My Past Life in Toastmasters

Way back in the 1990’s, I joined Daybreakers, a Toastmasters club in Glendale. Toastmasters is an organization dedicated to helping its members improve their public speaking skills. To me, Daybreakers became much more than that. 

You cannot mention Daybreakers Toastmasters without mentioning Margie Stites. It’s just not possible. Daybreakers had some great speakers and some very noteworthy characters. Margie was neither. Instead, she was quite simply, the heart and the soul of Daybreakers Toastmasters.  When membership flagged, as it did from time to time, she’d gather us together and come up with a plan to recruit new members. There was never a challenge too big for Margie to tackle. 

Margie was a librarian. Her sidekick was another librarian,  Susan Sanders. But we had a very diverse membership. At the time I joined, we had a member who had won the District Humorous speech contest, Peter Spaw. Peter was an attorney, a great speaker, very bright, and quick-witted, and a natural comedian. Truly, a toastmaster worth learning from.

Jim Guess was the regional manager for Keebler., the cookie company. Jim was an easy going guy, very outgoing, huge sports fan, and with his positive attitude he became a very good Toastmaster.  This is a little bit off topic, but one Saturday Jim and I went to watch ASU play #1 ranked Nebraska, a football team that was looking to 3peat as National Champion. But led by Jake Plummer at quarterback, and a linebacker named Pat Tillman, the unranked Sun Devils humiliated Nebraska 19-0. Jim remarked, one day we’d look back on this day, and say we were there when history was made.

For a while, Jean McGrath was a Daybreakers member. Jean entered politics and was elected to the state legislature. While in the legislature, Jean introduced a bill to legalize Freon. Freon is a chemical that was used in refrigerators and air conditioners as a coolant until it was banned because of its harm to the environment. 

I had mentioned to Jean that Freon was not just banned by federal law, but by the Montreal Protocol, an International Treaty. Nevertheless, Jean was adamant that Arizona take on the federal government and keep them from meddling in our business.  While Jean’s bill did make it out of committee it never made it into law. Jean is no longer a legislator, but is now serving a second term on the Maricopa County Community College Board where I’m sure she continues to stir things up.

There were many others. Bev Wright was another speech contest winner. There was farmer Bruce Baskett, and his sister. I also recall Dennis Razkowski, Bob Klinginpeal, and Frank Trower. These are just a few of the names that come to mind. 

Eventually, Daybreakers lost the room where we met free of charge at a small convelescent hospital. We tried a few other locations, but nothing seemed to work out and the club faded away. I spoke to Margie a few months ago, and I know she follows me online. 

Today, I belong to WE-Markable Toastmasters in Peoria where we now meet online during this COVID-19 period. But I often think of all my friends from Daybreakers.

-Art Johnson

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1 Response to My Past Life in Toastmasters

  1. art i love it. thanks so much for taking me down a very favorite memory. i will never forget those wonderful people. i’m so pleased you are continuing. that club and those people changed my life. remember lorenzo. some years ago i say him at truculicks (sp) and shared a meal and a good conversation with hmi. who can forget conservative charles boughman. who started the whole thing by putting an article in glendale star.


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