The club wishes to thank Tony Pranses, founder, for offering us this insight into the club’s history and for his dedication and leadership.

In The Beginning…

by Tony Pranses

On a warm August evening in 1961, a small group of people gathered at my residence for conversation and refreshments. All of us enjoyed bicycling, and, during several previous years, we had made occasional impromptu bicycle outings. Now we had gathered to consider establishing a formal organization and to develop a firm schedule for bike trips. We agreed to apply to National AYH for a club charter, we selected interim officers and we created a weekend bike outing schedule, starting with a ride in mid-September from Westwood School to Fort Amanda State Park (and return) with me as the leader. We were amazed when 32 people turned out for the ride, about half of them 6th grade Westwood School students whose teacher was Lynn Whitney, one of our charter members, who has since been rumored to have threatened to flunk anyone who didn’t come out for the ride. (A rumor he strongly denies.)

Participation continued strong on all scheduled events, so, when the cycling season ended, we established a hiking program which drew almost as many people. By the Spring of 1962, we had sold more than the minimum required 50 AYH memberships, so we applied for and were granted a charter as a local AYH Council. By the end of our third year, we had attained 296 AYH pass holders, our all-time high which we would never attain again. About 85% of our members were youth members (under 18 years old). We were truly a YOUTH organization. The ten-speed bike had become a fad, and those who possessed one wanted to do something with it. Our biking schedule provided that. In a typical year during this period, we would sponsor approximately 150 events with an average of over 20 participants per event. Over 20 members would accumulate annual bike mileage of over 1000 miles. Over 20 members would accumulate hike mileage over 100 miles. During the summer months, Tuesday and Thursday evening casual rides regularly drew 60 to 100 participants. Two-day overnight trips were scheduled once each month. During the summer, extended trips of one to five week duration were popular. We bicycled in Europe three times, in 1966, 1970 and 1974. We canoed Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, the border waters in Minnesota, the Current River in Missouri and the Buffalo River in Arkansas. We biked the Canadian Rockies, west coast highway 101, French Canada and four times had a one-week, 700-mile plus “Buckeye Odyssey” tour of the state — perhaps a predecessor to GOBA. We hiked the magnificent Wonderland Trail completely around Washington State’s majestic Mount Rainier. Many of these events were aided by two converted school buses which we owned, Lima Lizzies I and II.

But our kids were growing up, going off to college, getting married and beginning their careers. The ten-speed bike was no longer a fad. New youngsters did not come in to replace those who left. The Lima Council AYH became, like most of the AYH councils across the land, an adult organization. The adult members were not interested in weekend or extended trips. They had their own transportation so they didn’t need the Lima Lizzie. The membership settled at or about 100. The program became one-day events on weekends. It is still a good program but it is a different program. One short but magnificent period has been replaced by something else.