Somewhere around April or May of 2005, I got an e-mail from Chuck Boelkins, one of the founding members of the Woodworkers' Guild of Georgia, reminding me that the guild was coming up on its 25th anniversary. I brought it up to the board. We decided that the meeting in January 2006 would be the celebration. Since I am one of the long term members, I was asked to set it up. I didn't know if the present membership would enjoy listening to a bunch of old woodworkers talk about old times. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the younger members enjoyed the meeting. The January meeting was filled with a lot of historical facts and interesting stories. The old men [I am one of them] were very entertaining. Stories were told about things that happened in the early days of the guild. Some were about how our guild was formed, some were about the obstacles they had to overcome, and some were just about the characters that helped shape and mold this great guild. We had a large number of the founding members, old members and most of the past presidents of the guild in attendance.
Before the guild was formed, Chris Bagby, owner of Highland Hardware, and some partners decided they wanted to promote fine woodworking. They scheduled nationally known woodworkers such as Ian Kirby to do a series of woodworking seminars and classes. Most of the woodworkers who frequented Highland Hardware at the time signed up for these multiple classes. During one of the classes, the woodworkers attending were having such a good time visiting with each other and sharing knowledge and how-to ideas that they decided that they needed to do this more often. At that point Ian Kirby suggested that they form a woodworking guild. He told them how to get started. He told them to bring some pieces of woodworking or tools to raffle off to raise money for postage for mailings. The rest is history.
The one thing that made me feel very good was that, to a man, every one of the special guests, from the founding members to the present president, spoke about what the guild has meant to them. They spoke of how our guild and its membership was, and still is, a very sharing group. They spoke about how in their early days of woodworking, and the early days of the guild, there were very few books, hardly any videos or classes to attend. If you were a woodworker, you were probably self-taught or you had had the fortune of a mentor in school or family. But you struggled along mostly by yourself. After the guild was formed, they talked about how some of the early fulltime woodworkers got most or all of their work through or from the guild. They talked about how important the guild has been to their development as woodworkers. The Woodworkers Guild of Georgia was the catalyst that made all the other woodworking groups in the metropolitan area and the state possible. They also spoke of how the guild has always tried to uphold the highest standards of workmanship and education dealing with fine woodworking. Master woodworkers Michael Gilmartin and Timothy Sutherland gave us a constructive history of some of the guild members’ involvement in shows that were presented at some of the art galleries and museums in this city. You came away from this meeting with a greater pride and appreciation of the guild and what it has contributed to the development of fine woodworking not only in Atlanta, but the region. I came away from this meeting with the proud feeling that I wanted to stick my chest out and say to anybody who would listen, "I belong to one of the greatest guilds in the country, The Woodworker’s Guild of Georgia."
The founding or old members present at the reunion were: Nick Cook, Joe Fishback, Timothy Sutherland, Phil Colson, John Gorrell, Mark Palmquist, Michael Gilmartin, Mike Hare, Chuck Boelkins, Ken Johnson, Mickey Hudspeth, Zack Etheridge, Gene Eberhardt, Tom Lathrop and Roger Foster (who came all the way from Texas).
The past guild presidents, in order served, are as follows: Zack Etheridge (1st president), Roger Foster, Mike Couch (not present), Mark Palmquist, Joe Fishback, Nick Cook, John Gorrell, Mark Barr, David Buchsbaum, Don Russell, John McCormick (not present), Ken Dickson (not present), Andrew Pacifico, Mickey Hudspeth, Ken Slaughter, Ted Baldwin, and the current president, Suzie Tindall. Current members with 20 years or more of membership include Stewart Holt, Ted McWilliams (not present), Bob Ney, Suzie Tindall, Mickey Hudspeth, Kenneth Johnson, and Ted Baldwin.
For more information about the Woodworker's Guild of Georgia, visit their website at www.woodworkersguildofga.org.