Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened,
vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
Nor for another six years would income be as high for The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce as it was by the end of the 1929-30 term of Nebraska native Herbert F. McCulla. The events of October 29,1929, on Wall Street and the ensuing Great Depression, would make McCulla’s days of $16,000 in annual receipts seem like a taunting dream. But while most of the country stagnated in the 1930’s, The USJCC kept growing and providing solutions for the nation’s problems.
It would prove fortunate that McCulla’s administration left the national organization in its healthiest state ever. Along with a $2,400 head start for the next programming year, The USJCC grew to 86 chapters under McCulla by adding 24 new chapters, marking its greatest expansion to that date. National programs and services to locals also reached a new peak with committees operating in aeronautics, political education, reforestation, national radio week, foreign relations, Canadian relations, publications, clean-up and paint-up, loan shark protection, city beautification, athletics and sports programs, music and drama, among other fields. Even 65 years later, the array of programs offered then could be considered extensive.
The organization officially changed from a voluntary association to a corporation on September 16, 1929 for the protection of its officers and other business purposes. In connection with this, new bylaws were drawn up and the number of directors was increased from 12 to 20.
Voluntary subscriptions to Expansion magazine weren’t sufficient to keep it from losing money, so it was discontinued and replaced by Young Executive, which was distributed to all dues paying members. The new publication had more of a “general interest” slant and not as much news as its predecessor. It would last only until 1931 when it was replaced by monthly news bulletins.
The long quest for official cooperation between the Chamber of Commerce of the United States and The USJCC was finally realized in the spring of 1930. The agreement reached between the two said The USJCC could not accept or retain any local chapter that, in the judgment of the local senior chamber, was not “in harmonious relation” with the elder body. It also required that the national Junior Chamber not have any major policies inconsistent with those of the senior group. In return for this cooperation, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States was to give strong backing to the Junior Chamber in cities across the nation.
Although the 1930 agreement was considered a major accomplishment in its day, it would lapse a few years later as a victim of lack of continuity. It brought little to The USJCC other than a temporary boost of pride and confidence.
The next elected leader of The USJCC, Durward Howes of Los Angeles, would become more famous for what he accomplished after his term than advances made during his term. The man who was to make great strides for international expansion and establish one of the nation’s top individual recognition programs, did make important contributions, however, as president,
Howes, a jeweler by trade, designed the official seal for The USJCC that was turned into a pin a year later. He also established seven regional meetings to take the place of the mid-winter conferences. This innovation allowed national officers to contact several organizations at once, saving the time and costs of individual chapter visits. Despite this, Howes and Executive Secretary Harry Krusz logged 50,000 miles during just three months on the road. On his tours, Howes borrowed from the founders and emphasized that The USJCC should be the “voice of young men in America.”
As a way of addressing the problems of the nation’s worst depression, a business development committee was created to advance a spirit of optimism. Among other activities, each chapter was urged to conduct a campaign to help create employment. The results were overshadowed by the enormity of the Depression, but business leaders lauded the Junior Chamber efforts.
Howes’ administration closed with a net gain of two chapters, but the dues-paying ability of existing chapters was so crimped that The USJCC reported a deficit of about $1,500 on expenses of $8,000.
Delegates to the 1931 convention passed a resolution that called for greater use of young men on national committees pondering major national problems. The resolution to utilize “the young man’s point of view” was forwarded to the president of the United States and to Congress. George Olmsted, from the convention host city of Des Moines, Iowa, was elected the 12th president of The USJCC and the organization was ready to give birth to another program that would have a lasting impact, the Distinguished Service Award (DSA).
The DSA recognized outstanding contributions of one man, under the age of 35, in each Junior Chamber community. Honorees were presented with a gold key provided by the national organization, usually on January 20, to commemorate the founding of The USJCC. A few years later, national DSA winners were named in an effort that foreshadowed the eventual Ten Outstanding Young Men/Americans programs.
Many of the now-extensive number of programs were receiving special emphasis during specific times of the year. In the fall, chapters were encouraged to conduct membership drives and the 13 state organizations were asked to plan and coordinate their activities with national. Various Christmas projects occupied December, while the DSA program was highlighted in January. April’s spotlight was on beautification projects, May activities focused on aviation, and June saw the launch of a campaign to get 50 million citizens to vote that fall.
Throughout 1931-32, however, the overriding concern for the nation was unemployment relief and Jaycees often were at the forefront. As President Olmsted summarized, “Much of our activity was in the phase of repairing, reconditioning and modernizing. However, several of our organizations assumed the entire responsibility for unemployment relief work in their cities.”
A major philosophical change provided the basis for record setting expansion under Olmsted’s watch. Previously, it was thought a city had to have at least 10.000 people to support a chapter. This belief was permanently buried by 1931, as evidenced by Olmsted’s explanation, “We rather take the position that to be effective (a city) must have at least 25 members. Consequently, if there are 25 men under 35 years of age in your city that have the city’s interest and their own at heart, you have material for a succ3essful Junior Chamber.”
Thirty-three new chapters were established and – for the first time in its 11-year history – no chapters left the fold during his term. Progress also was made on the international front with 26 nations indicating an interest in forming Junior Chambers. Although past president Howes thought it was premature to form an international group, he led the newly formed International Executive Council on Junior Chambers (IECJC).
A year later, the IECJC consisted of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, England and Mexico, but debate swirled over whether it was an official committee of The USJCC or a separate entity. The USJCC Board of Directors finally decided it was a separate body that could not bind The USJCC without permission of the board. While the IECJC never developed into a group of importance, it did represent the first international Junior Chamber group and was a forerunner of today’s Junior Chamber International body.
President Herbert Hoover once invited Olmsted to the White House to ask advice on how to interest more young men in the Republican Party. The 30-year old USJCC president suggested forming Young Republican Clubs, now a major institution. In four months Olmsted signed up 4 million young Republicans, about a fourth of the total number of voters in the nation. Olmsted went on the be a U.S. Army major general, originating the operations that freed 35,000 Americans from the Japanese prison camps, as well as one of the major financial leaders in the world, overseeing a multi-billion dollar corporate family. At the present, he is the oldest living former president of The USJCC.
He passed the presidential gavel on to Courtlandt Otis of New York City at the Annual Meeting in 1932 and Otis promptly turned his attention to the “get out the vote” efforts, which he dubbed the Fifty Million Vote Campaign. The presidential race between Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt did not have the popular appeal of the 1928 contest, and the Junior Chamber campaign fell about 13 million voters short of its goal.
The publicity and prestige values of the effort, however, were immeasurable. The year- end issue of The New Yorker magazine carried a four-page feature story and NCB radio network carried a national broadcast to encourage new voters to go to the polls. The featured speakers on the show included USJCC President Otis, Chamber of Commerce of the United States President Silas H. Straw, and Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd. During the campaign, Otis was honored by being invited by both presidential candidates to visit and discuss the major campaign issues.
The organizational structure of The USJCC still was evolving in 1932. Now, instead of seven vice president, there were 10, each in charge of a region, and the number of directors had increased from 20 to 25. These Changes aided the administration of the consistently growing number of chapters, which, by the end of Otis’ term, totaled 122.
Among the most significant developments in this period were the creation of the Farm Youth Committee, the first Junior Chamber group to address rural problems and city-farm relations; a Minnesota Junior Chamber campaign for a massive national forest on the Minnesota-Ontario, Canada, border that helped lead to the creation of Quetico Provincial Park I Canada and Superior National Forest I Minnesota: and the inauguration of a USJCC newspaper, Vision.
The Depression years were taking their financial toll on The USJCC by the time Leslie B. Farrington took the office of president in 1933. He instituted strict economies, reducing travel to a minimum and axing Vision just a year after its birth. These and other measures were so successful that The USJCC actually had more than $2,000 on hand for the next president to begin his term. Putting the organization into solid financial condition had been accomplished in a Depression year that had seen The USJCC permit $25 charter fees to be paid with $10 down and the rest in quarterly payments.
Despite the economic pinch, Farrington’s term was noted for continued strong expansion of the movement. In addition to about 40 new chapters being added to the rolls, another 75 Junior Chamber groups were started that came into The USJCC fold later.
Committee reports also reflect a great deal of thoughtful activity. The report on juvenile crime prevention in 1934 placed much of the blame for delinquency on parents, and the Aviation Committee discouraged local promotional stunts like air circuses in favor of more practical endeavors.
The precursor of today’s voluminous Products department was the sale of 600 USJCC pins, producing about $200 in revenues for the national body. Another revenue source that was to grow in years ahead was created in 1934 with the first appearance of sponsored exhibits at the Annual Meeting. That conclave, in Miami, also staged the first of what was to become a long tradition of conventions parades, and the delegates passed a resolution denouncing the methods and objectives of the Communist Party.
Farrington’s term also contained a disappointment. The resignation of Executive Secretary Harry Krusz, the man responsible for giving the organization much needed continuity since 1928, caused the St. Louis chapter to withdraw its offer to help defray expenses of establishing a permanent national headquarters there. In the wake of the resignation in early 1934, it was decided that national officers temporarily would take over Krusz’s duties as a further economy measure.
The first major step taken by 1934-35 President E. Richard West was to hire Sherman Humason of St. Paul, Minnesota, as the successor to Krusz. Humason churned out more than 115 complete mailings to member organizations and 14,500 individually typed letters in his first year, impressive by any standard in the days before computers and photocopiers.
From its temporary headquarters in Los Angeles, The USJCC pondered an offer for permanent offices with the Chamber of Commerce of the United States in Washington, D.C., but this would not be settled for another year. Ultimately, the Junior Chamber would decide not to rush coming under the domination of the senior chamber and, in November 1935, The USJCC headquarters was established in the city where the movement began – St. Louis.
The threat of Communism to the American way of life was on the rise in 1934-35, so the year’s most important program was Americanism. A manual on the topic was published and 150 local chapters conducted programs such as essay contest in the schools.
The International Executive Council of Junior Chambers faded away after corresponding with Junior Chambers throughout the world, but a committee on South and Central American relations reported progress. Also, West became the first USJCC chief executive to make an official appearance in Canada when he accepted an invitation to address the Winnipeg and Vancouver Junior Chambers.
As the 1935 Annual Meeting approached, Henry Giessenbier, founder of the movement, confirmed he would attend, along with his friend Andy Mungenast. Sickness and personal troubles had kept Giessenbier away from the meetings for several years. It was to be the last great Junior Chamber event for him because he died a few months later.
As the organization entered the 1935-36 program year, it had 258 affiliated groups and some 40,000 individual members. The budget still was small and the headquarters continued to move each year with the new chief executive. Ahead, however, lay six years of such rapid growth and changes that only another World War could – and would – slow it down.
The “permanent” move of the headquarters to St. Louis’ Mayfair Hotel in the fall made possible a vastly improved office operation, less vulnerable to annual turnover in personnel. Although the organization was to move to Chicago four years later and to Tulsa in 1947, it finally had its first lasting home.
With the realization that the Junior Chamber had earned the right to call itself the “Voice of Young Men in America,” a part-time representative in Washington, D.C., was hired to present the principles held by the organization. Giving additional volume to the “Voice” was the reborn Young Executive magazine that subsisted on paid subscriptions and advertising revenues.
Among the new programs, a national Distinguished Service Award was established and quickly became the nation’s greatest honor that could be conferred on a young man. The program that had the most significant and lasting impact, however, was a wildlife conservation effort, which directly led to the formation of the National Wildlife Federation just a few months later.
By providing $500 in prize monies for a new program encouraging chapters to make contributions in the area of public safety, Portland Cement Association earned the distinction as the first national sponsor of a USJCC program.1935-36 USJCC President Allen Whitfield quickly realized the future success of the organization would depend upon sponsored programs and laid the foundations that would make them a major part of the annual budgets in the years following World War II.
Another first, a tragic one, occurred in March 1936 when a plane crash claimed the life of National Director Harold A. Marks and three other Jaycees. It was the first time members had died in the course of serving the organization. A year later, the Harold Marks Memorial Award was created to be presented annually to the most efficient chapter president, but it soon was changed to honor the top chapter in the nation.
There were a growing number of chapters to consider in the mid-1930’s. The Junior Chamber had expanded from about 90 member groups in 1931 to 317 in 1936. Just three years later, the number of affiliated chapters would rise to 656, representing almost 60,000 members.
The rapid expansion also brought problems. Some chapters were joining their state organization, but refusing to affiliate with the national federation. Others would join national, but not the state. Meanwhile, the growth of state organizations (in 19 of the 48 states by 1936) had taken away the power of the 10 regions. Reorganization was needed, putting states in the position of prime importance. The answer would be called the “Ohio Plan” and would, by the time it went into effect in 1938, enact a number of important constitutional changes that made The USJCC a unified organization for the first time in its history. The relationships between national, state and local groups finally were defined and cemented.
The 1936-37 administration, operating with dues still at only 50 cents per member, had a budget of $21,000, about the same as the preceding year’s. A $2,400 grant from the Brooking Foundation led to a new economic education project designed to tell Americans how they could readjust to obtain full and complete recovery from the Depression. Another $800 was received from Jaycees who ordered lapel buttons, plaques, windshield stickers, highway markers, membership application forms and other items from the growing inventory of USJCC supply items.
The decade was to reach its end only after another tow years of furious activity and accomplishment. The new constitution was approved by the board of directors as well as by referendum in 1937, with legislation going into effect in 1938. A new magazine, Future, was launched in 1938 with 30,000 $1 subscriptions sold. It was a first-class publication, with 10 of its articles reprinted in Reader’s Digest during Future’s first few years.
In January 1939, Future helped launch what quickly became the showcase public relations program of The USJCC for decades to come, the Ten Outstanding Young Men, as selected by Durward Howes, former USJCC president and the editor of America’s Young Men since 1934. Services of The USJCC skyrocketed with nearly 200,000 pieces of literature distributed on program topics such as venereal disease, clean up and fix-up, and safety. The Fire Prevention Committee produced a motion picture with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, demonstrating the need for regulation in the sale and use of fireworks. Chapter committees helped to pass legislation in this regard in several states.
Award competitions grew from 18 to 41 by 1939 and sponsors provided a total of $1,500 in cash prizes. The headquarters operation was revamped and modern equipment, such as an electric addressograph, was added. Attendance at the Annual Meeting in Tulsa was a record 1,500 delegates who heard keynote speeches from J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Harold Stasen, governor of Minnesota and future contender for the U.S. presidency.
The boom years soon were to be suspended by a foreign act of war on a territorial island in the Pacific Ocean. The onset of World War II meant the decade ahead would offer both the greatest challenges ever faced by the 20-year-old U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce as well as the beginning of its period of greatest growth. Jaycees would prove worthy of the severe tests they would face in the 1940s.