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Happy 50th

German American Club celebrates milestone

February 11, 2014
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Fifty years ago this week, The Beatles came to America and took the nation by storm.

Meanwhile, in Cape Coral, something slightly smaller than Beatlemania was born, and it would continue to live on long after the Fab Four had broken up.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the German American Social Club, and on Saturday the occasion was celebrated with a huge party that included dignitaries, club members and remembrances of where the club was then and what it has become now.

Article Photos

CHUCK BALLARO
German American Club president Hubert Prem shows off an award given to him by Norma Henning, Honorary Consulate for the Federal Republic of Germany, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the club in Cape Coral on Saturday.

Hubert Prem, president of the club, said things are certainly different from when William Gruetzenbach, who died a few months ago, founded it in 1964 and became its first president.

"These 50 years have been full with new things from year to year. We grew, bought more land and set up this clubhouse and our garten," Prem said, adding that it's because of volunteerism of its 750 members the club continues to thrive.

"They all work somewhere in the club, whether in beautification, painting, the garten, it's done by our members," Prem said.

In the beginning the club met at the firehouse and later the Cape Coral Yacht Club while the club got the money together to buy and land and construct its building on Pine Island Road, where the former Waltzing Waters used to be, and moved there in 1974.

It was the membership that footed the bill for the building. They became life members and were all paid back when all the debt on the construction was completed.

Today, the club has become one of the social meccas of the city, home to not only the club-sponsored Oktoberfest, but many other public and private events throughout the year.

It has also become one of the more charitable ones, donating between $20,000 and $30,000 every year.

Still, there are some reminders of its glorious past, such as Rita and Gunter Wortkotter, who came for the celebration. They, along with Matilda Easley (who could not make it), are the only charter members left.

They have seen some big changes over the last 50 years.

"It's gone from a family club to a big business club. There are more people you don't really know," Rita and Gunter agreed. "We can always use new members, but it's the best dancing place in the city with the best entertainment."

Nearly 350 people came to the formal event that featured great food and drink, music from the band Europa, plenty of dancing and a presentation hosted by Steve Eichner that featured the history of the club. There was also a presentation from Norma Henning, honorary consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, to Prem to commemorate the occasion.

"We have had so many great people who ran for more than one term and ran again," Prem said, only the 12th president in the club's history. "They celebrated the idea of our first president and the charter members to share German heritage with the community."

He said there have also been many great people who have given their time, talent and energy to make the club what it is today.

"It's the volunteers that make tonight the beautiful event this is," said Teresa Kohl, one of the club directors and supervisor for the event. "Without the volunteers we don't have a club. We expect you to volunteer, and when you do, you make friends and feel a part of the club."

 
 

 

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