The local history club and terrorist society

Posted on November 4, 2010


Recently the Township Planning Commission, in its wisdom, decided that one way to prevent medical marijuana “compassion clubs” from popping up like mushrooms in Torch Lake Township would be to eliminate “clubs” from permitted uses in the Zoning Ordinance.  This strikes me as akin to prohibiting internet service in order to control spam.  I began to think of the kinds of clubs that were thus banished from Township life.  Bridge clubs, euchre clubs, book clubs, knitting clubs, model railroad clubs . . .

Fraternal organizations will still be permitted.  They have a long and storied history here in the Township, and were fiercely popular among my Civil War veterans.  Masons, Maccabees, Gleaners, Foresters, the G.A.R. itself.  Others, too, some lost to living memory.  Here, for example, is a photo of a “Chamberlain” who might–or might not–be Hattie Chamberlin Arnold’s daddy, Jeremiah Chamberlain.  Or Chamberlin.  Does anyone have any idea at all of what organization’s regalia he’s wearing?  I suppose I must ask Babs, as Jeremiah, if this is he, lived most of his life in Ohio, and they’ll get up to most anything in Ohio.

I digress.  Where I was going with this . . . oh yes.  I advise anyone wishing to establish a Compassion Club in Torch Lake Township to set it up as the Loyal Sons of Mary Jane and be done with it.  You will be disappointed, though.  You will most likely not be able to recruit enough members to pay the hall rent on the Sons of Mary Jane building.  First of all, very few denizens of the Township will be willing to dress up like that, particularly during hunting season.  Second, recreational users of the fearsome weed are fairly evenly divided between people who can afford to set up their own growing operations comfortably at home and people who see no reason to patronize anyone but the local purveyors who have already been in business here for many years.  Perhaps I grow cynical in my dotage. 

Fierce defender of civil liberties that I am, I determined at once that I must form a club to test the new Ordinance, should it be adopted.  What kind, what kind . . .  I thought of starting a Gun Club, as that would flummox ideologues of every stripe, friend and foe alike.  Imagine the mental gymnastics involved in distinguishing Gun Clubs from Compassion Clubs.  Imagine the Cowboy wearing camo.  However, I do not wish to collect guns.  I already have too much stuff.  In fact, one of the main reasons people start clubs, I think, is to have a place to keep all the stuff connected with an absorbing hobby.   Hmm.

Every time I track down someone who knows a lot about local history he or she is delighted to tell me all about it and says “No one else is interested in hearing about all this old stuff.”  I, of course, am interested.  So are the tracked-down fellow addicts.  Some of us are planning a little club where we can engage in the despised practice of reflecting upon the past and trying to learn from it.  The way things are going, this may be the most subversive activity of all. 

Back in the day, one of my favorite t-shirts was a cheery little number with a nice graphic of a sewing basket, needle and thread, thimble–cozy symbols of Womanly Arts.   Around the graphic, in perfect Palmer Method handwriting, it said “Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society.”  It was, of course, considered the very height of sophisticated irony.  Alas, the t-shirt long ago became cleaning rags.  We are in a post-ironic age.