Worth waiting for … Don Campbell’s 65 years in the Gowanda Kiwanis Club

It’s hard to imagine waiting long for anything today, let alone to get into a club. But Don Campbell of Taylor Hollow Road waited three years to get into the Kiwanis Club of Gowanda. Sixty-five years after being admitted, he remains a proud Kiwanian in a club that he describes as “the backbone of the community.”

“When I joined, I had to wait about three years, it was full,” Campbell recalled recently on the eve of being presented with his 65-year Kiwanis membership pin by Southwest District Lieutenant Governor Bob Ducato of Westfield. “Mike Ragona, I think, was the grocer at the time and the club only allowed one person from each profession to be a member at any given time. Some professions had more, like doctors and lawyers, but not businessmen like us.”

Campbell came to Gowanda in 1936 as the meat and produce manager of the newly opened Olean chain store, Market Basket. After opening his own store on East Main Street in 1945 (where the American Legion Tank now sits) he established Don Campbell’s Super Duper and ran it until 1976 when he retired from the grocery business. Today the supermarket continues to be operated by the Fort family under the banner of Shop and Save.

“I was fairly new in Gowanda, having come in 1936, and some friends wanted me to join. I knew that it was the best way to get to know people. I remember working on some interesting projects. One such was the 4-H club chicken project. The Kiwanis Club purchased the chickens and gave them to the 4-H club members who had to bring the dressed birds back in the fall to be auctioned off! We had many such activities because the club was so very involved in so many things.”

Gowanda’s Kiwanis Club, part of Kiwanis International, was chartered in 1936. Today the club continues to operate with members gathering twice a month at the Gowanda Moose Club, just as it did when Campbell was initiated.

“We met at the Moose Club which was then on Buffalo Street on Thursday night and everyone looked forward to it. Members would continually introduce new projects not only because we were so numerous, but because we came from such different backgrounds. We also had what was called the ‘list of fines’ that had to be read by the president. He was notified of the alleged offenses ahead of time and early in the meeting addressed them. We had fines, for example for calling someone ‘Mr.’ or for bringing a drink in from the bar. You even got fined if you got your name in the paper. You got a fine for just about anything. The funniest thing about the fines was that the accused could call for counsel but more often than not the fines ended up being three times what they would have been without. I asked Charlie Markham to defend me.”

With a hearty laugh, he added “I got fined a lot.”