Ye Olde Philadelphia Club hosted a wonderful day-long picnic at Peace Valley Park in New Britain Township, Pa. Just writing about this event makes me nostalgic about a summer that seems to have passed by so quickly. It’s almost Labor Day. I’ll savor the memory of the summer and the picnic as we enjoyed the traditional fried chicken, ribs, salads, desserts. We shaded ourselves under the pavilion with straw hats and quenched our thirst with iced tea and lemonade. I joined Louis DeVaughn and his wife, Elaine Evans-DeVaughn, and Bill and April Rawlings.
The current club president is Eugene Golson and other officers are Preston M. Taylor, William J. Burke Jr., Robert L. Chapman and Byron D. Golson.
Some of the longstanding, positive traditions of the African-American community in Philadelphia should make us proud and this is one of them. Years ago, I remember having a great time at this picnic with my other good friends and club members, Rob and Barbara Gorgas and our young families.
Rob has shared so much about the history of Ye Olde Philadelphia Club with me. “Few in the club know as much about our history because most men of my age have not belonged to the group since age 21, as I have,” Rob shared. “My cousin, Guy Booth, and I were raised as unofficial members of the club. There are just a few members who are the sons of members. Ye Olde Philadelphia was an integral part of life for us as we grew from little boys to young men. I'm one of the oldest members of the club and to this day fondly remember helping my dad get ready for the meetings at the age of five”
Rob grew up knowing every detail about Ye Olde Philadelphia Club. His father was the club secretary for eight years and was viewed as the “heartbeat” of the organization. He then became vice president, and then president. He was instrumental in all club activities between 1950 and about 1969. “I live in his shadow as he did to his father,” Rob reflected.
The picnic dates back to the mid-‘40s. During that era, the affair was catered by founding member Albert Du’trel. The menu included of such savory delights as chicken croquettes, Virginia baked ham, deviled eggs, potato salad and an assortment of delicious desserts with rich ice cream. The venue included various estates such as that of the late Tanner Moore. Ladies wore stylish sundresses and hats, and men wore summer whites. These were formal picnics!
By the ’50s, attendance began to take a dip. Men returning from WWII and starting to create the boomer generation needed something that would give way to a less formal affair.
At that time one of Robert Gorgas Sr.’s recruits, Ernest Coleburn, father of Lynada Coleburn Martinez, volunteered to update the picnic. It was then moved to Sunny Crest Farm in Cheyney, Pa. adjacent to the campus of Cheyney University with games for the children. There were card games and dancing to piped in music. During the sixties the venue changed several times from Sunny Crest to Camp Oak Hill to the estate of Dr. Gordon Rulock. Once again the picnic’s popularity had waned. The club then tried boat rides down the Delaware between 1963 and 1965. As summer vacations abroad, far away destinations became more popular and the majority of children went off to college, it was decided to discontinue the summer picnic.
There was an influx of Baby Boomers and once again the club had youngsters. There was also a need for this new group of men to get together in an informal capacity and to get to know each other and their families. In 1987 young Rob proposed the reinstatement of the annual picnic. That rejuvenated the family picnic which evolved into the great event and tradition that continues today!
Congratulations to the entertainment committee: Jeffery L. Chapman, Tom Garrett, Enis Manns, Rob Gorgas and Robert L. Chapman who did a great job planning this enjoyable day!
Have a fantastic week “Out & About” in Philadelphia, everyone!