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Postcard from the Past: Volunteers fill ‘Chamber Pot’ with Dedication and Hard Work

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

by Dick Perue

Throughout the past 50 years of the Saratoga and Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce’s existence, outstanding volunteers have received the coveted “Chamber Pot” in recognition of their dedication and hard work.

Recently it was asked, “How did the award get the name ‘Chamber Pot’ and how was the tradition started?”

If this writer’s memory serves him right, this is how it all happened.

Shortly after the chamber was organized in 1974, several members of the initial committee were meeting at a local bar for a discussion as to what direction the chamber should take. 

Someone suggested outstanding volunteers be recognized for service and some type of award be presented, to which the smart aleck of the group quipped, “How can we pay for such an award when we are so poor we don’t have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of.”

From this comment, the newly hired chamber manager contended she would indeed buy a pot – which turned out to be a thunder mug, aka as a bedpan – and have volunteers fill it with service, dedication and hard work, with the hardest working member to be awarded the “Chamber Pot” each year.

How to organize a chamber

In the early 1970s, economic times were tough in Saratoga, Encampment, Riverside and the surrounding area. Merchants were looking for ways to boost the economy and ease the burden of local civic organizations and the various town clerks who were serving as economic development committees and visitor information correspondents.

A joint effort was needed to band together to promote, develop and expand the valley’s qualities and economy. Three or four merchants – including this writer – met in a local watering hole and decided to contact all of the other business men and women to form a united group to put this area on the map.

After many personal visits to each place of business, pledges were secured, promises accepted and the chamber founded.

As with any community project, one will find a few “grouches and naysayers” who would pour cold water on any project. During organizational efforts of the chamber, one such person stands out.

A local hotel and bar owner curtly rejected the committee’s efforts to recruit her into the chamber and would dismiss the organizers bluntly and swiftly, along with plenty of harsh words.

Committee members made several calls with the usual response being, “No way would I join your . . . .” 

On one trip around town to sign up chamber members, the organizers decided to skip this particular business and head on down the street, to which the hotel and bar owner came running out, shouting, “What is this? Don’t you think I’m good enough to join your blankity blank club?”

Members of the group returned to the business to ask her to join, to which she replied, with a grin, “Hell no!”

This business person was one of the very few who never did join the chamber, and most of us were grateful.

During the middle of this month, the Saratoga and Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 50th anniversary, and I have been asked to tell how the organization was founded. 

Since I’m the last known survivor of the four original organizers, as well as a honorary life member, I’m honored to pass the story along to all of those “new” chamber members. – Dick Perue

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