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The Old Colony Club Between the Wars


The next momentous event in Plymouth was the Pilgrim Tercentenary of 1921. The Club erected a reviewing stand on its property, and helped with the Tercentenary Commission entertainment of distinguished visitors, including Vice-President Coolidge, at the cost of $1200.

Billiards and cards remained the primary Club entertainment. Although the suggestion was made in 1922 to install a bowling alley in the basement, it was soon determined that the expense would be prohibitive. Instead, the upstairs rooms were remodeled in April to better accommodate the billiard table. A large bed room and a small card-playing room were combined with the earlier billiard room to create a more spacious area and a small alcove was created on the west side for an office. The card players were relocated in a former bedroom towards the rear of the building. A plan to enlarge the two-story wing on the southern side of the building was dropped.

The Club did move with the times when they asked Harold Mansfield to bring "a wireless apparatus" or radio for a special entertainment in June, 1922. By September 1925, the Club accepted the gift of "a radio set" and appointed Henry Walton as its custodian. 1926 saw major repairs to the building, including a new heating system and the re-shingling of the roof.

A curious circumstance in 1927 was the discovery that there was an international organization of business men's clubs called "Old Colony Clubs, Inc.," with branches in London, Paris and a number of American cities. This came to light when the organization tried to register for business in Massachusetts only to find that the Plymouth Club already had rights to the name. An accommodation was reached whereby the international organization was allowed to use the name "Boston Old Colony Club, Inc." and the members of the Plymouth Club were given reciprocal rights in all of the other Old Colony clubs. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before the larger organization fell apart following the death of its founder. It was in 1927 as well that President George Simmons brought together a collection of pictures of all of the ex-presidents, which has been faithfully added to ever since.

In 1929, the management of the dining room became an issue. The Club's respected if disputatious steward George LeBaron Gray had one of his perennial disagreements with the House Committee, which was eventually resolved. A twenty-five cent cover charge initiated in 1927 was restricted to non-Club functions, and a weekly report of conditions required of the steward. Hardwood floors were installed that year on the ground floor of the Clubhouse, and on December 20th President Willard H. Parsons presented the Club with a boulder bearing a bronze tablet with the names of the original founders of the Club, which can still be seen in front of the Clubhouse today.

The collection of old pictures of Plymouth was actively advanced when a call to members for donations of photographs was made in March, 1930. Earlier an assortment of decorative paintings and prints had formed the decor, but these were relegated to the cellar as the local picture collection grew. The charge for the use of the bedrooms was set at $1.25 for the smaller chamber and $1.50 for the larger. A now forgotten grievance was illustrated by the fact that when the Massachusetts Governor Allen and his wife were invited to attend a special meeting recognizing the Fire Chiefs of the Commonwealth on May 16, 1930, it was pointedly voted not to invite the Plymouth Selectmen.

In 1932 the Club received the fine model of the "Flying Cloud," which now resides in the Social Room, from Past President Sheriff Charles H. Robbins. There was also an "oil-painting" of George Washington (actually a lithograph of the famous Stuart "Athenaeum" portrait) given by Congressman Gifford in May. Fred A. Jenks was appointed to be the first Club Historian in 1933, and was asked the following year to write a history of the Club to be given to all new and present members. While Jenks did do much for the Club's history, including the compilation of a descriptive catalogue of the historic pictures, he never did write the history of the Club. This was finally accomplished by the third Club Historian, L. J. Bradbury, in 1978.

In 1935 a notice appeared on the bulletin board to the effect: "Any member guilty of using vulgar or obsene [sic] language and conduct unbecoming a member of the Club may be suspended by the Executive Committee without further notice." As is the case with such rules, it more accurately indicated the presence of what was forbidden than effectively prevented it. This may therefore be an indication of the evolving change from the patrician atmosphere of the earlier Club membership to its more democratic future make-up. Of course, it may also have been aimed at one or more of the obstreperous sort of members which inevitably test the patience of the more sedate individuals.

A visit to Plymouth by the British warship, the H.M.S. Scarborough, was an opportunity for the Club to extend its hospitality. The Executive Committee was pleased to extend the courtesies of the Club to the Officers of H.M.S. Scarborough which was to visit Plymouth from September 29th to October 5th, 1936. A letter from of thanks received from Commander Baxter of the Scarborough (Oct. 5, 1936) was posted in due course.

Considerable work was done on the building that year by C. D. Howland, Harold Boyer and Louis Cotti. The floors were refinished and the ceilings "touched up" and the sidewalk to the south next to the Russell building repaired, and a new couch was acquired. The ever enthusiastic Associate Member from New York, Charles Griffith Moses, sent a small hand-bound book of verse about the Club and its members. It also became necessary to require that the front door be kept locked at all times.

A tree was removed from the north corner of the piazza and turned into firewood in 1937. In September, steward George L. Gray was asked to repaint the back porch and the kitchen and his pay was increased to $20 a month for the rest of the year. At this time the Friday night dinners cost $1, and the annual Forefathers' Day meeting dinner $2.50. In 1939 a new oil burner and a pingpong table were installed, and $225.15 was spent on a radio. The entire first floor of the Club was renovated and redecorated in 1940. Warren Strong, who had been the very effective and orderly Secretary/Treasurer since 1921 stepped down in 1941, and the suggestion was made (but not acted upon) that pictures of all of the past Treasurers be acquired and displayed after the manner of the Presidents. In contrast to the passions of 1917, World War II arrived quietly enough in the Club records, when blackout supplies were ordered in February, 1942.

On January 4, 1943, it was voted that the Regular Meeting night be moved from Monday to Friday nights as of April, to coincide with the dinners. The oil heater was converted to coal. The Plymouth Bar Association (to which a number of the members belonged) were given the use of the dining room for Monday, February 8, 1943, with the understanding that the members could use the other rooms. Among the other expenses of 1944 was a charge of $2.00 for disposing of the superannuated Club cat, whose picture can be seen today in the Library. The matter of keeping the front door locked (apparently unsuccessfully) was put into the hands of the Executive Committee in March, 1945.

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