The Vets Club
The Bridgewater Veterans Club began as an idea shared by a large number of returning veterans at the close of World War II. It was a time when the military was not talked about in whispers and there was a great deal of patriotism and pride in our armed forces.
Early in 1946 an independent organization of area veterans was being formed which quickly began to gather support and members of the local national veterans groups. Unfortunately this idea was not welcomed among some of the veterans that were eligible for membership in the larger organizations. After several meetings of this popular new veterans group there was one very memorable meeting which took place in the Town Hall during which the Bridgewater Veterans Club came into being.
At that meeting the following list of officers were elected;
Our Good Friends
In the beginning we were unable to get support or help from any of the local banks. Supportive 'angels' were discovered in the persons of Mr. Diegoli and Mr. Gabriel. These two men offered to back our venture financially, which really put us in business. The next stroke of financial genius was the sale of $100.00 notes to those members that had the desire to back the organization in a positive way. Over 100 members put up $100.00 each and with this kind of capital (at least in those days) was enough to prove to our skeptics that we were indeed serious. At a later date we also signed up an even greater number of $25.00 notes.
To Bill O'Donnel goes the credit for locating the land on which the Veterans Club would be built. Negotiations took place, which resulted in the purchase of twenty acres of excellently located land for the cost of $2000.00. Prior to buying the land, the Building Committee had researched other possibilities, which included the Warren Estate (now Bridgewater Nursing Home), but when it was learned that we could purchase a gymnasium from The Navy Arsenal in Hingham for $1.00, it was agreed that this was the option to take.
We were beholden to many people in town who backed us. Eddie Madden gave us the use of his dump truck on many occasions to help transport the Navy gym to the old Bridgewater Fair Grounds, which Mr. Bernabeo had allowed us to use as a temporary storage area Mr. Stone, of the Independent Nail Company, who provided all of the nails required for the reconstruction of the building. Selectman Leo Nourse was responsible for providing us with a (highly sought after) liquor license which bolstered our sagging financial resources. Evelyn Nourse (Town Clerk) gave us her unstinting assistance during the war and continued to help after. Ronald Atwood, Chris O'Leary and many, many others who gave their time, talents and labor in the project of re-erecting our building. The Jenkins family and Mickey Cochrane, who helped us immensely when we were in rather desperate straits.
Paving the Bills
We had to pull out all the stops in order to pay for our undertaking. The most notable fundraisers were our monthly lottery run by Maurice Girouard, which was to be our mainstay through the early years. And at a time when new cars were hard to get we were able to raffle a new Plymouth car that was made available by Wally Krueger.
We had managed to put together a really inspired and hard working group of volunteers of which most of them put in hours, weeks, and even years of dedicated service in an effort to show a positive civic gesture by doing something for Bridgewater and the people that live here.
Who We Became
One of the first civic gestures made by The Vets' was the donation of a piece of our land that was needed by the town to finish off Legion Field. At the same time we gave the Canteen Building to the Visiting Nurse Association. This was a solid example of our unselfish civic awareness at a time when we were absolutely broke and dangerously in debt. There was no funding from the town or anywhere else.
At the time there were two gymnasiums in town, the one at The Teachers College and the Brotherhood gym at the Baptist Church. It was almost impossible to use the one at the college and the one at the church was far too inadequate for the numbers of young people of Bridgewater. (Upon it's completion, Bridgewater High School played a full basketball season at our facility.)
One of the most popular projects has to be our football championship Town Team, coached by dedicated and capable athletes. Manny Souza, Joe Teeling, Henry Woronicz and ,not to mention all of the local boys that participated, getting battered and bruised every Sunday afternoon during the season.
Mention must be made of all those who, throughout the years, provided us with their leadership skills....and to those that gave their time, talents, ideas and efforts to get this project going and to see it to a successful conclusion.
The mortgage was paid off in 20 years, and only after that was when all of those kind individuals that had been confident enough to contribute to this effort were finally reimbursed, some of them had actually waited for almost 30 years to get their money.
The Bridgewater Veterans Club was organized and built, bv hand, by a large group of sincere veterans that weren't thinking of personal gains, but were motivated solely by a desire to perform needed services to their community.
'This is The Vets Club'.
During the clubs formative years some established businesses and other organizations from town gave us a great deal of support. The Citizens Club was our chief benefactor; they offered their hall for our group meetings and a small room for the frequent meetings of the officers and board of directors. The Polish Club and The 49er's Club were also generous in allowing us the use of their facilities.
Like any struggling new organization we had our dark days and our mere hopeful days.
We did run into some opposition in the town, but the cooperation and support that we received from the majority of the townspeople and all of the town officials more than out weighed it.
Vets Club today