The Society’s first meeting was held on May 3, 1963, at the Voodoo Orchid Range. Twenty-one people attended the meeting. The first order of business was to form a nominating committee. Its slate of officers and trustees was elected unanimously, the first President being Lloyd Easterling, then Mayor of Naples. It was decided to meet on the first Thursday of every month. The amount of dues was determined and paid. Members were asked to bring and show their blooming plants at future meetings.
By the second meeting in June, the Society had begun to grow; there were 24 paid-up members. The first program was presented by Claude Timmons, proprietor of Voodoo Orchids. The discussion over how to conduct the plant tables was temporarily solved by forming a committee of three different members each month to evaluate the plants. The first invitation to visit a member’s collection was issued by Dr. and Mrs. Brashear.
By August, the Society has grown to 32 members and the charter membership was declared closed. The first plant raffle was held and brought in $13.80.
In October, copies of by-laws were distributed and the first outside speaker was Tom Fennell of the Orchid Jungle. It was largely due to his advice that NOS became affiliated with the American Orchid Society.
In December the Society moved to the Federal Savings and Loan building, later shifting to the First National Bank of Naples.
An invitation from the Garden Club was accepted to enter a display in their show. The display at the Flower Show in March was a success, and the Society made its first donation – $10 to the Garden Club for show expenses.
In May the membership had doubled and there was $157.42 in the Treasury.
One board after another worried over how to increase membership, attendance and interest. By-laws were revised again and again.
A subsidiary Keiki Club was created to hold its own meetings and teach horticulture to beginners. It quickly died. Mini-lessons before the start of regular meetings were tried and abandoned.
The last display at the Garden Club was extra ambitious with borrowed staging that was transported by truck. The Board decided that the next year’s display would be an independent exhibit at Naples Federal building.
There were complaints at Board meetings about inattention and lack of courtesy at regular meetings. City Manager Fred Lowdermilk presented a gavel to the President to curb the member’s behavior. When this device failed, it was decided to cut boring Society business to a minimum. Reading of the minutes was dropped. Reports by the Treasurer and Committee Chairmen were curtailed. The practice of holding up and naming every plant on the Show Tables, which had become tedious as their numbers increased, was dropped despite much opposition.
A Library was started with the purchase of the Sanders Hybrid Lists. The office of Corresponding Secretary was added to the Board. The first field trip was undertaken to Royal Palm Hammock. By mid-1969 the Treasury had swelled to $530 and $25 was donated to Rookery Bay Conservancy.
The Society had growing pains. More chairs and tables and parking spaces were needed. The final blow came when the Bank scheduled a cocktail party on a first Thursday, giving one day’s notice to NOS. Another meeting place (Spencer Hall at the First Presbyterian Church) was found and the society had to pay its first rent.
One program speaker after another defected and replacements had to be found. After that experience, the By-laws were revised to add a second Vice President in charge of programming. There was a financial crisis. The Society needed a PA system, rent money and many supplies including name tags which were considered advisable. Postcard meeting notices gave way to newsletters plus extra mailings which included lists and special notices. The first auction was to come as a lifesaver. It was chaired by Jean and Laban LeBuff and netted $1100. In recent years this has been changed from an auction to a plant sale.
Bus trips to shows and orchid ranges on the East and West Coasts became a yearly routine. Not so routine was a field trip to Marco Island to collect native orchids in an area that was to be razed. The trip produced many fine plants and a roaring rash of chigger bites.
In 1977 we moved to the Old Baptist Church. Setting up for meeting was a lot of work, but there was no rent to pay. The first show there was a dress rehearsal for the kind of show that is sponsored by the America Orchid Society. It was chaired by Jean LeBuff. This show would teach AOS rules to our members, and was to be judged by AOS judges. The Board allotted $750 expenses.
The show was the best and most ambitious one the Society had produced up to that time, winning and avalanche of praise from judges, visitors and members. What’s more, it netted a $344 profit! The way was clear for future shows.
In 1977 we paid the first of two installments of $1000 donation to Southwest Heritage, which gave up entree for meetings at the Naples Depot. Rent was high, but worth it. The increasing income allowed us to incorporate the Society and achieve a tax-free number, to rent storage space for the supplies and library, to send annual donations to the America Orchid Society and Marie Selby Gardens. The pleasant feature of after-meeting refreshments was inaugurated. A saving account was also opened.
Beginner and advanced courses on orchid culture were started and have been held every year since.
In July 1982, a gold orchid pin (donated to NOS) was raffled. The proceeds, $450 was sent to AOS to be applied to their Video Tape project. In response to this, AOS in March 1983 donated a BLC. Pamela Hetherington ‘Coronation’ FCC/AOS. This plant was raffled off during the next three meetings. The $500 from this raffle was sent to AOS to be used to help finance the World Orchid Conference and show to be held in Miami.
By then end of 1983 we had 275 members and the average attendance at meeting was 110.
Donations to AOS and Selby Gardens were and are being made each year.
In 1988 the AOS instituted a membership drive. Through the efforts of our AOS Representative, 38 new members joined AOS.
Due to renovation of the Naples Depot, the NOS was no longer able to hold the NOS show at that location. After considerable searching for a new location, it was agree to hold it at the Conservancy in Naples. Therefore, beginning in March 1989 all NOS shows were held at the Conservancy. This area makes a beautiful setting for the orchid show. In addition we have entered into a project with them of planting native Florida orchids on the trees in the Conservancy. The plants are donated by our members. This will continue as an on-going project.
The year 1992 marks the 30th anniversary of the Naples Orchid Society. At the present time we have 200 members of which 105 also are members of AOS. We presently have an average attendance of 75. Our library contains over 150 books as well as many volumes of AOS bulletins and Awards Quarterly’s.
Harry W. Moeller