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HISTORY MYSTERY: Clay Social Club

HISTORY MYSTERY: Clay Social Club

 

There was a little known group in the village of Clay that began its existence at the turn of the 20th century.  For its 75th birthday in 1975, John W. Kisselburgh, who was Town Historian at that time, submitted an article to the local paper to give the group credence.  Its name was The Clay Social Club.  The photo shows Assemblyman Michael J. Bragman (118th District) presenting a Legislative Resolution to Pauline and Charles Stevenson congratulating them on the recent celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary in 1981.  The Stevenson’s were in charge of the Club at that time, near its final days.

 

It was known as The Clay Social Club, not because of any aspirations of grandeur, but simply to spell out its sole purpose and function, to afford good times and bountiful meals month after month as the years went by according to John.  Also he tells us that much of the following history of the group came from an interview with Frank Sotherden, who founded the Sotherden Mill on the other side of the tracks, sometime before.  The organization came into being in the old Weller Hall which was upstairs over the old Post Office near the railroad tracks.  The Hall was used for “every social function under the sun, even housing the congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church during the period of transmission from VerPlank Road to the present edifice.”

 

There was for a time an organization known as The Patrons of Industry which met regularly in Weller Hall.  When this organization became “more or less defunct,” a group of its members decided to maintain a club-like relationship purely for social purposes.  Thus, the Clay Social Club born.  The group met once a month over the years at the homes of the various members where they were entertained in style with sumptuous meals.  Each housewife brought a covered dish as solicited.  The host and hostess provided the main course along with incidentals.

 

Among those involved in the early years were:  “Mr. and Mrs. Frank Sotherden, Mr. and Mrs. William Young’s, Mr. and Mrs. John Shepherd, the Sagers, the Ladd’s, the Stevenson’s, the Moyers, the Bonstead’s, the Blanchard’s, the Nash’s, the Fred Breeds, the Strever’s, the W. Rogers, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Schuelke, the Sitterly’s, the Shavers and Mr. and Mrs. Jay Crowell.”  There were many others.

 

In 1975, John relates, that the children and grandchildren were members, but the numbers had decreased.  As the older people were dropping along the way, fewer replacements were being found.  Life had gotten busier, with little time for mere pleasure and sociability.  People were much more occupied with making a living and paying for a second home or a camp.  He added that PTA’s, unions, and bowling leagues occupied their time.  They lost the capability of really enjoying one another and knowing how to be a good neighbor.  John closes with the following:

 

“There are many, many things of that period whose loss we regret; such as pure water and fresh air, and an abundance of energy.  And we might add to the list, the appreciation of one person for another in a neighborhood – good, clean, sociability.  We’ve become so involved in CAUSES that we’ve lost sight, in many cases, of individuals.”  (This was 46 years ago!)

 

Dorothy Heller, Historian

8-25-21