Mrs. Roy "Mom" Uffelman

2013 - Matousek Family Lifetime Achievement Award

The Spider Web youth center opened in Burlington, IA under the guidance of Mrs. Margaret (Roy H.) “Uffelman. Known far and wide as Mom, she thought if high schools kids had a place to go in Burlington, they might not leave town to “go over the river,” which was a concern to many parents at that time. As a result, a group of interested citizens got together and formed what was legally known as Student Social Center, Inc.

Mom credited a Burlington high school student, Bill Brown for starting the movement in the fall of 1942 for a youth center. A contest was held to name the center, and the suggestion of a St. Paul Senior, Dick Allison, The Spider Web, was chosen. After their grand opening at the YMCA on February 6, 1943, an editorial writer for The Hawk-Eye Gazette predicted it would fold within a few months. He could not have been more mistaken. A quarter of a century later, The Web was not only going strong, it was likely the oldest youth center in the U.S. and quite possibly the only one that was actually earning a profit.

Indeed, The Web - thanks to membership fees, cover charges, profits from pop/snack sales, and gifts and bequests  - had a tidy little nest egg for a future building purchase. For about the first dozen years of its existence, The Web also staged an annual show to raise operating funds. These shows were usually presented in two sections, the first section being a musical revue of some sort and the second section a minstrel show.

Mom Uffelman worked hard to keep her kids happy. They installed a color TV set, pool and ping-pong tables were available, and card players sat on massive chairs made by the WPA in the 1930s. The Web abandoned record dances because the youth wanted live music for dancing, and they wanted it badly enough to pay the necessary cover charge to provide it. So, Mom spent much of her time auditioning bands and combos. She would not book a musical event unless she knew the kids would like it.

On December 1, 1969 at the age of 73, Mom Uffelman retired from her beloved Spider Web while it was still going strong. Arthritis kept her from doing her work the way she wanted it to be done. After 27 years, it broke her heart to leave, but she felt it was time to step down and let a younger person with new ideas take over. Mom managed The Web during a time when attendance peaked in the mid-60’s with 6,000 in one month. Mom was named Citizen No. 1 and Mother of the Year in 1952 by the former American Business Club and Woman of the Year in 1969 by The Hawk-Eye.

Mom’s successor, Maxine Lanning, the only other director the Web ever had, worked with The Web board and eventually offered the building to the city. She said they were donating a piece of real estate only - they were not donating The Spider Web. The Spider Web belongs to history.

Mrs. Margaret (Roy) Uffelman died on October 18, 1981. She will always will be known as Mom, and the memory of her contributions to the youth of the Burlington community will last as long as gratitude is a human virtue.

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