Wednesday, August 24, 2005
With 63% of Brevard County residents relocating from other states, it’s no surprise to find 14 clubs devoted to fostering friendships from “back home.” Some, like the New York Club, make a detailed calendar for each month, a year in advance; while Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Club prefers to meet only once a year. Some clubs offer raffles, some sponsor state souvenir door prizes, and some just want to get together. These Clubs are as diverse as their states, still sharing a common love for the two states they call “home.”
“Part of the draw of a state club is the unique meaning of words to each region,” says
Nina Scarpa, from Piscataway, NJ. She moved to Palm Bay eight years ago, joining the New
Jersey Club three years ago. This 28 year old club has a dynamic group of all ages, including
seniors who have formed lifelong friendships.
Florence Wells has been a member of the Connecticut Yankees for 13 years, and tries
to attend each of their monthly meetings. Formerly from Meriden, CT, the club treasurer has been
a Florida resident for 42 years.
“People come from as far away as Tampa,” said Wells, “even though there are clubs
there. We have so much fun.”
Sometimes, two State Clubs meet at the same restaurant at the same time, which has
caused some interesting situations. When the Maine and Connecticut clubs met at the same time,
a Connecticut man, whose wife was from Maine, went into the wrong room to find “the right people.”
Pat Johnson is from Lisbon ME. An eight year Brevard resident, she always brings to The
Maine Connection, bottles of Moxie, the soft drink that once rivaled Coca-Cola. She met her cousin,
Roy Rochon from Newport, RI when both clubs met at the same place.
The Little Rhody club is, “a group of Rhode Islanders who now live in Florida,” according
to Rochon, vice president of the club that was formed 31 years ago. He has been a member for
13 years. He and Paul Gallant from Burrillville, RI, joke that, ““If someone in Rhode Island dies, they
call Florida to get six guys to fly up to be pall bearers.”
Gallant has been a member for 19 months, but looks forward to every meeting. “We
moved down here and unbeknownst to me, four people that I used to work with also belong to the
club,” he said. “I hadn’t seen them in 20 years.”
Gloria Ledeaux met a former classmate who told her, “I recognized you by your blue eyes.”
From Cumberland, RI, Ledeaux has been a member of the Brevard Little Rhodys for three years.
The Little Rhody annual picnic is the highlight of the year for many, and is rumored to draw
as many as 1500 people. Gallant said, “I used to only go to the picnics, but I started going to the
regular meetings. Now I am vice president! It’s fun!”
“It’s fun!” is a sentiment echoed from one club to another. Wanda Lopez has been with
the Kentucky Club for 15 years, and though this club only meets three times each year, they still
have fun. In May, they hold their own Derby Day with activities for the entire family; a fall picnic in
October; and a party in the winter.
Originally from Jackson, KY, Lopez said, “We’d like to get all the Kentucky people to
come and find out how much fun we have. I came here in ’57. We decided to start a Kentucky
club with Beans and Cornbread.”
Twenty years ago Mary Jo Strah, from Ironwood, MI, and three friends kept meeting
Floridians who had been residents of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.
“We meet once a year. Nobody wants to meet any more often than that,” Strah
explained. “I bring the toast- a small loaf of bread like Melba that’s called Prenary Toast; a dunker
for your coffee. I get 50 bags.” She suggested that some people come to the picnic just for the
toast and the pasties, pronounced “past tees”, which are unique to Michigan.
“Once, I saw an older woman dragging, another older lady. She thought there would be
no one there that she would know. Suddenly, a man stood up, in his late 70’s. He was so happy
to see her and to recognize his childhood playmate. She did not mind coming back the next year.”
“When people go home, they always bring things back for the picnic. They aren’t
expensive or special, just things from home. They’ll get pencils, old license tags, anything from
home. There’s a “Yooper” tourist trap that always donates souvenirs every year, and a store in
Lake Gogebic sends caps every year.”
“Me?” beamed Strah, “I order toast.”
For more information about specific clubs, please refer to the list.