SLAC of Orlando is a Not -for-profit (501 )© 3 – Social, Charitable and Cultural local club, established in 1939 at the home of Rebecca Gazil, the widowed mother of eight children who owned the biggest house of all the Syrians and Lebanese in Central Florida. It had 11 rooms and it was the central location for new members of our heritage to stop and eat a full meal. She kept her table full of food all day long, while working 10 to 12 hours a day in the grocery store the family owned.
She became known as the Perle Mesta of Orlando. For newcomers, Perle Mesta was a socialite who held parties for all the presidents and diplomats in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was in her home that a group of young men decided to form a club. They had for a time met at the homes of different relatives to play cards or just socialize.
Maurice Tamney, a young man from Paterson, New Jersey was visiting relatives and brought a copy of a document which was used to create the club in his hometown.
The document from Paterson was the format that created the Syrian American Club of Orlando. Initially the club was created for men only, It did not take the men long to discover they were not capable of doing many things without the support of the women. Therefore the by-laws were amended and women became members a couple years later.
The first president in 1939 was Gabriel Deeb, a grocer and investor in properties. When many of the Syrians and Lebanese arrived in Orlando, they were either grocery store owners or peddlers of some sort. It was in the 1920’s and it was the boom time for Floridians. The senior citizens had the vision in the growth of Orlando and many bought property anywhere they could find it. Sadly, Gabriel Deeb died before he could accept a second term.
By 1948, the club building measuring 4,500 sq.ft was constructed. At the end of John Hage’s term, the mortgage of $30,000 was paid in full.
As the Lebanese grew in membership, a controversy rose about the changing of the name to Syrian Lebanon Ameri-can Club of Orlando. Many Syrians bitterly objected. Lebanese under the leadership of Joe Hatem threatened to form a club of their own.
Naji Momary was elected president in 1952 and wanted to keep the name without change. Paul Deeb, Syrian American origin, took control and because of the immense respect both sides had for Paul, they reconciled and changed the name.