Pekin AMBUCS Club History

By Jim Deverman, charter member
September 26, 2008

In 1965 I received a call from Ken Luthy, my life insurance man in those days. I had graduated from Bradley University in 1963, and was working as the chief photographer at the Pekin Daily Times. Ken asked me if I belonged to any civic groups in Pekin, and wondered if I would be interested in being a charter member of a new club called AMBUCS. I said, what in the heck is an AMBUC? He said come with me next Tuesday night and you will hear all about it. We met in Chuck Davidson's home over on the north side of town with about a half a dozen other guys just like me. If I recall, there were at least two or three members of the Peoria AMBUCS club, including Chuck Blye. The Peoria AMBUCS served as sponsors to help us start an AMBUC chapter in Pekin. Over the weeks our little group continued to grow to the point where we had to find some place else to meet. I don't recall what order we met in the following places, but at one time or another we met in the basement of the old Isolina Motel in downtown Pekin, at Westbrook's on the Lake on Rt. 98, in an A-frame shaped pizza place downtown where Dr. Heyde is now located, Sunset Hills Country Club, the Pekin Holiday Inn, and eventually the Pekin Country Club.; On February 11, 1966, we officially received our national charter and celebrated with a dinner dance at the Pekin Country Club.

National President elect Doc Grabb from Decatur presented the charter to Chuck Davidson, who was the first president of the Pekin chapter. Bill Waldmeier represented Mayor J. Norman Shade who was unable to attend. The charter officers on February 11th were Chuck Davidson, president; Dave McAdams, vice president; Don Sayles, treasurer; Dick Barnes, secretary; Bill Fornoff, sergeant at arms; and Ken Luthy and Jim Deverman, board members. I'm the last active charter member. According to the Pekin Times newspaper clipping, the club already had 30 members when we received our charter. Quoting from the news story "The AMBUCS are a youthful organization with membership restricted to individuals 35 years of age or under." I certainly don't remember that. The first American Business Club was founded in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1919 by William L. White who was imbued with the idea that there was a need of a civic club for young men. In 1948 the national project of aid and assistance to victims of cerebral palsy was adopted, and in 1955 a National Cerebral Palsy Scholarship program was set up to assist worthy students in continuing their studies in the field of physical, speech and hearing, and occupational therapy. This national activity is largely supported by chapter and individual donations thru a special program known as the Living Endowment Fund. The AMBUCS national theme was "A man never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a crippled child." 1966 turned out to be an extremely busy year for the new Pekin Chapter. In July we had our first new membership drive, and I was on the winning team with Dave Gimroth and Don Abel. In August we enjoyed an evening swim party and cookout at Sunset Hills Country Club. Also in August we had our first taste of fund raising. We were invited by the Springfield chapter of AMBUCS to come down to the Illinois State Fair and help out in the concession stands under the Grand Stand, and they would pay us so much per hour. The annual financial return for running the concessions is so profitable for the Springfield chapter that they like to share the wealth by inviting other Illinois AMBUC Chapters to participate in the work. Ten of us made the trip to Springfield, which turned out to be memorable for me. Over the years we have tried various ways to raise funds so we could contribute to the National Living Endowment Fund and also provide funding for local charities.

In December of 1966 we sold boxes of chocolates just before Christmas. The several hundred dollars we made was enough to buy a fancy monogramming machine for Holiday Hills School for the handicapped. In June of 1967 Bob Ehrich became a board member of AMBUCS. That was the year we sold packets of 10 full color post cards of Pekin area highlights for $1.00 per pack.

In the fall of 1968 we sold pumpkins door to door throughout the city for families to make jack-o-lanterns. This had to be one of our worst ideas ever. It wasn't until 1971 that someone came up with the bright idea of having a charity auction to raise money. We made something like $700 on our first auction held in the old McClellan's Five & Dime store in downtown Pekin, and the rest is history.

Club Officers 1975

In 1978, we broke all auction records, netting $7,000 with Virg Petty as our Chairman. There have been at least three Peoria AMBUCS who have been national AMBUC Presidents. Illinois also is the home of the largest AMBUCS chapter in the nation, and that would be Springfield. They used to charter a train to take the club members to Chicago for a Bears football game. Big club, big bucks. If you want to rub shoulders with some really dedicated AMBUCS, you should go to one of our national conventions. The AmTryke program is huge with most chapters throughout the country. We always had a lot of parties, and a really good time.

History of AMBUCS*

In 1919 William L. White had a dream to begin a national service organization for young business and professional men. White had the spirit, he had the initiative, but this young engineer and practical idealist lacked the funding for such a major undertaking.

What to do? Surprisingly enough, turpentine played a major role in this story. The turpentine industry was centered around Valdosta, GA., and it used turpentine cups to gather crude resin from long-leaf pines. The resin was distilled and turpentine and rosin were produced.

White credits the sale of two million turpentine cups for the beginnings of the American Business Clubs in Birmingham, AL.

After he graduated from Auburn University on June 22, 1919, White lost no time in offering turpentine cups for sale. Soon, he put $1,000 in profit into a revolving expansion fund. White now had the money, and this forward-thinking man founded the first American Business Club in Birmingham on May 18, 1922.

This first club had 50 members and they adopted a constitution and the motto that is still used today – Shoulders Together.

* History from