They Made you a Moron: a curious Rochester club

Morons-thanksgiving

Rochester has had its share of curiously-named clubs. The Cheerio Club, the Zig-Zag Club and the Royal Order of Jesters rank among the most interesting monikers.

But I recently discovered my personal favourite when I looked through our pamphlet file collection and found the following:

IMG_1051

The folder in question was filled with a series of meeting invitations, letters and other ephemera emblazoned with the club’s unusual name.

From the aforementioned invitations, I garnered that at least at one point in time the group held weekly lunch hour meetings at the Chamber of Commerce. Not the meeting site one would perhaps expect for a congregation of individuals calling themselves morons.

The club’s meeting topics evidently ran the gamut from local transportation to the City budget, again not exactly what one would imagine to be the preferred topics du jour of a collection of self-described imbeciles.

Morons-date

As I plumbed through the pamphlet file’s materials, it became increasingly evident that the group’s title had been chosen by someone whose tongue was firmly lodged in his or her cheek.

The Morons’ membership list from 1944, contained in the file, boasted the names of doctors, attorneys, superintendents, and librarians as well as that of former City Historian, Blake McKelvey.

Since the file did not include any information as to how and why this illustrious list of individuals came together, I did a little digging.

I uncovered an old Democrat and Chronicle article from 1956, which gave me some insight into the mysterious organization.

Apparently, the so-called Morons formed as an offshoot of a social worker’s club in the early 1920s.

Morons-social minded

The 1940-1941 schedule of Morons meetings.

The club’s name was suggested by Oscar W. Kuolt, then the General Secretary of the Council of Social Agencies. For choosing the winning moniker, Kuolt was awarded a free lunch, for which he was never reimbursed. The snub seemingly did not phase Kuolt, who later quipped, “what could you expect from a bunch of morons?”

Kuolt also served as the group’s first leader, or, “Juke,” a title inspired by a family of low mental abilities whose case history appeared in an 1874 report by the New York Prison Association.

The club’s “Juke” at the time of the D&C article’s writing was none other than Rochester Public Library Director, Harold Hacker.

The apparent mission of Hacker and his clubmates was to discuss city matters and social issues in a relatively informal manner, keeping no records or minutes to ensure that members felt free to be as open and frank as they so desired.

To be sure, members were encouraged to be as candid in their political discussions as they were in their treatment of fellow Morons.

A 1978 Democrat & Chronicle piece remarked that the members “knock each other with great glee…[and] treat each other with a certain lack of chivalry.”

This is evident in the numerous memos and poems populating the library’s “Morons” file.

Here is just one example, penned by former City Historian, Blake McKelvey in October, 1945:

Morons-McK

 

I unfortunately wasn’t able to find any references to the group more recent than the aforementioned 1978 article, so it remains a mystery as to whether or not there are still Morons in our midst…

-Emily Morry

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Published in: on March 7, 2017 at 2:59 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Great article! You may be able to find some more information on the Moron’s club in Blake McKelvey’s correspondence series in the City Historians collection. I remember seeing some correspondence about that club in there!


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