Celebrating Civitan’s lighter side

Published 12:08 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

By Pete Prunkl
For the Salisbury Post

“Fun and fellowship are embedded in everything we do,” said Civitan Club of Salisbury President Chuck Bowman. “From our induction ceremony and calendar of events to our weekly meetings and fundraisers, we enjoy working and playing together.”

Fellowship along with knowledge and service are the three founding principles of Civitan. The 105-member Civitan Club of Salisbury practices all three, but it is fellowship that Bowman chose to emphasize for April, National Civitan Awareness Month. Instead of boasting about the club’s many accomplishments or its important mission, he wanted to focus on Civitan’s lighter side.

That side has been around for most of the club’s 101 years. When the membership consisted of local businessmen, the Rev. Milton B. Faust devised a unique way to celebrate a member’s birthday. During his presidential year in the early 1960s, he had a pair of scissors behind the podium and would cut the birthday boy’s necktie in two. Rev. Faust was also not above pushing a few birthday celebrants into the pool at the old Holiday Inn.

In the mid-1990s, member Marny Hendrick devised a fun way to honor and humiliate members. When members did something unique or shameful, Marny inducted them into the Green Pickle Society. Their trophy was a green plastic pickle on a string with dill-flavored bubble gum inside. Alex Dunn earned a pickle for his ability to recite the alphabet backwards. Wayne Mullis was a Green Pickle inductee for his perfectly coiffed full head of silver hair. When Pickle Puss gum went out of business, Marny took to buying $1 lottery tickets for birthdays. That tradition continues. Each week after Marny distributes the lottery tickets to those with a birthday, he asks the membership where all the state’s lottery money is supposed to go. In one voice, members exclaim: “It’s for the children!”

During his presidential year, former Assistant City Manager John Sofley devised a fun tradition that also continues. As club president in 2014-2015, John challenged the club to raise $500 for Special Olympics. If members raised the money, he would jump in High Rock Lake during the annual Polar Plunge. The money was quickly raised and John turned the plunge into a fun fashion show. He wore a wool bathing costume from the 1920s. Every club president since, has tried to top John’s outfit. Rexx Rexrode was a plus-size baby in a diaper. Karen South Jones was a cowgirl on an inflatable horse. Patty Lefevers jumped twice —once as a penguin and again the next year as a clown with President Lee Wagoner. This year, President Chuck Bowman and Treasurer Kim Briggs went as Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Cat in the Hat.

The club’s spirit of fun is infectious. Members can’t wait for Thursday to roll around.

“When I leave the Civitan meetings, no matter the speaker or wherever I’m seated, I always leave feeling uplifted,” said Philanthropy Director for Rowan County United Way Audrey Eudy. “I attend Civitan for the camaraderie.” “One of my goals in life is to expand my horizons,” said member Maggie Blackwell, “whether it’s through travel, trying new things or meeting different kinds of people. Civitan allows me to do just that. In my 13 years in the club, I’ve developed friendships with men and women, old and young, left and right; veterans, retired schoolteachers, those in public service and private business. My friends and I look at things from different perspectives and I rarely leave a meeting without learning something new.”  Former President Rexx Rexrode summed up the experience of many: “A weekly Civitan meeting is like a mini vacation from the pressures of everyday life. It’s a place where everybody knows your name.”

For more information, visit on a Thursday at noon, or email Bowman at crbowman3@outlook.com.

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