In his INNOCENT ABROAD, Mark Twain, the famous American author describes the crumbling temple of Baalbek in ancient Lebanon as a notable ruin whose history is a sealed book. There it stood for thousands of years, the wonder and admiration of travelers, but who built it, or when it was built, no one knows. To escape such a fate as this, these few items about the El Dorado Social Club are written down that all posterity might know about its origin. Already the memory begins to grow dim about its beginnings; hence, it is extremely important that the facts of the founding be put down, in print now.
In the year 1925, a group of students at the old Colored High School located at 303 West Dallas Avenue, Houston, Texas, were studying under the direction of Mrs. Viola Webber Colvin, a teacher of English. While in Mrs. Colvin’s class, they learned about El Dorado in reading the poem by that name written by the American poet, Edgar Allen Poe. The poem is as follows:
A gallant Knight
had journeyed long, Singing a song
In search of El Dorado.
But he grew old-
This Knight so bold
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like El Dorado.
And, as his strength
Failed had at length
He met a pilgrim shadow
“Shadow,” said he,
Where can it be?
This land of El Dorado?
Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride.
The shade replied,
“If you seek for El Dorado.”
This poem so impressed the members of the class that they wanted to organize a club to further implement the ideals as set forth in the poem. Permission for the project was granted by the principal, James D. Ryan.
Some of the members of this class who became charter members of the El Dorado Social Club were: Cornell Barnes, Tessie Elder, Jessie Flood, John B. Gillon, Gus T. Harris, Carrie Madison, Joe Parker, Vivian Parish, Myrtis Spiller, George Washington, Julius Watson and Harold Woodruff.
Joe Parker was chosen as the first President of the group. The club members chose as their motto: “Searching for El Dorado.” It was their intention that each member of the group would “Ride, boldly over the mountains of the Moon” in search for El Dorado.
They chose as their colors blue and gold. The blue was to represent that they would forever be true to their ideal of El Dorado; the gold was to symbolize that their lives would be of great value to the community and further, that the integrity of each member would forever be pure as gold.
According to history, El Dorado was a mythical country, supposed to exist somewhere in South America. From the accounts given by the Indians, the Spanish explorers long believed that a region existed somewhere in the Andes Mountains where gold was so abundant that children played with gold nuggets instead of marbles. Many expeditions were sent out in search for this land of gold, but, although much treasure was obtained, El Dorado was never discovered. These explorations were similar to those of Ponce de Leon in the Florida peninsula and many others in the new world. During the gold rush excitement in California, the region was called El Dorado of the west. The term in Spanish, meaning gilded man, referring to the reputed high priest of this tabled region. The El Dorado myth is distinctly American, but in many respects seems to be related to the story of the GOLDEN FLEECE and other myths of ancient Greece.
In the year 1931, a reorganization of the club took place. This was on September 18th at the home of John B. Gillon, one of the founding members. It was decided that moving forward; the El Dorado Social Club would be a males only organization. The officers selected at this meeting were Joe J. Parker, President; John L. Gray, Vice President; John B. Gillon, Treasurer; W. C. Parrish, Financial Secretary and C. C. Pullum, Recording Secretary. An auxiliary organization to the club was established shortly thereafter. It was called the Eldorettees and was composed of the wives of the members of the El Dorado Club. The Eldorettes was established with its own constitution and was completely autonomous from the El Dorado Social Club.
On Sunday afternoon, October 7, 1962, a public program was aired over radio station KCOH to acquaint the public with the aims and purpose of the El Dorado Social Club. To project the program over the air, a panel was appointed to carry it out. The members of the panel were: Gus T. Harris, Counselor at Jack Yates High School; Thomas Dixon, owner of Dixon Tire Company; Herman M. Washington, Washington Realty; W.L.D. Johnson, Jr., Principal, Dodson Elementary School; James S. Walker, Owner of Walker Appliance Company and R.I Jones, Civil Service Worker. The panel, in summation, made the following statement: “We are a dedicated group of men striving to improve the cultural status of our group and to meet the challenges of our community, realizing that there can be no privileges with obligation; a recognition that we cannot as individuals be healthy and cultural unless the community as a whole is healthy and cultural. We are dedicated to a higher standard of conduct.”
These are still the aims of the members of the El Dorado Social Club. For over 80 years, the members have tried to adhere to the original ideals of the founding members. Every member of the club is fully dedicated to the proposition that he must Ride, boldly ride, over the mountains of the Moon, down the valley of the Shadow, in search for El Dorado.
The membership roster has grown from fourteen to an active membership approaching 40. Past Presidents include: Joe J. Parker, C.C. Pullum, Gus Harris, Neil W. Harris, R.T. Jones, W.L.D. Johnson, Felton Purnell, Homer McCoy, Surrey E. Davis, Ollie Armbrister, Earl Newsome, Clarence Miller, Carl Walker, James Walker and Billy Roberts.