History

Charter Date: December 5, 1946

On the evening of Dec. 5th, 1946, a large group of International Optimists were guests at James John School for the new Peninsula Optimist Club. Officers were installed and the new club received its charter. Guests included visitors from Portland Club, Vancouver, Longview, and Hood River. A banquet was held followed by a program and installation of the club.

Arthur Kohanek, President of the Portland Club, presented the charter to Louis F. Larsen, President of the Peninsula Club. Jack Kilpack from Optimist International was toastmaster, and C. C. Spears 18th district lieutenant installed the officers. The Portland Club and Roosevelt provided entertainment for the evening.

“A friend of the Boys”

The original slogan of the Optimist Club was “A friend of the Boys “. In the early days basketball teams were organized with local boys ages 8 to 14. The 8 – 11 year olds were referred to as the Midgets, and 11 – 14 as Intermediate. Three teams participated in the Portland basketball Young Timers League. In Feb, of 1947 baseball was added, sponsored by the Peninsula Optimist Club, for boys 12 and under, and 13, and 14 years old.

In looking through early articles from the St. John’s Review, the Optimist Club was very involved with the Red Shield Boys Club.

The Tree Lot

In 1949 the Peninsula Optimists started selling Christmas trees on the 50’ x 100’ lot on the corner of North Lombard and Chautauqua in Portland to help youth groups and school activities. On October 26, 1953, Kenneth and Dorothy Grant sold the lot to the Peninsula Optimist Club for $10.00 enabling us to continue raising funds in this space for many generations.

Our outreach has expanded to include NE Portland as well as St. Helens, Oregon. We have also used the lot for fireworks sales and the Spring Plant Sale.

“Friends of Youth”

Over the years our slogan changed to “Friends of Youth”. Many men, women, and children have contributed to the success of our activities. Members and volunteers from different organizations staff the daily workloads that are needed. Headed up by club member and lot manager John Teuscher, we have become a tradition for generations of families that continue to support us. All proceeds are used to help youth activities.


Lot, and flag pole dedication ceremony, Dec. 11, 2004


We are also able to supply scholarships to many youth moving into college. Longtime member and former Principal of Roosevelt High School, George Galati, started a Theodore Roosevelt scholarship for young women graduating from Roosevelt. We help the community through donations to the Portland Sunshine Division and Meals on Wheels.

Peninsula Optimist Club Tree Lot

When Covid hit, and many school activities were postponed or canceled, we took the opportunity to do some upgrades to our lot. We took out the old barge shed we had used for years as an office and shelter from the weather during our sales and built a new office and workstation for trimming trees. In 2023 we upgtraded our sign that read Peninsula Optimist Friends of Youth to read, ‘Peninsula Optimist Club, “Serving the community since 1946.” Memorial Christmas Tree Lot.’

Peninsula Optimist Club "Serving the community since 1946" Memorial Christmas Tree Lot

Throughout the years the Peninsula Optimist Club has involved community and business owners from the North Portland area. Members have moved to outlying areas, so we have expanded membership and support. As I write I’m reminded of some great relationships and the many friends I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.

It’s an honor to be part of a group that is focused on helping, and developing the youth and communities we are all a part of.

Joel Tolman
POC Historian

New Office and Workstation, 2019