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The club’s oldest “record” is the Honor Awards Banner.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met online Wednesday, Aug. 19 with President Le Ila Dixon reporting that the Triple M Backpack program has given $1,500 to the Food Pantry at Mission Marshall.

The backpack program is also gearing up for the new school year. Perhaps, it should be re-christened the Triple M “Handsack” program.

In order to avoid the recirculation of actual backpacks, the kids will receive their food in plastic grocery bags that will not need to be returned. Covid-19 is changing procedures in unexpected ways and “single use” has become a needed thing. Dixon also reported that the FireAnt Festival has been canceled for this year.

Richard Magrill continues his stories of Optimists past.

For a club of some 75 years, the Optimists have very little in the way of official records. Perhaps because during its first 50 years, most of its secretary-treasurers serve for only one term. In January 1995, that changes when Lily Whitis takes the office and serves for some 20 years, until Sept. 30, 2014.

However, for the most of her years, it is still the Marshall News Messenger that provides permanent records through the weekly reports she files. Only for the period, Oct. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2014 does the club have an independent computer file of the weekly newsletters prepared and mailed by her on a weekly basis, and most of the surviving ones were actually prepared by current Optimist Julie Brock.

The club banner, gavel and bell received by the club on Nov. 30, 1945 are long gone, unless by some unknown miracle the current gavel is original. The Optimist Banner was replaced when the motto was changed from “Friend of the Boy” to “Friend of Youth” and then that one itself disappears sometime after 2010.

In point of fact, the coverage of early years in the News Messenger, provides plenty about the club. The only thin years come later when the paper becomes shorter and its club news more attenuated. That is the case in 2008 when the newsletter file picks up the club story. And, to be honest, by the time that file ends, the club is no longer reporting regularly to the paper and for a period sends its occasional reports into the ether of an incorrect email address.

But there is one historical record which has endured: the club’s Honors/Awards banner. Its earliest patch is dated 1959-1960 and relates to life memberships in Optimist International Foundation. Its most recent patch is dated 2007-08 and is in honor of Optimist David Brooks the year he was club president. (Apparently, nothing done by the club or its officers since 2008 has prompted the gift of a badge from Optimist International.)

Basically, the patches are arranged under five columns, left to right. The first relates to Optimist International Foundation’s fund-raising efforts. Today, Julie Brock serves as the club’s foundation representative. From 1983 to 1999, there are patches representing her predecessors’ success in raising an annual contribution of $5 from each club member. Today, it appears that it would take $365 ($1 a day) from the club to get one of those patches.

The second column also consists of Foundation related items, such as patrons and benefactors and donations in memory of specific Optimists: David C. Fears (died April 4, 2001); Wyndle Gordon Killion (died May 3, 2003); Louis A. Williams (died November 22, 2004); and Bud Porterfield (died April 30, 2005).

The middle column is reserved for patches in honor of specific Optimists. David Brooks (mentioned above) and Hugh T. Simmons are the only names.

The fourth and fifth columns relate to some (but not all) of the years Marshall Optimists achieved “honor club” status and the names of the presidents who brought such distinction. Keith E. Bennett (1986-87), Gary Williams (1994-95), Shirley Dahl (1995-96) and Greg Gani (2002-03 & 2003-04). Also, in the year of Shirley Dahl’s presidency the club won a special “multiple winner” patch.

The banner also records some efforts to establish neighboring clubs. Shortly after Marshall was organized in 1945 the club assisted its own parents, the Shreveport Optimists, in organizing a club in Longview. Two patches recognize other failed Longview attempts: 1974 and 1994-95. (Marshall has also organized clubs in Carthage and Jefferson, neither still in existence.)

However, a patch lower in the fifth column announces “Sponsor of Mt. Pleasant 1963.” Its organization was during the presidency of Louis A. Williams and Marshall Optimists not only got credit for its “building” in the peculiar jargon of Optimists, but it got credit as a member of the “Fifty Mile Club” because of the distance it had to travel to Mt. Pleasant. Interestingly, in 2012 when Dr. George E. Bennett was being recognized for his sixty years in the club, one of his fondest memories was of that club’s beginning. “We piled in our cars and drove to Mt. Pleasant for 26 weeks to get the club there established.” In this case, Marshall “built” well and Mt. Pleasant is still in operation today.

Across the bottom of the banner are six badges: the 1959-1960 life membership already mentioned, followed by an attendance award and a boys’ work award for 1960-1961 and three others. Floating above and to the right of the boys’ work patch, is a mysterious pie-shape with a big “S” in the middle.

This treasured banner has not had an easy life. The club moved its luncheons to Elmwood Cafeteria in January 1998. The banner was smoke-damaged that October when the Optimists were forced to abandon their just-served food and all the club paraphernalia after having patiently watched the staff’s antic and unsuccessful attempts to contain a blaze in the kitchen.

It was more than a decade later on March 30, 2011 that Optimist Le Ila Dixon, then, as now, president, thanked Optimist Carl Rhodes and his wife Ruth for the newly cleaned and re-sewn Honors Awards Banner. Ruth Rhodes had carefully removed all the badges, had the banner itself cleaned and then re-attached the precious honors.