Delta County's rural heritage ever since pioneer days has given rise to social organizations that met the mutual support needs of people.
Many of those neighborhood and community groups continue into the present day.
The Coalby Birthday Club is one particularly lively and enduring example of these local social enterprises.
The Birthday Club, as members call it, is an informal group of women who are seriously committed to their mission — ". . . to promote friendship and good neighbor relations in the Coalby Area."
The Club, by at least one account, traces its origins to the 1930s, and in another account its early days are linked with the Coalby Store, which was built in 1910.
Venerable as the institution is, the members have found a recipe for renewing their numbers and keeping the interest and energy levels high. Most new residents to the Coalby Canyon neighborhood and customers of the local water system find they qualify.
New members quickly discover that their new life in the Delta County outback is filled with like-minded and friendly neighbors who offer an appropriate level of interest, along with friendship and support.
Current members explain that the organization sprang from the need for social interaction and mutual support
and aid in Delta County's early days. Long known for its mineable resources rather than for farms, ranches and orchards that keep husbands employed close to home, the men of Coalby Canyon often hired out for wages and were away for days or longer. The wives found each other.
Even with today's communications technologies it's possible in rural Coalby to go many weeks without seeing a friendly neighbor, or without even knowing who neighbors are after moving in, unless specific time is set aside for it.
Newcomers to the area, like Diane and Rich Ratliff who settled in Coalby a few years ago from Indiana, are welcomed like long-lost kin. Diane opened her home to 16 other of the Club's members for a regular monthly meeting on July 23. Her co-host for the event, the one who provides refreshments, was Renata Replogle. Other than the two offices of host and co-host which rotate among the members each month, there are no elective
positions to fill, no reports to give, no accounts to approve, no bylaws to change, and "no rules, no offices, and no dues," states the club's 2012 year book.
Current members named on the Club's roster who are not shown in the accompanying photo are Natalie Barton, Sally Clay, Pat Crader, Sue Dumler, Kim Eckhart, Patty Gardner, Fran Lazear, Jan Medill, Norma Jean Norton, Edna Rudisaile, Jane Samuelson, Ruth Townsend, Lorraine Turk and Diane Wilson,
The Club's colorful year book, published voluntarily by member Vernette Mackley, has data about members, like their birthdays, hobbies, favorite colors, spouse (name and birthday), address and contact information. The Birthday Club was social media before social media was cool.
With a simple, open organizational structure it's not surprising that most every new member finds some way, and some time, that she can give to participating. So the Club is continually bringing in new blood eager to join a group that is focused, really, on enjoying life and sharing the feeling with others.
And, membership in the Birthday Club is a distinction which, once attained, is never relinquished. Two "honorary" members, Betty Bodine and Fran Clapper, were welcomed as ever on July 23 even though they have moved away from their one-time Coalby Canyon homes.
"Once a member, always a member," states the year book's Welcome Page.
Meetings, which can last up to two hours, are simple, too. The July 23 session was focused on history. Members Rhoda Ziegler, Judy Weaver, Janet Baird, Louan Lundberg and some others helped guide conversation into members' recollections of past events. Some copies of published accounts dealing with local history had been brought for the meeting, and the spelling of "Coalby" became a topic.
The original name, Colby, had been changed at some point by new residents from Colby, Kansas, according to some of the group's discussion that day. Someone found an archival news item and read from it, verifying that early in the last century the U.S. Post Office had been petitioned to establish a station in the canyon and add the letter "a" to the Colby name. A Delta County Independent article about the Club from 1996 reports also, "Spelling of Coalby is verified by a letter postmarked in Coalby, Colo., July 6, 1907."
The conversation at the meeting then took off on a different course, with lots of laughter at every turn: "Is the canyon more properly called a valley? Then, what's the difference between a gully and a gulch?"
The Coalby Birthday Club "is strictly for fun," states the 1996 story.
A special guest at the July 23 meeting was Sharon Wear. She doesn't live in Coalby Canyon and never has, but her grandmother, Daisy Pratt, was a Coalby pioneer, and Sharon's mother was raised in her own mother's pioneer home. Sharon had been asked to join in for the day of historical remembering.
In a world that sometimes moves way too fast, the Coalby Birthday Club has preserved an enclave of civilized living that keeps to a human pace. The Birthday Club preserves community values that early settlers relied on. "If you are feeling down, need a spirit lift or a physical lift, call anyone and we will give help, or find the help needed," states the Welcome Page.blog comments powered by Disqus