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Photo Gallery | East Side Club to celebrate 100 years in community

Forrest Badeau was known by his friends as Dewey. He was a plumber, owned his own business, married a woman from Lodi and was a member of the East Side Businessmen's Club.

"I mean, we're East Side Club," said Ruth Badeau, whose grandchildren are the fourth generation to be club members.

Dewey's father was one of the original members of the club, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year with an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sunday. 

"A group of East Side businessmen got together in 1912 to form the East Side Advancement Association," said Ann Badeau, Dewey's daughter, and former club president. "Eventually, that evolved into the East Side Businessmen's Association in 1922."

The clubhouse was at the old Hudson Hotel on Atwood Avenue, which is currently Bunky's Cafe.

"As their population of members grew, in 1947, they actually purchased this site on Lake Monona and started building this new clubhouse in 1954," Badeau said.

The annual Fall Festival was hosted and organized by ESBMA volunteers and money was raised to host weekly dances, events and to fund local charities and school programs.

"One of the festivals that we had was located right down on Olbrich Park," Ann Badeau said. "I remember, one of my favorite things was to ride on the Ferris wheel and look over at the Capitol, you just can't do that anymore."

As more women joined the club, its name was changed to the East Side Club. And the facility, known for its breath-taking view became a popular spot for weddings, birthday and anniversary parties and funerals.

"You had to give them credit," Ruth Badeau said. "They stood here and looked out at that lake, and I imagine that they could imagine what it was going to be like."

Current members range in age from 29 to 93. Ruth Badeau is the 93-year-old, who has remained an active member even after her husband's death.

"It's tremendous, just absolutely tremendous. It's top shelf as far as I'm concerned," Ruth Badeau said.

Dewey joined in 1941. He was drafted, but when he came back home, he came back to the club, Ruth said. She said she became an automatic member.

Others long-time members like Gordy Voit, 85, and Eldon Hoel, 89, remember the good times as well as how much things have changed.

"It was pretty much business at that time, but it's changed since then," said Voit, a local businessman himself who joined in 1951 with his father and brother.

"We had lots of fun. We had lots of parties, too," Voit said.

Hoel, a former Madison City Clerk, recalled swearing in current Mayor Paul Soglin in 1973 when he was first elected mayor.

But away from work, Hoel and his wife spent much of their time at the East Side Club.

"We had our 50th wedding anniversary here, and our 65th is coming up," Hoel said. "You can't beat this view. It's just a perfect view."

The Hoels, for years, organized weekly dances.

"When I was chairman, I had to hire the bands and make sure we didn't have two bands come in for one dance or no band," said Eldon Hoel. "I lucked out, I never had that happen."

From polkas to big band to waltzes, music, a few cocktails and food and plenty of generosity were staples of the East Side Club.

"We had some good times, and we took in some money," Hoel said. "We passed the basket, and people were very kind."

And it's kindness that current club leaders credit for its continued success.

For $75 a year, members get a few discounts at events, many of which are open to the public, but it comes with much more.

"You'll find when you come here, you get many hugs. You just feel so much a part of the group," Ann Badeau said. "We are so proud of what we've done in the past and we want to keep this going in the future."

From scholarships to area high school students to fundraising efforts, the club is still going strong at 100 years old.

On Sunday, they will take some time to celebrate the history with a special 100th Anniversary Open House from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to be held at 3 p.m. The ceremony is in tribute to the ceremony held when the clubhouse opened in 1955. It's the first in a series of events scheduled to take place throughout the year.

"We've always tried to be a community-centered organization," said Ann Badeau. "So, we knew whatever we did, we wanted to include the community as much as possible."

Folks are being asked to bring non-perishable items to donate as well as monetary gifts for two area organizations; the Goodman Community Center and Kennedy Little League.

In addition, there will be music provided by students from Monona Grove High School along with countless photos and artifacts that chronicle the club's history.

"We want this to be a time where people can come and reflect on what they remember about the club and east side and how great it is," Ann Badeau said.

"It's the commitment of the members," Badeau said. "They feel very strongly about this part of town and about giving back. That's been a real force."

"We're trying to earmark organizations that we can give back to," Badeau said. "Our first event on Sunday is going to the Goodman Community Center and also the Kennedy Little League. So, we hope the public will come and donate in any way they can."

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