Our First Fifty Years

Our First Fifty Years

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This month’s WWW History Column (The Way We Were) will be another departure from the norm in honor of our 50th Anniversary celebration of our CSI Chapter which was held last month at the Thousand Oaks Golf Course’s “Reds Restaurant.”  Last month’s History Column made an attempt to follow the wording of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address which also occurred during the month of November.  This month’s article will highlight our original founding Charter members and give important information about significant events and traditions through our first fifty years.


Charter Members: The Chapter was officially chartered on October 2, 1967 by a group of 14 Professionals and 22 Industry Members. Only one member of this group is still with us today but is no longer an active CSI member – Larry Erhardt.  The Professional Charter Members were Floyd H. “Bud” DeShane, architect and one of the principal partners of the former WBDC Group: Raymond L. Elliott, Civil Engineer; Fred L. Fichter, Food Service consultant and Specifier for Food Service Specialties; Malcom B. McMillen, architect  with McMillen, Palmer, and Fritz; Richard A. Meyers, Field Observer for Williams & Works; Cleon Oosterhouse, Architect; Donnally W. Palmer, Architect and partner of Malcom McMillen; Robert Reid, Architect specializing in churches; Richard K. Schmidt, partner with Bob Reid; James B. Shane, Architectural Instructor at FSU; William H. VanderBout, Architect and Project Manager for Davermann Associates; Donald F. White, Architect; William Winglar, Electrical Engineer who worked on and helped design the first Atomic Bomb; and Carl Zilmer, Architect with Steenwyk & Thrall who was the key person in developing interest in CSI.  Carl moved to Grand Rapids from Washington DC, where he had been a member of CSI, and was surprised that GR did not have a Chapter. So he started a new CSI Chapter here.  The Industry Charter Members were Allen Anderson, Sales Rep for Johns Manville Roofing; E.C. Baldwin, Jr. (Unknown company); John Bouma, Owner of Bouma Tile; George R. U. Berg (unknown), George W. Clements (unknown); Robert C. Conklin (unknown); William V. Coye, Coye Tent and Awning Co.; Lawrence E. Erhardt, Structural Engineer and principal of Erhardt Construction; Thomas F. Fudge, (unknown); Frank Goldschmidt, GAF; Herbert F. Hofmann, Michigan Certified Concrete Masonry sales; Fred J. Johnson, Johnson Electric Co.; Bernard G. Malewitz, Mechanical Engr. Owner of Hertel Plumbing and Heating; John W. Powell, (unknown); Herbert J. Ritzema, Ritzema Assoc,; Walter M. Rogers, (unknown); James C. Shuster, Sales Rep. Leggette & Michaels Specialty Ceilings; Raymond R. Thorpe, (unknown); Michael E. Vekasi, (unknown); B. J. Walter, R. L. Deppmann Co.;  Robert C. Vanderveen, Mid State Steel Deck & Erectors.  The first Chapter President was Carl Zilmer; Bill VanderBout was the first Vice President; Herbert Hofmann was the first Secretary; and Bernie Malewitz was the first Treasurer.


Chapter Meetings: The location, day and time of our monthly Membership Meetings has varied over the years.  When I first started to attend meetings in 1974, we were meeting at the Elks Country Club on the 2nd or 3rd Wednesdays.  Other locations have included English Hills Golf Club, Adrian’s Terrace, Country Kitchen in Grandville, Arnies on W. Leonard, the old Meijer Banquet Rooms on Plainfield at 5 Mile, Duba’s Restaurant on Stocking, Duba’s Restaurant on East Beltline, Holiday Inn Downtown Grand Rapids, and Landmark Hotel on 28th Street.  Chapter meetings are currently held the second Thursday of the month except for July and August at various locations, but most often at either the Hyatt Hotel in Wyoming, the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville, or The 84th Street Grille.  All locations are conveniently situated near interchanges of Major Highways (M-6 @ Byron Center Ave.; M-6 @ Hudsonville; I-196 and US-131 @ Pearl St.).  Board Meetings are generally scheduled 2 hours prior to each General Meeting.


Traditions: Our longest tradition originated in April of 1985 when Art Nelson invited us to Big Rapids, MI at Ferris State University in their College of Engineering.  The trips to FSU also began a tradition of singing a Chapter Song entitled, “Rapid River Ramble,” written by Art Nelson, head of the FSU Architectural Department.  Art Nelson and Jim Hojnacki each wrote from three to six verses each year and sang them at our Christmas parties.   The verses finally stopped in the year 2000 after reaching close to 100 verses.  Each verse was dedicated to an individual member and honored (razzed) that member by saying something about his profession or business.  Example: (“Stan Bosscher fills up joints; stuffin’ stuff from wall to wall.  If Stan doesn’t seal these joints, the Grand River will leak away.”)  Our former Institute Secretary, Gary Beimers, FCSI, has a verse in the song (1999) as does past Institute President, Edith Washington, FCSI (2000). The bus trips to Ferris lasted about 10 years when it evolved into a statewide CSI Meeting in East Lansing at Michigan State University.  This was during the time when Tom Young, FCSI, of Detroit was the Institute President.  He had been part of our entourage to FSU a few times and enjoyed himself, so he suggested that all CSI Chapters in Michigan meet together at Michigan State University in East Lansing at least once each year.


Annual Events: Our annual golf outing started in 1989 under the leadership of Max Oliver and was changed into a Scholarship Golf Outing in May of 1997 after the Board voted in June of 1996 under the leadership of Mark Lackowski.  In the years since then, we have raised more than $38,000 and have assisted several students to fulfill their dreams of getting a degree in a field related to the Construction Industry at a school located in the State of Michigan.  In June of 2010, the Golf Outing was renamed “The James (HOJO) Hojnacki Scholarship Golf Outing.”  That year, I was paired in the same four-some as Larry Olson, and he was constantly on his cell phone talking to my wife, trying to get her to come join us at the dinner to share in the surprise for me.  I was totally oblivious who was on the other end of his conversation, and merely thought that he was trying to fix another Grand Rapids Water Dept. problem.   My wife was not feeling well and had to stay home.  Another annual event was started under the leadership of Max Oliver in March, 1992 when we held our first Product Show at the Meijer Banquet Room on Plainfield near Five Mile.  That venue only had space enough for 56 Booths.  Since then, we have joined forces with Grand Rapids AIA (2003) and with the Builders’ Exchange of Grand Rapids & West Michigan (2011) for our Design & Construct EXPO.  We have had as many as 110 booths at various venues in and near Grand Rapids including The Delta-Plex in Walker (2013), the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville (2003, 2004, 2005, 2014), the Davenport University Field house in Caledonia, MI, English Hills Golf Club (1998 – 99), and at The Applied Technology Center (1993) co-sponsored by Grand Rapids Community College and Ferris State University.  Next year, we will be back on our own as GRBX has decided not to continue with its joint sponsorship.  Thank you, Elizabeth, for your great support these last seven years.


Newsletter: The chapter has always had a monthly publication that was simply called “The Newsletter” for 18 years.  The first Newsletter Editor was Bill Winglar who was editor from 1967 to Sept 1990.  The Newsletter name was changed to the “Rapid River Ramblings” sometime around 1985.  A contest was held to name the Newsletter as well as to design a new Letterhead for the Newsletter.  I think only about 6 or 7 entries were submitted by various CSI members or their by family members.  The winner of the contest was Michael Jones, son of past President, Walter “Buck” Jones.  Mike later joined the chapter for about five years while employed for a subcontractor.  His Letterhead was the Steel “I” Beam that stayed as the Letterhead for many years.  Melissa Carter was editor until May 1991; Jim Hojnacki until March 1997; Mike McPharlin until June, 1998; Chris Harkema until June, 2003; Jeff Murphy until June, 2006; Dale Cammenga until 2017, and the new Editor Brian Welsh at the present time.  Jim Hojnacki has remained on the newsletter staff as a reporter and columnist since 1987.  One of Hojo’s Columns entitled “ASTM Standards That are Modified” was started in January 1998 and was eventually distributed to and published by 60 CSI Chapters across the United States from Orlando, FL to Willamette (rhymes with “dam it”) Valley, OR and from Boston MA to Honolulu HI.  It was discontinued in July 2002, when the CSI national magazine, The Construction Specifier, published and re-edited one of Jim’s ASTM articles in the magazine’s Horizon Department.  Before the article could be published, Jim had to sign a waiver, to stop sending articles to other Chapters.  Yes, I do make mistakes sometimes, and signing that waiver was one of them.

Author: Jim Hojnacki

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