Put on your sunscreen, pack up your folding chairs, and take your family to East Yosemite Avenue or Courthouse Memorial Park to watch the Madera Old Timers’ Day Parade on Saturday morning.
This annual event is always great fun for participants and spectators of every age. People who line the sidewalks are treated to marching bands, dance troupes, karate schools, equestrian entries, classic cars, and an assortment of others who are celebrating the founding of our city.
The parade starts 10 a.m., Saturday, at Flume Street (by the old armory building) and proceeds along East Yosemite, across the railroad tracks, past Courthouse Memorial Park, and terminates at North G. Street. As usual, Monte Pistoresi will be doing the announcing from the reviewers’ stand at the corner of Yosemite and North D Street. Band and equestrian judges will also be at that location. Terry Nolan will introduce the participants as they enter the parade from his station near A Street, and I will have the honor of doing the announcing across from the park on the west side of the tracks, where I‘ve been planted for the past decade or so.
Sadly, this will be the last hurrah for the Kiwanis Club of Madera, the organization that earned the sobriquet as “Madera’s Parade Club” over the years. The club’s fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, at which time the club will forfeit its charter and cease to exist.
The Kiwanis Club of Madera was founded in 1946. The original officers were: Turner Daulton, President; Rey Merino, Vice-President; and Frank Euless, Secretary-Treasurer. The Board of Directors consisted of Renald Mastrofini, Davis Hamill, Pat Melikian, Clyde Cavin, Henry Scheidt, Will Young, and James Arnold.
There were 38 names submitted for its charter from Kiwanis International, and I was intrigued by the fact that most of the members lived in the area that we now consider to be the original core of the city. Two had addresses on A Street, one each on B and D Streets, two on E St., one on F Street, three each on G and H Streets, one on J St., two on K Street, and one each on L, M, N, O, and P Streets. There were also three on Yosemite, one on 3rd Street, and one on 5th Street. Eight others used P.O. boxes; so 72 years later, I have no way of knowing where their residences were. But, it is this core that has been targeted for revitalization by the city and various organizations, like the Madera County Arts Council, which recently relocated to 424 N. Gateway Drive.
Demise of service clubs
The fate of the Kiwanis Club of Madera mirrors that of other similar clubs across the country: Membership is shrinking. There are two obvious reasons for this phenomenon. First, existing members are aging. Some, like me, are too old to participate in certain activities that are physically demanding. Others, especially those who have “carried” the clubs for a number of years, are simply “burned out.” I’ll give two examples from our local club.
Sharon Creamer became the Kiwanis Club’s secretary in 1994. In essence, the secretary (like the executive director or the CEO of other organizations) is the person who holds the organization together. Presidents come and go, as do other officers. The secretary is the rock who anchors the club year after year.
In our case, for the past 24 years, Sharon has filed all of the required paper work, maintained our connection with the regional and national organization, and taken care of the myriad details that are involved with maintaining our 501(c)3 [tax exempt] status as a community service club. It is a thankless job, yet she has done it with efficiency and elan.
Jim Bryan has organized the Old Timers’ Day Parade for the past 12 years. This is a huge job that involves contacting all potential participants, getting pertinent information which is needed by the announcers, procuring all of the legal documents required by the city, county, and even the state (East Yosemite Avenue is part of State Route 145, and comes under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Transportation).
In addition, he has to hire judges for marching bands and equestrian entries. He has to be sure that certain streets are closed and that there is police protection for spectators and participants. He must also decide the order of entry for each group and develop the scripts for the announcers. During the parade, he rides up and down the route on a bicycle, making sure that everything is going well.
Few young members
A second reason that community service clubs are declining is their inability to attract younger members. This may be partly due to an economy that has put young adults in precarious economic circumstances. Many recent college graduates, who had been prime targets for service organizations, are entering the work force with gigantic debts that were acquired to pay for tuition, books, and living expenses, all of which have been increasing in price much faster than the rate of inflation over the past few decades.
There has also been a seldom-noticed change in our culture. Today’s youth are less interested in continuing the traditions of the past. They have been primed for innovation. Hence their reliance on their iPhones and information bytes on electronic media instead of detailed accounts as reported in newspapers, news magazines, and other printed media. Many young people must hold more than one job in order to afford high rents or mortgage payments, while interest on loans is high and interest earned on savings is practically non-existent. So, there is no time and little money to invest in community service.
In many communities, some service clubs have survived by merging with brother or sister clubs. In a given community, for instance, a morning Lions Club might merge with an evening Lions Club. However, charters with international organizations disallow the merging of different service clubs. For example, a Rotary Club cannot merge with a Soroptimist Club or a fraternal organization like the Elks Club. But in our city, the Kiwanis Club of Madera and the Kiwanis Club of Greater Madera were unable to work out such an arrangement.
So, the Old Timers’ Day Parade will also be the Kiwanis Club of Madera’s farewell after 72 years of significant community contributions and services. We wish only the best for our city and all its people.
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Jim Glynn, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Madera for the past 20 years, may be contacted a firstname.lastname@example.org.