IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items

Commercial Clubs in Allamakee co.

Waking-up Waukon with a Community Club
By Charles F. Pye
Secretary, Waukon Commercial Club

NESTLED among the hills of northeastern Iowa is the little city of Waukon. It is the home of twenty-five hundred wide-awake, earnest and cultured people. Twenty-five hundred more cluster about her and look upon her as their town and their point of contact with the world. Four times twenty-five hundred more are proud of her as their county seat. Situated within but a few miles of the proposed Mississippi Valley National Park, Waukon combines the rugged roughness of the Park with the broad, rolling prairies that make Iowa the first state in the Union in the percentage of arable land. "Beautiful for situation," blessed with an intelligent citizenship, and unique in her isolation, Waukon is a good place to live in. Moreover, this little town has a community club.

Social Influence of a Community Club

Community clubs give people something to do that takes them out of their littleness and selfishness and centers their attention on things that are for the common good. To arouse a community spirit requires a community enterprise. No great organization has become established without a great work to be done. When men unite upon a common task for the betterment of all the people, their effort draws them together by the bonds of sympathy into a spiritual unity. What communities need is not more people nor better people, but a means of nurturing a community consciousness and then all these things will be added.

Three years ago last October the Waukon Commercial Club was organized. Many things have been undertaken by the Club and brought to a successful culmination. Some of these have brought with them material comforts, others national publicity, but in answer to the question, "What is the most important work that the organization has done?" the replies were nearly unanimous. Nearly all agreed that the bringing about of a broader spirit of fellowship, the breaking down of narrow prejudices and the building up of a strong community feeling have been the things that have made the club of the largest usefulness to the town. As the mayor of a neighboring city said, while attending one of the gatherings of the club, "You do not talk about community building—you work at it."

Pay-up Week

The enterprise that has given us the greatest amount of publicity was the holding of a successful "Pay-Up Week." Altho the idea did not originate with the Waukon Commercial Club, it was given a new form and first made practicable by this organization. It seemed to be just what the business world was looking for, and immediately the secretary of the club was flooded with inquiries from commercial organizations. Scores of trade papers exploited the plan and the Merchants' Trade Journal took up the notion and developed it into a national affair. It is generally known as the "Waukon Idea." This project was undertaken for the sole purpose of helping the local credit situation and with no intention of securing publicity, but it demonstrates that those things entered upon in good faith for the benefit of the community bring in their train advertising and other advantages for which many community organizations strive.

The Kinds of Gatherings We Hold

The spirit of fellowship and brotherhood has been attained by acting on the assumption that if people are brought together they themselves will rub off the marks that indicate the differences between them. Gatherings of the community club are therefore numerous. The following will indicate their nature:

1. The regular luncheons under the auspices of the club to which all men of the community are invited.
2. Luncheons to which the farmers are invited. As many as 500 have responded to a single invitation. Farmers visit merchants.
3. Farm tours with the assistance of the State Agricultural College. Merchants visit farmers.
4. Guest days. The club is host to the business men of other towns, especially neighboring towns where there is apt to be jealousy and misunderstanding.
5. Good fellowship auto tours. Members of the club and sometimes their wives spend a day in visiting neighboring towns. Picnic dinners and band concerts are features of these days.
6. Community celebrations: Christmas, gala days, etc.
7. Governor's Day and other days when the city entertains some distinguished guest.

Waukon, 1917
Ready for a good-fellowship auto tour

A community club's activities should be broader than mere material matters. Such a club should encourage and foster refinement and culture of every kind. One of the finest moves made by the Waukon Commercial Club has been the permanent employment of a community music leader. The home, the church, the school, as well as the community in general, have felt the genial influence of this man's work. Prof. Charles A. Phillips has proved himself just the man for the place.

The Things Accomplished

Altho the Waukon Commercial Club has no paid officials and its fees are nominal, it has brought thru endorsement and cooperation many substantial material improvements. Those who knew the Waukon of three or four years ago would hardly recognize the Waukon of 1917. The following are among the more important things accomplished:

-A fine system of boulevard lighting
-The establishment of a public hitching ground for farmers' teams
-Marking of all the roads leading to Waukon
-The establishment of a public rest room in the City Hall
-Building of a $50,000 opera house where community gatherings are held
-Establishment of an annual trade day known as "Jubilee Day"
-Decided improvement in the municipal water-works plant
-Erection of a $75,000 high school building now near completion
-Securing important thru auto trails
-Taking over by the city of a fine library, now supported by municipal taxation

The Opera House in Waukon, 1917
The Opera House in Waukon

Built as a community enterprise thru the Waukon Commercial Club

These and other improvements have created an atmosphere in which progress thrives. Hence, business houses have been improved, churches have been refurnished, many new and modern homes have been elected. In short, Waukon has waked up, and this awakening is largely due to the work of the Waukon Commercial Club.

~The American City, vol XVI, No. 3, March 1917, pg 240-242
~transcribed by S. Ferrall


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