HISTORY OF THE OLD CAPITOL KIWANIS CLUB
In the spring of 1967 the Iowa City Noon Kiwanis Club asked some local men to organize a new Kiwanis Club. The initial meetings were held at Lassie’s Red Barn, a local restaurant located on South Riverside Drive in Iowa City. The prospective members decided that a club that met during the breakfast hour would best suit their needs. Some Noon Kiwanis members who helped organize the new club were COL Brooks Booker, George Dane, William Coen, and Joseph Wayner.
After an organizational meeting in April, the new club elected officers and began meeting on its own. The club voted to be known as the Old Capitol Kiwanis Club and would meet at 7am (later changed to 6:45 am) on Thursday mornings. The nucleus club recruited new members until it surpassed the goal of 25 charter members. They then set the date for Charter Night which was held at the University Athletic Club in September of 1967. Congressman Fred Schwengel attended and presented the Old Capitol Kiwanis Club a flag that had flown over the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC that very day. Another attendee was H. J. Dane, a long-time Kiwanian and past president of the Noon Kiwanis Club. Charter members are listed elsewhere in this document.
The new Old Capitol Kiwanis Club did not take long to start supporting community and youth activities. To raise money for this support, it voted to sponsor a Chili Supper to be held at Montgomery Hall at the Fairgrounds. To assure a good turnout, books of 10 tickets were sold in advance. Charter member Ted Rittenmeyer volunteered to cook the chili created from Charter member Roger Thompson’s personal recipe. Ted continued in this capacity for many years, and upon his retirement was awarded a Hixson Fellowship by the Club, our first member to be recognized as a Hixson Fellow. The Chili Supper continues to be Old Capitol’s primary fundraiser. Today a Hixson Fellowship is awarded to any member who donates $1,000 to Kiwanis International Foundation to help eradicate Iodine Deficiency Disorder, our Worldwide Service Project, and many have done this.
The Officers and Directors conduct the official business of the Kiwanis Club. A new president is elected every year after having served as President-Elect, Vice-President, and on the Board. The Secretary is responsible for keeping the records and minutes of the Club and has been rotated through the years. The Treasurer’s position has been filled by Charter Member Leland McCormick for many years. Eight Board members serve two-year terms, and are elected in alternate years to give the Board continuity. Board meetings are held on the second Friday morning each month.
Membership climbed steadily through the years peaking at about 80 members in the 1980’s. There has always been a good cross section of the community representing business, professional, rural, and educational people. In 1987 Laura (Carman) Wenman became the first female member of Old Capitol as women were admitted to Kiwanis nationwide. After Lassie’s Red Barn closed, the meetings were moved to Sambo’s, a block south, and then to the Golden Corral when it opened. In 1994 meetings moved to the Ground Round, and in 1997 to its present location at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, the first departure from the Riverside Drive area.
Old Capitol Kiwanis is a part of the Nebraska-Iowa District of Kiwanis International. Originally there were 18 Divisions (now 24), each represented by a Lieutenant Governor. Charter Member Earl Phillips was the first Old Capitol Kiwanian to be elected Lt. Governor of our Division. Since then many more members have served at Lt. Governors, and they are listed elsewhere.
Traditions are strong in Old Capitol Kiwanis. "The Pig" was acquired to allow members to unload all the surplus pennies in their pockets. A member with no pennies is fined one dollar, likewise if you forget to wear your name badge. A member who is proud of an accomplishment by himself or a member of his family is happy to put a dollar in the pig at the next meeting. But if you get your name in the paper or on TV, that costs you a buck too. If you have a wedding anniversary you are allowed to put a dollar in the pig to help you remember to reward your spouse. Any member who has a birthday during the week of our Kiwanis meeting receives both the opportunity to put a dollar into the Pig and the enjoyment of listening to the entire Club singing "Happy Birthday to You" in perfect harmony, often led by members John Dane and Harry Norris." On being inducted each new member is informed of these transitions and presented with a Kiwanis pin and an Old Capitol Cap. Each week a different member is designated as the Official Greeter and shakes each person’s hand as they come in the door. The greeter is allowed to tell about him/herself and family without being fined.
Old Capitol helped start Kiwanis Clubs in Coralville and West Branch, a Circle K Club at the University of Iowa, and this year will start a Builders Club at Mark Twain Elementary School. Many local organizations have benefited from Old Capitol’s community service and will continue to benefit in the future. Since its inception approximately 250 people have belonged to Old Capitol Kiwanis. If you are not a part of this fine Service Club, we invite you to join us in making the Iowa City area a better place to live.
The Iowa City Old Capitol Kiwanis Club is proud of our club Presidents and those who have served as Division Lt. Governors. We appreciate their dedication and commitment to Kiwanis.
* Received a distinguished service award for their term in office.