HISTORY OF THE GENEVA LETTERMAN’S ASSOCIATION
One cannot relay the history of the Geneva Lettermen’s Association without first discussing the climate that existed in schools at the time of its inception. Small schools were struggling financially with rising administrative and maintenance costs, and rumors of consolidation were heard locally. Communities were struggling with thoughts of losing their schools and maintaining their own identities. These struggles were prevalent in the athletic communities as sporting teams reflected each community’s character.
In the late 1950’s, some head coaches from Spencer had been lost to the Geneva School System. It has been said that both Geneva and Spencer had varsity letter winners that met in small separate groups at restaurants and/or bars for yearly reunions. Past exploits and victories were discussed and old friendships were renewed. No information can be found that directly relates to any of these groups being referred to as the Letterman’s Club or Association. Animosity existed between Spencer and Geneva groups as some were vehemently opposed to the consolidation and the previous situation regarding the East Geneva/Spencer name change.
One such group stands out as the fledgling organization of the Geneva Letterman Association. In 1960, Abe Doran, with the help of Frank Jones, organized a reunion of the 1919 “footballers” Geneva High School Team. A total of 13 members attended the reunion. In 1961 it was expanded to include the 1920-1923 football team letter winners. They held their reunion on the date of Geneva Football Home Coming Game which they attended after gathering.
In 1961, consolidation of Spencer, Austinburg, and Cork to the Geneva School System was finalized. All varsity letter winning athletes became Geneva Varsity Letter Winners. In 1964, membership was expanded to include all varsity letter winners who had graduated 40 or more years earlier. Forty three members attended that year. In 1965 it was decided to always hold the yearly event on the third Saturday of August.
In 1968, membership was again expanded to those who had graduated 35 or more years ago. In 1969, Abe Doran passed. The name at that time was the Geneva Alumni Lettermen’s Association or the Geneva Letterman’s Club as both names appeared in correspondences concerning his death. In 1970, about 75 members attended the annual event.
Although the golf outing is a key component of the Geneva Lettermen’s Association today, golf as a part of the event did not start till 1976. Golf may have been played previously by members, but it was formally introduced as part of the event by Bob Sawyer, Joe Mallone and Zyg and Longinus Zima. At this time, mirroring Joe Mallone’s fraternity golf outing, the golf scramble, 25 years after graduation membership and the no dues formats were adopted.
It has been said that the Geneva Lettermen’s Association is the only high school oriented organization in the nation with this format
Although golf began at Geneva-on-the-Lake Golf Course, it was alternated between Hemlock Springs and Geneva-on-the-Lake Courses in later years. Deer Lake Golf Course was also included for a short time. The Geneva Gridiron Club began selling hole sponsorship’s to raise monies for the football program in approximately the year 2010.
In 2017, the Geneva Lettermen’s Association opened membership to our female letter winning athletes. The sale of hole sponsorship’s is now handled by the organization and monies raised are used for the awarding of scholarships to deserving letter winning male and female senior athletes at a yearly Geneva High School Awards Assembly. Other community athletic donations are made depending on requests and the availability of organization money. These programs were instituted to advance our standing in the Geneva area community.
Since the 1980’s, Lettermen participation at the yearly event has grown to over 100. But as with all organizations today, committee participation has declined and pleas for new committee members have not raised the necessary interest. Difficulty has arisen in contacting newly eligible members because of privacy concerns and young people moving away from the area for jobs.
Discussions are currently taking place to again lower the wait time for membership. Additional advertising and other methods of contact through the internet are being considered to increase participation. Closer ties to Geneva High School coaches will hopefully open communication channels with our student letter winners.
The Geneva Lettermen’s Association started as a very exclusive reunion organization where only 1919 football team members were included and has transitioned to be a very inclusive association with a reunion and civic driven purpose. If you are a Geneva letter winner, please join us by going to www.genevaletterman.com and hitting the JOIN button. Be sure to enter your contact information as your name may have been entered previously with no contact info. We always look forward to meeting our new members!