New London group dissolved once before
By Roger Pitt
‘New London Jaycees dissolve after 68 years.’
That recent headline stirred memories of my early days in New London – beginning July 1, 1964, at the Post-Crescent office in the city. It also was the opening of New London National Bank on the former site of the Elwood Hotel, a historic showpiece I regret never seeing.
The Jaycees were pondering a similar decision about their future 50 years ago.
My job included collecting vital statistics, one of the most-read items in the paper – chronicling births, deaths and all events in between.
Most of the information was attained by telephone, but a regular stop on my beat was Borchardt Hospital, where Mel “Doc” Borchardt manned the office. Mel got me interested in the Jaycees.
Bob Hoffman, an 8 a.m. regular at the End Stool, was a Jaycee at that time, “We had about five members. We sponsored the carnival and there were a lot of volunteers who helped out.”
Hoffman said, the members opted for extensive recruitment over tossing in the towel, and a few years later the chapter was recognized by the state for the largest increase in members.
Mel quickly signed me on, and the remaining years on the New London beat were a great experience in public service and civics and built many long-lasting friendships.
Joining Jaycees about the same time were Jerry Lienhard, Jim Ehlke, Brian Zietlow, Dick Arndt, Ken Krause, Skip Hammerberg, Dennis Dobberstein, Roger Dietz and Doug Wolfe.
This is a personal report of the 1960s, expanding on the “dissolving story,” which was an accurate accounting of that era.
Not only did the chapter grow in numbers, but was actively involved in many programs – expanding beyond the Halloween, Christmas and Easter events oriented to the area’s children. The punt, pass and kick competition and sand box projects continue to this day and have been adopted by Raise Up New London.
The chapter was recognized at a state convention for sponsoring the Fox Lake Correctional Jaycees – a landmark for the national organization. I had the privilege of awarding the charter and swearing in the first officers as state director for the region.
Pfeifer was the most-used park in the city with multiple diamonds used by the New London Boys League and had no facilities. This was a problem, I soon learned as a coach, because the players were 7-to 12-years-old.
Jaycees devised a plan to raise the seed money to make a shelter with facilities a reality. The roots of many residents of the area began with the namesake of the park, who at that time was still practicing in the building near the entrance off Waupaca Street.
The Jaycees collected $1 to place the name of “Pfeifer babies” on hundreds of index cards displayed in the windows of the Miles Building on Pearl Street, north of the bridge.
New London did not fluoridate the municipal water at that time and the Jaycees undertook that project. Fluoridation was extremely controversial and often drew protests outside the affected area.
Sig Krostue, then city attorney, advised that a “direct petition” was a good option, as the common council had two choices: approve the petition or set a date for a referendum.
Members collected pages of signatures, New London Utility said adding fluoride would not be a problem and Ald. Grace Stern, an influential and respected member, guided it through the council.
The local chapter continued promoting projects and programs making this area a better place.
Its final chapter is not new. The only area Jaycees Chapter on the state roster is Waupaca.
New London joins the ranks of Weyauwega and Clintonville as exhausted roosters – the designation for those who exceeded the age of 40.