HISTORY OF THE COLLEGE STATION KIWANIS CLUB
On January 8, 1945, the allied forces were eliminating German positions on the west bank of the Maas River, Life magazine cost 10 cents and featured an article on crochet togs, and actress and beauty expert Anita Colby, known as “The Face,” was on the cover of Time. On that same day in College Station, Texas, 120 men gathered to organize the Kiwanis Club of College Station. Sponsored by the Navasota Kiwanis Club, the College Station club was the first service club to be formed in College Station though the city of Bryan had several. This was the largest Kiwanis Club in the Texas-Oklahoma Kiwanis District at the time.
Kiwanis was the first civic club to focus on problems of College Station, and its organization was prompted by the feeling of need for an organization through which interested men could work together for community improvement. About 25% of the charter members turned out to be temporary and soon lost interest, but the 75% that were active made a strong Club.
During the 1940’s and 1950’s numerous Kiwanis activities were designed to supply badly needed facilities for A&M Consolidated schools because the District was then poorly financed. One early club effort was to level the ground and build forms for concrete walks at the new school plant on Jersey Street, now known as the Middle School. Kiwanians and a few others spent several Saturdays doing this work.
Providing the initial lights for the High School football field was the first BIG Club project. Col. Andy Anderson was Chairman of the committee which raised $3,000 for this purpose by raffling a car. Before the football field was lighted all home games were played on Friday afternoons. Very few men, faculty or business fathers could attend so interest did not generate a very active athletic program. With this newly lighted field the crowds grew, teams won games and the extra money strengthened the High School Athletic Program. In fact, lighting the football field was an important step in the development of the strong athletic program that A&M Consolidated High School enjoys today. Kiwanis sponsorship also made the first High School Athletic Awards Banquet possible, and for several years the Club continued to provide this annual event which was one of the “Highlights” of the school year. Additionally, when A&M Consolidated wanted to initiate an annual basketball tournament, Kiwanis agreed to underwrite the program and did so far many years.
The College Station Superintendent was anxious to have a testing program to use as background for counseling with High School students. In 1947 the Club’s Vocational Guidance Committee initiated such a program for students of both Lincoln and A&M Consolidated High Schools. At this time the schools were still segregated by race. A.C. Magee was Chairman of the committee, but Walter Varvel was in charge of giving the tests and evaluating the results. The tests of Lincoln School students indicated serious weaknesses in the grade school program. These findings were the basis for adjustments to strengthen the quality of instruction, particularly in the Lincoln School.
A Crippled Children’s Committee was appointed in 1945 with Dan Russell as Chairman. Luther Jones and Roy Wingren were key members of this Committee. They served year after year. This Committee organized, made arrangements for, and staged an annual Clinic for crippled children and adults for 18 years. The Clinic served an 18 county area centering around Brazos County. The first of these annual clinics was held May 23, 1945 at the old College Hospital. Ninety five (95) persons registered which included:
Organizations which cooperated, particularly in publicizing the Clinic and in transporting patients to and from included:
Additionally, groups of local women helped with the many details of getting the patients through the Clinic. Lilly Ice Cream Company and Coca Cola Bottling Company furnished free refreshments. The Crippled Children’s Clinic continued to grow each year. In 1960, Luther Jones took over as Committee Chairman and directed the Clinic for three years. By that time, the Brazes Valley Rehabilitation Center was functioning and assumed many details previously handled by Kiwanians.
Charles Magnuson is on the left and the Scoutmaster at the time, Vince Hughes, on the right accept delivery of the trailer.
Soon after its organization, Kiwanis took over sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 102 and Cub Pack 602. The Club still proudly sponsors these units. Over the years, this Boy Scout Troop has produced over 50 Eagle Scouts! Long time dedicated club member Charles Magnuson was pivotal in the success of these two programs. For many years, the Troop has asked for help in obtaining a cargo trailer to store and transport camping gear for the Troop’s trips. Without this trailer, the Troop was limited in its ability to travel. The commitment was made by the board during the 2004-2005 fiscal year to purchase this trailer for the Boy Scout Troop. Because of the consistent dedication of Charles “Chuck” Magnuson with the Scouts, a request was made to the club by the Troop to name the trailer after Magnuson. The funds were raised with much help from the Scouts and the trailer was ordered and paid for. The exterior was painted with Kiwanis and Boy Scout Logos at no charge with the dedication to Charles Magnuson on it including the name: “The Chuck Wagon.”
In 1950 the Club started preparing chicken box lunches to sell visitors attending Texas A&M home football games. At this time eating places near the University were very limited. This program was a real help to out-of-town visitors to be able to buy a nice box lunch featuring freshly cooked fried chicken. John Quisenberry helped obtain good quality fryers that were cooked at the A&M Consolidated Cafeteria by the lady in charge of the kitchen. Kiwanians packed the boxes and delivered them to the salesmen who had stands at strategic locations such as, Front Gate, Jersey and Highway 6, Circle Drive, West Entrance, etc. The appreciation of the public for this service was shown by the many repeat customers, game after game and year after year. The box lunches were sold for about 10 years. The project not only made money for use in the community, but also provided the membership with a chance for much good fellowship.
In 1952, the Kiwanis Clubs of College Station and Bryan initiated the annual Pancake Supper as a joint effort. For a few years the pancakes were served at the old Country Club building on Villa Maria in Bryan. On September 18, 1996, the Bryan Kiwanis Club Charter was revoked and the remaining members joined the College Station Club. The event is now held at the Brazos Center. The Spring of 2017 marked the club's 65th Annual Pancake Day, Pancake Day has given Kiwanians a chance to get better acquainted with the community we serve and has grown to include many free children’s activities, dance studio performances, and a wonderful widely publicized and supported community event.
In general, the Club has tried to confine itself to two annual money making efforts - one besides the Pancake Day. Various schemes have been tried with varying degrees of success. For a time there was the ice cream smorgasbord which always made a profit but not as much as the Club needed. While Walter Manning was Club president in 1970, Kiwanis was given the opportunity to sponsor a circus. The contract offered was favorable and for three years this project was very profitable. Then that circus changed its itinerary and no longer came this way. In 1976 the Club again had a chance to sponsor a circus but with some less favorable features in the contract. This time the weather, both before and on circus day, was horrible and in spite of a lot of hard work, the venture failed to show a profit. The club then began to sell citrus and proved to be a second dependable source of income for the club. In 1996, the club merged a former Bryan Kiwanis Club fundraiser with the citrus sale, this added Spanish peanuts and pecan halves to the sale. For a while the addition of cinnamon sugar coated pecans, the club gains half of its annual income from the annual fruit and nut sale held in the fall of each year. Over the past several years, dedicated member Jerry Gritter has organized the delivery of the fruits and nuts with the continued support of Bryan Iron and Metal. In 2009, the club started offering to deliver the boxes of fruit for any member that sold 20 boxes or more. This was enabled with the dedicated help of CKI and the 4 Key Clubs. The clubs were devided into groups of ten and all fruit was delivered within four hours. In 2015, we had to drop the fruit portion of the project, because the cost for the freight was way too high.
During the 1960’s, member Charles LaMotte headed an effort to organize local senior citizens for social activities. Through this effort, a group of retirees met and formed a Senior Citizens Club. This Club continued to grow and the monthly supper meetings were well attended. Several Kiwanians have served as its president or chairman.
At one point we had a weekly bulletin. We called it the Ki-Nowa. You might wonder about the word Ki-Nowa. The term Ki-Nowa was distinct to College Station Kiwanians. Not long after the Club was formed, Joe Sorrels was reading in the University Library and noticed some Indian words among which was Nowa, that means ‘attention”. Joe added the syllable "Ki" for Kiwanis and came up with "Ki-Nowa" or "Kiwanis - Attention." Soon afterward, this was chosen as the name for this club’s bulletin. Denise Magnuson served the club as publicity chair for many years and also published the Ki-Nowa weekly. Her dedication and interesting newletters have caught the attention of the T-O District and they have awarded her 1st Place Prizes for the Club Newsletter for multiple years. In recent years we have been unable to produce a weekly bulletin.
A large focus of Kiwanis International has been their Sponsored Youth Programs and Organizations. The College Station Kiwanis Club’s first sponsored youth endeavor was of course associated with Texas A&M University. On March 4, 1974, the club charted the Texas A&M University Circle K Club, now referred to as CKI (Circle K International). This club has been a strong service force on and off of the A&M Campus and along side the College Station Kiwanis since its charter date. The Kiwanis Club can brag today by saying that this CKI is one of the strongest and most active in the district and even the nation. This CKI has had members serve as Lt. Governor, District Secretary, District Committee Chair Positions, District Governor and EVEN International Trustee.
Kiwanis International’s most familiar sponsored program is of course, Key Club. Key Club is the world’s LARGEST high school service club. On February 5, 1991, the College Station Kiwanis Club sponsored the A&M Consolidated High School Key Club. This club has had a strong presence at the school since its charter date and has made the top 25 clubs in the district many times. In the summer of 1998, Sponsored Youth Committee Chair Robert Branson worked to start a Key Club at Bryan High. At the same time, Glenn Duhon joined the Kiwanis Club with the interest of helping with Key Clubs, since he had been a Key Club president when he was in high school. At the age of 26, Duhon was the youngest member in the club at this time. With the help of M’Lee Brooks and Ted Vaughan from Bryan High School and Duhon, the Kiwanis Club chartered the Bryan High Key Club on October 1, 1998. Because other Bryan High Clubs had minimal dues requirements, the first year’s dues for this new Key Club was graciously paid for by Robert Branson. This gave the club a much needed fianncial head start. The Key Club has since created an annual service award named in Bob Branson’s memory and has been in the top 25 clubs in the district multiple times including winning #5 club in the district in 2004. Bryan High Key Club has received many additional awards in years since including 1st Place for Single Service, Most Improved Club and reaching the Top Ten of district clubs multiple times.
With the help of Glenn Duhon, the Kiwanis Club chartered St. Joseph Catholic School Key Club on June 1, 2002. This Key Club in turn co-sponsored with the Kiwanis Club the St. Joseph Catholic Middle School Builders Club on December 12, 2002.
With the formation of St. Joseph Key Club, the District decided to split the Key Club Division 9 clubs into two divisions in 2004. The three clubs sponsored by the College Station Kiwanis Club now form the newly created Key Club Divison 9W, while all other division clubs form Division 9E. Because of this, a Key Club Lt. Governor is elected each year from one of the three College Station Kiwanis Key Clubs to serve on the District Board.
In the summer of 2001, Sponsored Youth Chair Glenn Duhon and Texas A&M CKI Officers created One Way or A.N.O.T.H.E.R. (A New Officer Training for Help Encouragement and Resources) to train the new officers of Bryan High and A&M Consolidated Key Club. This retreat was lead by the CKI officers and Directed by Duhon for a weekend in a local empty residence that had recently been foreclosed by First Federal Savings Bank, Duhon’s employer at the time. The following year, Duhon, with the help of his fiancée and newest youngest Kiwanis member, Melissa Metzler made the retreat open to all of Division 9 Key Clubs. The retreat was moved to a central location in the Sam Houston National Forest just outside of Huntsville. Forest Glen Christian Camp provided their facilities at an extremely discounted rate. It happens that the director of the camp was in Key Club and values what we as Kiwanians do for our youth. The retreat was lead by the division Key Club Lt. Governor, Hannah Bass. It is upheld by Kiwanians that Key Clubbers should lead themselves under the advisement and supervision of Kiwanians.
Due to economic conditions in 2008, St. Joseph Catholic School issued an order restricting the collecting of any student dues or any club fundraising efforts. This effectively caused the St. Joseph clubs to forfeit their charters.
In 2009, the Kiwanis Club chartered two additional Key Clubs at the two new Bryan ISD High Schools: Bryan Collegiate High and Rudder High (Chartered November 13, 2009) bringing the total number of Key Clubs sponsored to four. The addition of the new clubs have sparked new interest in group trips and projects such as Fall Rally to Six Flags over Texas and Weekend of a Lifetime.
Due to a change in principal at A&M Consolidated High School, we lost our Key Club there. The charter for the A&M Consolidated High School Key club was revoke on November 1, 2015. Our club has tried each year since then to get a new club started there, but so far no luck.
Sponsored Youth is not totally Key Club and CKI. Bryan High Key Club co-sponsored with the Kiwanis Club the Sam Rayburn Middle School Builders Club which was chartered on October 29, 2003. Builders Clubs help create leaders and community minded youth to the younger teenage and pre-teen years. On November 5, 2012, we chartered our K-Kids Club at Henderson Elementary. Our belief is that community service and leadership skills should be emphasized as early as possible.
Additionally, the club focuses on pre-school and elementary students through its, Bringing Up Grades (BUG) and Terrific Kids programs at many local head start programs and elementary schools. Elementary students that bring up their grades over a previous six-week period are awarded with a BUG certificate, pencil, sticker, and hand shake from a Kiwanis Member at a school ceremony. Terrific Kids are limited to two per classroom and have high standards for excelling as a “citizen” of the school. In addition to a certificate and pencil, a bright bumper sticker announcing the award is given to the child’s parents for displaying. The children are given set goals for these awards and appreciate the participation of our members in their education.
In 2009, the club started a new endeavor to work with the Texas Ramp Project. The club is the organizer for this project for the entire Brazos Valley and provides safe wheelchair ramps to those in need of easy access to their home.
Additionally in 2009, the club adopted a small community in Costa Rica called Pueblito. Pueblito houses the country's abused and neglected children. The club supplies the children with luxury itmes such as soap, paper, pencils, art supplies, shampoo, and books. The club hopes to bring this project to other Kiwanis Clubs in the world.
Unlike the original set of members, women now compose a good portion of membership, and there are even four husband-wife teams in College Station Kiwanis Club. Long-time dedicated club secretary and Hixon Award recipient Alan Montgomery explains the current status of the club as, “We’re the most hidden club in the community though we positively impact over ten thousand Brazos County children per year.” Legion of Honor Member Murray Milford says today’s College Station Kiwanis Club is about “fine fellowship, staying informed about community activities, and being of service in the community, especially to the CHILDREN.”