With so many lives and fortunes tied to the stock market, there’s an interesting group in the Greater Chattanooga area that take a special interest in the performance of “the market”. The "Peerless Plungers” is the oldest investment club in the Chattanooga area.
The club was started in 1957 by a group of managers of the old Peerless Woolen Mill in Rossville. Peerless was started by the late John L. Hutcheson in 1905. At one time, Peerless was the major supplier of blankets to the military. The plant was sold to Burlington Industries in 1952 and closed by Burlington in 1961 after a vote by employees to unionize.
But, the group of men in the investment club continued to meet monthly and decided to bring in new members recommended by a current member. Over the years, many locals have been members of the club. When the market would take a dive, several would leave. But through it all, the club continued to “chug’ along. "
Currently the membership stands at 15. Officers are president Ray Fox, attorney, secretary Tony Keyes, realtor, and treasurer George Georgeson, retired Vega Construction official. Meetings are held monthly at The Walden Club.
Calvin Grant, a long-time member, notes, "Meetings typically start with a 'round robin' discussion on any subject the member desires. Some are interesting and some are boring. Next, minutes and treasures reports are voted on followed by a recommendation from a three-man revolving stock committee.
"A set amount of dues funds the purchase of or the sale of stocks. The club practices 'dollar cost averaging, investing every month regardless of the ups and downs of the market."
A large part of the success of the group can be credited to the diversity of the membership. The financial advisor for the club is Barton Close of Raymond James Company.
The last founding member of the club was the late Bob McCoy, who graduated from Central High School and Georgia Tech where he starred in several sports. At Tech, he was a favorite of head football coach Bobby Dodd and played in the 1948 Orange Bowl. After college Bob McCoy came to Rossville to work for the Hutchesons at Peerless. He was able to attend the 50-year anniversary meeting of the Plungers at the Chattanooga Golf and County Club in 2007. Mr. McCoy passed away in 2012 at 84.
Currently, the longest participating members are Ted Schalk and Mr. Grant. Each have been members for 45 plus years. Mr. Grant said his path to the club was through his father-in-law, the late Paul W. Painter. Judge Painter served as attorney for the Peerless and the Hutcheson family for many years.
Mr. Grant notes, "There’s no doubt the club will continue with new investors coming on board. Especially, when the stock market soars as it has for the last few years."