In its heyday, the Martinez Community Club center served as a hub of activity.
"Martinez wasn't that big back then," said Joyce Kelley, whose husband, George Kelley, served as the club's president for 38 years. "Everybody knew everybody. It was a wonderful place."
The building currently is being leased to the owner of a taekwondo studio, but members of The Community Club of Martinez, a nonprofit organization, have plans to sell the property at 3412 Old Petersburg Road, which would change ownership for the first time in the center's history.
The club's origins date back to 1938 when about 20 people met at the Martinez Post Office to discuss forming a community club, according to club records. The site's original building, a six-room house, was purchased in 1938, but it burned down in 1945.
Another building was constructed in 1945. Although the center has undergone renovations throughout the years, it has remained on the same half-acre lot for more than 60 years. The club was incorporated in 1951.
"It's a long, long history," Kelley said.
In 1953, the club also purchased three acres, where the Shell gas station at Old Petersburg and Baston roads presently stands. Gibbs Field was formed there and provided senior league baseball teams a place to play.
"I enjoyed going to the ball games, helping in the concession stand," said Debbie Zapata, the Kelleys' daughter, who was a child at the time. "I enjoyed going with Daddy to Bingo."
Bingo was held at the center each Thursday night in the 1960s and 1970s, Zapata said. During the 1960s, Teen Town was another popular activity at the center, where teens could meet for dances and listen to music provided by disc jockeys.
"They worked hard at that Bingo," Kelley said, "and they made some good money. That's how they made that money to buy Kelley Park."
Land for Kelley Park was purchased in 1983, when the club bought 10 acres off Petersburg Road. Kelley said she's given donations to the park in memory of her late husband, who died in 2006 and was responsible for starting senior league baseball in the area.
About a dozen members now make up the club. At one point, the club had more than 100 members, said Cora Jones, who has been a member since 1954 and served as club secretary for about 40 years.
Jones and Kelley can remember volunteering in the 1950s and 1960s at Fourth of July and Labor Day barbecues in which people would begin lining up at 4 a.m. to attend. A barbecue pit once used by club members was later removed from the property.
"I worked all my life," Jones said, "but I was still down here to help."
Jones' husband, Ray Jones, was a trustee of the club, and her three sons and their wives are members of the club in addition to Kelley, her two children and their spouses.
Kelley's son-in-law, Mike Zapata, was elected as the club's president in April when new officers were selected.
Club members started renting the building to tenants in the 1950s, said Kelley, who served as club treasurer and rental chairman for several years. Throughout the years, the center has provided a spot for garage sales, wedding receptions, family reunions, church meetings, square dancing and a ballet school. The property lost some of its parking lot when roadways in the area were expanded in the late 1990s, Kelley said.
The club also sponsored Boy and Cub Scouts, Brownie troops and several baseball teams in the 1960s and 1970s, Kelley said.
Though the club might sell the center, club members intend to continue donating funds to those in the community and keep Kelley Park up and running for many years to come.
"I told the members, we can sell the club (house), but we're not going to sell that park as long as I'm here, because (George Kelley) loved it," Kelley said.
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