Kearney Aerie #2722 was established in 1946 and received its Charter on October 29th, 1947. The Aerie had 108 members when it gained its charter. One of whom was Mr. Kenneth Beahm, who was 19 when he joined the Eagles Club in 1947. Both Kearney Aerie @2722 and Mr. Beahm will be celebrating their 70th Anniversary this October.
Some of the original members that were instrumental in establishing the Kearney Eagles club were Clarence (Shorty) Shields, Bob Hildebrant, Clarence Pentiger and Pete Peterson. The Auxiliary started a few years later in 1952 and was an integral part of the club until their recent Consolidation with the Holdrege Auxiliary #3132. In the 80’s the Club had over 600 Aerie members. Currently there are approximately 375 members.
When the Kearney Aerie first began they were holding their meetings in a back room at the American Legion building, that you had to enter through a door in the rear alley. Shortly thereafter they rented a building on Railroad Street and in 1948 they rented the basement of the bowling alley that is now the Chicken Coop.
From there they moved to the Helsberg building where they had the bar in the front and the meeting room in the back. At this time the club did not serve food, as all the bars in town were bottle clubs and only served beer unless they were a members only club. This was by all accounts the hey-day of the club in the 60’s & 70’sb before Kearney passed the by-the-drink law.
In the later part of 1967 they bought the old Safeway building and remodeled it to add bathrooms and the kitchen. This is the current home of the Kearney Eagles Club and it has been opened since later part of 1967. The Eagles have done two other remodels since then. These included the roof and parking lot and the card room, which replaced the Stag Bar, and east rooms. Some things that have never changed are the original bar and some of the tables in the social room.
Originally the Stag Bar was where the men could come in after work and have a drink. The women were not allowed in here. Even though they used to have a Stag night where the women would cook for the men, they were still not allowed to enter the Stag Bar.
In the early days of the Kearney Eagles Club, they would have weekly dances on Saturday nights and there were very strict dress codes on these nights. These included men not being able to wear shorts or tennis shoes and Women could not wear pants. Until recently wearing hats in the club was prohibited as well.
Some of the stories from days of old include: some wiley old pitch players that would start out the night playing for $.50 and $1.00 who by the end of the night were playing for $50-$100 per hand! Old Merle and G.W. used to try to change in their poker chips for free drinks, making one wonder if this is where the tradition has its roots! In the good ‘ole days they used to settle their differences by going out to the alley to duke it out! The Ehrpelding sisters, all 3 widows, would come in together on Saturday nights and each would only have 2 Schlitz beers. Rich Weiss who was the bar manager from 1979-2004 said this the only Schlitz that he ever ordered, 1 case a month! The club was even broken into in 1980. The thieves spent the whole night in the bar trying to break into a huge iron safe. However, they were kind enough to leave all the change and the checks inside!
Kearney Eagles Club was the home of the Nebraska State Convention in 1991, 1996 and 2002. They were also the home of Western Zone Conference in 2015. And will be the site of the State Shuffleboard Tournament in February of 2018.
The Eagle Riders were started in Kearney in 2005. In 2007 members Scott Bierman and Patrick Spangler traveled to Spokane, Washington to present the Eagle Riders to the National Convention to have them recognized nationally as an Eagles Organization. It is now the fastest growing motorcycle group in the country. There are now 4 Eagle Riders groups in Nebraska. Today Kearney Eagle Riders has 30 members.
The Eagle Riders assist the Aerie in many events throughout the year as well as many of their own events. Some of these events include Rahe’s of Hope Fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, Pony Express Ride for Children’s Mental Health Services, Cruise Night, Brad Debord Memorial Ride, CCC Scholarship for $500 in memory of Brad Debord, Children’s Halloween Party, Super Bowl Sunday Fundraiser and many more.
In addition to these annual events the Aerie also has Sunday Charity Dinners, Monday Night Football, Tuesday Dart League, Wednesday Bingo Night, Thursday Burger & Beer Night, Friday Beer Garden Night, Saturday Bands on Special Occassions.
Due to State Bowling Tournament being in Holdrege the last weekend of October, Kearney will be celebrating their 70th Anniversary on October 21st with a Hog Roast from 5-8pm, with viewing of the roasting at 1:30pm.
For more information about any of their weekly or annual events contact Bar Manager Kim Williams, Aerie President Rob Humphreys or Eagle Riders President Scott Bierman at (308) 234-2216. Or better yet, just stop by the club on October 21st for the Anniversary Celebration and check things out!