Few of us know that the Middletown Luncheon Club has been doing its good works and offering its well-known community luncheons for 84 years! For 36 years, those luncheons were offered at the Middletown Methodist Church social hall. They are now held, the third Wednesday of every month except December, at the Senior Center.
Each month a different service organization serves the lunch patrons. For its efforts, the group get to keep the $5 per person charge and is given an additional donation by the Luncheon Club.
The luncheon club was founded in 1929 as one of the public service works of Ed Runyon, then editor and publisher of the Middletown newspaper (whether it was then the Independent or Times-Star is still up in the air as microfiche records do not include local papers from the 1920s). Garage operator Orval Brennan and several other community leaders were working with him to establish the club.
Among its first projects, the Luncheon Club was a major donor to the purchase of land as a site for a library in Middletown, along with other clubs and businesses and a bevy of townsfolk who may have contributed a dollar or two or only 50 cents. Funding for the construction of the building was donated by East Bay philanthropist Chauncey W. Gibson, who had owned the Castle Rock Springs resort in Anderson Springs. Gibson had funded two earlier libraries in Oakland.
One of the Luncheon Club’s most well-attended meetings was held at the Church of the Pioneers on Oct. 13, 1971, where the club advocated for Gibson Library being incorporated into the county and state library systems. Member Orrin Clark, who had been pushing the effort with county officials for over a year, roused the crowd to insistence. As part of Middletown’s celebration of its centennial, the library opened with a librarian and regular hours, and access to all state library books.
The Luncheon Club underwrote an 8-page tabloid historical review in honor of Middletown’s centennial.
From the beginning, advocacy for the betterment of Middletown was a primary focus. Until well into the 1980s the luncheons were offered twice monthly. In its earliest years, the club seems to have served in the manner recently adopted by the Middletown Area Town Hall (MATH), as an intermediary between local residents and county and state officials. It also was a valuable information resource for outlying communities.
The Luncheon Club was incorporated in 1943, thereby gaining the right to deal in real estate and other tangible property. An early advantage was purchasing land on which a hospitality house to welcome visitors to Lake County was constructed and later land for the construction of a medical clinic so that a doctor and essential medical services could be available right here in Middletown. Since then, its advocacy has contributed to and helped finance a new water system, a new post office, street signs, a pictorial brochure to be distributed to visitors, efforts to have the quiescent Harbin Hot Springs become a state park, a new zoning plan, trash pickups in the downtown area, the founding of the cemetery district, and improved protection by law enforcement agencies.
From interest on its investments, the Middletown Luncheon Club each year offers scholarships to graduating high school students and contributes to a variety of worthy local events and activities.