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History of the Tennessee Valley Woodworkers

This article was written by Tennessee Valley Woodworker Club Co-Founder, Henry Davis, for a presentation he gave to the club on its tenth anniversary at the November 1995 meeting.

TENNESSEE VALLEY WOODWORKERS -- The Early Years

This is a very special night for us, tonight marks the beginning of our tenth year as a club. It was November 1985 that we had our first meeting, November 19, to be exact. That’s one hundred and twenty meetings, one hundred and twenty times for ten program chair-persons to worry about getting a program together.

People have accused me of starting the Tennessee Valley Woodworkers. I can’t take all the blame, starting a club is not a thing one person can do. One definition of “club”, is “to unite or combine for a common cause”. Ten years ago eight woodworkers united for a common cause, and The Tennessee Valley Woodworkers was born. I’d like to relate to you some of the events that led to our club getting started.

In the spring and summer of ‘85, as I pursued my hobby of woodworking I realized that for me woodworking was lonely. I enjoyed the time I spent in my shop, but I realized that none of my friends were woodworkers. I often thought how nice it would be to have some one to talk to about woodworking, to ask advice, compare notes and maybe even borrow tools . At that time Judy had no interest in my hobby, she was only interested in the end product.

I had heard of a woodworkers club in Tullahoma, but knew nothing about it. I later learned that Ross had been in that club, but I didn’t know Ross at that time. That summer I talked to several woodworkers at craft shows around the Tullahoma area. No one knew anything about a Tullahoma club.

I toyed with the idea of trying to start a woodworkers club. I told myself many times to forget it, I had never even been in a club, how could I even think about starting one. When the idea just would not go away, I approached several woodworkers about starting a club. I got the same answer from everyone, no one wanted to help start a club, but almost everyone said they might be interested in joining if a club was formed.

In the fall of that year, (1985) I met Tom Cowan. We were both involved in the band backers at Franklin County High School. It didn’t take long to discover that Tom was a woodworker. I ask him if he would be interested in helping start a club, Tom gave me the same answer as every one else had, “No, but let me know when a club gets going, I’d like to join.”

I’m happy to say that the very next time I saw Tom he told me he had changed his mind. He would like to help start a club. Between us we rounded up five more woodworkers who were willing to help us.

In preparation for our first organizational meeting we gathered up all the information we could find on woodworkers clubs. We obtained copies of by-laws and constitutions from woodworkers clubs, We obtained a “kit” from Shopsmith Inc. on starting a woodworkers club. We corresponded with an Eastman Kodak sponsored club in Oak Ridge. I had a long conversation with the president of a woodworkers club in Chattanooga, his club, called the “Chattanooga Area Woodworkers” was two years old at that time, I got a lot of encouragement from him. After speaking with him I remember having a good feeling about trying to get a club started. I don’t know if the Chattanooga club survived or not, some years later I tried to call him but the phone number was no longer in service.

On Sept. 25, armed with the information we had gathered and with little knowledge of how to start a club the seven of us met.

Of the original eight that attended that first meeting, only three of us are still active in the club, Phil Bishop, Tom and myself. Howard Colson, our other active member of our organizational committee joined us for our second meeting.

The other five that were in attendance at that first organizational meeting were Joe Pawlick, Larry Abston, Randy Lee, Terry Penn and Bill Eubank. Those five, for their own reasons, have elected not to continue their membership in the club. They all deserve a lot of credit for their input into our beginning. I would especially like to thank Joe Pawlick, he was secretary of the organizational committee and also served as club secretary our first year. Joe published our newsletter for the first few years and set the high standard which has continued until now.

We had two more organizational meeting, plus a lot of homework, at the meetings we worked on the wording of our constitution and by-laws, we discussed what we should call ourselves, and how often and where we should meet. Some of us were so eager that we wanted to meet every week or it least every two weeks, but after some discussion monthly meetings were selected, and the third Tuesday was chosen. The third Tuesday, simply because that seemed to fit into most everyone’s schedule. The minutes of our third and last organizational meeting does not list the attendees, but it was at this meeting, on October 22, 1985 that our constitution and by-laws were signed. We also decided that our first regular meeting would be in November, that was November 1985.

Tom takes credit for our name, I remember suggestions like “The Wood Chucks”, “Chips”, “Wood Butchers”, “Shavers” and “Splinters”. As you know “Splinters” became the name of our news letter. On behalf of the club I’d like to thank Tom for suggesting a name like “Tennessee Valley Woodworkers”, I’m not sure we could have survived ten years calling ourselves “The Wood Chucks”.

The first meeting was held as scheduled on November 19, with our vice-president and program chairmen pro-tern Phil Bishop presenting the program. We have no record of how many were present that night, but according to membership forms we had eleven members by then. In addition to those active members already named our own Susan and Tom Church joined that night. The oldest membership list I can find shows that by April 1986 we had grown to twenty-one, our latest membership list shows we now have eighty-five members.

We didn’t have any “new” business the first meeting, or any “old” business either for that matter, but we really got the ball rolling during our second meeting on December 17. Officers were elected, two committees were appointed and we had our very fist “show and tell”. Tom Cowan presented the first “show and tell” of record, he showed us a parting tool, a scraper and a centering square all of which he had recently purchased, (with out Mary’s knowledge no doubt). The committees were to look into the club participating in Old Timey Day in Winchester and Toys For Tots in Tullahoma.

Why, or how, have we lasted ten years when other clubs such as our have failed? Look around you, you all are the reason for our longevity. Through the years we have been blessed with many loyal and very active members. We have had top notch leadership from our elected officials. We have had a monthly newsletter published by caring members to remind us more forgetful ones of meeting dates and other club activities. We have had a great place to meet, thanks to Tom and Duck River. I’m sure there are many more reasons for our success, but those are a few that come to mind.

I have thought many times just what being in a club like the “Tennessee Valley Woodworkers” has meant to me. One thing stands tall above all else. Above all the knowledge I’ve gain, above all the fun I’ve had and above all the good food I’ve eaten in these past ten years. That one thing that stands tallest is all the wonderful friends I would not have had if it were not for this club.
I am very proud to say “I am a member of the Tennessee Valley Woodworkers”. Thanks to all of you for continuing to make it happen!

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