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Greendale Jaycees Burst on the Scene, Bob Starr Settles in Greendale

Week #67: The Greendale Jaycees started with a bang and kept going for years serving the community. Bob Starr was one of those Jaycees, but also started a successful business because of his love of Greendale.

History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember. 

History and Folklore!

In the 1950’s as the Village moved into private ownership, housing development increased, and , local chapters of some 8). This week’s story is about another local organization that was formed, the Greendale ‘Jaycees’.

The United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) is a leadership training and civic organization for people between the ages of 18 and 41. It was established in 1920 by a St. Louis Banker, Henry Giessenbier. Its focus was to provide opportunities for young men to develop personal and leadership skills through service to others. At every meeting the members would recite The Jaycee Creed: 

We Believe:

That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life;

That the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations;

That economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise;

That government should be of laws rather than of men;

That earth's great treasure lies in human personality;

And that service to humanity is the best work of life.

Local History!

It is unclear who and/or how the Greendale Jaycees were formed, but on May 14, 1958 the organization was officially chartered. The first president was Jack Randall, and legend has it that the first meetings were in the gas station, and then the barber shop. Whatever their humble beginnings were, the organization quickly became a dynamo that would put the Energizer Bunny® to shame.

The first recorded fundraiser was a car wash on Saturday May 10, 1958 that raised $69.00. Looking through the archives at the Greendale Historical Society some of the activities they sponsored or co-sponsored with other organizations in 1959 were:

  • Gifts for newborn babies, Halloween Celebration, ice rink on the tennis courts, March of Dimes Campaign, Babysitting Training Course, Sadie Hawkins Day, Road Rally, Christmas Tree Sale, 4th of July Art Contest, Formal Dance at Tuckaway Country Club, Talent Show, Christmas Decorations Contest
  • On October 3, 1958 for the 20th Anniversary of Greendale, the Village and the Jaycees held a Friday night celebration on Broad Street. The headliner was none other than the famous ‘Kenosha Cornhuskers’. There was square dancing, regular dancing, and ‘beverages’ were served. They sure knew how to party, “Ya hey!”.

Shortly after Bob Starr moved to Greendale he was in the and someone approached him about joining the Jaycees. Besides all the other activities he remembers two very impressive projects. They painted homes for those who were too poor to do so and planted trees on the various Village right of ways.

Another funny thing he remembers is one year selling pickles at the beer garden. For some reason he thought it would be a good idea to purchase 5 barrels of 150 pickles to sell (750 pickles). Yikes! But they did sell out. I guess everything goes good with beer…. In 1964 the Village approached the Jaycees and asked the organization to take over the Village Days celebration. They did so and paid 100% for the Village Days parade for a number of years.

Bob was elected president for the 1961-62 term and during his presidency the group grew from 40 members to an astounding 150 members. Not that it was all work and no play. The Jaycees were a heavy social group as well, and after meetings they would convene at for 10 cent beers. Bob later went on to serve as a State and National Representative for the Jaycees. While Bob served as Jaycee president he had a sign made up with the Jaycee Creed. At the bottom he put the words “Bob Starr 61-62” as that was the term of his presidency. Well, from then on whenever the creed was recited at meetings the members would chime in at the end “Bob Starr 61-62”. That became the unofficial modification of the creed for the Greendale Chapter.

Jerry Meyers joined the Greendale Jaycees in 1963 when he was 23 years old. Jerry grew up in Hales Corners but went to high school in Greendale. Hales Corners did not have a high school at that time. While in high school Jerry was President of the Student Council and graduated in 1958. In 1964 Jerry drew up the original plans for and oversaw the process of approval and construction. When the footings were poured, that first night some members slept at the location (Southway and Broad Street) to make sure the footings were not disturbed. The rest of the park was built the following day.

Annually the Jaycees would perform maintenance on the park to keep it in good condition. Then in 1994 Dr. Terrence (Terry) Hough led a community project to rebuild Jaycee Park. About $71,000 was raised and in 1997 and the park was rebuilt in one day.

Another funny story was the 1968 Membership campaign. Jim Cyganiak had this idea of putting a rooster in a cage and giving it a member to take care of until he brought in a new Member. Then the rooster would be given to another member until he also brought in a new member. Very creative, but I could not find out how this all ended for the rooster. I’d love to have a picture of this campaign ‘chair-rooster’.

In 1986 the Jaycees National Convention was in Milwaukee. Dave Bauer was the Greendale Jaycees president and Greendale hosted the Illinois delegation to the convention with an enormous picnic. During that time period the 4th of July and Village Days tent was behind Greendale High School. Dave said that it was not uncommon for the Jaycees to sleep overnight in the beer tent. “Honey, I won’t be home tonight. I have to sleep overnight in the beer tent to protect the beer.” I suspect they got away with this scam because the wives were glad to get them out of the house for a night. He also said they sold pitchers of beer, and people brought their own pitcher. Lastly, he remembers the Racine Kringle sales. They sold so many that they had to send a truck to pick them up and deliver them to the businesses. These Jaycees did not do anything that did not end up being BIG!

In summary, Bob Starr told me that the Jaycees “gave me the stepping stones to success”. This was a common statement I heard from the other Jaycees that I talked to, such as Dave Bauer, Jim Cyganiak, and Jerry Meyers. They said the training they received, the experience organizing, running of activities, and the association with other members gave them the tools and confidence to excel in whatever they pursued.

At one time every Village Trustee was a current or former Greendale Jaycee member. While I’m sure the Jaycees were a positive experience in their lives, I think the fact that they joined the Jaycees means  they already had the ability and character traits necessary for success.The Jaycees helped them focus and fine tune what they already possessed.

In the late 90’s with the changing times and the age limitation the Greendale Jaycees they all ‘Roostered Out’. Too bad. But we still have these fabulous memories and funny stories of a golden age of organizations in Greendale. 

But did you know? When a Jaycee member reached the age limit for the organization they would ‘Rooster Out’. The Roosters is a social organization comprised of former Jaycee members. The Roosters are still an active group in Greendale.

People, Past and Present!

Bob Starr was working in the insurance industry living in Baraboo, Wisconsin. He was transferred to Milwaukee and it was suggested he live in the northwest area of Milwaukee. Somehow he ended up visiting Greendale and had a meal at Casey’s Restaurant (now ). Bob served with the Air Force in England and Greendale reminded him of the English Garden communities that he had come to love. So he bought a home on Oriole Lane and continued his insurance work. The insurance product he was selling was not flexible enough for the needs of the customers he was trying to serve, so in 1961 he started his own insurance business working out of his home. This business has evolved into the current business known as ‘The Starr Group’.

In those days you could knock on doors, make phone calls and solicit business the old fashioned way, by working hard. That is what Bob did, eventually insuring approximately 20% of the residents in Greendale. Of course, people also came to know Bob through his work with the Jaycees. Bob believed in the Jaycee Creed that service to the community was the best work of life. No wonder individuals and businesses came to him to meet their insurance needs. As his business grew he needed to get out of the house. He was advised to build big, planning for the future. That he did with the building on the corner of Loomis Road and Edgerton Avenue. He moved to the building in 1981 with only three people, and rented out the rest.

For the next dozen years Bob’s stayed true to his beliefs and dream. The Starr Group continued to grow along with his service to the community. Bob has since retired but his beliefs and principals have been carried forward. The Starr Group is as much a part of the Greendale community as ever. Thanks Bob, for mistakenly driving into Greendale and taking up roots. And I know you’re still a Rooster, so we’ll see you around.

Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:

The short street paralleling Grange Avenue from about the east boundary of Southridge to Avena was originally known as ‘Grange B’.

Week#67 Question – What are the names of the two Lions decorated for holidays and special occasions that guard the front door of The Starr Group building?

** Week #67
contributors Sally Chadwick, Kathleen Hart, Greendale Historical Society, Dave Bauer, Bob Starr, Jim Cyganiak, Jerry Meyers and Steve Peters.

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