The Role of the House Committee at Sycamore

by Jessie Bakeman

The Standing Rules state the responsibilities of the House Committee in Section 4.E.(a) through (d). The House Committee "shall: have charge of ... be responsible for... ; assign...; and notify ...." One can be unaware of these ponderous charges until well into membership on the House Committee.

As an example, my real introduction to Sycamore was when I became a member of the House Committee. Lila McGinty, then Chair, had a loyal working group who came down each Thursday morning that spring to sweep, scrub, and wash windows. Ten years ago, before copies of the By-Laws and Standing Rules were available to every member, we thought we were giving the clubhouse a good spring cleaning. Now, we would be fulfilling Standing Rule 4.E.(b) that we "shall be responsible for the cleanliness and orderliness of the interior of the clubhouse and the porch." Whether doing spring cleaning or being responsible for the cleanliness and orderliness of the clubhouse, we enjoyed shared work, learned a lot, and observed spring coming to the Island.

Section 4.E.(a) says the committee shall "have charge of and supervise the maintenance of all furniture, furnishings and equipment, subject to the general responsibility of the Captain..." One of the ways this has to be done is in getting rid of things. A plea for a TV set for the new Caretaker went out in the Islander. When he left a few months later, there were five TV sets stored in the ladies locker room! Husbands of House Committee members helped get them off the Island. Keeping the pool table repaired and supplied has been a bugaboo as the places which sell billiard pockets and supplies have moved from the Washington area to Baltimore.

"Assign all lockers" (4.E.(c)) is a challenger which each House Committee member approaches with confidence. But some of the lockers remain padlocked although the assignee may no longer be a member. Calling the persons listed can be a heartbreaker -- the person called describes his or her inability to get to the Island any more; or a puzzler -- when the person listed has "passed it on" to someone else -- not always a Club member. Cleaning out lockers takes one back to the days when the Island was differently utilized -- when people left canoe backs, picnic supplies and auction bridge rulebooks for the next visit.

During a fairly long career with the House Committee I never recall anyone's notifying the Financial Secretary as to money for extra lockers, damage to club property or even "etc." as Standing Rule 4.E.(d) adds inclusively.

Each House Committee Chair makes her, or his, or their job a little different. There are regular responsibilities not touched by the Standing Rules such as buying electric light bulbs and paper goods or getting the fire extinguishers checked. Then there are special assignments which come from the membership. When Mimi Cantwell was Chair, a special assignment was to buy comfortable clubhouse chairs, Earlier, when I was Chair, there were two big projects. Selecting the kitchen flooring was one -- the main clubhouse room's curling tile had been replaced by the present oak flooring, so the kitchen's curling tile looked more miserable than ever by comparison. Dorothy Malusky, Laureen Nicholson and I selected the new flooring. I'll spare you the details of the delivery, return and re-carrying of a heavy roll of vinyl flooring to the Island.

The other assigned project was to make a Circle of Warmth, then a proposal by Luther Carter. We started planning, wedded to the idea of built-in furniture around the space heater, enlivened by bright cushions. Ken Fassler was beginning his long project of converting our mammoth water storage tank into an imposing fireplace. We quickly changed our idea, and Laureen made a floor plan with cutouts to scale for everything -- Circle of Warmth, billiard table, extended ping-pong table and even the bookcases. We moved the little pieces of cardboard around and came up with a floorplan which included everything. It was not accepted by the membership because the ping-pong table and billiard table were set diagonally, which we thought necessary to give playing space. Later on the fireplace was installed and the Circle of Warmth, complete with comfortable chairs, functions. The pool table and ping-pong table were moved, but are four-square with the room, as they traditionally have been.

Standing Rule 4. on Duties of Committees says "The committees shall perform the duties usually associated with committees of similar designations ... " which the Sycamore House Committee does -- but with Workfest additions and our own Special individualistic but cooperative approach.