The Central Alabama Mensa (CAM) chapter of American Mensa® is a group of fun folks. Our chapter is based in and around Birmingham where most of our activities occur.
Being an active Mensan adds a new dimension to your life. The obvious, new friends and stimulating conversation, is only part of your gain. The not-so-obvious is your feeling of belonging, somewhat like coming to a family reunion.
CAM offers a variety of activities each month, ranging from restaurant and bar functions, to talks, museum visits, hikes or parties at members homes. Annually, CAM hosts a Regional Gathering (RG) and awards two scholarships to students living in our geographic area.
The purposes of Mensa® are
Identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity
Encourage research on the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence
Provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.
No two Mensans think alike, but they do think a lot! Our opinions run the gamut of the entire political and philosophical spectra. We have a wide variety of interests, as evidenced by the number and variety of Special Interest Groups (SIGS) in Mensa®.
Mensa® and CAM do not have any official opinions or stands on any political, religious, philosophical or social issues.
Generally, there is none. Most members feel clothing should be worn, but not all will agree even on this. Wear what makes you comfortable. Most of us dress in anything from shorts and T-shirts to slacks and shirts or dresses. If the activity is in a public place, wear something suitable to the location. Some folks dress up for holiday parties, others do not.
Attire is defined by the host, but is almost always informal. Conduct yourself as you would wish a guest in your home to behave. Attendees are requested to feed the "kitty" $2 to help defray some of the host's expenses.
Consult your newsletter’s calendar for the smoking policy of an event and be considerate of those who do not smoke. At house events, ask the host.
Hosts may invite anyone they choose. Significant others of attending Mensans and official guests are welcome. You may also bring a friend, your teenager, your parents or anyone else with whom you wish to share the joys of Mensa®. Guests should feel no uneasiness - they won't be asked their IQ, they will not be quizzed or tested. They will be welcomed and, if they are urged to join, it only means we like them and want to get to know them better.
Is there anything else you want to know about Mensa® or what really goes on at all of those events? Just ask . . . another thing Mensans seem to have in common is that they all love to talk!
You'll notice that Mensans rarely talk about their IQs. It is assumed that everyone is smart or they wouldn't be here. No one will ask you your scores. Probably no one will tell you theirs, either, so it's better not to ask.
The early days of our local group have not been recorded and virtually no information seems to currently exist. Perhaps this webpage will motivate some of you with knowledge of the beginning events in our group to come forward and share with the rest of us!
The Mensa Book of Lists compiled by Vince Bonzagni tells us that a single member on a 1961 membership list came from Alabama. There were 92 names from 15 states on this list. Rather than being elected as Local Secretaries are today, most Local Secretaries were appointed by Margot Seitelman, Executive Director at the National Business Office, when they asked for information about Mensa in their geographic area.
Dot Nettles was our first Local Secretary. The group newsletter consisted of a post card listing events scheduled for the month. We know that in 1977 a group of Mensans from Huntsville approached us here in Birmingham about collaborating on the first Regional Gathering (RG) to be held in Alabama in 1978. Birmingham members were concerned about possible exposure to financial risks so declined to actively participate in this endeavor; but the Alabama RG did occur, beginning a history of extremely fine RG’s in Alabama.
Nel and Truman Bass moved to Birmingham in 1980. They began the Birmingham newsletter, Birmingham Mensagraph. It was a whopping 4-page 5-1/2x8-1/2 publication and was published every two months. At that time the only local events were Temperance and a Monthly Meeting. In 1983 our local group name was changed from Birmingham Mensa to Central Alabama Mensa because we had many members outside Birmingham. The growing newsletter was renamed Owlabama with the September/October 1984 issue. Local events were increasing along with member participation. Owlabama became a monthly newsletter in August 1985 along with increasing to our current 16-page format.
Increased newsletter expenditures meant that the group could no longer responsibly operate on the funding received from the national organization in the form of local group subsidies. After discussion at Temperance in 1985 several active members concluded that the only option was for Birmingham to host its own RG to raise funds. Marona Posey agreed to chair the first gathering with Em and Don Davis as hospitality chairs. David Mann and Cathy Funston Whitehead came down from Huntsville to help with the planning. Despite the fact that this was a fundraising endeavor the initial policy was that Birmingham wanted to give attendees excellent value for their registration dollar. This is still the Owlabama Blast RG policy. The first Owlabama Blast was held February 28-March 2 in 1986.
The RG definitely eased the group’s financial strain making it possible to award a locally funded scholarship that year. However we didn’t really get on sound financial footing until Em Davis managed to procure a second-class mailing permit for the group newsletter. Throughout the rest of the 1980’s and 1990’s our group continued to grow in size with increasing activities on the calendar. It became normal for close to 20 activities to be listed during a month. We hosted a Local Officer Training Session in 1992 and again in 2001.
Despite the fact that Mensa® holds no opinions or causes, Mensa members certainly have them. Various members participated in sponsoring an owl at the Birmingham Zoo and helping with fundraising endeavors for the local public radio station. We also participated in Project Inkslinger to help restock a public library that suffered water damage as a result of a river flood.
In 1995 the American Mensa® Committee (AMC) did not have a bid for the 1997 Annual Gathering (AG). LeAnne Porter was on the AMC Site Selection Committee and approached our group about presenting a bid since Steve Porter had dreams about hosting an AG. Despite the fact that we were next to the smallest group ever to host an AG, our bid was approved and in 1997 we conducted the Southern Comforts AG. Once again our fellow members provided major assistance along with other Mensans from across the country. The gathering was an enormous success in terms of fun, education, and finances.
Currently our group size ranges between 200 and 250 over the course of the membership year. Owlabama Blast, our Regional Gathering, is still going strong along with our newsletter, Owlabama. Our calendar continues to include a wide variety of events.