Saginaw's Fordney Club has a Proud History
Our club was founded in 1923 by 70 prominent businessmen. The Fordney Club received its name from the Honorable Joseph W. Fordney (pictured left) who served in the House of Representatives from 1899 to 1923. Recognized as one of the Country's leaders, Congressman Fordney was Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He was named the Club's first honorary member.
The club began as the Fordney Luncheon Club but soon meetings were changed to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings at the Fordney Hotel. By the 1925/26 season, club records show that evening meetings were also held at the YMCA, Vlassis Restaurant and Thomas' Restaurant. Eventually, the Pioneer Club became the primary meeting place until 1983 when winter quarters were established at the American Legion, Post 439. Prior to this move, summer meetings were traditionally held at the Saginaw Gun Club. Past President Dave McMath and club volunteers built Saginaw County's finest BBQ grill and a new tradition was established at the Legion.
From the beginning, the club was well managed. Frederick O. Guider (Saginaw Show Case Company) served as President and George W. Baxter, Jr., Secretary (Saginaw Publishing Company). 1923-24 dues were $3.00 per year. Dinner cost the members $.85. Income was raised from event ticket sales and membership dues.
The Fordney Club's founding purpose was charitable -- to manage and support west side band concerts. Records show that the club sponsored 17 band concerts during the summer of 1923. At the close of the first summer season, the club held a Mardi Gras with street dancing, vaudeville acts, games and prizes for the best costumes. Julius Ippel remembered; "At Christmas time, we'd box candy at Al Williams' Ice Cream Factory to be given to school children at the courthouse steps...better than a ton. We started a street decorating project for Christmas with 125 trees placed in pipes and decorated with lights."
Soon the Club expanded its' benevolence to include the Boy Scout Jamboree (1925), Michigan Crippled Children Society, the American Red Cross and the South School Telescope Fund (1926).
As time marched on, under the leadership of Dr. Ray Hart, the Fordney Club sponsored the Arthur Hill High School Band Bounce and provided new uniforms. Led by Past President Charles Calvert, $5,000 was raised for the new YMCA building and individual members added an additional $15,000. Contributions to the Big Brothers building and the new summer YMCA camp were among numerous other worthy projects.
After WWII, the Fordney Club spearheaded the drive to construct the Arthur Hill High School Memorial Stadium. Many Club members pledged their personal credit to back this successful effort. The result was one of Michigan's finest high school football stadiums, dedicated in 1949 to the schools World War II fallen heroes.
Resourceful Club leaders quickly found good charitable use for the stadium. The Red Feather Football Game was born. Under Fordney Club leadership, 18 annual college football games followed. The games netted thousands of dollars for Saginaw's United Fund Community Chest. Many well known Saginaw athletes competed in these exciting games.
Times changed and club members recognized the need for a new fund raiser. They found a good one. In 1973, Jim Granse chaired the first Fordney 300 golf outing. Dedicated committee members pitched in, including Ken and Rod McIntyre, Howard Mannion, Al Reinbold, Bill Kleekamp and Dave Burzyck. The event was a new concept for its time and continued to be a Saginaw Valley's premiere golf event through 2009. The 300 raised substantial funds for club sponsored charities throughout Saginaw County.
In 1997 an exciting new event revived an old tradition. Led by past presidents and active club members, the Fordney Red Feather Charities Classic football game was reborn. The opening game between SVSU and Michigan
Tech was a huge success. The game ball was dedicated to Gary Bierlein, an outstanding Past President who left us far too soon. The game featured local high school teams from 2000 - 2010. The high school games added community interest and helped the club's fund raising efforts - with all net proceeds from the games being earmarked for Saginaw County youth athletics. Charitable funds are raised through game day program advertising. 2011 marked the year of partnering once again with the SVSU Cardinal Football program as the host team of the Red Feather game.
In 2003, the Fordney Club proudly helped rededicate the Arthur Hill High School stadium to the young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in all wars.
Since the first Christmas party on December 15, 1924 at the Hotel Bancroft, Fordney Club members knew that support of their ladies were the key to success. In 1973, the club celebrated its' 50th anniversary with a gala Ladies Night dinner hosted at the Bay Valley Inn. The 60th Anniversary was celebrated at the 1983 Ladies Night dinner dance at Treasure Island.
The February 2004 Ladies Night party at Apple Mountain marked the celebration of the club's 80th Anniversary. Our forefathers taught us well. We'll never forget their many accomplishments. The club is blessed to have men who offer the best combination of good fellowship and charitable work for the benefit of our beloved Saginaw. The proud Tradition continues…..