There are approximately 50 ROMEOs living in the Rim Country. Men in the club meet for lunch each Wednesday at 11 a.m. Juliets are allowed to attend only three times a year -- by invitation.
Most of the men are retired and the nearly 40-year age difference between the youngest and oldest ‘Romeo' is not really a difference.
"We might be older, but we're never old," said Joe Ashburn, who is 91.
"We don't count time," said C.E. Carlton unappointed club photographer -- except when they celebrated Ray Revait's 80th birthday -- "We had to wait 80 years for that," Carlton laughed.
ROMEO is the acronym for Retired Old Men Eating Out, not "raunchy old men eating out," as Randy Bauer joked.
Nor is it romantic old men eating out, as the moniker might imply. (A few men admitted to being romantic.)
One prospective member was reported to decline. "No, no, no," he said. "I'm married."
Single, married, divorced, widowed, all men are welcome. Across the U.S. there are hundreds of chapters.
"All we have to do is remember where we are going," said Jerry Mauer. "There are no dues; no bylaws."
"No speakers and no mandatory attendance," Jerry Nash said. "And there's nice folks here, except for me."
Discussion of politics and religion are avoided by most.
Nash gets started on politics sometimes, but "we just ignore him," Richard Hull said.
Having a woman in their midst did not seem to phase the men's conversations.
"The main topic is our aches and pains," Nash said.
When it started snowing outside, John Covey spoke of 40 feet of snow in the Midwest.
Snippets of parley included the HBO series "The Sopranos," New Jersey pizza, guitar playing and what it was like to be the only white man on an Indian reservation.
"If there's 40 men, there'll be 40 subjects," Ray Thompson said.
What do the men talk about when the women aren't around?
"I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me," Dan Gerund said.
"What do you mean, may?" Bill Hornung said.
The men come for the camaraderie.
Several said it was "the best club" they ever attended.
"Men tend to do things together; it's their way of connecting," said Claude Gulder, a retired university professor who taught marriage and family therapy. "We can talk about all kinds of things. Women tend to talk more personally about their inner space. We talk about what we're doing, where we've been, where we're going -- it's a here and now kind of thing and important for men to connect in this way."
Careers are as varied as the men, although many have some kind of military background.
Perhaps romance in the adventurous sense does come into play.
Paul Bartsch still teaches welding and metal casting at Don Bosco Technical Institute. Harry "Skywalker" Offerman was an investigator for the Department of Defense (has he got a parachute tale to tell). J.W. Heton was a loss and damage prevention officer and Ralph Perry (unofficial greeter and club card maker) was a safety inspector for the FAA.
Romeos rotate their meetings, utilizing various area restaurants. Lunch on Wednesday, April 12 will be at the Mazatzal Casino. In subsequent weeks, the club members will visit El Rancho, Famous Sam's, Tiny's, The Rye Cafe, New China Buffet and The Rimside Grill.
"In the spring and fall we go to Christopher Creek," said host and Web-guy Harvey Pierman.
Spin-off groups get together for bowling and poker.
To contact the Romeo Club e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (928) 468-0125. The club's Web site is www.romeoclub.org/paysonaz.
When they meet
The Rim Country chapter of the Retired Old Men Eating Out club has about 50 members. The group meets at 11 a.m. every Wednesday at various restaurants.