisch also ran a Rifle Safety Program for many, many years. We even got Dermot Baldwin as a member that way. We supported the Cochrane Pony Club and even took part in a gymkhana. At the Chinook Centre Fair in the 70’s and 80’s we sold frozen chocolate covered bananas. We would gather at Woodward’s to peel and freeze bananas and then tried to sell them at the booth. We were finally put out of business by the rising health standards of the City. We have held concerts at the Jubilee for many years. I remember attending a Variety Program there in the 50’s. Lately, under the direction of Robert and Sandra Eklund we have held wonderful Christmas Concerts at the Jubilee featuring marching bands and other choirs, etc. We have been a sponsor of the Stetson Marching Band for many years and are working for a practice venue for all the marching bands in Calgary. Our club has been the mainstay for Juvenile Curling by selling most of the raffle tickets to fund the program in Canada and the USA. We have supported traditional OI programs like Oratorical Contests, Essay Contests and Respect for Law. Our club runs a mentoring program for teens called Life Skills which is outstanding. Hard work though. We have scholarships at Mount Royal College and SAIT and have created the Cummer Scholarship to enable us to choose the winner. We have had great socials over the years like Bar-B-Q’s and the annual Grey Cup Party at Robin Morris’s home.
In closing, I would like to pay tribute to some of the men and women over the years that have made our Club great. George Tillisch, Calgary’s Man of the Year, Neil German, an OI Vice-President, Tom Steele, Cancer Society, Ed Perkins, Ken Evans, Ed Jonas, Cyril Marshall, Sep Savage, Jack Cummer and his son Bill who has practically given his life for Optimism, Hal Robbins, Keivin Wallace, Doug Cassie, Dr. Doug Lawson, Jack McLaughlin, Padre Rev. John Pottruff, Carole Baldwin, (our first lady member), her husband Dermot who is one of Calgary’s most outstanding citizens and homeless advocate, Eleanor Berlin, Mrs.Youth Appreciation, the Eklunds, Alvin Wood, Jack Rutherford, Archie Mattinson, Mike DeNicola and Joe Trickey. What a group! We can’t forget the Opti-Mrs. as well.
Last updated: Thursday, September 25th, 2008, 18:49:49.