According to those who should know, the DP Club got its name from a waitress who upon surveying its seasoned membership declared they were, well, not exactly the most energetic of men.
Whether that happened at the time the club was formed in March 1994 in Richmond Hill by Tommy Darieng and R.B. Bashlor or it occurred soon afterward isn’t clear, but the name, heartily endorsed by DP membership, stuck.
So has the D.P. Club.
“24 years later we are still going strong,” Bashlor wrote on a cheat sheet for a reporter, though he noted too that the club has “lost a number of friends over the years due to sickness and death, etc.”
Still, 15 DP club members remain, give or take, and all are nearer in age to 80 than 18. That gives them a collective sort of good-natured gravitas you don’t find every day. And you won’t find it every day with the DP Club, either.
They only meet Wednesdays, gathering up at Plums Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop around 8 a.m. to discuss over breakfast the state of the world and other more important matters.
Sometimes, they venture out of Plums to see the wider world.
Bashlor noted on a yellow sheet of paper that the DP Club has made a number of day trips to various Coastal Empire locations, including Georgia Ports in Garden City, the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum in Pooler, an industrial park in Bryan County, an onion plant in Glennville and the Claxton Poultry Plant.
Sometimes, a certain local businessman who reportedly asked to remain anonymous springs for the meal, such is the DP Club’s place in the social fabric in Richmond Hill, a city that seems to be moving so fast toward whatever the future holds it occasionally seems to intentionally be busting at the seams.
Not so at the DP Club, whose roster at a recent breakfast included Bashlor, Doug Kinard, Wayne Leatherwood, Caroll Hardy, Dave Barre, Theron Darieng, Joseph Darieng, Paul Grizzard and Robert Carpenter.
That meeting took shape as probably countless others before it, around a long table in the center of Plums amidst the clatter of a busy restaurant and over hot coffee and grits and eggs, or pancakes and sausage, or some other combination.
If anyone was in a leadership position, it might’ve been those who sat at the ends of the table -- Bashlor and Carpenter, the latter Richmond Hill’s retired postmaster whose son, Russ, is now mayor.
Speaking of mayors, not present was the one currently in office.
Nor at the second meeting at which a reporter was allowed was Mayor Richard Davis, a DP club member who holds the career longevity record for being mayor in Richmond Hill, having spent 21 years in office.
Davis was, however, in attendance the previous week, and was reminded of a time in his boyhood when he and a friend would tie a purse to a rope and use it to trick motorists passing by on Highway 17. Or maybe it was 144.
It was probably Highway 17, and if the reporter got the story straight the idea was to see who’d get out of their car to pick up the purse and then pull the rope and get the motorist to chase it, or some such fun.
Life was much less complicated then, probably.
Probably more fun, too.
At any rate, Davis, evidently due to his status as Richmond Hill’s longest serving mayor, is allegedly the only DP Club member allowed to hold dual membership, meaning he’s welcome at both the DP Club and that other club in Richmond Hill.
According to some, it is known as the Hardees Club, or, as it apparently is also called, The Liars’ Club. In either case, that group of local stalwarts meets on a daily basis at Hardees, apparently, and gets an earlier start on conducting business.
If there is a rivalry between the men who belong to these separate clubs, it’s a friendly one -- the two groups get together at various times during the year to put on a fish fry for local first responders and law enforcement folks at J.F. Gregory Park, according to both Carpenter and Hardees Club leader Ellis Phillips.
And, as such things tend to be when nobody is in any big hurry to do anything, there’s no set time for the events and no schedule to meet. The fish fries occur whenever club members or friends catch enough fish to feed everyone. Wives and girlfriends pitch in to make deviled eggs and side dishes and desserts.
That’s good, because the fish fries can draw a crowd.
At the most recent one on a Friday in early September, those who showed ranged from Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith to Richmond Hill Fire Chief Ralph Catlett and Police Chief Mitch Shores to Bryan County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger and state Rep. Ron Stephens. Plenty of cops and EMTs and firefighters were there, too.
Club members said the fish fries are to show their appreciation for the work done by public safety personnel.
That means a lot, Catlett said. He was hardly alone. Those who attended the September fish fry were effusive in their praise of the clubs, while club members said it was the least they could do to give back to those who serve the community.
Besides, they enjoy it, Carpenter said, meaning club members, who seem renaissance men one and all.
And then, after folks had eaten their fill, the fish fry was over until the next one, not that anyone seemed in a hurry to leave.