THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ROTARY CLUB OF MORRIS
(These pages were written by George Baum and Wayne Graham and were originally titled as the 1915-1980: 65 YEARS OF DEVOTION AND ACCOMPLISHMENT. A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ROTARY CLUB OF MORRIS, ILLINOIS. ROTARY INTERNATIONAL CLUB NO. 71")
The Early Years
In the year 1914, a man by the name of Richard M. McClure came to Morris as editor of the Morris Daily Herald and an employee of the late William L. Sackett, then owner and publisher of the Morris Daily Herald. Dick McClure was a man of keen insight and within a short time after he arrived in Morris he found that this community was something a little less than what he had dreamed of as a place to make his home; principally because of the fact that the financial and political life of the community was being stifled by a continual "state of warfare" between two groups aligned behind two of the former large grain companies here in Morris. You must remember that in those years Morris' principal industry was farming and agriculture. It was only natural that the agricultural interest should come first and should be predominate and probably have a lot to say about what went on within the area even to and including other areas of the county and its politics.
Dick McClure, in a quiet way, went about to find who were the leaders on each of the two sides of this matter and, having armed himself with the information he felt necessary, he had a series of quiet talks with leaders of both sides. Now when I refer to a state of "warfare" what I am referring to is the fact that this community was a town of about 4,700. It hadn't grown in population to any extent for forty years. Little or no new industry had come into the community with the exception of the conversion of a former railroad car-wheel manufacturing plant into what became known as the Morris Paper Mills. True, there were a couple of foundries and a tannery here but they employed relatively few men. So agriculture was the big thing and the lifeblood of the community circulated around the agriculture markets, the sale of grain, and so forth which led to the formation of banking institutions in both instances.
Dick McClure had his quiet talks with the leaders of both sides of the problem in question and suggested that what Morris needed to move forward to become something more than it was, was a Rotary Club. Of course, no one in the community knew what a Rotary Club was. They had never heard of such a thing. Dick McClure had some experience in the membership of the Rotary Club of Chicago prior to the time that he came to Morris so he could speak with some degree of authority. Among the men that he contacted in that preliminary stage was Mr. E. D. Martin, superintendent of schools of Morris and Mr. Frank Demaree who was the Grundy County Farm Advisor. Both of these men had been affiliated with the Rotary Club of Chicago and so you can see that Dick McClure quickly found two men who at least had some speaking knowledge of the matter of which he was talking.
With their help, he quietly went around the community, met with this group of men and that group of men planting seeds until on April 9, 1915. At his suggestion, with the help of Demaree and Martin, a preliminary meeting, very informal in nature, was held at the Saratoga Cafe which is now known as the Weits Cafe, a restaurant all the years since that time. In attendance at that first meeting was Harvey Weeks, the first President of the Joliet Rotary Club and Mr. E. B. Lord who had been the prime instigator in the organization of that Rotary Club in Joliet. They both explained Rotary, what it was about, how it could work and so forth and they were joined enthusiastically by Martin and Demaree. Other individuals present spoke rather favorably of the idea and decided that Mr. Martin should go to Chicago and confer with the then General Secretary of the International Association of Rotary Clubs, Chesley R. Perry, to investigate the possibilities of a Rotary Club in a small community like Morris. It just so happened that Mr. Martin had known Paul Harris, the founder of the Rotary movement and the Rotary idea. Mr. Martin returned to Morris that evening full of enthusiasm bringing with him a host of organizational material.
On the 21st day of April, another meeting was held at the Saratoga Cafe at which time a constitution was adopted and temporary officers were elected and the group adopted the name, the "Grundy Efficiency Club. That name was to be used until such a time as they might become affiliated with Rotary and the large international organization. It was stated that the policy up to that time had been to keep Rotary only in communities with a population of 25,000 people and over; but in the previous year Ottawa, which was not quite 10,000, had received a charter. There were very few other places anywhere in the world between ten and fifteen thousand that had been admitted in that year. Two members from Ottawa were in attendance at this meeting. Now, Morris had two sister clubs, one twenty-five miles to the east and one twenty miles to the west--both interested in seeing a club formed in this community. In attendance at this meeting on April 21st, were forty-eight business and professional men, or whom forty-five signed membership cards, evidence of the enthusiasm in the growth of the club in just a couple of weeks.
They elected as temporary officers, James Mack, President; Thomas Hall (the Mayor), Vice President; Walter Wagner (a druggist), Secretary; Louis Braun (an accountant), Treasurer; Harry Brown (an electrician), Sergeant-at-Arms; and Frank Hayes, M. H. Wilcox, R. M. McClure, William Campbell, and W. R. Allan, Jr., Directors.
On May 12th, T. Wilson, a man in the grain business, spoke about the prospective Illinois Waterway to provide a saving in grain shipping and consequent value to the locality which was so dependent upon agriculture. Frank Demaree, at the same meeting, talked about the desirability of interesting a food processor in establishing a canning factory in the community. By that time they had fifty members in the club and each member, at the opening of the program at each meeting, rose and spoke on the subject of the fellow sitting on his right. By design the leadership of the club in those days made a practice of seating by place cards the members of the club for every meeting and invariably they would place men of the opposite camps on either side of a member of the other camp.
An interesting story is told that on one occasion William G. Sanford, the father of Rotarian Ed Sanford, was seated at the right of Frank Holderman, a cattle feeder in Goose Lake Township. Sanford was a towering man (for those days) of over six feet in height and weighing well over two hundred fifty pounds, while Frank Holderman was a quiet personality, small in stature, taking his turn, Holderman rose and said something like this, "On my right is seated William G. Sanford better known as Bill." "His business -- everybody's." It broke up the meeting with a howl of laughter and it seemed that from that moment forward the old animosities disappeared in the community. Of course they had brought in late-comers to the community who were not affiliated with either one of the grain company factions and somehow they had a good blending of the business and professional life in the community.
By the 9th of June, it was decided that they would apply for a charter in the International Association of Rotary Clubs and a committee of five was named to go to Chicago to present it. Thirty-three members were present. Officers elected were: 0. T. Wilson, President; T. A. Hoganson, Vice President; Walter Wagner, Secretary; Lou Braun, Treasurer with Frank Demaree, R. M. McClure, M. H. Wilcox, Dr. H. M. Ferguson, and W. R. Allan, Jr. as Directors. Those named to go to Chicago were President Wilson, Wagner, Demaree, E. D. Martin and McClure. Somehow, Wilson couldn1t go and Hoganson took his place. As I mentioned earlier, the rule then was not to affiliate clubs in cities and towns of less than 15,000 population, however, Ottawa, Illinois and Beaumont, Texas were exceptions and each of those towns was twice the size of Morris. The committee met with members of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Rotary Clubs and presented the application. Frank Mulholland, of Toledo, Ohio, was the International President and he advocated lowering the population restriction to admit Morris. Paul Harris, the founder of the Rotary movement, was in attendance and he spoke favorably of the move. Morris was granted a charter in the Rotary organization but with a contingency provision-one year, sink or swim. (The first and only charter ever issued with that contingency). The meetings were changed from Wednesday evenings to Tuesday evenings, which will be covered later. One need not be reminded that the Club is still swimming and in this year of 1980, will celebrate its 65th birthday. It has had its ups and downs as all things composed of mortals are apt to do.
HOW IT FUNCTIONED
Quite naturally, if an organization such as Rotary is going to be of service to the community, it has to have a project. The very first such community service project undertaken was to interest the City Administration in installing new street lights in the business area of the town -- cluster lights to be erected on either side of Liberty Street. It was accomplished
Later that year they undertook a lengthy discussion of improvement of the country roads and how to go about it. Matters were presented to the County Board of Trustees and steps were taken to improve many of the arterial roads of the county.
Of great significance in the first six months of this club was that on November 22, 1915, came the visit of the very first District Governor. In fact, he was the first District Governor of the whole middle-west because that previous June they had created such an office. Herb Angster, member of the Rotary Club of Chicago, was named the governor of old District No. 8 which consisted of all the state of Indiana and all of Illinois. He came to Morris to talk of the advantages of Rotary, what Rotary could bring to this community, what help he could be in the formation and development of programs in the Rotary Club and a lasting friendship began with that visit. On that occasion; Morris was also honored by the presence of Harry Ruggles, the man who introduced singing into the Rotary movement. Rotary was the first organization ever to work with community singing as an act of fellowship. Harry Ruggles, to this day, holds the outstanding recognition that he was one of the first people to put the idea of fellowship into a group of men working together: meeting together to solve problems for communities and areas in which they were located.
In 1914, war had broken out in continental Europe and by early 1916 it began to appear that the United States was going to be drawn into it one way or the other. To be current with the times; the Morris Rotary Club, an organization just over six months old held several programs in early 1916 to discuss preparedness for war and how America might approach the matter. They brought speakers from outside the community, who were believed to be authorities in their field. Probably because of the fact that they were so current with the thinking of the community, joining the Rotary Club became a matter of importance to many business men.
By February 1916, the Rotary Club here had a membership of fifty-eight members. They grew, they grew, and they grew. Men came because there was leadership being demonstrated on every hand. Of rather large significance was that during that first year of Rotary in Morris rarely did their meeting end before nine or nine-thirty in the evening. Some even extending as late as eleven o'clock simply because men were fired up and enthusiastic about the possibilities of what a leading organization could do for the community. They had so many things they wanted to talk about: various members had pet projects, they presented programs on them, and they moved ahead on some of them. Probably the principle accomplishment was the relighting of Liberty Street in the business area and the additional work inspired by the Rotary Club, through the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Highways of the county, to improve many arterial highways.
But of even greater significance was their interest in youth. The Rotary Club founded and sponsored the first Boy Scout troop in Grundy County in that first six months of their existence. They continued with their interest in it on a strictly volunteer basis, men giving of their time simply because they believed in the youth of the community. Strangely enough, in those days, that particular committee was known as the Boys Work Committee and was universally labeled that throughout all of Rotary. And boy how they did work.
In 1916, Jim McCormick, a charter member of the club, built for the club a gigantic Rotary Wheel. It was eight feet in diameter, had electric lights around the periphery and it was motor driven. It was used as a backdrop behind the speaker's table at every meeting. Sometime between 1926 and 1937 it disappeared and its disposition is unknown to this reporter who has made several lengthy searches for it.
At the meeting of the club on June 14, 1916, Richard M. McClure, whose name has frequently been referred to in this preface, was made an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Morris as an expression of appreciation of all the efforts that he had expended in bringing Rotary to Morris. No one will ever get the idea that Rotary in those early days was just a staid hard-working, community minded, serious organization; reference is made to a meeting in September of 1916 when two of the presentations on the program were made by Harry Brown on "Why he is not married" and an answering talk to it was by Tom Williamson on "Why he is married."
It meant fellowship, laughter and it meant good feelings for everybody. At the same meeting it was moved and passed that the members pay sixty-five cents for their supper and furnish their own cigars.
Regular attendance at Rotary meetings has always been one of the highlights of the Rotary program and there are provisions in the constitutional documents that men must maintain a satisfactory, or at least a sixty percent, attendance average for six months of the year. It was true even back in the early days of this movement when by 1917 we find the first reference in the minutes of this organization in Morris where a member was dropped for non-attendance and non-payment of dues. That shook the club a bit and attendance generally picked up from that time forward.
In the second year of organization, the United States was being drawn into World War I. Men from Grundy County, Morris in particular, were going into service in the uniform of their country. Even then there was a concern on the part of the Rotarians in this community for the welfare of the young men as to what might happen to their businesses or their jobs while they were serving their country. Also, there were programs presented relative to the best way to take care of their boys when they came back home from the front sick, wounded or in disarray as the result of their experiences in the war.
At one meeting in mid-summer of 1917 the Rotary Club voted and decided to send a card of greeting to every boy in Grundy County who goes to war telling them that they were going to take care of them and look after their wants while they were away. It was further moved, seconded and acted upon that the Rotary Club would express the opinion that the positions of these young men, while they were away at the front, be kept open for them and any failure to do so would be a very unpatriotic act. It received wide publicity in the community and so Morris Rotary Club was getting a name made for itself other than just within its own membership. As is typical even today, attendance at the regular meeting of the club in the early days varied from as low as fifty percent attendance to as high as ninety-eight and ninety-nine percent attendance. Invariably, the announced program had much influence on whether they had a good turnout or not. It is a strange thing that people's interests and their attendance at such affairs always is affected by what they can anticipate for the course of the evening.
The Morris Rotary Club lost by death its first member, in October 1917. That man being Orville T. Wilson, the first
President of the club, who died at the relatively early age of about fifty-five. Included in the club's minutes of those days is a copy of a letter of condolence addressed to Orville Wilson's widow and his three daughters and the reply that came from them, of their appreciation of the Rotary Club thinking of them in their hour of need.
WORLD WAR I ERA
In December 1917, the first member of the Morris Rotary Club left to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. That was Dr. Frank A. Palmer who had been commissioned as Captain in the Medical Corps. He was escorted to the train on the evening of December 11, 1917, by the Rotary Club en masse for his trip to report to Fort Riley, Kansas.
By January 1918, Herb Sparr who had been secretary of the club, had already left to go into uniform and had reached in a very short time the appointment of Corporal in the United States Army. Reference is made to his attending a meeting while on a furlough. Remember the United States was at war. Continual references are made to the interest of the Rotary Club in the Liberty Loan drives and the sale of Thrift Stamps. The liberty Loan drives I referred to numbered One, Two and Three and each time had a healthy response from this community.
During the Liberty Loan drives and the sale of Thrift Stamps, the Rotary Club had not forgotten that the Boy Scouts were interested in the community. To utilize their enthusiasm and their energies, they conducted a contest between the three troops located in the town to promote the sale of Thrift Stamps. They could be bought for twenty-five cents each where Liberty Bonds were a much more expensive item. The Thrift Stamps were pasted into a folder and when the folder was full, one had enough for a bond. This went on and by early May or June, 1917; the Rotary Club saw fit to award a prize of a first-aid kit to Troop #2 for having sold the most Thrift Stamps. Just another expression of Rotary's interest in their local affairs, their local people, their own country and the world at large.
In March 1918, the first mention was made in the community of the possibility of the organization of a building and loan
association. A speaker was brought in from Aurora who had had some experience with it and who was an investor in such an organization. The late Fred Ashton, a past President of this club, was one of the prime movers in that activity and they moved on from that with a motion from the floor that they pursue and investigate it.
May 1918, saw the first demonstration of what we know as
vocational service in Rotary when a visit was made by individual
members of the club to six different industries located in Morris. They visited the tannery that was operated by the Woelfel family, the Illinois Foundry which made gray iron castings, the Northwestern Novelty Corporation, as it was known then (now the Northwestern Corporation), the Johnson-Carlson Cut Glass Factory, the Quaker Oats Company and the Morris Paper Mills. That evening one man of each group reported upon his visit and his observations and made comments relative to their afternoon visit.
Because they lived in an age when air-conditioning was unknown, summertime meetings were frequently out-of-door meetings. The result was that a picnic atmosphere prevailed at many meetings. These picnics were frequently held in Lutzow's Grove, on the Fox River up at Yorkville, or out at Dresden Heights east of Morris on the site that overlooks the dam on the north side of the river or at the old Morris Pleasure Club Grounds.
In August 1918, they had a farewell meeting for Harry Brown, the first Secretary, who was leaving for Officers Training Camp in the Army of the United States. Of course, Armistice Day came along shortly thereafter in November. Harry never had the opportunity to complete his training but immediately returned home in early December and again took his place in the Morris Rotary Club.
In October, 1918, a program was presented on the development of a new city park. Negotiations had been made with Mrs. Mabel Goold to acquire a tract of land in the northwest part of town for a public park which today we know as Goold Park. The Rotary Club had a great interest in that matter and aided materially in the development of it with the city authorities.
By April 1919, relations with the International Headquarters in Chicago were at a rather low ebb due to the continued poor attendance of this club. A committee was appointed to confer with headquarters. They made a trip to Chicago, they conferred, they came back with the promise that they would do better. With a membership of fifty, they had had meetings with as few as twenty-four in attendance. I think of interest to some, we find inspiration in the fact that in October, 1919, the minutes refer to Alma Walker, later Mrs. Alma Walker Drinan, who functioned as pianist for the club for their community singing. She served on a volunteer basis off and on until her health failed some forty years later. Meantime, in that off and on period, such individuals as Meta McKean, members of the club or teachers from the high school would act as pianist. But usually they always fell back on Alma who on her retirement was granted an honorary membership in the club.
In November, 1919, Richard McClure, the founder-organizer to whom I have referred so much, came as a speaker. By that time, he had become associated with the International Headquarters in Chicago as an employee of the International Association of Rotary Clubs and he reported it was like coming home to him.
The Boys Work Committee was granted twenty-five dollars to develop skating on the Illinois-Michigan Canal at the foot of Liberty Street in December of 1918. They were to contact the City Council and arrange for scraping the snow from the frozen surface of the canal and allowing the Fire Department to flood it making a smoother surface. This particular project went on for three to five years. Then the lot now occupied by Dr. I. B. Kim's medical offices was rented and a downtown skating rink was put in by banking up the sides. The Fire Department flooded it to provide ice in the center of the town and away from waters which might be hazardous or dangerous to children.
In January 1920, the Rotary Club saw fit to honor the Boy Scouts. They did so by entertaining all the Boy Scouts in Morris; bringing in an outside speaker in the person of Dr. Henry Edward Rompel, better known as "Dad" Rompel and of whom you will read more later to recognize that young men, of the twelve to sixteen year old group, had an endless amount of energy and enthusiasm that should be channeled into some good active activities.
As a little change in regard to membership, in February 1920; Frank H. Clapp, formerly of Mazon and associated with the Grundy County National Bank, requested that his membership be transferred to banking. He previously had been an Associate member in the club. Associate memberships are unknown at the present time because the additional active membership classification has replaced them.
In March 1920, W. H. "Billy" Beckwith was the speaker on the paper industry and he completed his remarks with comments on the sewer and housing situation in Morris. Believe it or not, in those days, housing was a matter of great concern in this community. It was in short supply and for some six to eight years thereafter continued in short supply which, in effect, stifled the growth in population in this area.
The Rotary Club began a campaign in May, 1920, for the building of a swimming pool in Goold Park. In June of that same year, they had a meeting at which they decided they would formally support this matter. They passed out petitions for stock to people interested in buying stock for the swimming pool. The money was raised and in the following year the swimming pool got underway. It took a bit of time to do it but it was accomplished. The Rotary Club was the initiator of the idea.
In June 1920, the Morris Rotary Club sent for the first time two delegates to the International Convention. They sent the then President, the late Dr. F. W. Graham and the secretary of the club, the late Dr. W. E. Walsh, to Atlantic City for the International Convention. Each was allowed fifty dollars towards his expenses.
The first Boy Scout Camp for the Morris Boy Scouts was established and operated for a two-week period, in July of 1920, on the Fox River just west of Millington, Illinois, under the leadership of Leslie Guthrie, the scout executive. That camp was sponsored entirely by the Morris Rotary Club. It was a success; the lads who attended it in two different groups of one week each learned what it was to live with nature.
The following month, in August, they had an inter-city meeting with Joliet here in Morris. The Rotary Club of Joliet turned out thirty visitors and they furnished the program and the fellowship.
As a little deviation in programming, in September 1920, the first program was given over to "Why each member was in the business he was in and why he came to Morris." It provided a great insight into the personalities and the backgrounds of most of the members and led to what we know today as "My Job Talk" which has become the custom of the Rotary Club for many, many years. That same year, in September, a drive to raise money for the Morris Hospital was on and it was unanimously endorsed by the Rotary Club for expansion and facilities and some minor building in that area.
October 20, 1920, saw the visit of District Governor E.Fisher. "Jack" Fisher, as he was known, proposed that they hold weekly meetings instead of only every two weeks and that they should limit their meetings to one and a half hours, which was rather standard in most Rotary Clubs in existence.
In July 1921, the Rotary Club's interest in the swimming pool, that I mentioned earlier, which had brewed all through the winter again came up and a whole meeting was devoted to it. When they took a vote, there was one opposing vote and the minutes make this notation: "He was a non-swimmer."
In October 1921, David Matthews, the founder-President of the Morris Hospital, passed away. He was a charter member of this club and a resolution of condolence was sent to his family. Dave Matthews had been a great leader in this community. He was a well-to-do man and he gave much of his life in his later years to the Morris Hospital and its well being.
December of the year 1921, found the subject of a high school band being talked of in the community. The Rotary Club got into that act and they voted to support a high school band. The following week they were informed that; "Thank you very much but we don't need your help. The Board of Education has opted to push this program and we can carry it on our own."
The swimming pool was the big subject. In June 1922, the money had been raised for the start of it and your reporter well remembers the day when they started the excavation with a large community-wide picnic. The excavation of that site was by teams of horses and slip scrapers. A hundred people of the community, almost half of them were Rotarians, subscribed one-hundred dollars a piece to underwrite the cost of that pool. Ten thousand dollars was needed to cover the cost to excavate, pour the concrete and provide the drains for the swimming pool. Of course, through the years it has undergone many changes; but the original, initial pool still exists.
In June 1923, the club heard for the second time a report on the convention by the convention delegates. That year the convention had been held in St. Louis and the late Fred W. Gebhard was our official delegate, being accompanied by Ray Holderman and C. H. Root. They came home with an enthusiastic report from the largest convention that the International movement had ever had up to that time.
A bond issue had been passed in the early spring of that year to scrap the existing Center School and build a new school to provide better educational and physical education facilities for the community. In September, the Rotary Club was asked to provide a Rotary Jewel for inclusion in the corner stone of the new Center School. When and if that building ever comes down, in that corner stone will be found a Rotary Jewel showing that one day Rotary passed this way and had its hand in activities for the welfare of the community. Reverend Adolph Bohn was President in 1924-1925. Morris Rotary Club continued its interest in the building of the new Center School and gym, a facility which the community had never had previously. In June, the Club voted to dispense with meetings during the month of August, the hot and humid part of the year. In September, a meeting was held at the site of the proposed Morris Country Club. Interest in Boy Scouting was revived by the Boy's Work Committee and several meetings were devoted to the subject with out-of-town speakers providing the programs. At the request, by letter, from International President Everett Hill, the Morris Rotary Club voted, on February 24, 1925, to hold weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. with adjournment at 8:00 p.m. Prior to that action, the Club had held meetings on a bi-weekly basis since its organization. President Hill had stated in his letter that, of the 1851 Rotary Clubs in existence only twenty-eight were not meeting on a weekly basis, of which Morris was one. Many more meetings than had been usual took on an International flavor. Morris Rotary had begun to reach out beyond local boundaries in its interests, probably as the result of reports made by delegates to the International Conventions.
In September 1924, the Morris Rotary Club held their first
Farmers Night meeting with each Rotarian hosting a farmer from the area. They brought in a professor from the School of Agriculture, of the University of Illinois, to speak on farm developments and latest techniques.
During October, of that year, the Rotary Club held a boys' night and each Rotarian brought a boy. Of course, the Boy Scouts which they had so much love and interest in through the years, were in prominence; but there were other lads of the community attending also, proof that in the very earliest days Rotary had a very great interest in youth which came to the fore with greater contact being made with the local high school organizations. No doubt due to the rapid completion of the new Center School and Gymnasium. The year 1924-1925 was truly a Rotary year of Action.
The next President of the Morris Rotary Club during the year of 1925-26 was W. J. "Bill" Andrews who was a life insurance agent, with the help of District Governor Harry Kelly of Ottawa, the first of inter-city play day was instituted at Aurora. Two weeks later, the Ottawa Club hosted a like affair. Morris joined with down-river communities to combat Chicago dumping its untreated sewage into the Illinois river. Morris Rotary was the local leader. The first attendance contest within the Club came to an end in October with a difference of two percentage points separating the winners from the losers! Weekly meetings were instituted and attendance rose markedly! From one issue of the "Morris Rotary News" ---- ‘no man ever did anything alone except die and then there's usually a lot of mourners ready to give him a good send-off.' Attendance goals for the year were ninety percent! Morris Building and Loan Association came into being after a drive for membership.
V. V. Parshall (Electricity and Gas Distribution) became
President on June 1, 1926. The meetings of the Morris Rotary Club were now held at the then NEW Morris Country Club! Note:
"Attendance at meetings is not compulsory - it is an obligation assumed when inducted into membership." President Parshall was transferred by his company in January of 1927 and Vice-President
Charles Root (Education-Rural Schools) took over as President. The first mention of a ROTARY road sign at the edge of Morris was noted.
George Baum, with two other young men of Morris, returned from a European trip and reported of having visited several European Rotary Clubs. He was the first Morris Rotarian to have made International Club visits. Attendance (average) fell below sixty percent and became a matter of great concern. Meetings during the winter months (October-March) were held in the Social Club Rooms. A new attempt was made to renew Boy Scouting in the area. Ladies' nights were uncommon and a "push" was on to have at least one. On February 22, a Ladies' Night was held. On the program was past President Dave Root, just four years out of high school. Of the membership in 1926-27 - fifty-three men--today only three are still living.
President Charley, having completed V. V. Parshall's year as President, came into his own and was elected President. One meeting was held in Goold Park in conjunction with the Izaak Walton League. Weekly postage on the Club bulletin was one and one half cents! Ray Cryder stole a march on his friends and eloped-to Niagara Falls, made up Rotary attendance on the way home! Morris had the distinction of being next to the lowest in attendance of all Clubs in North America! Morris Rotary Club decided to hold all its regular meetings at the Morris Country Club (August 1927). Six members of the Club eliminated themselves from membership by non-attendance! With the coming of fall, the Club moved its meetings to the Cameron Inn on an alternate week basis.
Activities were many during this year. A campaign to enlarge and improve the Morris Hospital got underway with the enthusiastic support of the Rotary Club. Morris Rotary Club again underwrote the expense of an out-door ice skating rink at the corner of Jefferson and Franklin Streets and agreed to provide supervision. Being primarily an agricultural community, Morris Rotary held a community-wide meeting on the effects of the McNary-Haugen bill, just passed by Congress for farm relief.
S. M. Wyles, Automobile Retailing, became President in 1928-29. An early meeting had, as speaker, Dr. Penny of Ottawa, who told of his experiences traveling in Europe by airplane. Prosperity in America was at an all-time high. The stock market was booming and there seemed no end to the conditions. How little we knew of the tragedies in the offing within six months!
Rotary International held its 25th annual Convention in Chicago during the Presidency of Dr. W. E. Walsh (29-30). Many from Morris attended on a commuting basis. Reports on each day being given at the meeting the week following. All this despite the "crash" of the stock market in October 1929! Many members had been affected financially and had resigned from the Club. Still, many held on and Rotary spirits remained high.
President Walsh had a most difficult year but made the most of it. During his year, the first Fire Prevention" meeting was held in the community. Morris held it's first one hundred percent meeting on April 12, 1930. Attendance increased materially as men found that they were not alone in the economic down-turn. Resignations caused further shrinkage of membership to thirty-seven.
During the years of 1930-31, Attorney Arley Munts served as President. The first meeting of the year was an outing for members and their families at the Morris Country Club. Golf, softball, horse-shoes, etc. were enjoyed by all. Rotary, worldwide in 1930-31 was established in sixty-four countries. Today there are now more than 3,300 Clubs and more than 600,000 Rotarians. (Morris Rotary Club was #171 of those 3,300 Clubs)
President Arley was surprised by a visit of thirty Rotarians from Streator, the town where he grew up! President Munts embarked upon a program to rebuild the membership of the Club. Programming began to take on an International flavor with speakers making presentations about other parts of the world. Dr. W. E. Walsh, past President, presented an exhibit of Indian lore-artifacts, etc., from this area, plus fossils from the Mazon River fossil beds to be sent to a Rotary Club in Europe to demonstrate the domestic life, their arts and the religion of the American Indian prior to the coming of the white man to these shores. Attendance again was a problem for the Club administration. Highlight meeting of the year was an address by a former member of the German Imperial Air Force. Work had begun on the construction of the Dresden Lock and Dam of the Illinois Waterway and the Chief Engineer in Charge came as a guest speaker. Past President, Dr. W. E. Walsh, passed away in Chicago just short of a year after his presidency.
Quote from a bulletin exchange of that year:
"Some don't get nothin' from Rotary
But when their whines begin,
We often can remind them that
They don't put nothin' in."
The exhibit of Indian lore and local artifacts, previously referred to as having been prepared by Dr. Walsh, was shipped to Bergamo, Italy as a tribute to Dr. Walsh for his untiring efforts in preparing it. It would be of interest today to learn where it is, what became of it or what effect its arrival may have made in that community. Perhaps an Italian past President would like to pursue the matter.
To begin his year of 1931-32, President Walter G. Penn, a banker, inherited a Club of only twenty-nine members. This was an all-time low but those were Depression years! For the annual visit of the District Governor, William V. MacGill of Chicago, there was a 100% turn-out of the membership! Unheard of! Past President Adolph Bohn accepted a call to the Presbyterian Church of Champaign and regretfully rendered his resignation.
Bergamo, Italy, acknowledged receipt of the case sent from Morris by a letter dated October 12, 1931. All the translation of the letter follows.
"I am happy to inform you that our Club, at its meeting today, has particularly occupied itself with the Rotary Club of Morris which had expressed to us so much true Rotary courtesy in sending us the well made up box which gives us a picture of what Morris can offer and at the same time makes acquainted with the life and activity of that interesting city in Illinois."
'Today's date, October 12, is by a happy coincidence especially suited to exalt Italian-American friendship, since we in Italy are today celebrating the discovery of America by our great navigator.
"Our President and all our members, while contemplating to send to you by an early mail, publications and information regarding Bergamo, so that --- according to us the wish you expressed --- you may get better acquainted with us, have given me the pleasant task of thanking you most cordially, dear President, as well as all the members of your club, for the most welcome gift which reached us the day before yesterday, and for the interesting descriptions of life in Morris and Illinois.
"Please be so kind as to extend to the Italian members of your club our especially fraternal greetings, together with an invitation that we may soon have them as our guests in Italy and in Bergamo.
With most cordial Rotary Greetings,
During the year of 1931-32, the Club moved its meeting place to the ?Spanish Gardens,? a restaurant on the second floor of the McKeen Building (once the Masonic Hall, later the American Legion Headquarters and today occupied by residential apartments owned by two active Rotarians; Ted Conley and Art Leach -- The Times Theater Building). Meal prices were to be sixty-five cents a plate!
One program of the year was devoted to, ?Are you doing your part in the contribution for the local unemployment situation?" Another meeting was used to express how fortunate Morris is with its sound financial institutions, all headed by men of integrity, honesty, and sound business judgement. In spite of the depression, the Rotary Club of Morris, under the leadership of Walter Penn, ended the year as one of only eight Clubs in the district to have gained in numbers of members. A real tribute to President Walt's leadership!
Henry 0. Newman of the Beatty Lumber Company became President for 1932-33. Dredging of the Illinois River was underway to create the nine-foot channel ordered by an Act of Congress. J. F. Attridge, a new member of the Club, presented his first program by taking the club membership for a tour of the dredging tug to observe the operations. Rotarian Attridge's company, The R. C. Huffman Construction Co., provided the meal on board the tug that evening so the Morris' Rotary Club voted to donate the usual amount paid for meals to the XXX Society, a local group of young women devoted to charity enterprises. Your reporter made his first Rotary speech right here at home.
Attendance again became a problem and even the payment of dues lagged. DEPRESSION!
The Morris Rotary Club held its first meeting honoring the 4-H champions of Grundy County. For the first time, all three Rotary districts in Illinois held a joint district conference in Champaign-Urbana. Arley Hunts, our secretary, was named as the conference secretary.
Henry Newman, in his remarks, as he retired from the office of President pointed out that the Club had Held it’s own in membership total, all bills were paid, and had functioned in a way that was admirable under the trying conditions of the economic situation of the county.
Harry 0. Torrence, a clothier, opened his year, 1933-34, with a meeting celebrating the 18th anniversary of the founding of the Rotary Club of Morris with fifteen of the charter members present. Fred A. Ashton was the only charter member who had retained membership from the beginning.
His second meeting was an inter-city affair with delegates from Joliet, Ottawa and Streator in attendance. The speaker was Frank Milner from New Zealand. It was truly an international meeting! That was the first of a series of International Service meetings which were the trademark of Harry's presidency. J. S. (Jerry) Sproull returned to Morris as head of the Public Service Company and again rejoined Rotary. The year was literally filled with a series of intercity meetings of Rotary Clubs of this area.
During 1933 the U.S. experienced the following developments:
1. A new federal administration.
2 The bank moratorium, reorganizations, and new control legislation.
3. The immense recovery program.
4. The completion of the Illinois Waterway.
5. The Century of Progress Exposition.
6. Repeal of the 18th Amendment.
The Museum of Science and Industry was opened and a special Rotary Night was held for a private showing. Economic recovery was the subject on everyone's mind. Morris Rotary held five meetings concerning it.
Extension work by correspondence which had been recommended by the Tri-District Conference of 1933 to the University of Illinois came into being. It had been proposed to help those who had been unable to complete their degrees while at the university.
The Board of Directors of Rotary International resorted to general radio broadcasts to give encouragement to the world under the title of "Is There Optimism in the World?" Harry "rang down" his year with a report thanking every member for his support and noting that while we had not gained any new members, we hadn't lost a single one.
The years 1934-35 saw J. S.(Jerry) Sproull of the Public Service Co., (now known as Commonwealth Edison) assuming the duties of President. Jerry's year began with a visit to the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp at Dresden. The CCC was a federal program for young men unable to find employment, to work in the outdoors under healthy conditions and with expert supervision. A vast majority of the young men came from metropolitan areas of the country. They built log rail fences in state parks, access roads to recreational areas and locally they improved Gebhard Woods State Park. They also cleaned the rubbish and undergrowth from the banks of the I-M Canal and largely rebuilt the aqueduct of the I-M Canal over Aux Sable Creek.
The new bridge (Route 47) over the Illinois River was under construction so a program was devoted to hearing from the engineers in charge of that project. Gebhard Woods State Park and the Illinois River Bridge were both dedicated on September 20, 1934. Morris Rotary was much in evidence at both affairs.
At a meeting, Dr. Roscoe Whitman, M.D. and part-time farmer presented a program on the subject of "Heredity” using it as the basis for his talk about the breeding of cattle.
In a November meeting, Dr. Gordon Perisho spoke on drug addiction and suggested that the passage of the Harrison Narcotic Act by Congress may have been the factor which produced the condition, much as the Volstead Act had increased the consumption of alcoholic liquors. His remarks sparked a spirited debate among the members.
The November birthday "babies", Penn, Condon, Munts, Bowden and Graham, Jr., put on a program with baby hoods, nightgowns, rattles, etc. and ate at a special table (baby food). Following the dinner, Walter Penn spoke on his personal experiences in World War I. He was unable to complete his remarks due to the fact that he became so emotional in remembering some of his buddies "over there". Of his Infantry Company, only one other man survived. Touching experience, to say the very least.
By January 1935, your reporter had absented himself from six consecutive meetings due to lack of finances to carry on his membership.
"I feel an obligation to the Club to tell them that my father, the late Dr. F. W. Graham, volunteered support until I could carry Rotary membership on my own. Had I dropped out or had been dropped from the Club for non-attendance it would have denied me the most delightful side of my life, other than my home life. My Rotary experiences have been too numerous to mention. The honors which I received have been very deeply appreciated. Most of all, more than anything else, has been the opportunity to rub shoulders with men from all the principal religions of the world -- all and each of the afore mentioned things have made for a supremely happy life. I am grateful to Rotary for all it has given me and mine!"
The economic plight of the farmer of America was a subject of great concern especially in this area. With the inauguration of the Corn-Hog Loan Program, the farmer had a little bit better opportunity to make his way.
Rotary's 30th birthday was observed with (then) past director of R.I., George C. Hager of Chicago as the speaker. He was destined to later become President of Rotary International. On April 9, 1935, Richard M. McClure, the founder of Morris Rotary, returned as speaker to an overflow crowd at a Ladies? Night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this Club. It is reported that he spent most of his speech on the experiences which he had in getting things moving for the formation of this Club. President Jerry had a most successful year due in large part to his vast acquaintance throughout the district.
Fred A. Ashton was the lone remaining charter member at the time he took over the Presidency of the Club for the years of 1935-36. He had served many terms as Treasurer and as a Director. Thus, Fred was well versed in Rotary and all of its facets. His first meeting was on Community Service and the Club heard from the Board of Education; with past President Walter Penn, President of the Board, as the principal speaker. The vein of Community Service continued through the year. The Christmas meeting was devoted to each Rotarian bringing a child's toy (not a cheap one) which was played with by the men as if they were children and then given to the XXX Society for their charity Christmas baskets. William I. Hynds, later to become a Rotarian, gave the second of his talks on his travels through Europe.
On May 18, 1936, the War Ministry of Germany decreed that no member of the active military force of that country may become a member of a Rotary Club. Obviously, a ‘straw in the wind’ of what was to come when Hitler outlawed Rotary. Strange things men do. The 1936 Olympic Games were only a few short weeks away when Hitler issued his decree.
Charles Harrah and Walter Penn were appointed a committee of two persons to investigate and promote a renewal of the Boy Scout movement in Grundy County. President Fred completed his year as president as he had begun his Rotary career as a Founder member of this club. The very best interests of the Community were his goals.
George H. Baum began his year as President, 1936-37, with membership reaching an all-time low. With one resignation, we dropped to twenty-four. Programming for the year began with various committees providing aims, goals, and possibilities. There was much Club discussion following each presentation. In September, came the annual Teachers' Night when Morris Rotary entertained the faculties of the High School and the Grade Schools to become acquainted with them and they with us. At that time there was a total of thirty-seven people handling the education of all the public school pupils in Morris.
The FHA, Federal Housing Administration, became a new arm of the federal government. A program was given by the manager of the Joliet office to tell how to finance homes.
The Boys' Work Committee succeeded in arranging a meeting to revamp Boy Scouting in Grundy County with part of Will County. Programs of an international nature continued to be presented such as cultural presentations concerning life in other lands. As had been the case for the past three years, impostors posing as Rotarians came through this area with regularity. Their chief interest being to get checks cashed.
The annual Farmers' Night heard Clifford V. Gregory, Editor of Prairie Farmer, as the speaker. The Social Security Act was passed and a program was devoted to what it meant and what it will do for the employees of most of the members. Shabonna District of Rainbow Council, B.S.A., came into existence. An attempt was made to organize a Rotary Club in Coal City, but it failed due to the opposition of three men of that community.
As George's year came to an end, the Club could look back with pride at its accomplishments. The Club was instrumental in starting Shabbona District, the committees performed as requested, programming was varied and we had plenty of fun doing it all. In that year we saw the opening of the first Rainbow Council Boy Scout Camp on the Waupecan Creek southwest of Morris. The Morris Rotary Club was most instrumental in getting that camp opened because the Club not only furnished the materials, but the manpower to build the first building erected on that site. It was the Trading Post and Morris Rotarians acted as carpenters and laborers in the construction of that building. It bore, as last known, a commemorative tablet stating it was furnished by the Rotary Club of Morris.
B. R. Bowden, who was Superintendent of Schools became President for 1937-38. "B. R." set four goals for his year as president.
1. Better attendance, an average of 90%
2. More inter-club attendance
3. Increased membership
4. Sponsoring of a new Club
A substantial beginning was made on #3 with the induction of three new members at the first meeting. Another new member joined the following week. The number of this Rotary district was changed on July 1st. We are now in District 147 instead of district 40. Two more new members were announced. That made a total of six in all in just over a month! Two of the new members gave their "My Job” talks, with more to follow.
All German Rotarians were ordered to give up their Rotary affiliation by the end of 1937 on the basis that Rotary does not combat Jews. The order affected Fourteen hundred Rotarians in Germany!
Another new member was inducted. That made seven in only two months of the new Rotary year. We had the usual Teachers’ Night followed by a program furnished by George Malek on the making and uses of stainless steel. (Think how far we have come in this year of 1980 in the further development of alloys for industry and home use). Costs of meals went up from sixty cents per plate to seventy cents per plate.
The Rotarians of Germany were working diligently to get their situation adusted but it appeared that Rotary was doomed in that country under the then existing government. To save their pride, the Rotarians of Germany decided to resign and disband which they did.
The first Boy Scout Circus was held in the Center School Gym, with Scouts from Joliet, Gardner, Wilmington, Manteno and Morris performing. Morris Rotary provided most of the leadership and promotion.
Another new member is inducted! How we grow when we put our hearts and hands to the task. One of Rotary's all-time great men was District Governor, Richard E. Vernor, better known as "Dick". He later became a member of the Board of Directors of R. I. and then followed that with several years as Treasurer of R.I. He was a great admirer of the Morris Volunteer Fire Department. Fire prevention was his business.
Two more NEW MEMBERS! Wow!
A Lion's Club is being organized in Morris. They have Rotary's best wishes for success!
Another MORRIS ROTARY CLUB has been organized-this one in New York. (To date, 1980, there are only two Rotary Clubs in communities named Morris).
Two new Rotary Clubs in the area were chartered this year. One in Wilmington in which we helped indirectly and another in Braidwood which we sponsored. It was a good year for Rotary in Morris. The world situation had not been a happy one but we looked to better days. Little did we know then what World War II would do to the peoples of the Earth!
Next we have the term of Charles L. Harrah during 1938-39. When B.R. Bowden retired from the Presidency, he requested that the Board of Directors refrain from presenting him with a wristwatch, a custom which had been in vogue for many years but rather they should purchase a gong and gavel which were standard in most Clubs. He even suggested that each retiring president's name be engraved upon the bell as he left office. That particular bell/gong was destroyed in the 1971 fire at the Morris Country Club but has been replaced by a larger and new bell by Edward Sanford as a Memorial to his father who was a charter member of the Morris Rotary Club. Much credit is due Ed for the research he did to obtain the dates of service and names of all the presidents from 1915 to 1977. The engraving can now be kept up to date with each passing year.
This year began with the induction of another new member (we are still growing)! President Charley has instituted another unique aspect to the programming of the Club. We are hearing from some of the older members about their vocations, life history and how they chose their life's work. All of which gives the newer members a closer tie with the "old timers". Walter Penn, George Baum and Fred Ashton were the first in this series which should prove invaluable!
Institutes of International Understanding
With a world in a state of unrest, Rotary International embarked upon a program to furnish speakers of authority in their own fields for a series of five weekly meetings to five Clubs in each district. Morris opted to sponsor such a series. They were given at the Center School Gym, open to the public at no admission charge, and were held in the month of October. This series of information from men of authority became an excellent public relations activity for Morris.
With the formation of the Rotary Club of Dwight, sponsored by Streator there rose a question into which district it should go. R. I., after much deliberation, decided that it should become part of district 147, ours. That though Dwight was located in the most northeasterly corner of district 149. Morris turned out a massive crowd (for us) at their Charter Night on September 21, 1938. Of more than passing interest is the fact that Dr. Stanley E. Graham, a Morris boy practicing Dentistry in Dwight, was the charter Secretary of Dwight.
As far back as 938, a move was on to bring the records of Morris Rotary up to date. Largely through the efforts of secretary Arley Munts, a good start was made. However, no compilation of those records was ever done. They were carefully filed into Munts" office for possible use n some far distant day. (Note: When Arley passed away in September 1956, his widow turned all those records over to Wayne Graham who has kept them intact until now. After this history is complete some proper plan MUST be made to preserve them). Much of the data for year-to-year reporting has come from the file of copies of the weekly club bulletins complied by, first, Arley Munts and later Miss Karen Gore who weekly mimeographed the bulletins from 1957 until her retirement in 1979. We are indebte to her for her interest and care of these priceless records.
President Charley's board deided to enforce the attendance reules of the Club and two members of long standing were dropped for their lack of attention to the basic tenet of Rotary. It was a happy day when they appealed their dismissal and were re-instated. One of them, Bill Allan, later became President of this Club in the Golden Anniversary year of 1954-55. More about him later, Obviously, the action of the board in dropping members for non-attendance has had results; there were seven make-up cards received on week in November.
Cooperating with other agencies of the community, the Rotary Club of Morris agreed to provide their share of the funds needed to furnish milk for under nourished children. Each month, at the first meeting, a milk bottle was passed and the Club received more than the necessary funds to keep the project going. There were no school lunch programs in effect at that time so we saw a need and reacted to overcome it. Again, Rotary at work in its own community.
Next came a Boy Scout Finance Drive. With the cooperation of the new Lion's Club, the drive was a tremendous success, just proving that two community minded organizations CAN work together on a worthwhile project.
The first Business Relations Conference (Vocational Service at Work) was held at the University of Chicago. Organized and chaired by past District Governor Dick Vernor, it was a tremendous success. Subjects covered were Competitor Relationships, Management/Labor Relations and Ethical Business Practices. It is a certainty that it became an annual feature in this district. Of note is, the Philip Carey, National Secretary of the Electrical Workers Union was a headline speaker who complimented the Rotary movement in pioneering such a meeting where men could literally "take their hair down" and talk freely.
"Dad" Rompel, now member of the Ottawa Club, is a frequent visitor to Morris meetings. He has done this for the past four or five years. "Charley's year came to a close showing an active growth in membership, a distinct improvement in attendance percentages and due to 'Charley's' out-going personality, a host of fun at the weekly meetings."
During the year of 1939-1940, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Morris. Wayne Graham was privileged to serve as President that year and the goal of the entire year was making preparation of the 25th anniversary. It became a very auspicious event with participation of every single member of the club in one way or another getting into the act. We had a big inter-city meeting with over four hundred in attendance from every part of the district. That meant tfrom Rock Island on the west to the big Rotary Club of Chicago, to Evanston, to Waukegan, the Havana, Rockford; you name it, in northern Illinois, they were represented. Our speaker on that occasion was Dr. Cy Dennis, a professor from Northwest University in Evanston who spoke on the subject of "Man, His World and His Possible Wars." It was a timely address and is well remembered by those in attendance
George Malek became President in 1940-41 and in his year the Morris Rotary Club again ventured forth on the sponsorship of a new Rotary Club in Sandwich, Illinois. Wayne Graham was appointed as Governor's special representative; the total organization of that club having taken place in four successive Thursday afternoon visits to that community. They were ready and they had their kick-off dinner in September of that year, 1940. The dinner was held in the Sandwich High School with the help of the Morris Rotarians standing, backguiding, enthusiastically caring about this baby that they had sponsored. There were in attendance from the entire district in excess of six hundred people. So great was the crowd that the charter members of the Sandwich Club and their wives vacated their seats to accommodate their visitors from outside that community, went to a local diner for hamburgers and came back for the program. It was recognized then that was the largest attended Charter Night in the history of the Rotary movement up until that time. Incidentally, it was the outgrowth of that activity which made Wayne Graham a Governor that lyear of District #247, as know in those days. This was due to the resignation of Mannel Hahn of Winnetka who had been elected as Governor but then retired in October because he had taken a position on the Rotarian magazine staff. There is a standing rule in Rotary that no one is both an employee and an officer and the District Governor is an officer of Rotary International. The clubs of the district were polled and the Morris man was named to the position to fill out the year and that began another story of one man's activities and inspirations and experiences that changed his life immeasurably.
WORLD WAR II YEARS
Frank Condon, Sr., in 1941-42, the year that the United States got into World War II, had his first meeting after installation with the R. I. director from Europe and the Middle East, Francis A. Kettaneh, Beirut, Lebanon as a speaker. It was a big intercity meeting held in the Morris Country Club to a packed house. Kettaneh, coming from another part of the world, told the history of his people, the area from which he came and what had happened to him in his travels to get to the United States for that year's meeting and convention.
The following year, 1942-43, we were fully into the war and the first of our foreign born presidents of the Morris Rotary Club was serving. Jen J. Spandet, a native of Denmark, moved to Morris as representative of the Federal Land Bank from Dewight. His first meeting after induction saw the visit to Morris of the just retired president of Rotary International, Tom J. Davis of Butte, Montana. Tom carried with him a cross made of two iron spikes from Coventry Cathedral in England which he reverently showed to the club. During his presidency, he had visited England, after the bombing of Coventry by the German Air Force, and the destruction of that famous old Cathedral. While there, he picked up from the ruins two spikes which had held timbers together and someone had bound them with a piece of wire into the form of a cross. He held this up as his most prized possession. Those were trying days for Rotary, not only in Morris, but the world around with a world aflame in World War II.
In 1943-44, Dave Root, a local lawyer, assumed the chair. The Morris Rotary Club had lost its first member to the Armed Services in the person of Wayne Graham who had gone into the service in September of 1942. Dave Root and his administration recognized the need of the restless youth of this community and the club was instrumental in raising money and establishing a Youth Center in the basement of what is now known as the Masonic Temple. The activity went on for about four years very successfully until such a time that no longer could suitable leadership be provided to guide that center, thus it was phased out.
Wilbur Allen, a grain merchant with the Farmer's Square Deal Grain Company, was president in 1944-45. We saw the end of the war coming and his year was highlighted by planning for "what will we do when our boys return home?" Much discussion was held on that subject during the course of that year.
In 1945-46, Lewis E. Starke, Superintendent of schools of Morris, was president. Mr. Starke's year was highlighted by more reconstruction, one might say, with the return of service men from the Armed Forces overseas trying to take their place in the community again, rehabilitating themselves, some taking on families and some still casting about still bearing the marks of war. The Rotary Club put out a helping hand to those men who needed it in that year.
Before I digress any further, I should tell you that during Lewis Starke's year two things happened. One, there came an appeal for clothing from Europe particularly from the Netherlands which had been stripped of worldly goods by the German occupation. The Morris Rotary Club was early in the procession of Rotary Clubs gathering clean, usable, cast-off clothing for the use of the families over there. The Morris Rotary Club sent sixteen cartons to Holland. There are pictures available of the committee at work. In it are such people as Clark Smith, a high school teacher, Stark, Jerry Sproull, Arley Munts, and several other members of the club. These cartons were shipped from Chicago, through the Great Lakes and out the St. Lawrence River free of charge by a Dutch ship which agreed to deliver them if we would agree to get them to the dock in Chicago. It took three months for them to get there; but arrived, they did and appreciated, they were.
The same year an idea came about that now we have established a contact with Holland maybe it would be a good idea if we tried to live a life like Holland and with the holiday season coming on, a Dutch Christmas party was planned. It took some degree of planning and considerable correspondence but through a man who later became a Director of Rotary International, Dan DeJong of Rotterdam, we were able to get a menu of a standard customary dinner which was not unlike the typical American one but it was a Dutch dinner. In only one instance did it deviate from standard Rotary fare as we knew it and that was that they always had wine with their dinner. That was the only time in the history of the Rotary Club of Morris wine was served at dinner. It was a Ladies Night and the highlight of that evening, as far as the food and the festivities were concerned, was when they brought in a flaming plum pudding. With the lights darkened in the house, the flaming plum pudding was delivered to the head table, extinguished and then served to those in attendance. The wines I mentioned were pleasantly received and for years many Rotary Anns of this town asked when were we going to have another Dutch dinner.
In 1946-47, Olan E. May, superintendent for Northern Illinois Coal Corporation, acted as president and the highlight of his year was an inter-city meeting held in January, 1947, when the past president of Rotary International from England, Thomas A. Warren, came out to Morris to be the speaker. Tom Warren left some gems of wisdom with many people. He was particularly of interest to your reporter because during Wayne Graham's stay in England as part of a U. S. Army General Hospital Unit, Tom Warren's home had been his home away from home. It was almost like having one of the family come back and Wayne was pleased to present and expose to his home community this man whose home had been such a warm haven during the years of war in that country.
In 1947-48, Arthur V. Meadors, then an agriculture teacher in the high school, was the president of the club. Highlighting that year was the fact that near the end of it; the Morris Rotary Club was awarded the "Club of the Year" award in all of district 147. Governor Bert Gibbs of Princeton, Illinois, came to present that award. It was a time when people fully appreciated the organizational work that had gone on because we had been supreme in nearly every aspect of the Rotary program through the years.
In 1948-49, Erwin Godfrey became president and in that year he received a letter from a man in Chicago making a recommendation to the Rotary Club of Morris. The letter to which I refer had been written by one Richard E. Vernor, a past director of Rotary International and the then treasurer of Rotary International. This letter recommended that the Morris Rotary Club seriously consider the presentation of the name of one of its members as a candidate for Director of Rotary International. Such a thing had never crossed the minds of anyone in Morris. We were a small club, a small town. True, we were historic because we were the first small town Rotary Club of the world but the idea that Morris should try to propose one of its members for election to the Board of Directors of Rotary International had just never been thought of.
To make a long story short, the club did adopt such a recommendation in a formal meeting naming Wayne Graham as a candidate for a two-year term of 1949-50-51 to the Board. It went forward. The late Lloyd Hollister from Wilmette acted as campaign manager under the guidance and help of Arley Munts of this club. The convention of 1949, was held in New York City and when the election returns were in, the Morris man had been defeated for that office by nine votes of over nine hundred cast. So it was a close race. At any rate people were finding out that Morris existed. It was someplace in the middle west and now they were beginning to put their finger on the exact spot where Morris was. I have long taken the position that was an act of providence that the Morris candidate was defeated because he would have found it very difficult to have given the time necessary to serve for a two-year period as the directorship offices were held at that time on a rotation basis around the United States. Most of them were all one-year terms. But every year one from one of the zones in the United States would be elected for a two-year term and two from outside the United States for a two-year term to provide some degree of continuity on the Board.
Merle Tascher, the agriculture extension advisor, was President in 1949-50 and of course, with his connections with the University of Illinois, of which he was a part and his interest in agriculture, much of our year's motif was spent on relations with the agricultural community and activities relating in every respect thereto.
0. B. Robbins, who was the manager of one of the elevators on the river front here, was made president in the year 1950-51. About three months after he took office he was offered a position in another community and resigned and left Morris. His year was completed by Bob Pfeifer who was assistant manager of Baum's Department Store. Bob Pfeifer was an ebullient, active, enthusiastic young man of about twenty-six or seven years of age and we had a flavor of youth throughout that whole year.
Ed Burnham followed Bob as President in 1951-52. Then came the great event for at least one member of this club and perhaps for the club. This district 147 had a District Conference that spring and passed a resolution naming Wayne Graham as a district candidate for the Board of Directors of Rotary International for the year 1951-52 and appropriated $3,500 of district funds to publicize his name. When the show was finished, the times for nomination and election were over. Wayne Graham, the representa-tive of Morris, Illinois, was elected to the Board of Directors of Rotary International in the convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, unopposed. The only man in the world elected to the Board that year without opposition. It was a great honor. He was given many heavy tasks to carry that year but he did so with joy because he believed in what he was doing.
In 1952-53, Earl Fruland, a funeral director, was President, who had been imbued with the Rotary ideal through his uncle, Tyler Hoganson, a charter member with whom he had been associated. Earl brought to Rotary that year a flavor of Rotary information, education and much of the programming being centered upon what one would call the basics of the Rotary movement. Now any subject announced as a program as Rotary information seems to turn people "off". That year our attendance stayed high. Rotarians grew interested in this organization with which they had been associated. They seemed to want more information and they were getting it from right and left.
William R. Brown, a native of Danville, Illinois, who had come into Morris in 1950 as the operator of the local Ford Automobile Agency, was president in 1953-54. That was known as a "fun" year. Bill Brown had a major in dramatics in his college and he was full of fun and the Morris Rotary Club looked forward from one meeting to another wondering what Bill was going to pull off that night. Somehow, he always was able to come up with something. Not to say that we didn't participate in our district activities and district conferences but it was just a year of great friendship and a great amount of fun.
In 1954-55, it was the golden anniversary of the founding of Rotary culminating with the 50th Anniversary Convention held in Chicago. William E. Allan of Allan Furniture Company was president. In response, to a request, that each club have a 50th anniversary project for its community, Bill seized upon the idea that the club could very well participate in aiding the acquisition of a new site for a fire station for the Morris Fire Department. From the day of his induction, hardly a meeting went by that year that Bill didn't have something to say about the fire station. I believe with others that it is to the underlying glory of the Rotary Club of $14,000 cash was contributed by its own members and presented to the City to aid in the purchase of what is now known as the Morris Fire Station. Little or nothing is said that Rotary had a hand in it; but I am certain in my own mind that had not the Rotary Club pushed that matter that year, under Bill Allan's guidance, it never would have happened. Certainly not at that time.
J. S. (Jerry) Sproull
District Governor - District 214Rotary International (1954-55)
J. S. (Jerry) Sproull was the second District Governor of Rotary International to come from the Rotary Club of Morris. He served in 1954-55, the Golden Anniversary of the Rotary movement and was one of the group who named themselves as "The Golden Governors."
"Jerry's" story is both interesting and unique because his Company) then The Public Service Company of Northern Illinois and now is known as Commonwealth Edison Co. and Northern Illinois Gas Company, had a long-standing policy of permitting their District Managers to serve as Presidents of Rotary Clubs and other Service organizations, but no further advancement in the Service organization. Recognizing that fact and desiring to give recogni-tion to "Jerry" for his long and devoted service to the Rotary movement, the 1953-54 Morris President, William R. Brown and your reporter arranged a conference with the divisional Vice-President of The Public Service Company to ask for Company approval of Morris Rotary proposing Sproull for District Governor in the year 1954-55. We were told of the Company policy which we already knew but we persisted in what such permission could offer the Company in Public Relations throughout all of Northeastern Illinois. We were told that this request would require approval from the top echelon of the Company. A question was asked as to when we would need a reply, and our answer was, "As soon as possible." This all happened on a Thursday evening and on the following Monday morning this reporter received word by telephone from the divisional Vice-President that our intended action had met with approval. "Jerry's" name was proposed to the District Nominating Committee and he was nominated by them on the first ballot, evidence of the esteem in which "Jerry" was held in the District. In November of 1953, "Jerry", after having been officially elected at the District Conference, under-went major surgery for what turned out to be an incurable condition. He barely survived the surgery but manfully fought his way back to a state of almost ordinary health. He once told this reporter that had he not been elected Governor and assumed the responsibilities of that office for the succeeding year, he would have "given up" while in the hospital. He then realized he had an obligation to the Rotarians of the district to carry out the job to which they had elevated him. On the morning of July 1, 1954, a brand new Company automobile drove into the driveway of his home. The divisional Vice-President dismounted, came to the door and told "Jerry" he was to use that new auto in all of his official duties as District Governor, and that NO EXPENSES connected with such use were to be charged to Rotary International!!! The Company had recognized the Public Relation 'values which we had stressed in our original conference/request.
Despite continuing discomfort "Jerry" went beyond the call of duty as Governor and completed a most successful year in the position. Just short of one year after he went out of office, he succumbed to his affliction. His death occurred on the morning of the opening day of the 1956 Rotary International Convention in Philadelphia.
In "Jerry" Sproull, Morris had put its "best foot forward" and his passing left rather large shoes to fill.
In 1955-56, Robert Malmquist, an attorney, was our president and two outstanding things happened that year. First, in response to a challenge made to Wayne Graham by Charles Taylor of Christchurch, New Zealand that "Americans talk about how many radios they have, television sets, automobiles each family has, why do you Americans never tell the world who you are, how you live and what you are?" In response to that question from Morrinsville, New Zealand, we embarked upon a program of slides made of each Rotarian home with his family. Then came the night when we devoted a whole meeting to each Rotarian with his picture on the screen, speaking into a microphone and recording a message to his counterpart of the Rotary Club in New Zealand. Now why did we pick Morrinsville? Morrinsville was a community very much like Morris. It was about the same size population-wise, surrounded by a large agricultural area and had very much the same type of members be classification that Morris had. It was agreed that having completed this program which we sent off, after showing it to our Rotary Ann to Morrisonville, they showed it to their club. The following year they returned a program in like order on their community. The first type of programs carried on of this nature of combination slides and tape in the Rotary movement. Morris was a pioneer in that.
Some years later, 1970, it was the pleasure of your reporter to visit Morrinsville, New Zealand, when they held an inter-city meeting and your reporter was the speaker. Can you picture his consternation when they opened the meeting with a darkened hall with over four hundred men in attendance at this inter-city meeting? A screen lit up and onto it was thrown about twenty of the slides that had gone from Morris to Morrinsville. It was a touching moment for this individual because he saw first of all Merle Tascher, who had been unfortunately killed in an automobile accident; Jerry Sproull, who had passed to his reward; Arley Munts, who had passed to his reward; and Mac McKee a druggist, who had passed to his reward. These are things that won't just ordinarily happen to everybody in the world. At any rate this program received so much notice that the Rotarian magazine, through the person of Charlie Dyer, of Rotary International headquarters came out made some still pictures of the city and wrote an article concerning this program entitled "Tied With a Tape" which appeared in the April 1957 issue of the Rotarian magazine. We were known now. We had a place in the world because we had pioneered a new activity. At last count that particular type of inter-club activity from one side of the world to the other, so we are informed, has been performed in something over two thousand occasions throughout the world. It made one proud to be part of a club that pioneered such a friendly type of interchange of thought and action.
Early in President Bob's year, a request was made by Rotarian Paul Berringer of the Morris Club, that Morris sponsor the appearance of The Stephen Foster Singers of Morris Community High School as a musical interlude at the 1956 International Convention in Philadelphia. The Club approved, presentations were made on behalf of the Singers to the 1956 Convention Committee. They were accepted and plans were laid to finance the trip to Philadelphia. For the benefit of those who were not resident in Morris in 1955-56, The Stephen Foster Singers were a group of Sixteen girls attired in ante bellum ball gowns, hoop skirts, bonnets and parasols who performed only Stephen Foster’s works and music. The Rotary Club acting as sponsor, aided by parents, friends and local business firms raised the necessary funds for the trip by staging two one-night performances at the high school. The community became so caught up in the project that we reached a time when we had to decline any further contributions to the fund. The original goal had been $1,800 to cover transportation, food and lodging and shipment of their costumes by air freight to Philadelphia and return. At $3,100 the decision was made to decline any further contributions. At the request of the Chairman of the Convention Committee, they were flown to Philadelphia a day ahead of their program appearance to appear at the Dixie Fellowship Dinner, the British Commonwealth Dinner, the Middle West Dinner and the Texas Dinner. The finale number on their Convention program was their only non-foster number, "No Man Is An Island." The girls dedicated it to then President A. Z. Baker, who was so overcome with emotion that he had to take a few minutes to regain his composure. He then requested that they appear at the President’s Ball that evening. That was something that had never been done before in the history of Rotary International Conventions. So great was the impact made by that fine group of young ladies from Morris that for several years afterwards your reporter was besieged by requests for another appearance by them. Paul Berringer's position has been, since 1956, that he would never again attempt such an endeavor unless he became blessed with another group of eleven high school students of equal ability. It is of interest that plans are already afoot for a like group which he has trained at Crystal Lake, Illinois, to appear at the 1981 Convention in Sao Paulo, Brazil, if the 1981 Convention Committee approves.
OUR HOME TOWN
In 1956-57, H. E. "Gene" Baldwin, an insurance man with the Country Companies of the Farm Bureau, was President and Gene, being in the sales field, was a salesman. He made up his mind that the outstanding thing of his year was going to be growth of the club. Oh, how he did promote! Our club grew to fifty-one members the second largest number that it ever had been up to that time. We had fun, frivolity, fellowship and we had Rotary education because we had to inform these new members. There was approximately a total of fourteen new members that year. Never before or since has there been that much growth in one year of this club.
He was followed in 1957-58, by Wirt Hughes, associated with the Morris Paper Mills. Wirt's programming of the year was a matter of interest in the manufacturing industries of the community and the paper industry in particular. We had numerous programs along that line.
In 1958-59, Robert MacDonald, associated with Stephen Lumber Company as owner-manager, was our President and the principal activity of his year was related to the building and remodeling program of the Morris Hospital. Prior to that time, there had never been an area in the hospital where a cleric or a member of the cloth, a minister if you will, could take a bereaved or worried family to a place of privacy to talk to them or where an individual with a member of his family in dire condition could have a moment in silence and prayer if he wished. The Rotary Club proposed to the trustees of the hospital that, if they would provide the place, the Rotary Club would furnish it with suitable furniture for such a dignified place which would fill that need. The Superintendent of the hospital and the trustees agreed, Granted the space, we spent $1,100 wholesale through Bill Allan for fine furniture for that room. The highlight of it came when in January, 1959, Clifford A. Randall, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then President of Rotary International, came to Morris to act as the presenter of that prayer room to the hospital on behalf of the Rotary Club of Morris.
In 1959-60, Warren Blackburn who was with the Telephone Company, had as the highlight of his year the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the founding of this Rotary Club. The speaker on that occasion was William 0. Robbins from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, then First Vice-President of Rotary International, later destined to become President of Rotary International. It was an inter-city meeting held in the Morris High School cafeteria and was well attended.
In 1960-61 Lou Borger, manager of the farm supply branch of the Farm Bureau, was President. Lou presented the club, at the onset of his year, with a set of flags for the speakers stand, These small flags, of every country in the world which had a Rotary Club or Rotary activity, were mounted in a suitable base. Unfortunately, when Morris Country Club was destroyed by fire in 1971, the set of flags was also destroyed and to this date have not been replaced, It might be a good idea for the club to acquire another such set of flags to show how Rotary has grown, because today Rotary exists in one hundred fifty-four countries of the world.
Dr. Wilbur Dolezal followed Lou Borger and Will's big program of his year was a lead-up to the Los Angeles convention to which he and his wife, Jeri, went as representatives of the Rotary Club of Morris. By this time people knew where Morris was and it was Will and Jeri's experience to be greeted heartily by people they had never heard of just because they wore a Morris badge.
In 1962-63, we had the second of our foreign born Presidents in the person of Bill Barthelmes who had been born in Germany and was brought to America as a boy. He was with the nuclear plant of Common-wealth Edison, as an operator. Bill Barthelmes' program that year had to do with the operations of Commonwealth Edison's power plant up the river. His program also dealt with inter-national aspects of Rotary and due to the fact that being foreign born but American educated, he had a feeling for the other side and the other peoples of the world.
James R. (Bob) Purdue became President in 1963-64. President Bob's principle accomplishment in his year as President was to have every member of the club provide a program during his year. He had one failure when a scheduled speaker canceled at the last minute. Previously, the vice president (program chairman) of the club had assumed responsibility for every program of the year. President Bob proved that "rotation" is fundamental in Rotary!
In 1964-65, Bill Limbach, under the classification of grain farming, was our president and the big event of that year was the 50th anniversary of the Morris Rotary Club. Much effort was spent in preparation. We had a big inter-city meeting in the cafeteria of the Morris High School and the guest of honor and speaker on that occasion was the incumbent President of Rotary International, Charlie Pettengill, from Greenwich, Connecticut. It was a well attended meeting with a crowd of over four hundred people from all parts of the district. Charlie, on that occasion, complimented Morris for its activities and also reminded the members of the Morris Rotary Club that was his third visit to speak to this club. The two times previously before he had become a principal officer of Rotary International.
Albert J. Pilch was our next President. His outstanding achievement of the year was a concentration on the Rotary Foundation. The Rotary Club of Morris reached the three hundred percent plateau in contributions to that agency of Rotary International during 1965-66.
In 1966-67, Ted Conley, a realtor, was our President. The outstanding activity of his year was a program undertaken of five years duration by the Rotary Club to provide first of all, an initial installment of $900 for a record lending library to the Morris Public Library. Records could be checked out, as were books, from that institution and there would be additions made to it to the tune of $100 a year. That continued on and that record collection is still in effect today, still being actively used.
During the term of John J. George, 1967-68, (Petroleum Products Distributing) a disastrous tornado struck Oak Lawn and Morris Rotary contributed $100 to the relief situation there.
The General Electric Nuclear Fuel Recovery plant was new and its story was told to an early meeting. Even then it was a matter of controversy and the County Board held hearings on the possible effects of the plant.
The programs for the year were varied: Radio station WCSJ had changed hands and we heard from the new manager, Dave Sutton--The first thoughts of an Area Vocational Center were presented by Don Kaufman of the high school faculty--Morris Rotary entered a float in the annual Corn Festival Parade to recognize the 125th anniversary of the founding of Morris, (It took third prize). We joined with the Lions Club for a program on the Hadley School for the Blind--Joliet Junior College referendum was discussed, support for it was voiced, (It passed and plans got underway to build the new campus)--the first Group Study Exchange Team sponsored by the Rotary Foundation, arrived from Taiwan--Ted Conley acted as local host and guide. John had a varied and interesting year as President. The programming was well done!
Karl Linnenian (Telephone Service) became President in 1968-69. General Electric, the contractor, presented through their local superintendent, an over-view of the expansion of the Dresden Nuclear Power plant. Two additional reactors are to be installed, both underground.
In recognition of Fire Prevention Week, founded by Dick Vernor, we hosted the Morris Volunteer Fire Department which organization was celebrating the purchase of their first horse-drawn fire engine, "Old Shabonna," still in operable condition but only for show purposes. The City Council, on October 18, 1858 had authorized the expenditure of $4,500 for the engine and $1,500 for hose!
The Club donated $93.75 for costumes for the color guard of the High School Band. Art Hornsby gave a repeat of a program he presented some twenty years ago on the subject of "Shop Lifters." We heard from Reverend Arthur Johns of his plans for a workshop/recreational activity for the handicapped of the community, fore-runner of The Illinois Valley Sheltered Workshop. Five members of the club presented a program on the forthcoming referendum for the building of a new Morris Public Library. All five were deeply involved in Library activities.
Wayne Graham was appointed Chairman of the 1971 Rotary International Convention and was to make his first trip "Down Under" in August of 1969. Morris Rotary really "got into the act" in community affairs this past year. Great for President Karl to look back upon!
Eugene Chamberlain (Fire Clay & Fire-brick Manufacturing) was President in 1969-70 when the first announcement was made for need of a Lighted Ballpark, being sponsored by the Jaycees. Rotary gives its approval! Enthusiasm grew for the LIGHTED BALLPARK!
In 1971-72, Dr. Terrence J. Danek, a dentist) served as President. He counts as the great accomplishment of his year, the initiation of the annual Christmas Party held for the boys at the Channahon Boys Camp.
Dr. Hugo Avalos, an M.D., was our President during 1972-73 and the outstanding thing about him was that he was the third foreign-born President of the Rotary Club of Morris, having been born in Mexico City. Of interest concerning Hugo was the fact that he came to Rotary here in Morris as a result of his having been a member of the 20-30 Club in Mexico City during his university years. Twenty-Thirty was a series of young mens? clubs that originated on the west coast of the U. S. and spread down into Mexico. It was patterned exactly after the tenets of the Rotary movement, on a classifi-cation, a program and an activity basis. He once told this reporter that his greatest ambition was to someday become a member of a Rotary Club--now he was the President of one of the oldest clubs of the district to which he had become a resident. One of the outstanding programs of the year was presented by one of our local natives, Lester Carkhuff who the previous summer during the Olympic games in Munich, Germany, decided literally at the last moment to go. He bought an airline ticket, went to Munich with no reservations, no tickets for any of the facilities or games to be seen but somehow he was able to arrange to do and see everything he wanted to after his arrival. He was one of the unfortunates present in Munich at the time of the Israeli massacre and was one of the thousands in attendance who were shaken by the event which almost caused the remainder of the games to be canceled. However, the athletes of the world and the International Olympic Committee, after a day of reverence, decided to go on with the games. Lester said it was one of the most memorable experiences of his life and how thrilled and inspiring he was despite his denial that he was a public speaker. It was truly an inspiring evening.
In 1973-74, Ernest L. Davis (Production Credit Loans), became President. A new industry had come to our area---the SNG (Supplemental Natural Gas).
Jim Provoncal, Chairman of Vocational Service for this year, issued a challenge to one and all to apply the principles of Vocational Service to our daily lives and business activities. As a change of pace, we had a wine tasting before the February 14th meeting. Our "Financial Geniuses" gave their impressions of the business outlook for 1974. Has anyone checked their predictions?
George Baum again brought us Mrs. Rosie Rasmussen Yarger of Bloomington for one of her famous trip and experiences programs. Years ago she was a member of the Morris High School faculty.
With staunch support from Grundy County, Wayne Graham was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Joliet Junior College. Terry Danek brought us a program in the ?Shadowy World of Electronic Snooping."
One of the first awardees for Teachers of the Handicapped granted by the Rotary Foundation, Wendy Merrilees of Newcastle, Australia, gave an inspiring program on her home country and her work with handicapped people. She took advanced work for one year with her grant from the Rotary Foundation. Another profitable year for Rotary in Morris!
In the year 1974-75, when Jim Provancal was President, the Rotary Club of Morris gave expression to its feelings for the community. First, with the completion of Saratoga Towers, a residential facility built with Federal funds in Morris for senior citizens, the Club donated a color television for the lounge of the new Tower building. They also in that same year, made a financial donation and participated in the drive to raise money for the establishment the John B. Roth, Sr. Lighted Ball Park which is used extensively by the youth of the community in the summer months for both softball and hardball.
In 1975-76 James Crupi, manager of the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, had two big things happen. First, the Hospital Trustees had moved the Prayer Room, earlier referred to, to a new location in a hospital modernization program. After completion, the furniture that we had originally furnished went with it but one thing needed doing and that was to rededicate that room. Fortunately, Cliff Randall, now a past president of Rotary International, was available. He came to Morris and again acted on behalf of the Rotary Club of Morris and presented this Prayer Room to the hospital to serve a much appreciated need in that institution. Also during Jim's year were the beginnings of the birth of the sister cities program between Morris, Illinois, and Tumut, Ai?stralia. It received widespread approval in the community; Morris Rotary was part of it, as were the Lions Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the City government, the school systems and many other agencies in the community.
In 1976-77 Bill Norton, a banker, was the President of the club and two things occurred of note. Immediately, because 1976 was the bicentennial year of the U. S., we found voluntarily on their own behalf a group of five adults from Tumut, Australia, made the long trek to Morris, Illinois to help us celebrate the bicenten-nial of the founding of our country. They arranged the timing of their trip to arrive so that they would be here over July 4th of that year. They spent a week in the community. The community turned out en masse on July 4th for a gigantic parade in their honor; they were the honored guests on the reviewing stand. That evening a fireworks and highlight show was held at the athletic field of the high school in their honor and of particular significance was the fireworks piece arranged by the City Council of Morris. Eighty feet long, tenfeet high, which when ignited spelled out "Welcome Sister City Visitors - Tumut, Australia." This reporter can tell you that five people from 10,000 miles away sat and tears streamed down their faces. It was a touching moment.
Also in Bill’s year was the initiation of the annual apple sales which are held in conjunction with the Grundy County Corn Festival. We bought apples by the bushel and sold them at a rather inflated price.
There was no question about that but all the proceeds from the apple sales went to agencies of the community which provided services where donations were needed. I am referring to such things as Illinois Valley Workshop, the We Care organization, the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, and like agencies. That was the beginning of an annual contribution to such agencies of over $1,000 a year in total. It continues to this date.
Bill Norton was followed in the office of President by Lon Lovelett, the local manager of the Federal Land Bank Association in 1977-78. The highlight of his year was an outgrowth of sister cities activities to which I have just referred. Acting on a proposal by the Rotary Club of Tumut, Australia, we embarked upon a plan to arrange for exchange students between Morris and Tumut. It began with Morris selecting first and then sending a student from Morris. Now this particular activity was the first of its nature ever accomplished anyplace in the world. It was a joint venture on the part of the Morris Rotary Club and the Morris Lions Club. The Lions, having no year long exchange program to offer young people, decided they would like to support this activity and so Morris Rotary and Morris Lions jointly sponsored this program. We selected by a committee of two members from each club a suitable candidate who was sent to Tumut for a full school year and the Rotary Club and Lions Club of Tumut, acting in the same capacity, sent a student to Morris. Morris sent Margaret Sutter to Tumut in the summer of 1977 for a year in the Tumut high school. While there she was hosted in some six or eight different homes, living part time in one home and then moving to another. She had several sets of host parents. January 1978 saw the arrival of Gemma Malone from Tumut to spend a school year here in Morris. Gemma had reached the final stages of her high school in Tumut. While she was here, her presence spanned the summer vacation period and she moved about every two weeks to a new home. When the year was done, Gemma had a total of ten host families and we had to turn down offers of about five more simply because, being a student, she couldn't be forever moving. But during the summer months she did move frequently. It was a most successful exchange of youth: the outcome of which today Margaret Sutter is completing her second year at the University of Illinois in Civil Engineering and Geology while Gemma Malone is completing her second year in a nursing program to become a nursing sister or; as we call it in America, a Registered Nurse. Two young women who have both left deep footprints in the communities to which they went as exchange students. It was commemorated with a farewell party for Gemma and a welcome home party for Margaret two days before Gemma left to go back to Australia. We had a big Ladies Night at the high school with Rotary and Lions club and other individuals, all the host families, both Gemma and Margaret in attendance as our guests and a unique first-time-ever thing was done on that occasion. Because this was a joint venture of Rotary and Lions, we presented each young lady with a memento to last her the rest of her life, in that it was a necklace with the Rotary emblem suspended on one side, a Lions emblem suspended on the other and in the middle was a gold disc engraved "Sister Cities-Morris, Illinois-Tumut, Australia" and on the reverse was the inscription "Exchange Student"-the name of the youngster and the year. Many tears were shed but they were tears of joy and it has left a permanent impression on this community. Whether Morris and any other city of the world will again enter into an exchange student program remains to be seen.
DR. JOHN B. ROTH. SR.
A great loss occurred in this community in April , 1977, when Dr. John B. Roth Sr., a tremendously loved, admired and respected citizen of the community, passed away. He had been a fellow Rotarian of ours for over twenty-five years. He never held an office, other than as a member of the Board of Directors, but his life was one of devotion to mankind in general. As an example to the youth, his life was above reproach. The Rotary Club, desiring to honor his memory, appointed a committee to make a recommendation of a suitable memorial to his name and to his memory. The committee composed of Harry Sklut, Bill Limbach and Wayne Graham met and after much deliberation recommended that the Rotary Club could do nothing in Dr. John's honor less than to make a sizeable donation to the building of the new intensive care unit of the Morris Hospital. It was to be a very expensive installation but we reckoned that we could come up with an average donation of about $200 per member for a total of $10,000. That was our goal The end result was that in April 1978, the committee; Lon Lovelett, President; the hospital Administrator, Donald Botkin; members of the Board of Trustees and members of Dr. Roth?s family present, we presented to the hospital a check for $10,800 as a memorial to Dr. John B. Roth, Sr. That was no small accomplishment. Not everyone gave the same amount of money but I need not go into any further detail that we did reach our goal of $10,000 with ease.
Having earlier mentioned that Gemma's visit was completed in January 1979, Dick Lewis' year as president, after which time Dick sold his business in Morris, removed himself to Mesa, Arizona, his term was completed by John Boone, then Vice President.
John Boone, the current President of Rotary in this year 1979-80, has made one great accomplishment and that is he has organized a monthly meeting of the Board of Directors and he has kept it on schedule the whole year.
During the 1979-80 year, we also have had a visit of a Group Study' Exchange from District 971 in Australia which came under the auspices of the Rotary Foundation. This team of a Rotarian leader and five non-Rotarian men between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five spent three days of their six week visit in District 645 in the Morris area. They were hosted in homes of Rotarians. They were shown the community; all of its cultural, educational, governmental, industrial and social sides. Since that time we have had letters stating that the highlight of that team's visit to the United States was their stay in Morris which is a great tribute to the people of this area.
In addition to those mentioned in this year of 1979-80, there has been continuation of the annual apple sale with Grundy County Corn Festival with the proceeds being distributed to organizations which serve the needs of man, namely the We Care, the Crisis Line, the Illinois Valley Sheltered Workshop and so forth.
We have also had a continuation for the fourth year in a row and that is our luminary sales at Christmas time in which this club sells luminaries which are nothing more than a number ten brown bag with about two cups of sand and a plumbers candle in it. These are placed about six feet apart at the entrances of homes and are lighted at sundown on Christmas Eve to illuminate the way of the Christ child and usually burn through the whole of the night. It is a practice that came out of Mexico to America. It has been a successful project. It has also been a good fund-raiser. We have made $300 to $400 a year on it. Again, none of it goes into our pockets, it is distributed to the people of the area through the organizations previously mentioned.
National Honor Society students in the high school continue to be honored at a meeting at the end of the school year which has been the practice for some twenty years. One thing that has been overlooked and not mentioned until this time is the annual Arion award made by the Rotary Club. The Arion awards are to the outstanding vocal and instrumental music students and have been highlights in the lives of each individual involved.