Council 4175 History

The first meeting of Knights of Columbus Council 4175 was held on February 14, 1956 in the hall above Bees Ice Cream parlor, 2049 Peoria Road. District Deputy Louis Gietl presided over the election of officers. Roy Gillespie was elected Grand Knight, John Crowe was Deputy Grand Knight with Sam Zaffiri, George Petrilli and Paul McAnarney as trustees. Father Robert Franzen, who was then Assistant Pastor of St. Aloysius Parish, was appointed the first Chaplain by Bishop William O'Connor. Supreme Grand Knight Luke E. Hart appointed Michael Burns as Financial Secretary.

After a few months of meetings at the Peoria Road address, in August of 1956, the old “Fox Hole Tavern,” located in a basement at 2210 N 15th Street, became available and was the first “permanent” home of the Council. The North 15th Street neighbors will long remember the night the decision was made to rent the Fox Hole quarters. A meeting was held at St. Aloysius Church to discuss the site and when all of the cars left St. Aloysius to descend on the Fox Hole to look over the facilities, the neighbors thought they were back in the prohibition days and the “Feds” were swooping in to make a raid, an auspicious beginning for the struggling new Council! Members participated in the remodeling of the new home under the direction of a committee headed by Anthony Kohlrus, with Fred Mehlick, James Gephart, Emery Blasko and William Hattendorf serving as members.

That first year centered on activities for the members and their families. A family picnic was hosted at Center Park on Lake Springfield in September. On December 23, 1956 our first Children's Christmas Party was hosted at the Council Hall. Over 200 children attended the party and were treated to ice cream, candy, milk and cookies. Santa Claus distributed presents to the children while the members of Council 4175 collected and distributed 14 Christmas baskets of food to needy parishioners of the north end parishes. Toys donated by the first grade students of St. Joseph’s School were delivered with the baskets.

The first public function the Council sponsored was a ham dinner held on February 7, 1957 in the basement cafeteria of the Administration Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. This project required the efforts of every one of the 56 Charter Members and there was a total and dedicated response. Roland Fulgenzi was Chairman and over 1,000 tickets were sold. The second fund raising effort was the parking of cars at a lot on Sangamon Avenue during the Illinois State Fair.

It was during the tenancy on North 15th Street that Grand Knight Paul McAnarney met with PAM publishers of Quincy and the Knightly News was born. Jerry Marrin was the first editor and the following gentleman have served the Council as editors: Edward Perrinsek, John Egan, Paul McAnarney, Eddie Carter, Tom Schuh, Gary Thomas, Jerry Daniels, Tom Esela and Pat Daniels. Eddie Carter served as editor for 11 years; Gary Thomas served the longest period of time, 13 years. The Knightly News provides each member information on current Council activities. Included each month is the Grand Knight’s Column, Current Officers, Knight of the Month, upcoming events, articles on recent events. The Knightly news is mailed to every member of the Council and each member can submit an article for publication.

Every month since Council 4175 has been in it’s first permanent home, the Grand Knight has selected a Brother Knight as the Knight of the Month. The Knight of the Month is chosen for his exemplary contributions and service to Council 4175. The Knight of the Month is a man of action, one who can always be counted on to get the job done. The Knight of the Month logo was designed by the late and beloved Phil Ramirez and used in each issue of the Knightly News to highlight the article announcing the Grand Knight’s selection.

The first banquet celebrating the Council's Second Anniversary was held on February 18, 1958, at the downtown Knights of Columbus Auditorium. Supreme Director Charles Morgan from Chicago was the principal speaker. Each year since, the Council has celebrated our Anniversary with a Banquet. Several of the celebrations were theme parties. Themes such as a Club 21, Speakeasy, and Old West Chuck Wagon were used to add a little variety to the evening. The 25th Anniversary banquet was held in the basement o f St. Aloysius Church. Roy Gillespie, our first Grand Knight, returned from his job as President of the National Pony League in Washington, Pennsylvania to be the keynote speaker.

Each Anniversary Banquet since 1958 the Council has chosen from the twelve Knights of the Month, a Knight of the Year. The first Knight of the Year was awarded to Alfred Witkins. The Knight of the Year is chosen by the previous seven Knights who have received this honor by secret ballot. The Knight of the Year from the preceding year counts the votes and is the only individual to know who will be the next honoree until he announces at the Anniversary Banquet. This tradition has been continued and has become the high point of each banquet and council year. In 1969 two Brother Knights, Chuck Beall and William Hattendorf, Sr. tied for the title of “Knight of the Year”. A complete listing of all the Brother Knights who have earned and received this award since 1958 is available on Page 28 of this program.

Council 4175 has exemplified its leadership by passing several resolutions that were approved by the State Council. At the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in 1964 a change in the by-laws was adopted. This change governed the way method used by councils in voting on applicants for membership. Previously, if five or more members voted to reject an applicant, he was denied membership. Effective September 1, 1964 the new rule requires a third of those voting must vote for rejection before an applicant is refused membership into the order. The adoption of this new by-law can be traced back to Father Ernest A. Burtle Council 4175. The Supreme Convention also went on the record urging every council to form a citizens committee to fight the flood of indecency found in the mail and on news stands. The State Journal Register reported that members of Council 4175 originated this program and had formed a committee some seven years earlier.

Council 4175 has always been family oriented and has not forgotten our youth. Since its early inception, the Council has sponsored youth baseball teams, held youth sports nights at the club; teenage dances, furnished the facilities for youth days of recollection and sponsored a free throw contest for boys and girls. We have also sponsored a basketball team, had teenage hayrack rides, wiener roasts, Halloween and Christmas parties for our children.

In 1958 Council 4175 had outgrown our quarters and a search began for larger clubrooms. The site selected was the former “Barn Tavern” in Deveraux Heights. It was in May 1958 that the Knights Queens Auxiliary was organized with Alice Petrilli as the first president. As the Council grew and the depleted coffers became partially filled, five acres of land in the southwest section of Devereaux Heights were purchased for $6,000 in April 1961. Plans were made to eventually build our own building. In 1963, the first of many burgoos were held at the “Barn” under the Chairmanship of our gourmet chef, Ed Kohlrus. The burgoos were eventually moved to the site for the new hall. The money from the burgoos was earmarked for air conditioning the new hall and for the philanthropies of Council 4175. Burgoos were held on the Council grounds until 1970.

It was on St. Patrick's night 1959 that the first of several variety shows was staged. Who among the early members will ever forget the “Jack Scar” show and not to be outdone, the Queens subsequently produced several outstanding Revues of their own. Many unusual and extravagant theme parties were held by the Council Activity Chairmen such as the Hawaiian Lua, Gypsy Party, Texas Hoe Down, Chinese, "Honk" Party, Dog Patch, Roaring 20's, Hayrack Rides, Sleigh Rides, Las Vegas nights, pinochle tournaments, etc.

In 1958, Council 4175 reactivated the Knights of Columbus Barbecue but on a more modest scale than the old Council #364 Barbecue. The first one was held on the Council grounds where our own electrician, Tony Kohlrus, spent untold hours keeping the carnival rides running and Art Carrigan, hauled tons of sawdust to spread on the rain soaked grounds. In August 1961, the Barbecue site was transferred to St. James Trade School grounds and the proceeds were divided each year between the Council and the school. It was held there until 1965 and then back to the new Council grounds from 1966 through 1970. In 1971 another project was substituted for the Barbecue with the proceeds split between the school and the Council.

From 1958 through 1967, the members presented “Living Rosaries” at St. Aloysius and St. Cabrini churches. A Notre Dame football trip to South Bend was arranged in the fall of 1959. The late Father Jim Naughtin of St. Joseph was Chaplain during this period.

A fund raising dinner was held in the Grandview Municipal Building on October 28, 1962, and after an inspiring pep talk by Fred Mehlick, enough donations were pledged to plan construction of the present main building. The pledges obtained entailed much sacrifice on the part of many. One member even went to his Credit Union and borrowed money to participate.

Father Raymond Rieck, Chaplain, blessed our new council grounds and turned the first shovel of dirt with a golden spade on Sunday, May 5, 1963, signaling the beginning of construction. Jerry Lee deserves our gratitude for gold plating the spade. Under the supervision of Emery Blasko and with the financial assistance of Geno Fulgenzi and the Illinois National Bank, the entire membership, the wives and children pitched in to help throughout construction. Many of the members donated almost every spare minute of their time to accomplish this labor of love. One of our departed brothers, Dominic Aiello, took all of his accrued vacation to assist in the project.

Despite many setbacks such as a torrential rain, which filled the basement collapsing some walls, the new Council home became a reality. The first Council meeting was held in the still uncompleted building in September 1963 and a sneak preview party was held there the following week.

Msgr. Al Bertman was instrumental and encouraged the founding of Council 4175. He was our second Chaplain and was always interested in our progress. Shortly before the building was entirely completed and although very, ill, he asked to be brought out to the new building. In November 1963, accompanied by two hospital sisters, he was transported to the building in an ambulance and toured and blessed our new quarters from a wheel chair.

Catholic Activity has not been overlooked. Early in the Council's history, we joined in marching in a body with the Bishop for the Memorial Mass at Calvary Cemetery. This holy practice included the 1987 March to dedicate the Holy Innocents infant burial site. Council 4175 was among the first councils in Illinois to have Memorial Masses in our chambers for Deceased Members. This tradition continues today, during the month of November, Council 4175 has remembered our Brother Knights during our Annual Deceased Member Mass. All the names of deceased members are read and a candle is lit as a special remembrance for Brother Knights who were laid to rest during the past year.

The years rolled on; in May 1965, there was a formal dedication and flag raising ceremony for the flagpole and Sacred Heart Statue. These were very generously donated to the Council by Brother Bill Henry. In 1967, the garage was built from proceeds collected by the “Pelican Club,” which also had previously paid off the second mortgage and bought much equipment for the club. On February 16, 1989, a new flagpole was dedicated in memory of Jack Feleccia.

When the Illinois State Legislature passed a bill legalizing Bingo for Fraternal organizations, Father Burtle Council was among the first to apply for a license and our Sunday night Bingo was born in October 1971. Originally played in the Council hall, the revenue from this source has enabled the Council to greatly enhance its charitable contributions over the years despite one evening’s disaster when a new game was played and after I 22 was called, 73 people bingoed. That game was never played again although it did make the local papers! Bingo play was suspended during the mid 70’s and did not resume until November 1994. A contact was signed to start sponsoring a Bingo night on Tuesdays at the American Center. Although Bingo was played on Tuesdays, the Council moved the location to Victory Hall in March 2000. The stay at Victory Hall was short, the Council moved Bingo to Monday night in March 2001 at Caritas Hall where Bingo is still played today.

At the September meeting in 1974, it was decided to build a new addition to our building. After the planning and efforts of many dedicated members, the new addition was available for the 19th Anniversary banquet in February 1975. Trustee Bill Tisckos was the Building Committee Chairman. A contest was held to name the new room and the “Pelican Room” was chosen because the Pelicans (50-50 ticket sellers) were most responsible for the favorable financial condition of the Council.

One of the most successful club activities has been the Council 4175 Shuffleboard League. Started in 1977, the league played on Monday and Tuesday nights. The first champs were Chuck and Shelby Beall. The league continues to play, now playing in their 29th year, every Monday night in the Pelican Room.

Another successful activity by our members was the Rummy League formed by Joe Wimbush in February 1979. It started with 24 regular players and has grown ever since. On almost any weekday you can find Brother Knights playing cards at the hall.

One of the most popular council activities has been our annual golf league. The Golf League started in 1973 and has had a waiting list for additional players most of the time since. In the seventies players met on Sunday mornings for their rounds of golf. Tournament were scheduled at the end of each year, usually in late August or early September. Additianl his and her tournaments were scheduled so the Knights Queens could participate in all the fun and outdoors activity. A “Frozen Open” was played in January 1982 to test the golfers winter skills. Players in recent years have met on Tuesdays night at the “Oaks.”

In 1980 both the Knights Queens and Council 4175 initiated a scholarship program for member's sons and daughters who will attend a local Catholic High School. The tradition now includes scholarships for members children who attend a Catholic Grade School. The Paul McAnarney Annual Tuition Aid Drawing is held at the July Council meeting each year. The drawing was named after Paul McArnarney, one of the Council 4175 organizing committee members and the councils second Grand Knight. Tuition Aid awards are drawn for three high school scholarships and five grade school scholarships.

In September 1986, the Council started our Annual Chilli Cook-off and Food Fair. On the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The chilli cook-off was open to KC members and the public. Prizes included cash and trophies. Over the years the chilli cook-off included the Annual Chilli Bean 5K Run, games for the children and a Craft Show. The last Cook–off was held in September 1991. The Council also at different times over the years has hosted Chicken Fries / Dinners on the Council grounds. The first Chicken Fry / Dinner was held in 1967 and most recently in July of 1998.

The needs of our community have always been a concern for our Council. Council 4175 has supported the Central Illinois Community Blood Center. Over the 50 year history of Council 4175 our members have always answered the need of the Blood Center whenever they have called. The Council has hosted blood drives at our Council Hall and visited the Blood Center at the old E Allen Street center and their new facility on S Seventh Street.

Any history of Council 4175 would be remiss if we did not mention the fundraiser that has supported our Council activities more than any other. Back in 1967 the Council hosted it’s first Fish Fry. Over the years the Fish Fry’s have become a Lenten tradition for the Council. Council 4175 is proud that our carp and catfish was voted “The Best” in the Illinois Times Food and Fun Contest.

From the inception of the Council the virtue of charity has been exemplified by monthly donations to families in need, our parishes, Catholic schools, Seminarians, assistance to the Mentally Retarded, annual Newman contributions, Disaster Fund donations, Springfield College in Illinois, Scholarships, donations to the Right to Life Crusade, Christmas baskets, Mitten program, Dream program, St. James Trade School and Brother James Court.

This is only a partial list as it is almost endless, but each of you who has been a part of it has every right to be proud!