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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jul. 3, 200212:00 PM EST

Southside Business Men's Club turns 70

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by: Patti Connor

by Patti Connor

Staff Writer

In September, an organization that now boasts the distinction of being Jacksonville’s largest — and oldest — civic club will celebrate, amid much fanfare, its 70th birthday.

Yet back in 1932, when the Southside Business Men’s Club was founded on the heels of the merger of Jacksonville and South Jacksonville for the purpose of promoting business in Duval County, there was, ironically enough, no “southside” — that is, unless one counts a solitary dirt road and one telephone.

For those wanting to go downtown, at that time there were two choices: either traverse the one bridge — the original Acosta Bridge — or make the journey via a lone, rickety ferry.

Today, of course, meeting places proliferate in the form of the ubiquitous hotels, restaurants and eateries scattered throughout the city. The alternatives, in those days, were, at best, limited. Where to go to discuss the future of the River City? In the beginning, club members assembled in the back of a pharmacy, in what then was called “Times Square” on San Marco Boulevard.

Once they were bounced out of the pharmacy, they moved on to American Legion Post 88 — which sounded ritzy enough, except that the “post” was, in reality, aboard a retired paddle boat (tied up at the site of what is today Baptist Medical Center). There they shelled out 50 cents, 40 of which went for a hot lunch and 10 of which was for club dues.

During World War II, club members convened for their meetings in the employees’ dining rooms at Gibbs Shipyards. It was at their next base of operations, at the old Lobster House Restaurant bordering the riverfront, that they became aware of the condition of the area, at that time littered and debris-laden. Their concern ended up being the catalyst for what in 1965 became Friendship Park.

But aesthetics was not the only thing on the mind of the members of the Southside Business Men’s Club, now one of the city’s largest civic clubs. Far from it. Streets, roads and adequate traffic-projecting planning were always a top priority. Said the club’s current president, Win Thomas, “I remember when they finally extended I-95 all the way to Bowden Road. We had a party that day.”

They were also responsible for naming Philips Highway, as well as securing the old Florida East Coast Railway right-of-way from Southside to the Beaches for the construction of Beach Boulevard.

The resolution to construct a viaduct crossing the train tracks at Philips and University also was passed as a result of club members’ persistence.

“Before the viaduct was built, ambulances taking people to Memorial Hospital on University, which at that time was the only hospital in the area, had to actually stop and wait for the train to pass,” recalled Thomas. The club was also instrumental in convincing Baptist Hospital to build on the south side of the river.

In 1994, the club launched its Youth Achievement Program (YAP). In addition to raising monies for a scholarship awarded to deserving students, 40 percent of funds from the program go toward helping pay for a trip to Washington, D.C. for area fifth graders. To raise money for the program, club members prepare a steak dinner for three area schools. This year, $10,400 already has been raised.

“It’s now our biggest program,” said Thomas.

Thomas was instrumental in organizing the anniversary gala, set for Sept. 21 at the University Club.

“We hadn’t had an anniversary party since our 50th anniversary 20 years ago, and I felt this was significant enough to be worthy of recognition,” he said. The menu will feature items traced from each decade via a time line. Floral arrangements also will be representative of the period, while mannequins dressed in period clothing will be stationed throughout the University Club.

They’re actively seeking donations for their silent auction, proceeds from which will go to charities that in addition to YAP include the Pauline W. Smith Scholarship at the University of North Florida. Monies will also go toward a general scholarship fund as well as a shopping spree for underprivileged kids at K Mart at Christmas.

Presidents:

Tom Carroll 2001

John M. Hamel 2000

Crump Kirby 1999

Fred S. Harford Jr. 1998

Randy Scott 1997

Mark Wilkinson 1996

Tyrone P. Townsend 1995

Eugene Bushor 1994

Richard W. Campbell 1993 *

Thomas R. Sikes 1992

Brian E. Bock 1991

John J. Kelly Jr. 1990 *

Frank H. Stone 1989

John Martin 1988

David L. Young 1987

Robert S. Cooper 1986

William W. O’Nale Jr. 1985

Bud Shutterly 1984

Ken Williams 1983

Robert L. Cox 1982 *

Robert P. Sabourin 1981

Larry Flynn 1980

William P. Tuggle Jr. 1979

Earl W. Jorgensen 1978

C. Lee Daniel Jr. 1977

Paul J. Shields 1976

Allan G. Gimbel 1975

A. J. Pionessa 1974

Alvin M. Towns 1973

Dole J. Kelley, Jr. 1972

T. Marvin Duncan 1971 *

Jimmie W. Harden 1970

Forrest G. Ashmead 1969

S. R. Dunn 1968 *

James T. Tresca 1967

Sam I. Smith Jr. 1966

R. John Crider 1965

Gifford Grange Jr. 1964

A. D. Smith 1963

James C. Harper 1961-62

Carl A. Chambliss 1960 *

W.A. Weatherford 1959 *

John C. Coleman 1958 *

Stuart Edwards 1957 *

C. Donald MacLean Jr. 1956

R. M. Naugle 1955 *

V. Thomas Early 1954 *

L. E. Hakes 1953 *

Donald A. Bolton 1952 *

Olin F. Wolfe 1951 *

Carl V. Cesery 1949-50 *

George W. Martin 1947-48 *

Maynard C. Burrell 1946 *

Harry A. Pierce 1944-45

W. Rufus Thompson 1943 *

Russell R. Moore 1941-42 *

Norman C. Edwards 1939-40 *

Carl M. Taylor 1932 -38 *

* deceased

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