While looking for something this past week, I came across a box containing many memories of eras gone by — a collection of membership cards to clubs that are no longer among us.

A metal Playboy Club key card sat at the top of the stack, a remember of the early 70s when my first wife gave me a membership to the club as a birthday present.  We visited the St. Louis Playboy Club often while living in the area and also managed to hit clubs in New York, Chicago, Denver and New Orleans.

We saw comedian Gabe Kaplan perform at the St. Louis Club during a a visit by longtime friend Adrian Cronauer (of Good Morning Vietnam fame) and his wife Jean.

But the Playboy Clubs, like the lifestyle they promoted, faded with the 70s.  Same fate for The Gaslight Club. My “key” for that club lay in the box as well. Amy and I had delightful dinners at the Gaslight Club in St. Louis. The Washington Club was still open when we moved there in 1981 but closed three years later. The only Gaslight Club still open is in the Airport Hilton at O’Hare International Airport. I last visited it while staying at that hotel in 2002 but it is no longer a private club.

A number of long-gone airline club cards also lay scattered in the box: The TWA Ambassadors Club and Pan An Clipper Club. When I traveled a lot, I belonged to just about every airline club in existence and the box also contained expired cards for the United Airlines Red Carpet Club, American Airlines Admiral’s Club and others.  For someone who traveled constantly for 40 years, the airline clubs offered a haven away from noisy, crowded terminal concourses.

My last flight on a plane came the day after the 2004 elections, a return trip to Washington. In the post 9/11 era, flying commercially became more and more of a hassle and after more than a million miles in the air — and the frequent flyer miles to show for it — I put away my airline club cards and said “no more.”  If I can’t drive there in a car or ride my motorcycle, I don’t go.

I also found a  dozen or so Hotel “privilege cards” from various hotel chains. Little need for those nowadays. Same for the now-expired Amex Platinum card. I closed that account in 2004.

The life connected with these cards seems so far away now, so removed from our style of living here in the country. Yet they represented much of my adult life — four decades of jetting around the world to locales glamorous or dangerous — sometimes both.

I put the box back on the shelf where it belongs — along with the life it represents.

The Admiral's Club at Lambert/St. Louis International Airport

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