With a 75 year history of friendships and celebrations, the Birthday Club in Webster City continues to fill a room to capacity with laughter and conversation signaling year around birthdays.
The passage of time has caused diminished numbers, but there are still 29 active members who meet at the Webster City Congregate Meal Site located at the Senior Citizen Center to celebrate the birthday of each member. Don Newman is the present contact person for the group. Popular pie-baker, Marlene Anderson, delights the crowd with her superb baking talents making a variety of homemade pies and cakes, along with fresh fruit for those on special diets. Anderson's daughter, Rhonda Pruismann of Williams, is often recruited for assistance.
The Birthday Club was started in the late 1930's when Jesse Mason (Mason Hardware) took several friends to the Minute Lunch for his birthday steak dinner. The friends were Pat Welch, Bill Nilles, Walter Kelley, Jim Kelley, Everett Riley and Howard Vulgamott. Then they went to the Mason home and played cards. After several years, Mason decided he did not like to go out at night and invited them to Dermand's Caf in the afternoon for ice cream, pie, candy bars and cigars. They decided to call their group the Birthday Club. When Mason sold his interest in the Mason Hardware Store they gathered at Vulgamott's 66 Service Station across the street from the now First State Bank on Seneca Street. After Vulgamott sold the business in 1952, they met at Soren Hanson's Blacksmith Shop on Seneca Street.
Birthday Club member Ron Keigan makes a difficult choice during his birthday party… which piece of pie tempts him most. Expert pie-maker Marlene Anderson hands him his favorite.
When Hanson's shop closed, they returned to Dermand's Caf for their parties until it closed in the mid- 1980s. While still at Dermand's, Arch Foster suggested wives should be invited to attend the parties. The Touchdown Caf became the new location for their parties and club membership increased to about 50 members.
Over the 75 years there have been approximately 150 members who have passed away. Some of the present members are sons or sons-in-law of past members.
Bill Ankrum was in charge of the club from 1980-1986 until Dale Hillyer assumed leadership. The club met at The Touchdown, Hickory House and Briggs Woods Clubhouse until finally making their home at the Webster City Senior Center. Bill and Dick Groves filled in for Hillyer when necessary. Hillyer continued as leader/contact person for 27 years before retiring in 2012. His wife, Shirley, and Dick Irelan served for brief periods conducting the meetings. Recently, Don Newman accepted the key person position.
The members range in age from 73 to 96. Membership is by invitation, but those interested may contact any club member or call Don Newman at 832-5424. The club meets on Friday afternoons at the Senior Center on dates near a member's birthday. The membership dues are $1 per year plus paying for the home-baked treats on the member's designated Friday. There are occasional assessments for minor expenses.
For 29 Fridays each year, the members implement their motto, "Celebrate Life." What a sweet way to celebrate a birthday by mingling with friends and enjoying a tasty home-made treat.