Club History - The Early Years


    The Southwest Chess Club was organized on the evening of February 15, 1987, in the Hunt Room of the Public Library, in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. The turnout was in response to a notice in the local area weekly newspaper--The Hub--placed by Fred G. Zeilstra, who was encouraged by some two dozen players attending that first meeting. Dr. James Taylor volunteered to record the proceedings. Zeilstra assumed the duties of Treasurer, dues were established at five dollars a month, and George Hanson Volunteered to be the Tournament Director. Though he no longer TD, George is an active attendee and formidable in the endgame. George, Dave Sagunsky, Tom Fogec, and Zeilstra, are probably the only active members who were at that first meeting.

    Euphoria was short-lived, as the second meeting, the following week,  found only a half-dozen.. A few had brought their own sets for the first chess games played in the Southwest Chess Club-- the name Zeilstra had chosen for the club due to it's geographical location  in Milwaukee County.

    Convergences of events are quite remarkable-- if a philosophical aside may be excused. For the Southwest Chess Club, the first event was, and continues to be, the largesse of the Village of Hales Corners, in granting the scheduled use of the Hunt Room in exchange for a one-time-only payment of $25--renewable annually. It remains the sole determinant for the Club's continued existence--as Zeilstra discovered when he shopped for a meeting place 12 years ago--he confronted fees from $40-$60 a night!

    A second determinant was Newton Berry's coming on board, in August, 1991, and his election, at the Club's next annual meeting, to the offices of Tournament Director and Vice President in charge of Club Activities-- of which his energetic effort to insure the Club's presence at the annual Milwaukee German Fest: and the slugfest with the Waukesha Chess Club, during the annual Rose Festival at Whitnall Park, are notable examples. In addition to publishing the Club's Delightfully readable monthly newsletter (that features selected games from recent Club Tournaments--annotated and analyzed by various Club experts) with the expertise that reflects his experience as a senior editor of World Book Encyclopedia--he instructs chess clubs at area high schools; contracts with The Village of Hales Corners for use of the James Meadows Room in it's Municipal building, for occasional tournaments when it's regular quarter are pre-empted. He also initiated an ongoing program that provides a dozen or more videos on a wide range of chess openings, for interested members, with profit to the Club--financially and "across the board".

    A third event was the coming on board, in September, 1991 of National Master Sheldon Gelbart, whose credentials are quietly evident at ever meeting, during which he might go over submitted games with their players; or conduct group analyses-- on the demo board-- of games with a selected opening-- such as variations of the Sicilian; or take over in Newton's absence, with amicability evident of long-time personal friendship--an unbeatable combination for the success of any organization. He was also re-elected Club Secretary at the annual meeting in March, as was Librarian Bob Fons, competently in charge of a repertory of books that include a donation of volumes from late National Master Henry Meifert-- and custody of the clocks and sets.

    On fortunate convergences of events: a fourth is the continued re-election of Joe Crothers as Club President, since assuming that office--at Zeilstra's suggestion--eight months into the Club's first year.

    At the annual meeting in March, 1999, Zeilstra resigned as Club Treasurer, and John Demler was duly elected to the post, following a year as Assistant Treasurer. He was re-elected in the annual meeting of the year 2000.

    Annual dues continue at $10, and membership increases steadily--the roster now at 131-- with weekly attendance between 30 and 50.

                                                               Fred Zeilstra