"All hail to 'The Young Fellows Club of Weyburn.' Long may it prosper and throughout the years may its membership find ample opportunity for exemplifying their splendid motto: 'We Serve'."
These were the first words written about the Weyburn Young Fellows Club in May, 1922 in the Weyburn Review. Now, the club has transformed from a small club of two dozen members to one of the most important service clubs in the Opportunity City.
Even though the club has grown in the past 90 years, its values have remained the same, according to former club president and current Reunion Committee chairman Scott Paxman. He has been a Young Fellow for over 20 years and in that time has seen many changes to the club's operation, but not its core.
"The values of the Young Fellows club have remained entirely the same. We go about it by this, 'to promote the spirit of fraternalism among its members. To develop and to contribute in any way which is deemed advisable to the public welfare'. That was the original mission statement of the Young Fellows club and to this day it stays the same," Paxman said.
A major part of the appeal of the Young Fellows club is the sense of companionship that it creates among its members.
This was the reason local business man Mal Barber joined in the late 1970's. At the time Barber was looking for a place that he could meet new people and build strong friendships. He had known the reputation of the club for many years because his father, Ron Barber, was a Young Fellow before him. Looking back, Barber says the club gives young men much more than a social club.
"(The Young Fellows) take young men, who are taking on new responsibilities in life, new jobs and it gives them something to do. It gives them entertainment at the meetings, with all of the fellowship there," Barber said.
Even though service has always been an important pillar of the club, its original intent was to be a social club. The founders of the Young Fellows Club were a group of young men in Weyburn who had returned home after World War I. Once they had returned home from the War, many of them began to feel that they had lost the kinship that they gained in combat. To help create the strong bonds they forged in Europe, the Young Fellows Club was formed back home.
In its infancy, the service that the club performed was primarily small acts that included an annual fall fair. However, that changed in 1930 when the club took on its most ambitious project to date.
The Young Fellows decided to build the first outdoor pool in southern Saskatchewan.
The year 1930 was the beginning of one of the toughest decades in world history. For most people in the Western world, it was hard enough to have enough money for food, let alone for building a pool. However, the Young Fellows took on the project whole-heartedly.
The club raised $13,000 to begin construction of the pool at a site east of Sixth Street in connection with the city's new armory. The project meant so much to the club that many of its members took out personal loans so they could help with the fundraising.
The club's plan was quickly met by opposition from residents who lived along the street. They believed a pool in the area would create a disturbance and cause property values to drop. These concerns caused a petition to circulate which wished to see the construction either move to another spot or have any plans of a pool stopped altogether.
The Young Fellows succumbed to the residents' wishes and the pool's site moved. The planned community natatorium was moved to between Fifth and Sixth street. Construction began in May of 1931 and was scheduled to be completed by the middle of July that year.
The public accepted the new site of the pool, and after many delays the first outdoor pool in southern Saskatchewan officially opened on Aug. 12, 1931. The grand opening was a huge event for the community as 1,000 people turned up for the festivities. It was reported at the time between 200 and 300 cars were parked at the grounds. Those in attendance witnessed Saskatchewan minister of Public Health Dr. F.D. Munroe officially open the pool for the people of Weyburn. After the completion of the pool the Young Fellows had more applications for membership. One of those new members was a young reverend from Falkirk, Scotland, named Thomas Clement Douglas; he had his application for the club read after being around it for three years prior.
Efforts such as the pool have endeared the Young Fellows to the people of Weyburn. Today, membership sits between "40 and 50 members", according to Paxman, and these numbers have remained strong for years. The club has been able to keep a good membership core because of its way of mixing a good time with service.
"We have fun doing what we are doing. I also think that once you're in it everyone gets wrapped up in all of the numbers that we donate and then they want to get involved too," Paxman explained.
This sense of fraternity and charity has brought men from all walks of life into the club.
"We have had doctors, lawyers, businessmen from downtown, to tradespeople. You name it, wehave probably had every occupation in the club over the years," Paxman stated.
Even though the club has members from across the occupational spectrum, it stresses all members be treated equally. Paxman stated, "one Young Fellows member is not deemed to be better than any other Young Fellows member." An emphasis on equality keeps the club welcoming new members. Much of the time these are men who are new to the city and are looking to make some new friends.
Three generations of Young Fellows members were from the Barber family. After Ron served for the club, his son Mal took up the cause in the 1970's and 1980's. Mal then passed down the importance of the Young Fellows to his son Andy, who remains an active Young Fellows member today.
Mal said that his father encouraged him to joing the club and he did the same with Andy.
"I wanted him to learn the same things I did from the club. The people who join the club learn a lot about responsibility, and community. That and the friendships that you build in the Young Fellows will last a lifetime," Barber said.
Responsibilities that members take on come from putting on the group's annual batch of events. These events include the club's annual TV Auction (formerly a radio auction that is quickly transitioning online), their Harvest Fling cabaret in the fall, and their Christmas tree lot.
The club takes all the proceeds that they receive from these events and give them back 100 per cent. The causes that the Young Fellows support must directly affect the people of Weyburn. For that reason, the club has never donated to large national charities because they worry that it may dilute the club's original intent of being a club for Weyburn people.
When the club does donate to the community it does so in a big way. From the pool to the Young Fellows playground, to the Don Mitchell paddling pool the club has given a tremendous amount back to the city of Weyburn. Paxman estimates that the spray park the club built in the Don Mitchell Tot Lot five years ago alone was a $400,000 investment for the club after it was done updating the facility.
Projects like these have kept the Young Fellows a very relevant and powerful force around Weyburn. It is hard for someone to come into the community without noticing the impact that the Young Fellows have had on the city. The club's contributions to Weyburn was recognized in the highest degree this past January. The entire club was awarded the Golden Spike award, given by the Chamber of Commerce to Weyburn's citizen of the year. This was the first time that an organization instead of an individual had the honour bestowed upon them.
The projects that the Young Fellows do are fantastic for the entire city of Weyburn. However, according to Mal Barber, they are not the most important part of the club.
"You can look at the pool that the club built or any of the other things that they do and they are great. But, what the club does that is really important is teaching young men how important it is to be involved in the community and to give back to it," Barber said.
Learning the importance of service has been life-changing. Barber has kept his commitment to service in Weyburn as a member of the city's Rotary Club. He said that many of his fellow Rotarians are former Young Fellows, and their passion for the community came from their time as Young Fellows, which stays with them forever.
Today, Barber remains involved with the club that started his passion for community service. He still works at the TV Auction and meets with members young and old at the club's social events.
For Paxman, the impact that the Young Fellows had on him has been extremely profound. After two decades as a Young Fellow, Paxman remains proud of his association with the club and looks forward to more years of service.
"Most of my friendships have come about through the Young Fellows club. I guess, I look back at the guys I hang around with now, and I don't know if I would have gotten acquainted with them if I didn't join the Young Fellows. For me, I wouldn't have changed one thing by not joining the club. So, it has been one of the best things that I have done in my life," Paxman said.
Past and present Young Fellows are now looking forward to the club's 90th reunion. The reunion is set to take place on the weekend of Friday, May 18. The get-together is to begin with a registration on the 18th. On Saturday, May 19, the group hopes to hit the links for a round of golf (weather permitting), followed by a night of food, drink and entertainment. The event will conclude wth a farewell breakfast on Sunday, May 20. Paxman is organizing the reunion and says that it gives a good opportunity for "past members who had to move away because of work come back here and see some old friends."
As well, a commemorative DVD and book will be given out to those in attendance. The DVD and book will feature a range of current and past members talking about their experiences with the club.