Although the Jaycees have been defunct in Ashland since 1992, many of their accomplishments live on.
In 1939, a few young businessmen in Ashland met to discuss the possibility of forming a chapter of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, which would be known as Jaycees. In 1940, the Ashland chapter got its national charter, which was celebrated Dec. 6, 1940, with a charter anniversary dinner. The group’s first president was Clifford Goff.
Speaker Charles R. Hook, president of the American Rolling Mill Co., spoke about what he saw as the mission for the group, naming four crucial points: keep out of war, prevent attack, give England aid and call for young men.
“I say to you members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce,” Hook said. “If we are to save America, young men must do it, young men must carry on.”
Americanism was a large part of the organization’s mission, donating books about Americanism and American lifestyles to local libraries.
According to papers obtained by the Boyd County Public Library, the Ashland chapter participated in the state and national organization by sending members to conventions.
The first project the Ashland chapter organized was the “Keep Us Out of War” campaign, which became a national campaign of Jaycees. It was the first time a new chapter’s first project was adopted by the national organization.
Local projects to improve life in Ashland, however, were of the greatest importance to the members.
Some of the earliest projects included the Finnish Relief campaign and presenting a distinguished service award.
Part of the mission was to provide healthy, wholesome activities for Ashland’s youth. Jaycees did so by sponsoring such activities as sports games and trips to see games as well as a table tennis exhibition.
Other early projects included support for the completion of the Mayo Trail (U.S. 23), city cleanup and decoration, which included installing trash receptacles through town, and projects for Fire Prevention Week.
In 1949, as part of the health and safety portion of Jaycees’ mission, a blood typing campaign began which formed the basis of a local blood donor list.
That same year, Jaycees raised money to install lighting on the YMCA baseball fields so children would have more play time.
The Jaycees provided entertainment for everyone with its Turtle Derby to raise funds for a new youth center.
In 1949, the Jaycees helped raise money to send Ashland High School Marching Band to the inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. AHS’s band was the first to be invited to the inaugural that year. Fundraising was relatively easy in the generous town. In 1949, a story in The Independent quoted Jaycee George Wallace as saying about his fundraising efforts “people stop me on the street and start reaching in their pockets.”
Jim Terreo served three terms as secretary before becoming Jaycees president from 1959 to 1960.
The Beckley, W.Va., native found his way to Ashland when he was hired by Shaffer Office Supply in 1953.
In 1956, he founded Terreo Office Machines after Shaffer closed.
He said being a Jaycee was helpful to his business because it allowed him to meet people and make business connections.
However, the Jaycees gave a great deal to the community, too.
Terreo said under his presidency, the group had a Bucket Brigade to collect money for the March of Dimes.
“We had the first one in town and we collected $3,000,” he said.
The group organized the first Ashland Home Show, during which the first beauty contest, a forerunner of the Miss Ashland Scholarship Pageant, was offered.
Jaycees also started an awards program for high school students that was the forerunner of AK Steel’s Self-Reliance Awards.
Terreo said he enjoyed the group selling Benson’s Fruitcake as a fundraiser for Jaycees.
“It was good fruitcake,” he said.
His wife, Janie Terreo, said she and their six children enjoyed attending some of the functions the Jaycees organized for members and their families, which included the awards dinners and picnics.
Mike Garlinger, president from 1983 to 1984, said he recalls the Jaycees giving Christmas parties for the seniors who lived in SCOPE towners, which was subsidized senior living, and creating the Outstanding Young Man and Boss of the Year awards.
“The gazebo in Ashland's Central Park was the brain child of the Ashland Area Jaycees. We made the first financial contribution to the project,” he said, noting seeing the gazebo brings back good memories. “I obtained the plans from the Staunton, Va., Lion’s Club ... Then, a local architect redrew them for our site. The Ashland Area Jaycees are listed on the sponsor plaque on the gazebo. Now, we have this wonderful structure that so many people enjoy.”
He said Jaycees also were active in the local Soap Box Derby, had a fundraising haunted house, manned phones for the Jerry Lewis Telethon, worked with local prisoners, helped maintain the Hack Estep home and the Miss Ashland Area Scholarship pageant. He said they made it a point to shovel snow for their neighbors — a small project that meant a lot of those who needed help.
One of the first raffles in town, according to Garlinger, the group raffled a Corvette.
“Someone donated a Corvette for us to raffle,” he said. “We did it for five years. The first two years were Corvettes but after that, we switched to money.”
He said one of the programs begun by Jaycees continues today, despite the club becoming defunct.
Ashland Jaycees Senators Foundation established a scholarship for local students at Paul G. Blazer High School and Fairview High School based on community service as well as grade point average and extra-curricular activities.
To become a Jaycees senator, Garlinger said members are nominated by their chapter; senators retain their title for life.
Garlinger said money from the Jaycees’ building sale was invested and the scholarship is now perpetual; each school year, recipients receive a $1,000 award.
Garlinger said during the last 10 years of the group’s existence, it was more and more difficult to recruit new members, with more distractions and responsibilities for young people.
“The people we attracted, more and more got involved in other activites the their time got more and more precious and they lost interesst in Jaycees,” Garlinger said.
However, under Garlinger’s presidency, the chapter bylaws were changed to allow women to join Jaycees. This preceded the national organization’s OK for women to join.
The first woman to join Jaycees in Ashland was Sherry Pyles, who also was the first female president of the group, serving from 1987 to ’88.
Pyles had been a member of the Jayceettees, the organization of wives of Jaycees members, and served as that group’s leader from 1982 to 1983.
“It was an organization that supported the endeavors of the Jaycees, but as time went on and women had to start working full-time jobs, both male and female membership was dropping,” Pyles said. “We thought, what could we do to enhance it? Women were allowed in more places they hadn’t been before, so we thought it was time to allow women to be in Jaycees.”
Pyles joined Jaycees in the mid-1980s and a few years later was president.
“The Jaycees had three areas of interest — community development, management development and individual development,” she said, noting in all those areas, Jaycees stayed busy with practical programs.
Those that fell under the label of community development included things like the Self-Reliance Awards for high schoolers and the Scope Towers holiday parties.
“That was something they looked forward to and we’d get entertainment from local high schools, two or three different kinds of entertainment,” she said.
She said the Ashland chapter started the Jesse Stuart Book Project, which eventually was adopted by the state chapter. The program procured discounted Jesse Stuart books from the Jesse Stuart Foundation and distributed them to area sixth-graders, helping to teach morals and values.
“We got letters of commendation from then-First Lady Barbara Bush and then-First Lady of Kentucky Martha Wilkinson,” Pyles said.
Despite the good works of Jaycees, the Ashland chapter of the organization eventually folded.
“Corporations started offering their employees personal enhancement seminars so there wasn’t a need for that anymore,” Pyles said. “Fundraising for other organizations started falling to the United Way, which is much easier for people and they do such an excellent job.”
Plus, people became busier and busier making a living and raising their families and the time demands on Jaycees members were great.
Although the Jaycees gave way to Junior Achievement, which no longer exists, the group’s works live on in the form of the scholarship program established by the Ashland Jaycees Senators Foundation.
LEE WARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2661.