On Saturday, Aug. 19, the Rock Falls Rod & Gun club will celebrate their 90th anniversary, with a picnic at their clubhouse located at N6303 STH 107.
As club board member Michael Waldburger explains, the celebration will not only honor the nine decades of the club’s existence despite many challenges, but those who have supported the club during its tenure, and the 90-member membership to date.
“We will be celebrating the preservation of the rich history we have here. Once upon a time this little clubhouse was big for dances and get-togethers. Although it may not be as big of an attraction as it once was, we still do what we can. We are open every Friday from May through November, and we host special occasions like weddings and graduation parties. After 90 years, the clubhouse still remains a community watering hole,” he adds with a grin.
“Neighbors come down here to get together, have a dinner and a few drinks and shoot the breeze. We also host our Hunter’s Ball ever year, the Saturday after thanksgiving.”
In looking back on the lineage of the Rock Falls Rod & Gun clubhouse, the rich history Waldburger mentions is quite evident.
As derived from a Merrill Foto News article printed in 1997:
“The Rock Falls Rod & Gun Club was formed in 1927: ‘On motion of W.H. AuBuchen, E.A. Krembs was elected temporary chairmen. On motion of Chas. Fowler, W.H. AuBuchen was elected temporary secretary. Mr. Krembs then accepted the chair and gave a short interesting talk on the value of preserving game, fish, and wildlife in general. Mr. Krembs called attention to the fact that one day timber will be devastated and there will be no hunting or fishing left for future generations. Interesting talks were made by Messers, Golden, Kastner and others in the value of cooperation and the necessity of taking immediate steps to protect fish and game in Rock Falls.’ This meeting continued with the election of nine directors, establishing dues, name for the club, and articles establishing rules, regulations and by-laws of the club. ‘The temporary chairman announced that the refreshments were furnished by L.H. Willett and the sandwiches etc. by Chas. Fowler. A box of cigars was furnished by Eugene Semling.’
“On May 19, 1928 a special meeting was called to discuss a club house and grounds. A committee was appointed to look at possible locations and investigate if they could be bought or leased for a long period of time. On August 9 another special meeting was called. ‘The President stated in his opening talk that a site for the proposed clubhouse had been deeded to the organization by the Grandfather Falls Co. through the generosity of that company’s president, Mr. John O’Day.’
“At the first annual meeting on August 25, 1928, a building committee was established to ‘have plans and specifications for a building 30 by 50 feet and to be authorized to proceed with construction.’ Donations for their building were received from many prominent Merrill business men at the time. Some included; Clifford Livingston, Fred Heineman, Emil O. Krueger, Geo L. GIlkey, Peterman Bros. CO., E.O. Ravn, F.J. Golden and several others. At a directors meeting on November 16 it was decided that the club would give occasional public dances.
“On February 26, 1929, disaster befell the hard working, dedicated club. A windstorm destroyed the building, but this group was not to be daunted. On May 10, a directors meeting was held and they began plans for another building. An interesting note from the meeting, ‘Motion made and seconding that all old debts be paid first, as soon as the insurance claim settled.’ Their second annual meeting was held at their new clubhouse on August 21, 1929. At this meeting it was decided to take out a dance hall permit to give public dances and charge admission. A motion was also made and seconded that the club ‘offer a reward for the arrest and conviction of game and violators and for persons convicted of robbing or burglarizing summer cottages within the limits of the Town of Rock Falls, Lincoln Co., reward to be $25.’ In the fall of 1929 the board of directors decided to start lotting out sections of land to be sold at $150 a lot.”
As club member Marjorie Williams relates, the clubhouse took full advantage of the dance hall permit.
“Boy, back in the 1940s and ‘50s this place was the place to be!” she adds with a smile as she looks around the interior of the recently remodeled clubhouse. “I remember coming down here for dances on Saturday nights, there was always somebody or some local group down here singing. People would come from miles around just to have fun and dance!”
Although the clubhouse has underwent many renovations and changes over its 90-year tenure, the most recent including the installation of running water and bathrooms in 2007, along with a new roof and a complete interior renovation and the addition of a new exterior deck since.
Waldburger also expressed fond memories of the clubhouse; mentioning his father Fred and the Polka Band “Wee Willies” performing during numerous events from the 1940s through the early 1970s.
“That’s what this place and our celebration is all about,” adds Club Board of Directors member Chuck Schaar. “It’s about history and the history this club has under its belt. We would like to see as many people as we can, come out and join us on Aug. 19.”
The 90th anniversary celebration of Rock Falls Rod & Gun Club will kick off at noon on Saturday, Aug. 19; consisting of grilled brats, hamburgers and corn on the cob. The celebration will be open to the public with no admission fee and everyone who attends is welcome to bring a dish to pass.