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Going back in time

History club explores events through discussion, relics, photographs, and memories

Created date

August 20th, 2014
history club standing in a classroom

George Smith spent his career as a physicist conducting research for General Motors. Even though he dedicated himself to science in his professional life, George says he’s been drawn to music and history since he was a young boy in high school.

“My wife Mary Lee and I have travelled to Europe a number of times as well as to some other countries, and we always look for the history, music, and art,” George says.

In 2007, George and Mary Lee moved to Run, an Erickson Living community in Novi, Mich. About 1,000 active retirees call Fox Run home. Residents drive activities and run activity groups based on their interests. 

George has had an opportunity to further explore his love of music and history since he moved to Fox Run. He started a music group for residents, and about a year ago, he formed a history club.

An opportunity to explore passions 

“Every night at dinner [in Fox Run’s on-site restaurants], we sit with different people, and as we talked to folks, we found out that other people have an interest in history, too,” George says. “So after a while, it seemed like there were enough people who were interested to start a club.”

George says the history club has an informal structure and is open to all residents. The group meets once a month in one of Fox Run’s classrooms and usually draws 20 people.

“We want everyone to participate, so at the first meeting, we got organized and decided to pick out topics that would be of interest to the majority of people,” George says.

History comes to life

The group discusses one topic during each of their meetings. One member volunteers each month to kick off the discussion with a 10- to 15-minute presentation and then opens it up for questions and free-flowing conversation. 

Over the last several months, the history club has hosted discussions about ancient Greece and Rome, the American Revolution, the Civil War, as well as both World Wars.

“Of course, there are World War II veterans living here at Fox Run who have given us a lot of insight about that,” George says.

Some residents have memorabilia from even earlier periods in history that they share with the group. George says one member brought in relics from the Civil War that he received from his grandfather.

Many residents at Fox Run are avid travelers, so they have photographs and other souvenirs that bring to life the club’s discussions about history. Bernie Lucas belongs to the history club, and his interest in history steers him to learn more about the people in different cultures.

“I have traveled a fair amount and visited places of historical interest, like the pyramids, so I’ve showed those pictures to the people in the club,” Bernie says.

George says the history club also uses books and movies to inspire their conversations. Over the summer, the group was planning to research and discuss the people who saved artwork before it was destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, which is the subject of The Monuments Men, a film directed by George Clooney. 

Regardless of the topic, the club’s discussions are interesting and engaging. They give residents a chance to form friendships while gaining an in-depth understanding of different episodes in history.

“A lot of times, people get so involved in the discussion that we end up talking past three o’clock [the end time],” George says.