Club still has Felton magic

Published 10:02 pm Thursday, August 18, 2016

Every profession has its questions that everybody asks. All of the time.

For lawyers, it’s “Oooh, I bet everybody hates you!” That’s not exactly a question, though. The lawyers are the ones who ask the questions.

For doctors, it’s “Can you look at this rash?”

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For professional photographers, it’s “You can shoot this event for free, right? It’ll give you great exposure!”

And for journalists — a profession that rivals law in the amount of hate from the general public — it’s “What is your favorite story you’ve ever written?”

This question usually elicits nothing more from me than a shrug and a comment about how they all start to run together at a certain point. In my career here at the Suffolk News-Herald, I’ve written more than 6,000 stories, and while some of them stand out, I usually can’t think of one when I’m put on the spot.

But when I heard recently of the passing of Felton Mann, who worked for the city of Suffolk for 40 years, I thought of the story I wrote about him for Suffolk Living Magazine back in 2011.

Felton put the “special” in “special events” in his years working for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. He started at the National Guard Armory because he needed a job and his uncle already worked there. But as the city’s number of recreation facilities expanded, so did his job, and eventually all of the city’s parks and facilities fell under his purview.

But his “baby,” as he put it in his interview with me more than five years ago, was the Planters Club. “It always seemed magical here,” he said.

For an older generation, the Planters Club was where Planters Peanuts threw parties, having been built as a social hall by Amedeo Obici for his employees. It was magical because they remember pool parties and first kisses there.

But for the younger generations of Suffolk residents, the ones who came along after Obici’s death and after the pool was filled in and after the club became one of the most beautiful event venues in Suffolk, the magic in the Planters Club was Felton himself.

For many years, it was Felton who helped happy couples orchestrate every aspect of their wedding days; Felton who held numerous fathers-of-the-bride as they sobbed after giving their little girls away; Felton who consoled two or three brides stood up at the altar; Felton who helped the same couples plan their baby showers a few years later; Felton who worked with numerous groups and companies to make their proms and fundraisers and office parties sparkle.

And all of the ordinary workdays in between were sprinkled with a little Felton magic, too. He never met someone for whom he did not have a smile and a little something uplifting to say.

As I thought about Felton this week, I realized that the reason I can never answer the question about my favorite story is because there are not “my” stories — they belong to the people whose story I am telling. And Felton’s will always be one of my favorite stories.

I’m certain future couples who get married at the Planters Club will be able to feel a little bit of Felton magic in their special day, and his spirit will join Obici in shining down on the club.