Origin of the WSWPA

“Each of us will remember George Prindle in his own way but of one thing we can be sure, he wanted the organization to live, with mutual help, exchange of knowledge of water supply as the basic purpose, it will live.” - Horace R. Frye

On April 16th, 1931,  a group of 37 water works men, representing 11 Lake Shore Cities, gathered at the Hotel Racine to organize a permanent association of water works men.  They represented the Cities along the West Shore of Lake Michigan which use the lake as their source of water supply.  A newspaper clipping, from the Racine-Journal-Times, dated April 17, 1931, records the proceeding of this meeting and states “For some time past there has been talk of getting all the water superintendents, chemist and filtration experts together and organizing an association, the purpose of which will be to exchange ideas on the purification of water supplies.  Supt. W.A. Peirce, of the local water department, and Dr. J. J. McCarthy, City Chemist, decided that the time was ripe for some action on the matter so they invited colleagues from Evanston, Lake Forest, Highland Park, Glencoe, Winnetka, Kenilworth, Waukegan, Kenosha, Sheboygan and Milwaukee to come here.”  

Actually, the original idea and preliminary steps for the Racine meeting were formulated at the St. Louis meeting of the AWWA in 1930.  While attending this meeting Dr. McCarthy was urged by Walter Peirce of Racine and Jim Ashworth of Waukegan, to contact all of the water works men along the West Shore of Lake Michigan to determine their feeling on such an organization.  Personal contacts were made during the summer and fall of 1930.  All of the men contacted were favorable to the suggestion of an organization meeting.  On March 31, 1931, Dr. McCarthy sent a form letter to all Superintendents along the west shore requesting a meeting date of the week April 13th and suggesting that at least three interested men from each plant attend the meeting.  

As previously stated, the first meeting was held April 16th at Racine.  At this time, it was decided to form an organization of superintendents, chemists and filter operators from water plants along the West Shore of Lake Michigan who would hold informal monthly dinner meetings to exchange ideas, personal experiences and to discuss individual problems of its members.  Dr. McCarthy was named temporary chairman and a second meeting date was set up for May 13th at Highland Park, Illinois. 

Attendance and enthusiasm increased at the second meeting and as a result a name was approved for the organization, namely, The West Shore Water Producers Association.  A committee was set up to nominate officers, pick a date and location for the third meeting.

The third meeting was held at Kenosha, Wisconsin on January 13, 1932, and at this meeting the following water works men were elected as the first officers to hold office in the new organization:             

The choice of George Prindle as corresponding secretary at this time was without a doubt, the best move ever made by the members of the association.  In this position George guided and was responsible for the destiny of the organization for almost 25 years.  Without his untiring enthusiasm, his unlimited experience and his classic meeting notices this organization would never have survived the depression and war years.  Our present corresponding secretary Horace R. Frye sums up the membership feeling toward  George Prindle in a memoriam dedicated to our beloved friend as follows:  “Each of us will remember George Prindle in his own way but of one thing we can be sure, he wanted the organization to live, with mutual help, exchange of knowledge of water supply as the basic purpose, it will live.”  

During 1932 there were nine meetings held at different plants along the lake shore.  It soon became apparent that monthly meetings required a lot of time, and it was also hard to find subjects that would hold the interest of the membership.  It was decided to hold fewer meetings each year, with no meeting scheduled during the winter months.  For the past ten years, three meetings have been held each year, with the first meeting each year being held at Racine, Wisconsin as a Home Coming Meeting.   

Since its inception, the organization has held slightly over one hundred meetings, at which time subjects covering almost the entire field of water purification and distribution were discussed.  A short run down on a few of the more interesting discussions may help to indicate the type and caliber of the meetings.  They are as follows:  Water Rates by Howson, The Economic Replacement of Pumping Equipment by h. P. Binder, Typhoid Fever Outbreaks by A.E. Gorman, Short Filter Runs and many other subjects by J. R. Baylis, Bacteriological Media by R. E. Noble, Sewage Treatment by Dr. F. W. Mohlman, Hydraulics by Professor Dawson, Filter Efficiencies by H. E. Hudson Jr., Threshold Odor Methods by O. Gullans, Silicates as Aids to Coagulation by H. H. Gerstein, American Water Works Association by H. A. Jordan, Water Isn’t H2O by Dr. A. M. Buswell and many many more subjects of equal interest to the water works profession.  Since 1948 the attendance at meetings is always between 80 – 100 water works men representing 30 lakeshore cities all the way from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Michigan City, Indiana.  

The West Shore Water Producers Association has developed into an organization which far exceeded the expectations of the charter members.  It has served as a clearing house for the exchange of ideas, experiences and the solution of water works problems common to water plants along the West Shore of Lake Michigan.  Above all the organization has promoted cooperation and lasting friendship among the water works engineers and operators who make up its membership.

After celebrating its 50th anniversary in Racine in 1981, the West Shore Water Producers Association Officers pondered on the direction the Association should take inching closer to the 21st century.  Members of our Association saw an increased amount of technical and educational material that needed to be presented at meetings.  The ever rapidly changing regulations and technology facing us in the water industry was overwhelming.  The Association officers made the commitment to push forward with the goals and objectives set forth by our founding fathers in 1931 with new vision.  

In 1984 Keith Young of the Gary Hobart Water Corporation forwarded the idea that an education committee should be formed to handle technical sessions at each meeting.  In addition, a yearly technical seminar would be held on the most pertinent topics available at that time.  In 1985 the first ever full day technical seminar was held in Gurnee, Illinois, on the computerization in the water industry with over 150 attending.  The first Chairman of the education committee was Herbert Schmidt of Racine, Wisconsin, a position which he held for three years.  The quality of these meetings swelled the attendance to over 100 at each event.  Over the past years such topics as the safe drinking water act, pump maintenance and control and chemical treatment and handling have been presented at these technical seminars and in 1990 the first ever West Shore Water Producers table top show was presented in conjunction with the technical seminar in Gurnee, Illinois.  Over 45 exhibitors displayed at the event with 165 total in attendance.  

In 1989 an award to honor one of the most inspirational members of the West Shore Water Producers Association was named in memory of Emmett Sutliff.  Mr. Sutliff, the Superintendent of the Hammond, Indiana plant passed away after years of service to Hammond and the water industry and in particular the West Shore Water Producers Association.  The Award is given to the person who best exemplified the spirit and enthusiasm of Mr. Sutliff.  The first recipient of the Emmett Sutliff Fellowship Award went to Keith Young of Gary Hobart, Indiana, at the 1989 winter meeting.  

The Association looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead, but we can all be assured that the WSWPA will be in the forefront of these issues.  The camaraderie which binds its members together overcomes the geographic locations and the diverse personalities which meet together on a quarterly basis.  The West Shore Water Producers Association 60 years and beyond.