Home of poker, ‘red meat night’

Tahoe Club a men’s bastion for 100 years
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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A picturesque two-story stucco building in Downtown Auburn has been a home away from home for its members for nearly 100 years. The Tahoe Club is and always has been “just a social club,” Pat McKee, the group’s unofficial historian, said recently When the club was formed in 1909, Auburn was a very different place. “It was a pretty rough time with saloons and bordellos,” McKee said. “The women didn’t want their men drinking there, so the men decided to create their own place to drink.” Forty-one men signed on to membership. One of those founding members was P.N. Smith — grandfather of Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes and Auburn Mayor Mike Holmes, McKee said. Initially the club met at 812 Lincoln Way, later moving to the Auburn Hotel. Then, in 1913, the group decided to build a clubhouse. Each member pledged $200, paying it in monthly installments to fund the $10,559 cost of the building and $1,550 land price, McKee said. “In 10 months, the building and the lot were paid for,” McKee said. The club occupies the top floor. But the lower floor has always been rented out, starting with Bell Electric, which signed a five-year-lease for $50 a month in 1914. Over the years, there’s been a liquor store, bottle shop, clothing store, thrift shop and real estate office there, McKee said. Upstairs, windows flank the front and side, providing a great vantagepoint for taking in Auburn parades, McKee said. The roomy interior includes a leather-padded bar, big screen TV and book corner. In the very back, there’s a cozy space known as the poker room. “It used to be a high stakes game, but not anymore,” McKee said. On the side, hidden by a room divider, there’s a pool table In the early years, members could lunch at the club daily. But meal service was cut back to twice a week and then once a week during the 1920s, before it was canceled entirely. Currently there are monthly dinners, facilitated by a fully equipped commercial kitchen downstairs. The 20 or so members who enjoy cooking take turns preparing the meal for the 120-plus membership. And, frequently, steak is on the menu. That’s why it is sometimes referred to as red meat night, board member Alan Brooks said. “You get a huge cut of meat,” he said. “It’s our splurge.” It’s still a men-only club, but Friday is Ladies Night. “They can come in after 5:30 p.m. with a (club member) escort,” McKee said. The club also rents out the space for wedding receptions and other special events. The Auburn Host Lion Club meets there on Wednesdays. Brooks, who chaired the 100-year anniversary dinner on Oct. 3, became a member of the Tahoe Club about 10 years ago. McKee joined 15 years ago. Both cite the camaraderie as what they enjoy most. “You get to meet some outstanding people,” Brooks said. “If someone’s sick, we band together. It’s a close-knit group.” “I’ve found lots of good friendships here,” McKee added. Since McKee took on the job of historian, he has dug through old file cabinets to unearth nuggets from the club’s past. He’s displayed some of the items on the walls. Others are in a glass cabinet. One of his finds is an unsigned pen and ink drawing that was used as the design for the club’s Christmas program in December 1911. Beside it, on the wall, are a couple of political cartoons from 1913. The cabinet display includes a voter registration book from 1910 (there are no women listed because they didn’t achieve suffrage until 1920, McKee noted). The club’s original guestbook showcases the distinctive handwriting flourishes of the time. The signature of the first visitor is dated Monday, March 8, 1909. Gloria Young can be reached at -------------------------------------- Tahoe Club – Fast Facts Address: 902 Lincoln Way, at corner of Lincoln Way and East Placer Street Club president: Dick Brooks Steward Mike Rogar is the only paid employee and he runs the club. When the club was first founded, dues were $1.75 a month for full membership and $1.25 for associate members (those who lived outside Auburn). “Because they traveled by horse and buggy, it was assumed they wouldn’t attend as frequently,” club historian Pat McKee said. These days, dues are $225 a year. The building was completed in record time, progressing from design through construction between November 1913 and March 1914. It is solid concrete with concrete stucco. The concrete came from the Cool quarry. The look of the clubhouse has changed a little over the years. The space where the bar now stands was previously a buffet and pantry. A fireplace was eliminated during a remodel. The eight-member board meets on “Jinx day,” scheduled “as close to St. Patrick’s Day as we can get,” McKee said. “We have a corned beef and cabbage meal that day. It’s our only official meeting of the year.” Those interested in membership must be recommended by three club members in good standing. The board, which numbers seven or eight, then votes on the applications, McKee said. The 100-year anniversary dinner, held Oct 3, included two members who were also present for the 50-year anniversary dinner in 1959 — Byron Van Metre and Paul Chamberlin. “We honored them with plaques,” dinner chairman Alan Brooks said. Each club member attending the 100th anniversary dinner received a specially struck commemorative coin. The club is open Tuesday through Friday during the afternoons and early evenings, and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. “Every member has a key so he can come up at any time of day to read papers, eat a sack lunch or watch TV,” McKee said. “It’s a getaway place.”