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Weary Club annual meeting held
NORWAY — The Weary Club held its annual meeting on August 1, at the Norway Town Office meeting room.
The meeting was well attended. The Weary Club has a membership of 195 shareholders. The maximum number of shareholders is 200. The election of officers took place and the following individuals were confirmed:
President Wayne Chandler, Vice President Mary Lou St. John and Secretary/Treasurer Steve Bell.
Routine business as well as new items were discussed. Over the coming year the Weary Club will continue to sponsor its monthly coffees.
For those of you who don't know a member of the Weary Club, here is a brief history: 86 years ago, in 1926, a few businessmen of kindred spirits gathered around a pot belly stove in a vacant store.
A few antique chairs, a rickety table, plenty of clear cedar for whittling and an ever-present spittoon comprised the only goods and chattels. The Norway Weary Club was born in those humble surroundings.
It is doubtful if a single member of the group realized local history was in the making, and eventually the fame of this unique set-up would spread to far-off states.
For a number of years, the habit of gathering on winter evenings around the open fire in the Beals Tavern office was a fixed routine. Meetings were informal, mostly for cribbage, a little jackknife work and smoking.
We are told plenty of large fish were landed while the biggest ones got away.
In 1923, Bob Seavey, the proprietor, closed the inn for the winter. The group was at a loss for another peaceful spot. Fred E. Sanborn, publisher of the Norway Advertise-Democrat and prominent in the nightly gatherings, along with others, rented a vacant store in the old Robert Noyes block on Main Street.
A stove, a few pieces of furniture picked up here and there were installed, and the usual business resumed. In time whittling became science and competition became keen. A shaving light enough to float was the necessary requirement to become a member of the circle.
In 1927, the group faced a real calamity. The building and land was sold to Norway National Bank, to be replaced by a modern bank block. Again, Editor Sanborn came to the rescue.
After the lot was cleared, he acquired a northern part and erected the building now occupied by the Norway Weary Club. He turned the building over to the club organization on a 999-year lease with restrictions. A formal organization followed with a president, vice -president, secretary, treasurer and five directors chosen.
The official name, "The Weary Club of Norway," was selected and bylaws adopted. Especially emphasized was that no games of chance for money stakes would be allowed and liquor was entirely out.
No telephones to distract from the quiet and solemnity were allowed. Conversation was restricted to fishing, hunting and kindred subjects.
Village gossip was permitted if soft pedaled and kept within bounds. For a long time, doors were never locked and the last straggler closed up shop and switched off the lights.
The first morning arrival usually built the fire until oil heat in the furnace spoiled that job.
Mr. Sanborn passed away in 1938, and his will provided a trust fund of $20,000 for the club to be invested by a local bank. $40 was to be spent each Christmas on children under 10 who lived in the vicinity.
Scientific whittling has become a lost art, as most of the old-timers are not around. However, a stock pile of century old cedar fence rails is stored in the basement in case the jackknife returns.
A guest register, started a few years ago, contains many signatures representing every New England state as well as many other states. A photographer and writer from Life magazine secured a good story about the weary ones.
Contrary to some reports, this streamlined set-up is not strictly for men. Many ladies have crossed the hallowed threshold. Among them, the name of U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith appears on the club's register.
The quaint slogan of the club was composed by Editor Sanborn: "The Weary Club of Norway, Maine — Makers and Dealers in Cedar Shavings, Social Gossip, Political Wisdom and Yankee Philosophy."