Chapter 9: 1971 - 1980 9:6 Motivations for Woodworking
by AL LEES
Remember the Workshop Guild? As I mentioned here [i.e., Popular Science] in August in connection with our plywood-projects contests, one of the rewarding aspects of my job is contact with amateur craftsman -- and few such contacts have been as delightful as this recent letter:--"I enclose a copy of the 1938 charter certifying our Homeworkshop Club as an operating unit of the Guild sponsored by Popular Science. This was the beginning of the Danville Club, which has just celebrated its 40th year of continuous. active, enthusiastic. profitable operation. "We feel this could be a record for Homeworkshop Clubs and would like to exchange correspondence with other clubs.
"Over these many years we have revised our constitution and bylaws to maintain what we consider to be a practical, workable club. Aside from the personal satisfaction each member receives from sharing skills with his peers, we have devoted considerable time to varied civic projects (building a Boy Scout camp, for one: we've contributed much to the community and established an enviable reputation for the club."
The letter is signed by club president Eldon G. Dombroskie.
No matter how long one works for a magazine that has been published every month for over 106 years, one must accept the fact that some things predate one's tenure. And I confess the National Homeworkshop Guild was new to me. I checked with a few staff members who've been here even longer, but none could remember what connection PS had with such an organization.
So,naturally, I sought out the dean of home craftsmen. Arthur Wakeling. who held my job here in the '30's and was instrumental, much later, in my coming to PS. Arthur is Ionil retired, but his interest in and promotion of workshop activities has never flagged. Nor has his remarkable memory. He promptly supplied me a bibliography of the dozens of features he ran on the Guild from the announcement of its formation (PS Dec. 33) up until the start of WWII.
Its appropriate that my belated introduction to the Guild should come through an Illinois affiliate, since the Guild itself, Arthur tells me. was the outgrowth of a successful workshop club in Rockford. Ill. To support their movement, the Guild chose PS as official organ and appointed Arthur to its board of directors.
As Guild membership mushroomed, administrative chores became too much for the Rockford founders, to they turned the project over to PS. which sponsored a major national exhibition of members' projects in Chicago. In the spring of 1935, Arthur persuaded Rufus C. Dawes. president of Chicago's famous Century of Progress world's fair in 1933, to be head judge. The event was widely halted as the finest display of woodcraft and furniture projects lover 1000 Items) ever assembled "it was a glorious week for home workshoppersl", Arthur recalls.
By 1939 the Guild boasted a membership of over 500 clubs, coast-to-coast, but activity declined quickly after Pearl Harbor. "A very difficult period." Arthur reminds me.
"In the case of my own club, younger members went Into service, others had war-work jobs with overtime that ate up their leisure-and none of us could keep up with club meetings, what with duties as air-raid wardens and the like."
The Danville Club, however, persisted and still flourishes. We're as curious as President Dombroskie: Is it the oldest surviving remnant of that glorious Guild? Other clubs can contact Dombroskie at 102 Fairweight St.. Danville. III. 81832.Source: Al Lees, "Shop Talk", Popular Science October, 1977, page 167
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