We joined my parents at the Lithuanian Club for a fundraising breakfast for a memorial for veterans of the Korean War – a good cause, but a pretty lousy breakfast. Pop referred to the biscuits and gravy by their military name: shit on a shingle. I enjoyed my fruit cocktail in a tiny styrofoam cup, and Shane was astonished to see that not only was beer available at the bar at 8am, but there were a number of beers being consumed at said hour. Pop often gets tickets to these sorts of events from his patients – sometimes they’re good, sometimes not, but they’re always interesting!
There are a variety of reasons that I find places like the Lithuanian Club so fascinating. Social clubs of this sort inhabit an entirely different part of the world that that with which I’m familiar. I have no one ethnicity or homeland on which I pride myself – my family tree is a jumble of Germans, with a few Dutch, Irish, and English thrown in for good measure, but they’ve all been here at least a century. We were transplants, landing in Rockford when my parents were 30, with two kids and another on the way, and with Pop in the early days of his medical career. We settled in a part of town that was full of cul-de-sacs and two car garages, where sidewalks were optional and most moms stayed at home. We interacted with the kids and families from our neighborhood, our school, and our church. Those were our third places.
I wonder what will happen to places like the Lithuanian Club in the next few decades. The median age at breakfast was easily 70 – my parents, at 57, were among the younger in the room. My parents’ generation had the PTA and other school organizations, fitness clubs and rec sports leagues, and frequently two workplaces’ worth of potential colleagues and friends. And if we want to meet like-minded individuals, there are a bajillion Facebook groups. So what of social clubs? Will they just cease to exist? Is it our responsibility to maintain them in the face of more efficient online alternatives?