Coffee club calls it quits

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 15, 2000

Members of the Greenville Coffee Club share in conversation during a typical meeting. For much of the last 75 years, a group of local men could be found sitting around a table at a local restaurant drinking coffe and speaking their minds. The club closed the book on its long history this week due to falling interest. Pictured (left to right) are the late John Byrd, Lewis Haygood, the late Dr. Robert Bedsole and Earl Johnson.

Photo contributed to The Advocate

For much of the last 75 years, a group of local men could be found sitting around a table of a local restaurant sipping on a fresh cup of coffee and speaking their minds politely about politics, the latest game or just the weather. But, now a few less cups of coffee will be poured and a few less views expressed as the Greenville Coffee Club has closed the book on their long history.

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The club began sometime around 1935 according to long-time member Lewis Haygood who joined the group shortly after his return to Butler County after serving his country in battle over seas.

"The coffee club was started by Rob Williams who owned the Farm Supply store at the time. Back in those days they met at Blackwell's Drug Store.

"I began attending when I moved began here in 1946. At the time I was in the insurance business and we would go there every day. The number of people who attended always varied, but there was always many of the same faces," Haygood said.

Most of the members Haygood described as "downtown business folks." Their ages varied from men in their 20's up.

Over the years the club became more organized and in those early years it was decided that they would begin helping other people within their community.

"We began taking up money to be used for charity. One of our members, Jimmy Willis, who owned a wholesale grocery store,

would sell us fruit, canned goods, packages and candy that we gave to needy families at Christmas time. That went on for years," he said.

Later, in the late forties, Haygood said that they began raising money in other ways.

"One year at our annual party we decided that we needed to make some money. We would match quarters and the loser would have to pay for the coffee and then everyone else threw in a quarter that would go into our account," he said.

The location of the meetings moved from place to place and they finally settled in at the Alabama Grill about 12 years ago.

"We talked about everything. Politics, things that the city needed, sports and almost everything else. But, it was mostly about fellowship and goodwill. We enjoyed talking about sports and politics with each other," he said.

With all that discussion about emotional issues going back and forth it would be reasonable to believe at some point someone's feelings were hurt.

"Nobody ever just quit. Most of them moved or else they died." he said.

An example of their compassion and generosity may be found when they discovered at one of their meetings that they had $20,000 in the bank. After discussion they decided to give $4,500 to help with the opening of the Greenville YMCA. The rest went to the local Department of Human Resources and the last check the club wrote with the money was to the Big Oak Ranch (boys camp).

As members of the group continued to grow older, Haygood said they decided it was time to retire the club.

"I was one of the last of the older members. We had other people who were also coming, but we just decided it was time to close it up," he said.

Haygood said that the men who sat around the table over the years and enjoyed a cup of coffee a conversation amongst the company of others who were all quality individuals.

"We were a good group of guys and we had a great time. Hopefully, we managed to help a few other people along the way," he said.