The Older Members Association was founded in 1923. In the early years, there wasn’t any provision for young boys reaching the age of eighteen or graduating from high school to remain active members of the Club. Four young men, having reached the age of eighteen, had a strong desire to assist James “Chief” Dobson, then superintendent of the Club, by volunteering their time with many of the Club’s activities. The four young men were J. Herbert Carlson, Harold A. Cook, Francis King and Mel White. In order to fulfill their desire, Chief Dobson founded the organization we now call the Older Members Association. The first ever meeting of the organization was held on November 8, 1923.
In 1941, The OMs staged their first annual show. It was an amateur talent show and was the only show of its kind in the area. It quickly became a leading community event in Bristol. Today, the OM Show remains as the longest continuously running variety show of its kind in the USA.
In 1927, the organization sponsored an event honoring the Bristol High basketball team. That event continued annually and evolved over the years, becoming the Annual Recognition Dinner in 1948, at which time the first “Boy of the Year” award was initiated. This award was given to a Club member who had distinguished himself in the areas of character, achievement and leadership.
Today the award is named “Youth of the Year” and honors an outstanding boy or girl. The Annual Recognition Dinner continues today and is still sponsored by the OMs. Oliver Gaudreau was one of the first members of the organization and was an active member for over 70 years. In his honor, the Oliver Gaudreau Lifetime Service Award was created and is presented to an OM at the annual Humanitarian Dinner.
During 1942 Claude Rose, an Honorary Member of the OM’s, located a run down girls summer camp in Falls Village, Connecticut on the Housatonic River. Through the efforts of Mr. Rose, the camp was acquired by the Club. It became an outstanding acquisition to the assets of the Club and worth many times over the price actually paid.
Over the next few years, the Older Members completely equipped the kitchen and raised funds to purchase ten aluminum canoes and other major repairs throughout the camp..
By 1951, Camp Wangum further developed into a first-class camp. The original wooden cabins were replaced with cinder-block barracks. In 1957, a swimming pool was built and dedicated. The road to the camp was paved in 1959 and a camp bus was purchased. The OM’s and another local organization provided funds for camp bus in 1962.
In 1972, a disastrous fire destroyed a large portion of the main lodge at the camp. The OM’s rebuilt the building in time for the reopening of camp in 1973. The camp continued operating until 1986.
In addition to the OM show, there were many other activities and fundraising events:
Several years ago, the Older Members were the recipient of over 3,000 toys, stuffed animals and a couple dozen bicycles. The toys were distributed to kids at the Club over a two year period, they were used for Christmas parties for the kids and the bicycles were given to kids at the Club’s Cambridge Park location. Excess toys were ultimately distributed to local libraries and day care centers.
In 2013, the Older Members were honored with the 2013 ACE Award from the New England Carousel Museum and the Bristol Center for Arts and Culture.