A league of extraordinary gentlemen

By on May 14, 2014

 Young Men’s Business League turns 100

 

The Young Men's Business League, located at the Square in Lititz, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. This photo was taken in the 1940s.

The Young Men’s Business League, located at the Square in Lititz, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. This photo was taken in the 1940s.

It all started 100 years ago when several Lititz citizens and businessmen decided to come together for a common cause.

Originally organized on April 21, 1914, the Young Men’s Business League members held their meetings on the second floor of Moyer’s Drug Store, located at 40 E. Main St. (currently the site of Cafe Chocolate). Yearly membership dues were set at $10 per year, with the official Constitution and By-Laws adopted on May 12, 1914 during their second meeting. It was at this meeting that a Preamble was established that stated:

“The object of the Young Men’s Business League shall be the adoption of all just measures that may benefit its members, the Borough of Lititz and its surroundings. It is desired that it should afford a means of ready consultation, of united intelligent and effective action on matters and subjects of mutual interest, as well as to secure unity and harmony of thought and action among its members, to cultivate a better acquaintance among our members, and develop a social and mutual interest, to gather statistics of business and for the general encouragement of all interests and welfare of the Borough of Lititz and County of Lancaster.”

The first officers elected were: President – G. Graybill Diehm (who later became a state Representative and Senator); Vice President – J.W. Brubaker; Secretary – J.H. Breitegan; Treasurer -A.G. Bucher.

Almost immediately, the League became active in the work that was normally performed by a Chamber of Commerce. This continued until Lititz formed its own Chamber years later.

In 1915, the League was very instrumental in bringing a large business to the community &tstr; the Stiffel-Freeman Safe Company, which was based in Philadelphia. Several members traveled to meet with the employees and managers of the safe company, as an effort to learn more and investigate this idea further. They even went as far as hiring a team of accountants to go over the company’s books to make sure it would be a good fit for Lititz. After finding everything to their satisfaction, the wheels were set in motion to move the company here, thus creating jobs and richer economic growth in the community. In a true motion of “putting their money where their mouth is,” the League subscribed to the first stock in this company once it moved to town.

One year later, in 1916, Judge A.B. Hassler officially granted the charter to the League on June 24. It was also during this year that the members saw a need to have their own headquarters. As luck would have it, a home which was then owned by Mrs. Louisa Graver came up for sale. The League successfully purchased the property for a sum of $5,000. An early deed indicates that this parcel of land originally stood on a plot that was purchased by Benjamin Lichtenthaler on March 26, 1860 from the Lititz Moravian Church, for a sum of $100.

They then remodeled the home by adding a new front porch, new tile in the bathroom, and new hardwood floors. When this was completed, they issued gold certificates in series of $20 each to be paid back in gold coins with four percent interest, to help raise money. Finally, the Young Men’s Business League had a headquarters all their own.

“Situated as it is in the very center of the town, this building will make an ideal home for this progressive organization which numbers 60 members, including many of the town’s leading citizens,” an article taken from the Lititz Record stated. “The league will at once begin remodeling the residence and when completed it will be one of the finest of its kind to be found in a town of this size. The deal was made through Hershey & Gibbel, real estate agents.”

On Independence Day, 1917, via the efforts of the Young Men’s Business League, a grand parade was held in Lititz with 15,000 in attendance. In December of that same year, a meeting was held at the headquarters on the local Boy Scout movement in the area. At this gathering, it was discussed that a Boy Scout council in this area was needed.

It was also during this era that local organizations including the Red Cross Society, The Retail Merchant’s Association, the local bird club, The Coal Commission of Lancaster County, and the Local Defense Council, among others, all rented space on the third floor of the League to hold their meetings.

Despite holding many important discussions through the years, members of the League also had a lot of fun. Smokers, fundraisers, baseball games, bowling matches, card games of many kinds, billiards, picnics and oyster suppers at Bingy’s Restaurant were just some of the events that were held as a means for the men to network and enjoy the company of others.

In 1929, a movement was underway to create a new, modern hotel in Lititz. After a unanimous decision, fundraising began and sub-committees were formed to oversee the effort. It was decided that the historic Lititz Springs Hotel, which sat at the corner of Main and Broad streets, would be purchased by a newly-formed entity called the Lititz Community Hotel Company. An organization made up of citizens of Lititz, sponsored by the Young Men’s Business League, formed this company to restore the property and create a modern hotel to benefit both the citizens of the town and travelers near and far. Shares of capital stock in this new venture were snapped up quickly. Through this community effort, the hotel was beautified both inside and out with a large dining room, sun parlor, and other attractive additions.

One year later, in 1930, renovations for the inn were completed and the building was renamed The General Sutter Hotel, which paid tribute to Lititz’s most famous resident. A formal opening banquet was held Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. The dedication booklet handed out that evening exclaimed: “The hotel is dedicated to the citizens of Lititz and vicinity who made it possible and in itself reflects the spirit, geniality, hospitality, and reverence of General Sutter after whom it is named.”

In January 1936, a complete reorganization of the League took place at their annual meeting. Nine new directors were elected, the majority of whom were in their late 20s. New by-laws were also adopted one month before, and thus, the organization became a young men’s venture once again. The new directors elected were William Fasnacht, James Mummert and Lester Hackman (three-year terms); Abram Hershey, Edwin Bear and Paul Furlow (two-year terms); and Clayton Zartman (one-year term).

Lititz resident Paul Balmer, who joined the League in 1952, and is the organization’s longest-standing member, reflects back on the good old days:

“I’d try to get in there Monday evenings to play cards,” Balmer said. “Back then, we played cards on both floors. We had a lot of fun. Every Easter, we’d have a breakfast. I was one of the young ones then!”

Current President Phil McCloud originally joined in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s and came back when the board reorganized about 10 years ago.

“We’re one of the only civic organizations in Lititz that has its own facility,” McCloud proudly stated. “It’s nice for the businessmen in town, and it provides a social place for men to gather.”

When asked what were some of his favorite memories through the years, he replied, “I think our summer picnics are a lot of fun. We open clams, play cards and other games. Years ago, Elmer Bomberger used to catch snapping turtles in the Hammer Creek, and then we used to have snapper soup back when we had a kitchen on the first floor.”

Today, the second floor houses two apartments, which provides a source of income to the club. McCloud notes that more recently, sports socials where members gather to watch boxing matches, baseball, and football have become very popular activities.

On April 21 of this year, a champagne toast was held to celebrate the League’s centennial. Additionally, an open house took place May 9 in conjunction with 2nd Friday.

Through the years, the League has always served as an important gathering place. The original 1916 charter still hangs proudly on the wall, as do many paintings and photographs of former and present members.

More recently, residents, while walking or driving by, have wondered what it is exactly that members do inside. Truth be told, there is no secret initiation or handshake &tstr; it is an organization made up of men of all ages and from all walks of life that fraternize, network and discuss how they can make their community better. This idea, which was first created in 1914, still holds true today in 2014 as they celebrate their 100th anniversary.

Cory Van Brookhoven is president of the Lititz Historical Foundation and has authored several books on topics involving Lancaster County history, including Lititz. He is also a freelance feature writer for the Record Express and a proud member of the Young Men’s Business League. He welcomes your comments at coryvb@hotmail.com.

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