A common desire to have fun was the simple theme that tightly bound together 10 Salt Lake men in an unusual friendship that lasted a lifetime.
Newell Cotterell is the last survivor of a secret club known as the LCL, organized in 1913 at the Salt Lake home of LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith. There were 10 members, each of whom solemnly pledged that he would never divulge what the name of the club stood for until all the other members had died."Everyone was very strict about it," said Cotterell, who at 92 is in remarkably good health.
Dr. Kenneth Robbins, a retired dentist who passed away only a few weeks ago, made Cotterell the last survivor. Until Robbins died, he and Cotterell met together monthly for the lunches that took the place of regular meetings of the LCL.
LCL stands for "Laugh and Live," with the C in the middle signifying "club." According to Cotterell, the phrase came from a statement of the actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr., someone they all admired as "an amusing, happy-go-lucky type of man."
The club was not intended to be clandestine. The 10 organized it to have fun, and the secrecy gave them a certain prestige that set them apart from the rest of the student body of the old LDS High School, actually known then as LDS University, which was located on the southeast corner of North Temple and State streets.
Club members were also without exception "big men on campus," popular types involved in all the important activities of the school. They were unquestionably an elite crew.
From the original organization, they met on an alternate basis at the home of their "folks" the second Wednesday of every month - a practice that continued without interruption, even when various members moved away from Utah. In subsequent years, many came back for meetings and for specially planned reunions.
They loved to talk, compare notes and renew friendships.
Their regular meetings were often dinners, and they sponsored various other activities to which they invited the public and charged a fee, such as Saturday night dances with a jazz band at the Ladies Literary Club.
"We got a lecture from President Smith every time we went to his home. We weren't fond of that because we just wanted to have fun," said Cotterell. President Smith's youngest son, Fielding K. Smith, a member of the club, was student body president of LDS University, and went on to become an artist and illustrator, as well as a popular after-dinner speaker.Besides Robbins and Cotterell, all the other members attained success in their chosen fields. Jack Kelly worked at Walker Bank. Stafford Sloan, an artist, eventually went into the insurance business. Max Creer and Linden Alder were insurance executives. Courtney Weggland was a medical doctor, Clifford Snow a CPA and G. Stanley McAllister a vice president of both CBS and Lord and Taylor in New York.
Cotterell is an artist who spent 10 years in Chicago, where he established an artists' business that made posters for Chicago's best-known theaters. On one occasion he had the dubious honor of meeting Al Capone. Because three other club members also lived in Chicago then, the Chicago branch of the LCL continued regular club meetings.
When he returned to Salt Lake City, Cotterell started Commercial Display Co. on Regent Street, but in 1947 he received an offer to work at Oviatts' Department Store in Los Angeles, where he became executive vice president.
He and two brothers eventually bought out the Oviatt family, and Cotterell became the president of the lucrative and prestigious firm. The men's clothing business consumed his life, although he was always willing to take breaks for the LCL Club. When he returned to Salt Lake City after his retirement in 1972, the club was still active and the long friendship still intact.
Their 25th reunion took them as a group to Yellowstone National Park, and several times they held reunions in the canyons of Utah. But the second Wednesday of every month was sacred to this group, despite the occasional objections of their wives, several of whom found the club to be a trial in their lives - because regular meetings and reunions were always held without spouses.
"Nothing would ever keep us from getting together. It occasionally caused controversy as to whether family or business should come ahead of the LCL. But nothing ever did. Although we all belonged to fraternities in college, we were closer than any fraternity."
As the lone survivor, Cotterell has no apologies to offer for the devotion and rich friendship that bound together these 10 men. There is nothing quite so intense as the loyalty of youth.
And now after all these years, Mrs. Cotterell finally has Newell all to herself.