In the summer of 1980, a fraternity of sorts was born. Three men planned trips to Lake Cumberland aboard a boat belonging to Marvin DeBell, called "Captain" by his gang.
They had to talk about the trips a lot — weekly, in fact. After all, the men said, assembling the proper amount of food, beer and poker chips took a lot of strategy and not a few tumblers of adult beverage.
There was never a single fish caught, said Jerry Richey: "We made no pretense of fishing — none."
Thirty-five years later, they are still meeting weekly.
The group — the number can range from three or four to eight — has met at a variety of restaurants: Friends on Lane Allen, Del Frisco's and Lone Star. The men tried another restaurant on Southland Drive, but Bill Rea described the restaurant as having "such bad service we thought we'd come down here," to Winchell's.
Known by the no-nonsense name The Thursday Group, the men use their weekly forum to concoct things to do on their annual trips, such as link themselves together in the water and play a game called "Bobble," which involves men wearing flotation devices and tied together in the lake, along with a man on the boat deck who would change the music and toss beverages to the partiers.
Occasionally, the meeting conversation, fueled by Maker's Mark and beer and the occasional iced tea, would wander into how to solve the world's problems, particularly after the regular lake trips ended 12 years ago.
Now, they just hang out at the Winchell's bar, where they bond with one another while discussing the pressing questions of the day. The answers generally involved conservative measures and Republican candidates, and Hillary Clinton is considered, to the extent she is considered at all, as something akin to a political gnat.
The men have a lottery pool, the proceeds of which go toward planning the annual Christmas gathering, to which they invite sons and grandsons.
The Thursday Group is not the only group of older men routinely meeting to solve the world's problems in two hours or less. The Lexington chapter of the ROMEOs — Retired Old Men Eating Out — meets at Charlie's Fresh Seafood each Friday to grab lunch and then dine at nearby Castlewood Park.
One member of The Thursday Group, dentist Billy Forbess, once brought his newborn son to show the group by sitting the child down in his carrier on the middle of the table. The boy grew up to be an Eagle Scout.
Another of the members is Jock Gum, a retired Fayette County educator and longtime principal of Morton Middle School.
Group member Robert Mosley, the youth of the organization at 57, calls bartender Bryan Hodson, who has served the group for 10 years, "the best bartender I've ever seen."
The group's members concur, and there's some evidence to support that. Just as the last drop is consumed, Brian appears to magically to sweep away glassware and provide fresh liquid sustenance.
The group members compare Hodson's anticipation of their needs to being in an episode of the sitcom Cheers.
Said Rea: "In 35 years, ... we've been through marriages, child's marriages, deaths, accidents, hospitalizations, cancer, heart attacks, which has really brought the group even closer together. We've molded together as one. We've been as close as brothers, sometimes even closer.
"It's a bonding situation," Rea said. "We like each other, but we don't always agree. We're too old to fight. ... None of us are braggadocios. We just enjoy each other."
They enjoy each other for a limited time these days, as most of the members are near 70.
At one time, The Thursday Group could strategize until well into the night. These days, their solutions to the world's problems are arrived at more compactly.
Generally, they're all home for dinner by 7 p.m.