Six days a week, since 1976, a group of Colorado Springs men has met for coffee.
They debate the front-page stories of the day, do crossword puzzles, swap war stories and most importantly, enjoy being friends.
They are the Breakfast Club (or the "Honorable and Ancient, Tattered and Tired Mug Wranglers" as one member jokingly calls the group).
The original club members were strangers who shared a love of old cars and became acquainted at Norma's Stop & Shop on North Academy Boulevard.
Most of those men are gone. But the club lives on, surviving because these 30 or so men recognize that life is more fun when shared with friends.
Whether it's old cars or military backgrounds or politics, they've developed a bond that has survived nearly wholesale turnover of the club. Only members Gene Jinings and Richard Suriano date back to the old days at Norma's.
These days, instead of many World War II veterans, the club now has more men who served in Korea and Vietnam. In fact, Jinings, 87, is the last club member who fought in World War II.
The club has even survived repeated relocations as various coffee shops closed over the years.
I first met them in 2003 at Mountainside Coffee in the Safeway center in Rockrimmon. It closed long ago and, about eight years ago, the club settled into Oliver's Deli in a strip mall on Delmonico Drive, near Rockrimmon Boulevard.
That's where I found them last week, sitting elbow-to-elbow around a couple tables. Coffee cups were scattered around the table along with plates that held the remnants of bagels and eggs and homemade deli sweet breads.
Some were working on crossword puzzles from the morning Gazette, passing them back and forth.
Others were sharing photos from their smart phones of the latest late-model car they'd restored.
Still another had a computer tablet out, tapping away while others chatted about Obamacare and the Broncos and the upcoming marriage of one of their club members.
They immediately invited me to join them and warmly welcomed me, even if a couple jokingly frowned when they recognized me from the paper.
It's the same way they greet any guy who wanders into Oliver's and looks like he needs a friend.
"We say 'Hi! Why don't you join us?' And they sit down," Jinings said of the way new members are recruited.
As I pulled up a chair, the men looked at my gray and balding hair and said I'd easily win membership in the club. I like these guys.
At the table I saw familiar faces like Jinings and Frank Castle. And there were others who didn't stay strangers for long including Suriano, Fred Porter, John Koll, Bob Galvin, Rick Couch, Jack Kenney and John Weidner.
On any given day, a dozen or so meet at Oliver's, trickling in around 8 a.m. and hanging out until 10 a.m. or so. In the old days, the group met beginning at 6 a.m., before work.
"But now most of us are retired," Castle said with a smile.
I'd barely sat down before all the guys were introducing themselves. And one thing I really liked was how they bragged on each other.
"We have test pilots in the group," Jinings said, pointing them out. "And fighter pilots."
Another noted Jinings had served on a destroyer in the war.
And Porter, in addition to piloting 30 types of planes during his Air Force career, had been shot down over Vietnam.
Besides the obvious military influence, the group includes men from all backgrounds.
"I worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs," Castle said. "We have electrical engineers and machinists and carpenters."
Crossword puzzles aren't the only thing they help each other finish.
"If you are working on something at home and can't solve it," Castle said. "We call each other. We've got plenty of help in the group."
I think the most help they give each other is camaraderie, day after day.
True, they get a little feisty.
"We have diverse opinions here," Suriano told me.
Translation: "They can get a little loud during election time," said Betsy Oliver, who owns the deli.
Actually, she had the best observation of the club.
"They are family," she said.
I looked around and noticed no women in the group.
Betsy said that wives join the club only on Saturdays.
"And the ladies sit by themselves on the other side of the deli," she said with a laugh.
Betsy particularly admires the way they welcome strangers and their attitudes about the future.
"They live life like there's a million miles ahead of them," she said. "I like that."
I also wondered, when I look them up again in 10 years, where I'll find them next.
"They have a home here," Betsy said. "They bring life to the deli."
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