Curtis Club Falls to Wreckers

The Clinton Herald, Thursday, December 14, 1972, P. 36
Transcribed by a Clinton County IaGenWeb volunteer.

One of Clinton’s last relics of its great lumber mill days is falling victim to the wreckers.

Demolition is well under way on the old Curtis Club, which was built more than 100 years ago as a sawmill and with its passing come many fond recollections by former Curtis Companies, Inc. employees.

Decision to raze the ancient structure was made by J. K. Cozier, Cleveland, Ohio, president of Curtis Companies, because of structural damage caused during the 1965 Mississippi River flood. It was so great it was impractical to try to repair it.

The Curtis millwork operation boasted more than 1,000 employees at one time, operating three shifts around the clock.

Under terms of Curtis employment, each employee automatically became a member of the Curtis Club. Dues were 25 cents per month. The club operated bowling alleys, sponsored parties and other entertainment and provided a place of recreation for employees and their families.

One Curtis veteran recalled that each year a Christmas party was held for children of the workers. Each youngster received $1 in cash and other gifts.

Another veteran said each new birth in an employee’s family resulted in $1 being deposited in a bank account started for the child.

During World War I, Curtis opened a cafeteria for employees, including the first women workers who were given jobs because of the manpower demands of the armed forces. Company subsidies made it possible to provide a meal for as little as 15 cents. It probably was the first employee cafeteria in Clinton.

At one time, during construction of the Clinton High School building in the early 1920s, the CHS basketball games were played on the Curtis Club gymnasium floor. Over a period of many years, the club’s Saturday night dances drew big crowds.

A Curtis veteran says that during sawmill days, a stone pier was extended into the Mississippi River. It served as a boom for the log rafts brought down from Minnesota and Wisconsin. The rafts were moored to the pier and the logs were snaked from the water into the mills where they were processed into lumber.
The old club house was the last of the string of lumber mills which stretched along the river front from Lyons to Chancy. Soon only a few traces will remain to stir faint memories of Clinton’s historic lumber era.