A brief history of the Kiwanis Club of Hyannis

As you turn through the pages of this commemorative program, may it awaken you to the past and present achievements of this superb service organization, and the members here and departed who put children first. We look forward to the future with great enthusiasm. But, the real history of our club is written in the hearts and lives of our community and its people.

Formation and charter of the Hyannis Club

Less than fifteen years after the organization of Kiwanis International, a small group of civic-minded businessmen in Hyannis, Massachusetts met with Field Representative Walter Harmon, and a group of representatives from the New England District (NED) of Kiwanis and the Brookline, MA Club (Our Sponsors) to form the Kiwanis Club of Hyannis. The club received its charter on May 10th, 1929. On June 18th, with visiting clubs present at Ferguson’s Inn, twenty-five members and their ladies sat down to a charter night banquet, with songs, cheers, and friendly banter. It was presided over by Lt. Governor – Division 4, Harry E. Marvel of Brookline, MA. The invocation was given by Rev. Mortimer Downing of Hyannis. Selectman William Lovell gave the address of welcome from the town of Barnstable. The respondent was Frederick F. Scudder. The club charter, bell, and gavel were presented by Lt. Governor, Division 5, Burton K. Harris of Pawtucket, RI, and accepted by President Max D. Holmes. Stephen R. Dow, President of the Brookline Club presented an American Flag, which was accepted by William F. Carleton. President Frank Tobin of the New Bedford Club presented the club banner, with the response from our club Vice President, H.R. Ferguson. New England District Governor Elmer E. Spear of Everett, MA was the main speaker. He delivered a message of congratulations from International President Horace W. McDavid of Decatur, IL. New England District Secretary Clarence Hunt and Field Representative Walter F. Harmon were guests at the head table. When President Holmes sounded the gong to end the evening’s festivities, the Kiwanis Club of Hyannis was inaugurated.

The 30’s and 40’s

In the past, the main emphasis of Kiwanis was on the underprivileged child, born at the time of the nation’s worst depression, which was to last over ten years. We had a ready challenge. The following is a list of some of our accomplishments during the early years. Our big project was furnishing fresh milk and hot lunches to children in the Barnstable and Dennis-Yarmouth schools. While no accurate figures are available, it is estimated that over 10,000 half-pint containers of milk and over 8000 hot lunches were furnished in one year. In 1930 the first annual Christmas Party for underprivileged children took place. Over seventy-five children were entertained and each received goodies and Christmas gifts. The next year (1931) the first Halloween party was sponsored. This was an annual event for many years. Over two-hundred children took part in the parties, starting with a parade and ending with entertainment and refreshments.

The club outfitted children from the inside out with clothing – paid doctor’s bills – purchased eye glasses and other necessities. We undertook orthodontic treatment, lasting 2½ years, for one girl. Ever since 1944 when members of the club donated seventeen pints of blood to the American Red Cross, the Blood Program has been an important project of the club. In addition to individual members donating blood, the club sponsored a Bloodmobile Bank program. While no quantitative figures are available, it is estimated that club members have donated two-thousand pints of blood to the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Red Cross. During this time Pee Wee Hockey teams and Little League Baseball and Basketball teams were sponsored. With the establishment and/or expansion of many government funded social programs in existence today, much of our assistance to underprivileged children has been eliminated.

The 50’s and 60’s

In the 50’s the annual Kiddies Day held at Otis Air Force Base was always a big event when over five-hundred children were transported for a day of fun and games. Throughout the year we sponsored swimming and life-saving courses which were conducted in the Otis Air Force Base pool. We also honored the entire Barnstable Police Department at a dinner. At this time the department consisted of 39 members. The Judges of the two District Courts also attended.

Club Officer installation in 1957
On another occasion, all the Postmasters on the Cape were invited to one of our dinners. Eleven Postmasters were present. The club has held a recognition night when an outstanding citizen or group has been cited for service to the community. We continue this policy today. We were deeply involved in local schools. The club presented fifty-star American flags to all schools in Barnstable and Yarmouth. Our club sponsored the creation of the first Key Club on the Cape at Barnstable High School in 1955. Later we would sponsor another at Dennis-Yarmouth High School. Both Key Clubs continue to be active to this day.

The club continued its various community service projects, some more meaningful than others. Over five thousand seedlings were planted in the town of Barnstable and over 400 shade trees were planted to replace those destroyed by Hurricane Donna (1960). Five Blue Spruce trees were planted at the Marston’s Mills Elementary School. Members assisted in the landscaping of the old Barnstable High School and helped in the research of the Dutch Elm Disease, which hopefully helped preserve the life of some of these beautiful trees that were rapidly disappearing. Some of our projects were insightful. The club spearheaded a drive for a Community College on Cape Cod, which was terminated with the construction of Cape Cod Community College in 1961. Also during the 60’s the club sponsored and worked closely with the 4-H Club. We purchased over 300 chickens for its members and even raised a heifer for a 4-H boy. The club also sponsored yearly camperships for needy children who go to the Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls and Girl Scouts Summer camps. Five boats were purchased for the Camp Greenough Boy Scout Camp.

Over the years, the club has furnished television sets, wheelchairs and hospital beds to the Cape Cod Hospital and contributed to the Hospital Building Fund. It has contributed to the Hyannis Library Building Fund, supported the founding of the Cape Cod Mental Retarded Association, and organized a benefit ball with the Falmouth Kiwanis Club for the Mental Health Association. In cooperation with the Red Cross Chapter, the club recruited drivers and station wagons to transport ex-servicemen and members of their families to Boston hospitals and recruited drivers for the evacuation of ambulatory patients in case of disaster.

For many years we showed motion pictures at the Barnstable House of Correction and furnished carpentry tools, books and magazines. The then Sheriff Donald Tulloch (1969) wrote of this great contribution the club had made to the morale and rehabilitation of inmates at the jail. We also held and annual Halloween Party for hundreds of local children at the U.S.O. building on Main Street.

The 70’S and 80’s

Tim Luzietti in 1977
During this time the club had about sixty to eighty active members. Regular meetings were held at The Sheraton Inn (Dunfey’s). In the early 70’s we built a cabin at a 4H Camp in Brewster as part of our community service. Many of our members helped out. The cabin still stands today. The club was doing some tangible long-term work during this time. Community service activities included contributing $1,150 to the Red Cross Chapter for the purchase of a Recusci Baby and recording Recuse Anne to be used for CPR Training.

The club also began having an annual booth at the Barnstable County Fair. Members had to open the booth at 6:00 AM to sell breakfasts for many of the fair’s staff. We sold hamburgers, hot dogs, cigarettes, candy and anything else we could find at the time! It was a good fundraiser for us for many years. Yes. Cigarettes.

We also had a similar booth at Otis Air Force Base during their annual air show. This was a great recruiting tool for us.
The joint Kiwanis – ARC programs were extremely publicized, encouraging business firms and individuals to avail themselves or their employees in the life-saving training experience.

Last Gasp Pasta Salute Ad in 1997..
In addition to our normal community service activities, our members were now part of New the great programs that our members were instrumental in founding and executing. Our club members in these leadership capacities helped standardize many of the district’s communications and programs. The club was deeply involved in the Key Club at Barnstable High School at this time. In 1987, Gene Burman became the New England District Governor. He is still the only member of the club to reach this office.

The 90’s

As times change, so do the priorities of our membership. During the 90’s the club membership began to drop. This was also a national issue. For many years we hung in there with 40-50 members. Soon we were under forty. Even with this fewer numbers, we still produced and did some great fundraising with some new events.

Bill Finkel, Jim Salts, Ray DuBois and Gene Burman at our booth at the July 4th Barnstable Village Annual Picnic in 2006
Throughout the 90’s, members Ray DuBois, Jim Salts and George Poyant ran the Gleaners Food Bank on behalf of our club, procuring bread and other foods from local supermarkets and bakery’s and delivering by our own Kiwanis Bread Truck to needy organizations multiple days a week. We also became deeply involved with Special Olympics volunteering every May at Barnstable High School during the annual Special Olympics competition.

The Town of Barnstable began its annual Kids Day. Also held at Barnstable High School in July, the club serves over a thousand hot dogs during the event to all the participating children and their families. On July 4th, the annual picnic and celebration in Barnstable Village continues to grow. Our club has been serving hot dogs, hamburgers and cold drinks to the local crowds. Today our club is growing and vibrant. We have set Membership as a high priority because “With more, we can do more..”

Hyannis Kiwanis Today

Our new members are motivated and creative. Our club still has many members that have seen what it was like when Kiwanis was running on all cylinders during the 60’s and 70’s.

Our seasoned members continue to motivate all of us to give what we can to the greater good. They serve as a bridge to our unique and colorful past. KPTI and the RHCI continue to be major emphasis points, and serving the local children and families in our community are still priority one.

Our members continue to seek higher office and become involved with the Division and New England District. Most recently in 2008, Brian Morrison was elected Lt. Governor for the Cape and Islands Division 20.

The “Last Gasp” bike ride from Sagamore to Provincetown was initiated in 2001 and continues to be a large fundraiser for our club. When the Last Gasp was first conceived, our club was one of the principle benefactors. From the funds raised, our club made donations to many local charities including KPTI, and the RHCI as part of a Division program. We have donated to Cape Cod Hospital, Children’s Cove and the Boy’s and Girls clubs. Our club held a successful annual Golf Tournament for many years until 2007. This was initially a great fundraiser but soon, every service club or non-profit was competing with us and it became more and more difficult to find the proper location, date, players and sponsors.