Monday, May 3, 2021

The Classic TV Club Scene


One element of classic TV I find especially appealing is how it depicts aspects of everyday life in America that were familiar to viewers when the shows first aired, but no longer reflect how we live.


Whether it’s hanging out after school at the malt shop or going on a scavenger hunt, how we spend our free time today seems far removed from what our parents and grandparents were doing.


For instance – back then, a lot more people belonged to clubs. 



On The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Ozzie was in a Men’s Club, Harriet in a Women’s Club, and both figured prominently in dozens of episodes over the show’s 14-year run. In doing so, the series gave us more insight into what these associations were like than any other vintage show.


The Men’s Club organized fishing trips and golf outings, and the Women’s Club held dances and fashion shows. But they also participated in civic improvement causes and charitable campaigns, and hosted guest speakers who gave educational presentations about a wide range of subjects, or just shared slides from their trips to exotic places.


Each member paid dues to finance club activities, and there was some prestige attached to those who were elected to high office. Ozzie frequently served as treasurer, though no one looked forward to his annual reading of the financial report.


On I Love Lucy, Lucy and Ethel were both members of the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League.


Ethel: I came up to tell Lucy that the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League is meeting on Friday this week.

Ricky: The Wednesday Afternoon Fine Art Leagues is meeting on Friday.

Ethel: Yeah.

Ricky: I thought you always met on Thursday.

Ethel: Oh, no. We never met on Thursday. We usually meet on Tuesday.

Ricky: Well, look, this is probably a very stupid question, but, eh, why couldn't the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League meet on Wednesday?

Ethel: We tried it, but nobody could make it. Wednesday afternoon isn't a good day for club meetings.


This was a club focused more on staging shows, which gave the series’ writers an easy excuse to add comedy and musical numbers to episodes like “The Operetta.” 



Wednesday was a popular day for clubs in Hooterville as well; Green Acres and Petticoat Junction featured meetings of the Every Other Wednesday Afternoon Discussion Club. Sadly, Lisa Douglas’s quest to launch a symphony orchestra never came to pass.


A lodge was basically a club that required members to wear funny hats. On Newhart, Dick Loudon was a (reluctant) member of the Beavers – not to be confused with the Secret Order of the Beavers,  where Schneider served on the Entertainment Committee on One Day At a Time.


On The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Herbert served the Benevolent Order of the Bison Lodge. Happy Days’ Howard Cunningham was the Grand Poobah of the Leopard Lodge.


Perhaps these institutions were most famously represented in TV Land on The Honeymooners and its unofficial animated counterpart, The Flintstones



Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton were members of the Raccoon Lodge; in Bedrock, Fred and Barney served in the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes. 



The objective seemed to be having a place where men could get away from their wives for a while, which was certainly not the case on Ozzie & Harriet. It is suggested that the annual Raccoon convention can get pretty rowdy, though that just meant throwing water balloons out the hotel window.


Not surprisingly, the kids on many classic TV sitcoms started organizations of their own. With girls, what we usually see is an attempt to emulate the clubs their mothers joined – that means proper dresses, tea and finger sandwiches, and refined conversation. On The Donna Reed Show, Mary’s induction even required formally introducing her mother to the group (“Three Part Mother”).  It’s very prim and proper and 1950s, but 20 years later on The Brady Bunch Marcia sought entry into a similarly snooty club called The Boosters (“Today I Am a Freshman”). 



On Family Affair, in an episode called “The Joiners,” Buffy desperately wants to be a member of the Mod Maidens. Uncle Bill tries to pull some strings to get her in, but quickly realizes these situations are best left to the kids to resolve on their own. 



Interesting trivia note on this episode – one of the Mod Maidens (the blonde girl in the yellow dress ) is played by Kathleen Richards, who would grow up to become Paris Hilton’s mother. 



With boys, club initiation usually involved taking on some sort of challenge or dare, to separate the worthy from the unworthy. Examples abound. It was a little easier on Leave It to Beaver – all Beaver had to do to join Wally’s club was scrape up $3 (though that adds up to more than 28 bucks in 2021 capital).


The kids’ clubhouses in these shows were interesting as well – the boys just seemed to hammer together whatever lumber they could find into a structure that appeared ready to collapse any moment. The girls preferred life-sized versions of their dollhouses – pink paint, curtains, flowers and proper furniture. 



I really have no clue as to whether any of these things are still prevalent, though I’d be surprised to find they were. Certainly the very idea of gender-specific organizations would trigger lawsuits now.


There are country clubs, but they belong to different social strata. Book clubs are around but are usually more intimate gatherings – 4-6 people at most – not the same as the clubs that counted their memberships in the dozens or hundreds. Some of the lodges that date back to the previous two centuries, like the Elks and the Kiwanis, are still in business, but we don’t hear about them very often.


We seem less communal now, less open to socializing and meeting new people, and that was the case even before COVID forced us to stay away from each other. Technology enables face-to-face communication without gathering in person, but that’s not the same.


What these “club” shows impart is a sense of community that likely carried over into other aspects of life. If you were sick at home, dub members would stop by to brighten your mood. If playground equipment needed painting and the school didn’t have the funds in the budget, a weekend project could be organized to donate the time, materials and labor to get the job done.


Like so many other things, it seemed a whole lot nicer than what we’ve got now. 




  1. Great post David! I had a chuckle remembering the moans Ozzie got over his Treasury readings, but you had me laughing out loud at the Ricky & Ethel exchange 😂. Well, I'll have you know my dad belonged to both the Elks AND the Moose (but the Moose was mostly for drinking and in my hometown still is). I belonged to the Cub Scouts, Webelos & Boy Scouts, but in high school a girl I liked invited me to a club meeting at her house called Campus Life. I would soon learn it was a ministry for teenagers. Once was enough for me. 👌

    1. You were more involved than I was at that time. Maybe I can still sign up for the Elks.

  2. That certainly looks like Pam Ferdin as the girl standing next to Buffy from FAMILY AFFAIR. She was a bit younger than Anissa Jones, who was unusually small for her age.

  3. Bridge night, when was the last time you saw anyone on television, get together to play Bridge. And yet on I Love Lucy, Hazel, The Dick Van Dyke Show, they were always getting up a foursome to play.

    1. Another great example! Wonder if it will ever make a comeback?