Special to the News Messenger
The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall — in an effort to be supportive of the health of its own and all members of the community — consulted by email early this week and cancelled its meetings for March 18 and 25. However, before adjourning on March 11, the club took action to adopt Nov. 18 as the date for the celebration of its 75th anniversary.
Optimists International was born 100 years ago as a response to the end of what at the time was referred to as The Great War (WWI) and we celebrated that anniversary in June of last year. In November 1945, after the August atomic explosions in Nagasaki and Hiroshima had brought an end to WWII, 12 members of the Shreveport Optimists Club brought the organization across the Red River into East Texas and met with 10 interested Marshall businessmen. (Marshall New Messenger, Friday, Nov. 2, 1945, p.5)
More meetings followed and on Nov. 28, Rev. Henry F. Selcer, a Rotarian and Trinity Episcopal Rector, addressed the group that would form on Nov. 30: “‘Clubs like this are a vitamin to me,’ he said. ‘The more you put in, the more you get out. The vitamins of service club membership,’ he said, ‘are attendance, ballast, courage and decision, and giving.’” He also stressed the bond that develops among members and their desire to “do something for the community.” (MNM, Wed. Nov. 28, 1945, p.30)
The roof garden of the Hotel Marshall was the place, 7:30 p.m. the time, and Nov. 30, 1945 the date, as 110 members, guests, and visitors representing eight cities in two states witnessed the presentation of our charter and installation of our first officers and directors. District 7 of Optimists International included both Louisiana and Texas and John Richardson of Shreveport presided and William H. Pierce of Dallas, international vice-president, presented the charter. Local officers installed were: Harold R. Henderson, president; J.E. Freeman, vice-president; and Paul Whaley Wood, secretary-treasurer. (MNM, Fri. Nov. 30, 1945, p.1)
The Shreveport club continued to foster its younger sibling and returned in Mar. 1946 when Marshall elected J.E. Freeman president. (MNM, Sun. Mar. 10, 1946, p.5) A membership drive in Feb. and Mar. had added 26, doubling the new club’s membership. (MNM, Sun. Mar. 31, 1946, p.5) The national focus of the Optimists was “Friend of the Boy” and began with a concentration on delinquents. True to that tradition the subject arises in news reports in Marshall and those notices are crowded with sponsorship of kids’ sports events as the best antidote to delinquency.
But the new club’s members were highly interested in sports themselves, particularly wrestling, and the News Messenger almost monthly contained advertising about wrestling matches in the city hall auditorium featuring favorites from Louisiana and Texas, and even Mississippi, sponsored by the Optimist Club. In the spring of 1946, not yet a year old, the Optimists issued a baseball challenge to the Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions clubs. Only the Lions picked up the gauntlet, and they were soundly thrashed then and in 1947 as well. One gets the impression that the “new” club must have had a high proportion of young men athletically inclined!
However, all was not sports-related: a visit from the Apollo Choir was announced for Apr. 18 in the city auditorium sponsored by the club. It was inspired by the Vienna Boys Choir and its singers came from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. (MNM, Apr. 12, 1946, p.1) And, there was a locally produced drama aimed for a less “high-brow” entertainment experience: the club production of “Cornzapoppin” described as “a home talent play featuring the Judkins family and the efforts of Pa Judkins to bottle perfume water from Skunk Creek” which was performed in the same venue on Nov. 6 and 7 by an all-male cast. (MNM, Tue. Oct. 29, 1946, p.1)
In the same article, there was a report that the club met with Bill King, “Optimist extension official ... to discuss plans for organization of Optimist clubs at Longview and Kilgore.” In line with that emphasis, we are happy to report a new member this week, Josh Moore of AutoBody Express who took time out of his busy week to complete his application.
It’s a reminder that Optimist International was founded in 1918 in the year of the Great Influenza pandemic and that in our 75th year faced with the Corona Virus Pandemic we are carrying on the tradition — attracting new folk who will join us in “Bringing Out the Best in Kids into the Next Century.”