E. Ky. Social Club: A Heritage of Connection
[imgbelt img=2500379008_thumb.jpg]This Labor Day weekend, people with strong ties to a small Kentucky town will gather in a far-off city to celebrate their connection to a place and a culture. The annual reunion of the Eastern Kentucky Social Club continues a 44-year-old tradition.
Today, Lynch has about 750 people and is still one of the most racially and ethnically diverse communities in eastern Kentucky. The town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and many of Lynch’s original structures remain.
After mining’s peak in the 1940s, people began to leave Lynch to find work in cities to the north: Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland. But for many, Lynch would always be home.
In 1969, two men were having a drink in a Cleveland bar and started talking about pulling together a reunion of people they grew up with in Lynch. In 1970, the first reunion was held in Cleveland.
Over the decades, thousands of African Americans with ties to Lynch have been involved with the Eastern Kentucky Social Club. Now the club has about a dozen chapters all over the country, from California to Milwaukee to Dayton. It recently reinstated the Texas chapter and gained a new one in St. Louis. Members include people who grew up in Lynch and the next generation who have never lived here.
A document called “The Most Noteworthy Characteristics of the Eastern Kentucky Social Club Cleveland Chapter” states that the central objective of the EKSC has been to “stay together.”
Sitting in club headquarters at the old high school in Lynch, with banners of EKSC’s chapters and hundreds of reunion pictures on the walls, Rutland Melton and Bennie Massey talk about the social club.