A Brief History
In 1979, the Delaware County Press Club grew
out of a conversation among Janet Shay, Dorothea
Reynolds and Barbara Ormsby over tea in the
basement snack bar of the Delaware County
Courthouse. Janet had the idea for a club patterned
after the National Press Club in Washington. The
first official meeting was at Cavanaugh's Bar and
Restaurant in Pilgrim Gardens. It moved to the
former It's About Thyme shortly after and then on
to bigger venues, national speakers and hundreds of members.
The history of the Delaware County Press Club sparkles with the names of celebrities who have contributed to our programs and services. America's Oldest Living Teenager Dick Clark detoured to Delco en route from a Rio de Janiero vacation to his L.A. home to M.C. a Club tribute to a mutual old friend, Jack Steck. Philanthropist and former U.S. Ambassador Walter Annenberg called personally to donate $10,000 to a scholarship fund in honor of that same mutual friend.
Artist Jamie Wyeth (whose Portrait of Pig inspired our lunacy) smilingly sanctioned our pig-painting contest to raise money for scholarships.
Celebrity attorney F. Lee Bailey waived his standard and substantial speaking fee to address a luncheon meeting.
Baseball Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas joined in a Celebrity Jeopardy program (and later sang the Notre Dame Fight Song, quietly and unbidden-ly, into his microphone).
U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon donned a bellhop's hat and made a cameo appearance at the Club's renowned Off-White Christmas musical extravaganza.
Along the way, big city mayors, nationally known journalists and broadcasters, best-selling authors, newsmakers, and, yes, even an Indian Chief or two, were among the speakers and guests who helped form the history of this unique organization.
And yet, the real history has been made by hundreds of reporters, correspondents, photographers, editors, public relations specialists, publishers, writers, and other communicators who have lived and worked in Delaware County and the surrounding 'hood for the past 25 years. They are more than 200 strong today -- a bit of a jump from the seven visionaries who met for lunch one summer day in 1979 and said something like: "Hey, kids, let's put on a club."
One of the first official Press Club meetings at It's About Thyme featured a belly dancer on the program. (We hear Walter Cronkite, the first choice of speaker, was stuck in traffic in the yet-to-be completed Blue Route.) The original seven (a mildly dignified bunch that included editors, correspondents and PR people) begat seven more typewriter-pounders, and they in turn . . . well, you get it.
For more than 25 years, the Delaware County Press Club has hosted hundreds of informative and entertaining luncheon meetings and dozens of professional development seminars for members and the community.
Its legendary fund-raising events have endowed scholarships in memory of former members at area universities: The Robert Finucane Memorial Scholarship (named after the man everybody agrees was the presidente des presidentes) at Penn State Delaware County; the Jack Steck Scholarship at Temple University; and the Charles Crist Scholarship at Delaware County Community College.
Through contests for high school writers and their student newspapers, the Club has awarded additional thousands of dollars to the most talented in its continuing mission to encourage communications as a career choice among young people.
Some of the events that raised the money for the scholarships and prizes are among the most memorable in Delaware County History. The Wine on the Brandywine evenings, replete with tasty cheese and tasty art, take place at the Brandywine River Museum and Conservancy. The not-quite-annual event attracts the area's lawmakers, wannabe-lawmakers, journalists, and corporate, education and legal world leaders.
An Off-White Christmas - a live, full-length parody of the movie, with some original songs - drew 300 people to its one and only performance at the now gone Log Cabin Inn. Just about every newspaper and editor and broadcaster in our town got the good-natured needle in story and song.
This is Your Life, Jack Steck was a two-and-a-half-hour tribute to that late Philadelphia Pioneer Broadcaster (and the man who selected Dick Clark to host American Bandstand when it went national). Dick Clark hosted and local celebrities (Julie DeJohn, Steck's grandson Danny Bonaduce, Al Alberts of Four Aces fame, Grady and Hurst and many Philly broadcast pioneers) participated, and the 400-seat auditorium was sold out. (And this is the event for which Walter Annenberg, Jack Steck's former boss at the old WFIL, threw in a few bucks of support for the scholarship effort.)
The Great American Picnic, the Juleps at the Mint (drinks and fancy hats on Kentucky Derby day at the Franklin Mint), celebrity spelling bees and Jeopardy tournaments, and even a psychic fair produced laughs, new members, and private charitable dollars.
The Delaware County Press Club is one of the few organizations to welcome journalists and corporate and nonprofit public relations professionals. It makes for great information exchange, networking, and encouragement to young people to build communications skills. While we have a website, we retain the "typewriter" logo to remind us of our roots. Most of us have moved on to computers (the last holdout actually got e-mail last year!), and some of us are into digital cameras, instant messaging, and Podcasts.
It's been a fun run, and we're ready for the next 25. To our own Magnificent Seven (Dorothea Reynolds, Charles Crist, Barbara Ormsby, Janet Shay, Chris Parker, Dr. Margaret Mary Kearney and Joyce Ellis - hope we didn't forget anyone) and the rest of they whom they "begat" over this quarter-century, thanks!
See you in the newsroom.