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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Those Kare-free Kiwanis Kut-ups

Monday, November 22, 2010

The entire cast of the Kiwanis Kuties.
(Courtesy photo)
In July 1948, to mark the 25th Anniversary of the McCook Club, the men of Kiwanis hosted a grand party at the Gayway Ballroom, in North McCook. The McCook Club had grown from an original membership off 39 in 1923 to 89 members by this meeting, but the aims of the club, to benefit the community, and at the same time keep a heavy emphasis on fun, remained the same over that period of time.

At the banquet, President Ray Klingner welcomed the guests, including Emmett Murphy, the Nebraska-Iowa Governor, and the featured speaker, John Gorsuch, the International Vice-President of Kiwanis. The accomplishments of the Club over the past 25 years were reviewed, which included:

1. Innumerable projects by the Committee for Underprivileged Children.

2. Sponsorship of a campaign to insure pure milk for the community.

3. The beautification of Kelley Park by planting trees.

4. Sponsorship of a Boy Scout troop.

5. The annual Career Day for the youth of Southwestern Nebraska, at MJC.

Through the years the philanthropic work of the organization, and the weekly meetings were invariably mixed with a healthy dose of fun.

The good works that the Kiwanis Club did came with a healthy price tag. Over the years there were a number of money-making projects for the club. For most of these projects the members had a lot of fun doing them. Those that weren't fun were soon dropped.

Over the years the fellows tried selling light bulbs, calendars, soap, and the like. In later years, the main money maker for the club was the annual Pancake Feed, held on the opening day of the pheasant hunting season. In the earlier years members of the club put on original plays for the public. Since the Kiwanis Club was an all-male organization, female parts in these plays were portrayed by male members in dresses. This practice led to the amazingly successful "Kiwanis Style Show". Hime Clapp, of Clapps's Store for Women, was the director of these shows, and somehow he was able to get the members of the club to dress in drag and model his creations. The sight of these respected business men---judges, doctors, teachers, and farmers doing something so completely out of character, drew large crowds and went a long way toward paying for the philanthropic ventures of the club.

For some years in the 1950s the Kiwanis Minstrel Show was a very popular form of entertainment. These shows were performed on the great stage of the Temple Theater, known far and wide as one of the best Vaudeville theaters in the Midwest. The amateur shows put on by the Kiwanians were among the best attended shows of the year. Hidden talent, in song and dance, was revealed and very well received in the community.

It was not just the public performances put on by the Kiwanis Club that were fun for the members. At the weekly meetings of the club there was always a speaker. This was a serious part of the meeting, where club members learned about what was going on in the city and region, but even these speakers were not immune from some of the pranks of the members. Ray Search earned his title of "The Mad Bomber" by occasionally spicing up a drab meeting by igniting a fire cracker under the seat of a member who had decided to take a little cat-nap during the guest's speech. Once, even the speaker, himself, was the victim of one of Ray's "bombs". Ray was intrigued by electronic gadgets and sometimes his explosive devices were quite complex. One time, however, an explosive device of Ray's creation came back to haunt him.

Ray had devised a remote controlled trigger for a good sized firecracker. He was carrying his "bomb" in his back pocket when he came into the banquet room at the Keystone. As he entered the room he accidently brushed against the door, causing the trigger wires to become activated. The "bomb" exploded while it was still in Ray's back pocket. Ray was a long time living that prank down. His earlier victims were in total agreement that Ray got what he deserved. Added to his embarrassment was the fact that his wounds caused him to be unable to sit through that particular meeting.

Fortunately, there are a number of pictures still around of the Kiwanis Club's theatric endeavors, hearkening back to a time when the Kiwanis Club was one of McCook's leading service clubs. The pictures recall some of the fun that those fellows had, while fulfilling their mission of service to the community.

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Walt Sehnert
Days Gone By