History knows no resting places and no plateaus. Henry Kissinger
Often described as one of the most sought-after speakers on the Jaycee motivational speaking circuit, J. Terryl Bechtol from Pensacola, Florida, campaigned hard for the 60th presidency of The U.S. Jaycees. His investment of nearly $30,000 while spending 304 days on the road and visiting 46 states during 1978-79, paid off with a fifth-ballot victory in Nashville.
Fifteen years later, “Bubba” Bechtol still is giving motivational speeches and has added comic entertainment for national television audiences. He remains grateful for the movement he served. “All that I am today,” he writes, “I owe not to a good education, not to a brilliant mind, not to grasping a unique opportunity, but the simple fact that I spent 15 year in an organization that made me believe that a poor child from Southern Mississippi . . . could dream of being more. The Jaycees, my God and my sons showed me how to do it, not just dream about it.”
Bechtol couldn’t have known it back in 1979, but social tides shifting in the United States would have unfortunate effects on The U.S. Jaycees for the next decade and beyond. As more women started gaining meaningful positions in the workplace, their male partners found themselves with increasing responsibilities for household duties and child rearing. That meant less time for extracurricular organizations and activities. As a time-intensive organization, Jaycees was not well positioned.
Another change of the times was the attitude of employers toward the organization. As mergers and acquisiti8ons forced lean economies on businesses, employee perks such as payment for organizational memberships gradually evaporated. Also, more companies and professional associations were focusing on providing employees with improved training programs and seminars to develop management and leadership skills – the very heart of the Jaycee appeal to many.
Finally, a small but growing number of businesses had started to refuse to support, in any way, an organization tarred in the media as “sexist” for its male-only membership policy. Although this issue would be resolved before the mid-80’s, Jaycees would find it difficult to reestablish the ties to businesses that had been broken.
These factors, and others, all would steadily contribute to declining membership for the next 15 years, but at the start of the 1979-80 year the prospects for continued growth still seemed bright to Bechtol and the 380,495 Jaycees in 9,213 chapters he led.
Many of those chapters were busy raising a total of more than $1.5 million to find cures for muscular dystrophy, doubling the 1978 donation. A pledge to collect $2 million for the 1980 Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association was highlighted by Louisville Jaycee Joe Bowen’s grueling six-month walk for the cause from California to Kentucky on stilts.
Another a national fund-raising effort – to collect $200,000 for improved and expanded training facilities for American Olympic athletes – garnered only about $70,000 despite excellent promotional efforts. A decision by the United States to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow created too large an obstacle to overcome in stirring interest for any type of Olympic fund raising.
There was no boycott at the Albany (Oregon) Jaycees 34th World Championship Timber Carnival, the second oldest and second largest timber competition in the world. More than 40,000 spectators witnessed contestants from six countries compete in events such as skidder races, axe throwing, speed climbing, power sawing, block chopping and log rolling. Over the years, proceeds from admissions helped build a park containing tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and three man-made lakes.
Jaycees in Alabama and Florida saved countless lives in August 1979 with evacuation and preparation efforts before Hurricane Frederic struck the Gulf Coast causing $1.5 billion in damage. Post-storm help provided by Jaycees included using chain saws to cut people out of their homes, collection and delivery of relief supplies, and conducting morale-building activities such as the Mobile (Alabama) Jaycees’ Greater Gulf State Fair.
In Iola, Kansas, the 2,700 residents were excited about the items up for grabs at the Jaycees Celebrity Auction. They paid a total of $3,500 for items such as a signed tennis shoe from champion Jimmy Connors, an autographed “Happy Days” television script, and an autographed line drawing of film director Alfred Hitchcock’s famous profile.
Jaycee Park was dedicated in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, after a 15-year effort by the Jaycees there. The chapter developed the master plan for the project in 1964 and, over the years, built a bathhouse and beach development, paved a parking lot, planted trees, installed an exercise trail and playground equipment, and erected a picnic shelter.
In Hoopeston, Illinois, the Jaycees conducted their National Sweetcorn Festival, drawing 100,000 people over a five-day period. Held annually since 1937, the festival featured tons of hot buttered corn, a pageant to select a queen, merchant displays, a flea market, art show, antique auto show, midway, demolition derby, tractor-pulling contests, music and dancing.
The opening of a Jaycees historical exhibition hall in Tulsa led a variety of national accomplishments and programs during the 1979-80 year. Also, there was A Million-Dollar Campaign initiated to bolster The U.S. Jaycees Foundation, an energy conservation program sponsored by Cities Service Company, and a home energy awareness audit program sponsored by the Johns-Mansville Corporation. Jaycees passed a resolution calling for voluntary prayer in schools and told a Future magazine poll that national health insurance was a bad idea.
The 1980 Annual Meeting in Cleveland brought an end to what had been a difficult year. More than $150,000 in legal fees had been spent protecting the organization’s trademarks and fighting off challenges to the males-only membership policy. A “shoo-in” candidate for the 1980-81 Jaycees presidency withdrew his name shortly before the Annual Meeting when allegations of fraudulent fund raising and membership recording activities in his home state came to light. National membership had dropped by 32,000, partly as a result of the elimination of dual memberships – individuals with memberships in more than one chapter.
Elected as 61st president of The U.S. Jaycees on the first ballot was Gib Garrow of Wilburton, Oklahoma. Despite the prestigious honor of the national position, 25 years later Garrow would say his year as a local president provided his greatest Jaycee memories. “That year we purchased two ambulances for the community and also increased our membership from 20-56,” he recently recalled.
Garrow’s 1980-81 term was highlighted by The U.S. Jaycees winning several top awards at the Jaycees International World Congress in Osaka, Japan. The muscular dystrophy program, which resulted in a $2 million check presentation to Jerry Lewis on Labor Day, was named the best humanitarian service program in the world. The top community activities program was The U.S. Jaycees’ CPR program, and the 1980 Ten Outstanding Young Men event earned top public relations honors. First place in the major theme emphasis competition went to the energy program, while Shooting Education earned the youth activities honor at the World Congress.
Garrow’s executive committee and board of directors spent a great deal of time focused on the mounting lawsuits filed against and by The U.S. Jaycees over trademark usage issues and the organization’s right to remain all male. At a board meeting in March 1981, a proposal to change the bylaws to allow for a chapter option on allowing female members, as well as another proposed bylaw change calling for open membership nationally, were soundly defeated. Legal fees now were costing the corporation more than $200,000 annually.
The Outstanding Young Farmer program marked its 25th anniversary in 1981, attracting 46 state winners and 400 registrants to the awards program in Waterloo, Iowa. Millions of Americans saw the Ten Outstanding Young Men ceremonies for the first time when a one-hour special, sponsored by Texaco, was broadcast via satellite to PBS and a national cable television network.
Future magazine grew to 78 pages bimonthly with the incorporation of the JCI World publication. Under editor Stephen Coury and managing editor Terry Misfeldt, Future was considered a national leader in the field of association publishing. Articles in just one issue included advice on parenting, buying a home, dressing for success, the national educational system, the Equal Rights Amendment, handgun control, voluntary prayer in schools, veterans benefits and the history of the Jaycees movement.
The magazine also reported, of course, on the achievements of Jaycees across the nation throughout the year, including several stories about help to the handicapped. Readers learned about Camp New Hope, operated by the Illinois Jaycees near the town of Mattoon, which provided 400 mentally and physically handicapped campers six-day encounters with life away from home, minus the protective shield often erected by parents.
The Sioux Falls Jaycees in South Dakota staged a successful road rally to benefit their Jaycees Camp for the Handicapped, which provided an annual retreat for some 400 handicapped children. In Texas, handicapped citizens were provided an opportunity to obtain a junior College education at the Texas Jaycees Campus of Victoria College. When classes began in 1973, it was the only college for the handicapped in the world.
Among the 198/0-81 Clarence A. Howard Memorial Award winners as the outstanding chapters in their population divisions were several with past Howard Awards to their credit. The 114 Jaycees in Albers, Illinois (population 650), took their third Howard Award by sponsoring 101 projects, which raised a total of $80,000. In North Carolina, The Pfafftown Jaycees earned its fifth Howard Award, using a three to five year planning program and pulling in more than $175,000 for the 1980-81 year. And in Virginia, the Charlottesville-Albermarle Jaycees initiated a multiple sclerosis telethon that raised $16,000 and 75 civic projects that pulled in another $70,000 to earn its second Howard Award. All but the Virginia chapter would pick up Howard Awards again the following year.
In April, President Ronald Reagan asked The U.S. Jaycees to back his economic recovery program, considered by many economists and public policy pundits to be “the biggest shift in public policy since the New Deal.” The Jaycees’ immediate response to the bipartisan tax legislation proposal was called Enough Is Enough, and it represented the organization’s biggest commitment to a political issue since backing the Hoover Report in the 1950s. A mobilization kit sent to each chapter president had information on conducting petition drives, letter-writing campaigns, public forums and other methods of public education.
Reagan showed his appreciation for the Jaycees’ successful efforts by addressing 10,000 of them at the 61st Annual Meeting in San Antonio, his first appearance at a notional Jaycees’ convention since 1974. “I believe your Jaycee spirit has become the American spirit,” Reagan said. “When your entire membership decided for the first time in 30 years to rally around a single issue, support of our economic recovery program, million of Americans followed your lead and sent out a loud, clear message to Washington . . . ‘Enough Is Enough!’ I think Congress heard you.”
Gene A. Honn of Watseka, Illinois, was elected by acclamation to lead the 292,000 member U.S. Jaycees in 1981-82. He quickly set his sights on a modest increase to 300,000 members and an improvement in membership retention from 48 percent to at least 60 percent. The organization was unable to achieve either goal during his year – membership fell to 276,000, but the retention rate climbed 5 percent.
History was made at Honn’s first board of directors meeting on June 25 when The U.S. Jaycees officially welcomed the president of The U.S. Jayceettes, Linda Hood, to its proceeding. Several issues regarding the use of the Jaycee trademarks and bylaw considerations had to be negotiated over the previous two years before the joint meeting could take place.
The 1981-82 year was one in which the lawsuits filed against The U.S. Jaycees concerning barring females from full membership mounted. While the District of Columbia Court of Appeals found that The U.S. Jaycees was not a place of public accommodation, the Supreme Court of Minnesota and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination said it was. Additional cases concerning the issue were pending in California, Alaska and Pennsylvania.
The issue sprang to life early in Honn’s term when two women from Massachusetts attempted to register at the annual July Officers Training School in Tulsa. By decision of the executive committee, the women were not allowed to attend the classes, but The U.S. Jaycees promised to bring trainers into Massachusetts to provide training for those officers.
Meanwhile, a referendum ballot was being prepared to give chapters the opportunity to decide if they wanted a bylaw change to let female membership to be a “local option” decision. The results of the referendum, announced in October, signaled the membership still wasn’t ready for a change. The local chapter option failed by a 2-1 margin and Executive Vice President Arthur “Frenchie” Boutiette said it was time to get on with the business of being Jaycees.
A few weeks earlier, President Honn was in Las Vegas presenting the Muscular Dystrophy Association a $2.1 million check from The U.S. Jaycees and promising to raise even more in 1982. MDA Telethon host Jerry Lewis taped a public service announcement for the Jaycees, adding to a growing library of television promotions that included President Reagan, actor Hugh O’Brian and baseball star Steve Garvey.
Two new items were introduced in an attempt to stem the erosion of members. The first was a program entitled Degrees of Jaycees, aimed at securing the experience of older Jaycees to teach and involve newer Jaycees in the leadership process. Also, each new member was provided a 32-page guide, in the format of Future magazine, to prepare for his Jaycee career and involve him as soon as possible.
A new recognition program, the Healthy American Fitness Leaders (HAFL), was introduced with three years of funding provided by Allstate Life Insurance. Plans were made to honor the first group of 10 individuals in September 1982 for their contributions to the health and fitness of Americans. This program has been ongoing since then, with the steady sponsorship of Allstate Life Insurance.
Barry L. Kennedy, 1978-79 president of The U.S. Jaycees, earned election in November as Jaycees International’s 37th president, becoming the sixth Jaycee from the United States to be elected to the highest JCI office. Gib Garrow was named Outstanding Current Member of Jaycees International.
As Jaycees prepared for the 1982 Annual Meeting in Phoenix, some old-timers were hoping there would not be a repeat of the last convention held there 14 years earlier when the election for president ran 22 ballots and 18 hours. It was not a repeat. The 1982 election doubled it, smashing all records.
After more than 40 hours of balloting that spanned 42 rounds, Don E. Jones of Bossier City, Louisiana, survived the ordeal and was elevated to the podium to address the delegates as their 63rd president. The only break during the voting was one hour devoted to closing entertainer Ricky Nelson.
Like other presidents before him, Jones would take to the road often during his term. Unlike his predecessors, however, three of his trips would be by bus. He covered 24 states in a bus emblazoned “U.S. Jaycees Touring America,” earning a welcomed interval of positive media exposure.
Jones’ classy confidence helped make the 1982-83 year one of relative calmness and stability for the organization. Despite a drop of 4,300 members during the year, there was reason for optimism on the membership front because the year ended with six consecutive months of growth. Total membership stood at nearly 272,000 in slightly less than 7,000 chapters by June 1983.
Even the female membership issue seemed to be turning in the Jaycees’ favor. The Alaska Supreme Court found the Jaycees was not a place of public accommodation, while a circuit court of appeals found the Minnesota state statute on public accommodation to be unconstitutional as applied to The U.S. Jaycees. Rehearings in both cases were expected, however.
Meanwhile, The U.S. Jayceettes, after nine years of having chapters operate under as many as 17 different organizational names, changed its name to The U.S. Jaycee Women
in 1983. They continued to support the stand of The U.S. Jaycees against allowing women to join the all-male group.
Jones and his family were the last to occupy the “White House” in south Tulsa and the first to live in “The Founders Home,” making the move early in 1983 to the stately residence just one block east of the War Memorial Headquarters. This property still serves as the home for the president and his family during the one-year term.
At about the same time, The U.S. Jaycees Foundation held its first induction ceremonies for the Hall of Leadership, recognizing former Jaycees who displayed leadership abilities during their Jaycee career and continued this tradition outside Jaycees. Living nominees were selected from the Foundation Associate program aimed at preserving Jaycee history, telling the “Jaycee story” and bridging the gap between generations of Jaycees.
The current generation of Jaycees was active, of course, during the 1982-83 year improving their communities and nation. The Knob Noster Jaycees in Missouri were installing free smoke alarms in the homes of senior citizens. The Jaycees of New Bern, North Carolina, raised nearly $91,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by running the only CF telethon in the United States. One of four national American Library Trustee Association Honor Awards was presented to the Cape Girardeau Jaycees in Missouri for providing the leadership to raise $166,000 for the children’s department of the new Cape Girardeau Public Library. In a successful effort to restore its good public image, Jaycees through North Carolina were conducting a variety of projects to pay back the money originally intended for the Jaycee Burn Center at Chapel Hill. A few years earlier, the money raised for the facility through a traditional jelly sale had been misused, prompting the Clemmons Jaycees to dub their refunding effort the “Jam Scam Car Rally.”
In Yuma, Arizona, Jaycees sponsored the 38th Annual Silver Spur Rodeo, attracting 75,000 to the four-hour parade preceding the rodeo. It took less than two weeks for Big Island Jaycee chapters in Hawaii to overload collection points for the victims of Hurricane Iwa that devastated the island of Kauai. In addition to 22 tons of food and supplies, “Operation Kokua Kauai” raised $48,500.
Ohio’s Hudson Jaycees grossed $100,000 at their 12th annual haunted house project, assisting the local Emergency Medical Service they established several years earlier. In Irvington, Indiana, the Jaycees were honored by the National Arbor Day Foundation for the best community celebration after they planted 4,500 trees and conducted a number of special events.
It was not easy for Don Jones to earn election as 1982-83 president of The U.S. Jaycees. Nor would it be easy for him to relinquish his post. At the 1983 Annual Meeting in Hartford, Connecticut, delegates established yet another voting record, taking 47 ballots over a continuous 32-hour span to elect Thomas F. Bussa of the LaSalle-Peru Jaycees in Illinois as the 64th president.
Bussa’s year could be considered the calm before the storm. By early fall, it was apparent that the State of Minnesota would appeal the circuit court of appeals ruling favorable to The U.S. Jaycees on the issue of public accommodation. The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the case, Rotary International and a group representing non-profit membership organizations filed amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Jaycees, arguments were made before the court in spring, and by the end of Bussa’s term a decision was imminent.
Most Jaycee leaders were ready for the issue of full membership for women to be settled. The fight had been long, expensive and damaging to the public perception of the organization. While the public stance was one of unity for the right of Jaycees to determine their own membership policies, many on the board of directors and national staff secretly hoped the Supreme Court would rule that The U.S. Jaycees could no longer deny women full membership privileges.
Despite critical coverage by the media, both membership and the number of chapters grew during 1983-84, marking the first increases in several years. A net gain of slightly more than 7,000 new members pushed total membership beyond 264,000 in 6,600 chapters.
With less than 45 percent of first-year Jaycees renewing, however, changes were instituted to get members almost immediately involved in long-range programs. Effective the beginning of the 1984-85 Jaycee year, the long-standing SPOKE and SPARK Plug activation programs would be shelved. In their place would be the 10-phase Degrees of Jaycees program, with strengthened requirements for the first two degrees, and a Green Chip program designed for new chapter activation. Springboard, a 60-day program for the new Jaycee, would be retained.
Almost $524,000 in corporate donations provided seven national programs with full or partial funding. Along with Governmental Affairs, Healthy American Fitness Leaders, Muscular Dystrophy, Outstanding Young Farmer, Shooting Education and Ten Outstanding Young Men, the Mars candy company stepped in to sponsor Sign Up America. During the course of a few months, Jaycees involved with Sign Up America collected 1.4 million signatures of support on one giant scroll for the U.S. Olympic Team prior to the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
President Bussa continued a tradition of taking the organization to the street by spending 55 days on a campaign-style bus trip to 29 states. At least 75 meetings were held with Jaycees during the trip and the “Spirit of America” bus established an unofficial land speed record for a vehicle its size after it raced around the famed speedway in Talladega, Alabama.
Future magazine celebrated its 45th year of publishing in 1983, providing Jaycees with timely stories and practical information on personal growth, while detailing the accomplishments of Jaycee activities across the country. One of the most respected competitions in deep-sea fishing, the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo was sponsored for the 51st time by the Mobile Jaycees, attracting 3,000 anglers and 100,000 spectators.
The Wisconsin Jaycees and Jaycee Women sponsored a unique Individual Development College offering 26 workshops with such topics as self-assessment, creative thinking, wellness, today’s women and parenting. The 1,200 participants could enroll in two classes for just $10. Jaycees in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, celebrated their 25th anniversary by staging their Safety Town program for the 13th year. Safety Town educates children, ages four to six, in pedestrian, traffic, school and playground safety.
At a one-day blood drive, the High Point Jaycees in North Carolina averaged 100 donors an hour and collected 1,042 pints of blood. In California, the Carpinteria Jaycees turned their charter night activities into a Monte Carlo fundraiser, netting $1,000 to establish a Little League baseball organization. A two-day Entrepreneurs Fair sponsored by the Seattle Jaycees and Seafirst Bank attracted 2,000 visitors and 20 new members for the chapter.
The Opp Jaycees in Alabama cleared more than $30,000 with its trademark Rattlesnake Rodeo, featuring a parade, a display of 275 snakes, a gospel concert and a stock car race. The two-year-old chapter in Burlington, Vermont, used a truck raffle to raise nearly $18,000 for the Ronald McDonald House in its community. At the 1984 Annual Meeting, the coconut Grove Jaycees, just outside of Miami, Florida, won its third consecutive Howard Award as one of the nation’s top chapters, while Maryland’s Greater Waldorf Jaycees earned it fifth Howard Award in a six-year period. Both chapters would again be honored in 1985.
Elected as 65th president on the first ballot at the Atlanta convention was Tommy Todd of Byron, Georgia. Thirteen days after his election, on July 3rd, 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a 7-0 decision forcing The U.S. Jaycees to accept women as full status members in the State of Minnesota. At that time 31 states had public accommodation laws that would directly relate to the ruling.
*Late that night, Todd convened his executive committee via a telephone conference call. He told them that it was finally time to make some hard decisions about the organization. We have four realistic options, he said. The U.S. Jaycees could: disband; defy the court order; change the bylaws to allow women to join in Minnesota or other states that file an injunction; or open the membership to all young men and women 18 through 36 years of age.
After each member expressed his opinion, a clear consensus emerged. The only acceptable option, they unanimously decided, was to recommend amending the bylaws, opening the national membership to both genders. After agreeing to call a Special Meeting for August 16 in Tulsa to vote on bylaw changes, the executive committee then considered the fate of The U.S. Jaycee Women. This time, two options were considered: disband or disaffiliate with The U.S. Jaycees, or merge with the hitherto all-male organization. Another unanimous vote settled the issue in favor of recommending bylaw changes to accomplish a merger. Initial reaction from the U.S. Jaycee Women, strongly favoring continuation as an auxiliary organization, later prodded the executive committee to withdraw this issue from the Special Meeting agenda.
The conference call ended after midnight in Tulsa. The future of two national organizations was all but sealed after more than a decade of turmoil. As Jaycees Magazine reported 10 years later, “It was a shotgun wedding, of sorts. The U.S. Supreme Court had loaded the weapon, and delegates at a Special Meeting . . . performed the ceremony.”
It took just 55 minutes for the nearly 600 delegates to the Special Meeting to be called to order, receive an invocation, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and Jaycee Creed, sit through a roll call, honor July award winners, approve the minutes of the 1984 Annual Meeting, approve the report of the Credentials Committee, listen to the proposed changes in three existing bylaws as well as one new proposed bylaw, vote on the bylaws, change history and adjourn.
By a vote of 5,372 in favor and only 386 in opposition, three bylaws dealing with purpose and membership were amended to change all gender references from “men” to “persons.” The new bylaw called for changing gender references in the remainder of the organization’s bylaws. With no discussion, it passed with a voice vote.
Following the votes, President Todd addressed the delegates: “Years from now, when your children’s children are involved in developing their leadership potential through Jaycees, whether they are grandsons or granddaughters, today’s action will be celebrated as a landmark . . . in the opportunities provided for young people all across America. We must unite once again as young citizens in action, working to serve humanity and to build a greater America.”
By early 1985, The U.S. Jaycee Women Executive Committee had voted to recommend dissolving its organization. In April, the board of directors echoed the plan and recommended The U.S. Jaycees be prepared to take appropriate action at the upcoming Annual Meeting. On June 17,1985, The U.S. Jaycee Women voted 122 to 26 to suggest to The U.S. Jaycees the dissolution of the women’s organization. Two days later, the national bylaws were amended and the 60,000-member U.S. Jaycee Women was abolished.
Although the organization already had lost about a third of its members to The U.S. Jaycees, the passing did not go unlamented. “We were very successful as we were,” said Joan Harrison, 1983-84 Jaycee Women national president. Among the many notable accomplishments compiled by The U.S. Jaycee Women since its inception as The U.S. Jayceettes in 1974 was a contribution of several million dollars to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital helping to ensure that no child was turned away from the hospital for lack of funds for treatment.
The 1984-85 year was – for a change – not consumed with concern about female memberships despite how it started and ended. It was also a year that saw Jaycees on national television during Labor Day, again presenting the Muscular Dystrophy Association with a $2 million check, bringing its total contribution to $14 million in eight years.
A few weeks later, Jaycee leaders gathered in the nation’s capital for the 24th annual Governmental Affairs Leadership Seminar, sponsored by General Motors Corporation and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. Along with a White House Rose Garden meeting with President Ronal Reagan, Jaycees studied topics ranging from the budget deficit and national defense to energy alternatives and automobile safety. At the end of the three-day event, they honored the 10 Healthy American Fitness Leaders for 1984, at an awards program sponsored for the third year by Allstate Life Insurance.
The oldest chapter in New Hampshire, the Claremont Jaycees, was busily raising money for a local boy who needed a $100,000 liver transplant operation by Christmas. Residents of Bay City, Michigan, were convinced by a local Jaycees campaign to fund a 911 emergency telephone system, eliminating the need to sift through 25 different police and fire department numbers.
Children in Bluffton, Indiana; Pasadena, California; and Fort Worth, Texas, were more secure because Jaycee chapters in those areas conducted massive fingerprinting projects. Youngsters treated at hospitals in Lima, Ohio, received an estimated 12,000 teddy bears in the 33rd year of the Lima Jaycees’ Teddy Bear Drive.
While 6,500 chapters quietly and proudly went about the business of improving the world around them, the national staff and officers decided it was time to stop being alarmed at the drop of 122,000 members during the previous five years and start repairing what they perceived to be the problems: weak programming and inefficient management.
A Certified Trainers Program was launched, providing 700 District Directors and Regional Directors with the enhanced training process during a three-year period. The Highway to Success system was developed and instituted to provide every level of the Jaycee organization, from local through national, with minimum standards of performance. The May/June 1985 issue of Future devoted 13 pages to Highway to Success guidelines and plans.
All Jaycee highways in June led to Indianapolis for the 65th Annual Meeting where delegates welcomed high-profile guests including President Ronald Reagan, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca and entertainer Robert Goulet. Nine years after Ken Zimmerman strolled into a Jaycee meeting and signed up without being asked, the western Montana man was ascending the stage as 1985-86 national president.
Despite the fanfare heralding the Highway to Success system, it quickly fell into disfavor and little mention of it was made during Zimmerman’s term. The new president did hit the highways, however, several times during the year in a 31-foot motor home as part of The U.S. Jaycees Liberty Tour. A $500,000 fundraising goal was set to help restore the Statue of Liberty.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association received a $2.1 million check from the nation’s Jaycees on Labor Day and projects began anew with hopes of at least duplication that total in 1986. The American Cancer Society in North Carolina benefited from an annual jail-a-thon conducted by the Rocky Mount Jaycees that raised $38,000. A bike-a-thon staged by first-year chapter Bulls Gap Jaycees in Tennessee pulled in nearly $1,800 for research programs at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
In Oklahoma, the Caddo Jaycees raised $17,000 in four weeks and then donated labor to provide a complete face-lift to their downtown, prompting six new businesses to open. Jaycees in 16 states across a New York-to-Los Angeles route helped organize millions of people who were part of a human chain in the Hands Across America effort on May 25 to raise money and awareness about hunger and homelessness. In contrast, no one left hungry from the annual National Apple Harvest Festival in Biglerville, Pennsylvania. About 70,000 people attended the event sponsored by the Upper Adams Jaycees that grossed $234,000. Profits were shared by 85 community charities and an ongoing chapter project, the 53-acre OakSide Community Park.
A 1986 national awareness program and petition drive, Wake Up, America! Focused public attention on wasteful government spending and the growing national deficit. A U.S. Jaycees resolution called for approving a presidential line-item veto as a major step in reducing government waste.
A move by the executive committee to change the upper age limit of Jaycee membership from 36 to 40 was defeated by a 2-1 margin in committee, but would become a bylaw change the following year. The Long Range Planning Committee in 1986 not only endorsed the age change, but also recommended the formal name of the organization return to The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Among the other ideas suggested by the planning committee were: eliminating the past chairman of the board from the executive committee and replacing that person with a new position of president-elect; eliminating the chaplain and the metro national vice president from the executive committee; removing institutional and associate memberships; conducting an ongoing campaign to promote certain issues; and contracting out work to professionals instead of hiring staff officers in particular fields.
It was in this unsteady environment that Mike Alcorn, owner of an industrial supply company in Zionsville, Ohio, was elected 67th national president at the 1986 Annual Meeting in Milwaukee. Armed with the newly passed dues increase, Alcorn enjoyed a year with improved cash equity and liquidity.
An unbudgeted $30,000 was added early in 1987 when the trademark for Future magazine was sold to another publisher and the publication was renamed Jaycees Magazine. A three-year contract with an outside publisher removed most of the responsibility from the headquarters staff for writing, printing and distributing the magazine.
Jaycee leaders again met in Washington, D.C., to discuss crucial issues with legislators. During the two-day seminar, Jaycees met with President Ronald Reagan, four senators, one representative and the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
While the Wake Up, America! Drive for a presidential line-item veto continued collecting signatures on petitions throughout the 1986-87 year, Jaycees also endorsed the “Just Say No” movement against drug abuse started by President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Two months after hosting the Annual Meeting, the Milwaukee Jaycees were able to donate nearly $17,000 to the Leukemia Society after staging their annual Jell-O Jump, involving 190 participants leaping into 500 gallons of gelatin. I North Dakota, participants were caked in mud after the You Bet Mud Run hosted by the Devils Lake Jaycees. Fifty, four-wheel drive vehicles from Minnesota, Canada and North Dakota attempted to drive across a muddy 200-foot pit in a project that netted more than $1,500 and 15 additional Jaycees. Several new members were added to the rolls of the Logan Jaycees in Utah after the chapter conducted a demolition derby to the delight of 1,000 spectators.
A member of Michigan’s Monroe Jaycees made her whole state take notice in June 1987 when she was crowned Miss Michigan and earned the right to vie for the Miss America title a few months later. The nation took notice of the registered nurse, Kay Lani Rae Rafko, when she was named Miss America. A little more than five years later, America took notice of her again when Kaye Lani Rae Rafko-Wilson was named in the 55th class of honorees as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans for 1993.
At about the same time she was being named Miss Michigan, 5,000 delegates were converging on Reno, Nevada, for the 67th Annual Meeting of The U.S. Jaycees. For the second year in a row, they elected a president by acclamation, Gary Wilkinson from Meridian, Mississippi. The convention featured stirring speeches by entertainers-cum-charitable fundraisers Danny Thomas and Jerry Lewis, as well as music by Larry Gatlin and Wayne Newton, who was backed by a 30-piece band and special staging effects.
Major changes in the membership policy were enacted when delegates unanimously voted to set the age limit for Jaycees at 21 to 39 inclusive, and associate members under 40 were changed in status to regular members.
Shortly after the 1987 Annual Meeting, on July 23, Leona Giessenbier Soell died at the age of 89. Her first husband was the founder of the Jaycee Movement, Henry Giessenbier. Three years earlier, she had appeared at the July Officer’s Training School in Tulsa and was honored with a 15-minute standing ovation. Meanwhile, 86-year-old Charlotte Mungenast, wife of late Jaycee pioneer Andrew Mungenast was typically enthusiastic in a Jaycees Magazine interview. “My title, ‘First Lady of Jaycees,’ I feel is quite undeserved,” she said, “but makes me the proudest Jaycee in the world.” She continued: “I have tried to attend as many Annual Meetings as I can . . . I hope to be able to attend a few more.”
A few weeks later, students of the New York School for the Blind attended the opening of a new “sensory park” in Batavia, New York. The community effort to build the park involved 36 Jaycees who built structures to offer opportunities for children to test their senses and experience new sensations. Jaycees in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, completed the first phase of a park, constructing several picnic pavilions, a floating boat dock and a sidewalk.
New Jersey’s Somerville Jaycees completed the 44th year of hosting the Tour of Somerville, a nationally sanctioned bicycle race, attracting 50,000 cyclists and spectators. The chapter also was instrumental in the founding of the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame in the city. The sole survivor of a tragic airliner crash in Detroit was the recipient of a 50 pound get-well card that measured 96 feet long and 4 feet high, created by the Southeast Tulsa Jaycees in Oklahoma. Chapter member Patty Helm recruited 12,000 Tulsans to fill the card with their messages of love and encouragement.
The oldest chapter in town, the Tulsa Jaycees, also went “big time” by creating the world’s largest pot of competition style chili: 8 ½ feet tall, 5 feet wide and weighing nearly 4 ½ tons. Public donations for samplings of the “Titanic Bowl of Red” went to the ABCs for Life Children’s Fund, assisting children requiring liver transplants.
In Kansas, the Liberal Jaycees marked their 38th year of operating the International Pancake Race in 1988, a perennial feature story favorite of media around the world. Just one part of a three-day festival, the race pits 15 Liberal housewives with counterparts in Olney, England, flipping pancakes in a skillet over a quarter-mile run. Results are broadcast to the two cities through a trans-Atlantic phone call.
Jaycees in Rochester, New Hampshire, paid $98 each for a three-day cruise to Nova Scotia, Canada, and back. Along the way, they danced, played slot machines and established a new chapter in Canada. Their renewed spirit of camaraderie following the trip helped them quickly grow from 89to 150 members. In March, the Hawaiian Jaycees helped the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Hawaii net almost $18,500 with the Great Hawaiian Rubber Duckie Race. The “adoption” of numbered ducks also garnered strong media coverage, their reports sprinkled with pus and “wisequacks.”
The Lewiston-Auburn Jaycees in Maine claimed a net profit of $6,800 on its annual Car Club Dinner. A $200 dinner ticket entitled the holder to dinner for two, drinks and a 1-in-10 chance to win a prize ranging from a new car to $2,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlantic City.
The 21-year-old U.S. Jaycees Foundation kicked off a program to build its endowment fund to $500,000 by the 1989 Annual Meeting, with a goal of $5 million within five years. All Jaycees contributing $1,000 to the fund could be named a Henry Giessenbier Fellow.
The dues increase passed in 1986 let Wilkinson end his term with a surplus of approximately $259,000, despite the slowly eroding membership base. The financial soundness of the organization was further demonstrated by a $1 million reserve fund that had been sitting untouched for several years.
Delegates to the 1988 Annual Meeting in Richmond, Virginia, gave a first ballot victory to Andy Tobin of Phoenix, Arizona, for the 1988-89 president. He would preside over an organization of almost 245,000 members in 5,054 chapters; a fall in membership of approximately 36 percent from the start of the decade. National respect for the Jaycees had not faltered, however, as evidenced by President Ronald Reagan’s praise at the Governmental Affairs Leadership Seminar in September. “Young, enthusiastic, excited by the promise of America. You brim with optimism for the future,” Reagan told The U.S. Jaycees Executive Board of Directors. After encouraging the organization to “keep plugging away” with promotion of a constitutional amendment to require Congress to balance the budget, he added: “Your understanding of the need for genuine fiscal responsibility is the main reason why the Jaycees have led the fight.”
Another fiscal concern faced by Jaycees during the 1988-89 year was the financial exposure of chapters and their members operating without liability insurance. A chapter in Missouri had been named in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that, if successfully prosecuted, would put liability insurance costs out of reach for most chapters. A proposed bylaw change requiring local chapters to carry a minimum of $500,000 in liability coverage was defeated in committee, however, before the issue could reach the Annual Meeting.
In September, the board of directors passed a resolution to provide relief to the victims of Hurricane Gilbert in Jamaica and Mexico. Help also was provided to earthquake victims in Armenia. A few months later, the board established a Distinguished Young Mayor Program and formally endorsed the Citizenship and National Service Act calling for domestic voluntary service in return for a $10,000 home or education voucher.
In a move to bolster regional and district director training, the six-step TEAM (Together Effectively Achieving Management) Success program was developed. Also started was the Show Pride in America! Program to encourage respect for the flag and offer scholarships to the nation’s patriotic youth.
Athletic youth were in the spotlight as Jaycees in Salem, Oregon, involved 3,500 children from 40 elementary schools in a track event featuring several races and up to 12,000 spectators. A year after earning Jaycees International Fundraiser of the Year honors, the 36-year-old Greater Hartford Open enabled the Greater Hartford Jaycees to generate more than $700,000 in grants and projects for the area. The Professional Golfers’ Association Tour stop required the daily work of 250 Jaycees and served as the chapter’s only fundraiser.
In Wisconsin, the Eau Claire Jaycees grossed more than $450,000 as they thrilled 75,000 spectators with an air show featuring the Blue Angels. Camp Callahan, a summer camp in Quincy, Illinois, for severely disabled children, was the beneficiary of $6,400, donated by the Quincy Jaycees after managing the 13th annual World Freefall Convention for skydivers. For three days before Christmas, the Far North Jaycee in Alaska played Santa Claus to more than 300 young telephone callers in 25 states and Canada.
In Nevada, the Las Vegas Jaycees produced its 34th annual fair, netting 20 new members and $100,000 for more than 100 community projects. The largest winter festival in South Dakota, named one of the top 10 winter festivals by the International Festival Association, celebrated its 43rd year as a production of the Aberdeen Jaycees. The festival generated an estimated $700,000 for the community. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, a yearlong endeavor of the Downtown Jaycees of the District of Columbia, attracted a crowd of 250,000 spectators in 1989 for the two-hour event.
An estimated 500 people, about a third of the population of Springer, New Mexico, turned up in May for a benefit barbecue put on by the Springer Jaycees. More than $3,000 was raised by the month-old chapter for two young people – one on a waiting list for a kidney, the other a leukemia victim. Meanwhile, the Greater Manchester Jaycees in New Hampshire were spending two Fridays each month preparing and serving about 100 dinners to the city’s homeless at the New Horizons Soup Kitchen.
Delegates to the 1989 Annual Meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, granted the status of honorary president of The U.S. Jaycees to President Ronald Reagan for his service and stature in the world community as well s his support of the Jaycees. Robby Dawkins from Florence, South Carolina, was elected 1989-90 president of the 237,000-member organization by acclamation, leading the movement into its seventh decade.