22 February 2016 — Funny Math, When 2 + 23 + 2016 = 111


By Club consensus during a 10 January 2016 planning session, the “poll” at the bottom of the Program page has been removed. Members are asked to post a comment each week. If you don’t have something interesting to say–although with our members we know what you have to say is interesting–feel free to say “Present” or “Here” or “Beam me up, Scotty!” or write your favorite color, just let us know you were here.


SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28 — 12:30pm to 2:00pmOur FOURTH SUNDAY meeting for February! Speaker: LATE CHANGE, os of February 24, our speaker will be Kevin James, the President of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works and the Director and Chief Liaison of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Film and Television Production.  We gather in The Fireplace Room at Denny’s, 5525 Sepulveda Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.  (Meeting reminders: Inspiration, Mel; Pledge, Daniele; Four-Way Test, Linda C; Rotary Minute, TBA; Mini Craft Talk: TBA.)  BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING in The Fireplace Room at 11:00 a.m.

SUNDAY, MARCH 20 — 12:30pm to 2:00pmOur Fourth Sunday–but this month on the THIRD SUNDAY–meeting for March (moved one week early due to holiday dates)! Speaker: Lulu Kamatoy, a member of the Rotary Club of Calabasas, in her capacity as Executive Director of Valley Women’s Center.  We gather in The Fireplace Room at Denny’s, 5525 Sepulveda Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.  (Meeting reminders: Inspiration, TBA; Pledge, Linda W; Four-Way Test, Mel; Rotary Minute, TBA; Mini Craft Talk: Todd.)  BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING in The Fireplace Room at 11:00 a.m.


We have launched our Clunkers4Charity fundraiser! If you know of anyone (yourself included) who wants or needs to donate a car for tax purposes, send them to our website…and to the Clunkers4Charity “Link” you see at the right side of this page. Funds we raise will go right into the community for our projects.








Our fourteenth ONE MORE ITEM FOOD DRIVE, on 21 February 2016 at Gelson’s Sherman Oaks, was another successful day of gathering non-perishables from generous shoppers in support of our community partner VALLEY FOOD BANK.  Along with the support of our sponsored Daniel Pearl Magnet High School Interact Club, including Club President Ilana Gale (pictured here with our Club President, Roy Glickman), we finished the day with four full barrels containing 729 pounds of donated food, roughly $3,000 in value if Valley Food Bank had to go purchase that food themselves.  All-time, we have gathered just shy of 15,000 pounds of food.










(Photo: Restored full-size mock-up of Room 711, Gus Loehr’s office, where the first Rotary Club meeting was held.)

2 + 23 + 2016 = 111.

How does that math work?  On 2-23-2016, Tuesday of this week as our Program publishes as always on Monday at noon U.S. Pacific time, Rotary turns 111,  One hundred and eleven years ago a movement of service and fellowship began in a small office in Chicago, Illinois.  Here’s a little of the history of that day.

EXCERPTED WITH PERMISSION FROM “A CENTURY OF SERVICE: The History of Rotary International,” by David C. Forward.

Thursday, 23 February 1905, is the most significant date in the history of Rotary—perhaps in the history of volunteerism. As the day broke, there was little evidence of its significance, however. The Chicago newspapers led with headlines announcing President Theodore Roosevelt’s initiative to broker a peace between Russia and Japan. The carpenters’ and bricklayers’ unions in Chicago were threatening to strike unless their members were granted a half-day off on Saturdays.

Late that afternoon, Paul and Silvester met at Madame Galli’s for dinner and discussed the idea of the fellowship and business booster club. A few days earlier they had talked about it with a mutual customer, a mining engineer named Gustavus Loehr, and he was so enthusiastic about it that he offered to host the organizational meeting in his office. After dinner, Paul and Silvester walked over to Gus’s office on the seventh floor of the Unity Building at 127 Dearborn Street. It was a small room, not well lighted, with a desk and three or four uncomfortable chairs, a coat rack in the corner, and an engineering chart on the wall. Gus was waiting with his friend Hiram Shorey, a merchant tailor he had invited to the meeting. Loehr did not have a conference room, so the four men pulled up chairs and sat around the desk in his office.

They each introduced themselves, telling the others about their vocations and sketching out their backgrounds that led them by remarkably similar paths to Chicago. Silvester told of his German heritage and of his life growing up on an Indiana farm. He showed them pictures of his family around the fireplace in their log cabin; of the hardships they endured, with snow that often blew so heavily through the broken roof that he would awaken to find a drift on the floor beside his bed. He went on to serve his country in Cuba during the Spanish-American War and was active in church and charitable work. Gus Loehr, according to Harris, was “a stormy petrel, vehement, impetuous, domineering in one breath, then calm, docile, lovable in the next.” He was prone to rapid-fire speech, yet his words invariably compelled thought. His business caused him to travel extensively, and while he was loyal to the club, he was not able to contribute much after the first few meetings. Hiram was a quiet, likeable fellow who had grown up in Maine and whose heart remained there. He had the most difficult time of them all in adjusting to life in the big city and, in fact, never did so.

Then Paul Harris shared with them his sense of emptiness at having no true friends in the city, his indignation at the dog-eat-dog business attitudes and the uncertainty of knowing whom he could trust in his personal and commercial dealings. He proposed they form a club different from any other, one which he described as “a very simple plan of mutual cooperation and informal friendship such as all of us had once known in our villages.”

One member would be invited from each profession or line of business, and only those for whose integrity the other members could vouch would be invited. It would thus be a natural “booster club,” where reciprocal trade could be practiced, but also a group of men with whom they could all enjoy fellowship. Since it would be limited to one representative per profession, they could truly select the best men in town, and who would not want to join a club, which could potentially refer so much business to him? Paul would buy his suits from Hiram, Hiram would purchase coal from Silvester, Gus would use Paul for legal work, and so on. The foursome were enthusiastic about the idea, and each of them agreed to meet again in two weeks and pledged to recruit potential new members and bring them to the next meeting.

The day after the meeting, an enthusiastic Paul Harris visited Harry Ruggles, a young printer he had used for his law firm’s stationery. Harry was another farm boy, raised in Michigan by a deeply religious family; he worked his way through Northwestern University as an apprentice in a printing company. He had developed a reputation for solid business ethics and was deeply troubled by the poverty and despair he saw in Chicago. Harry became member number five of the yet-unnamed club and went on to serve Rotary for 55 years, becoming the only original member to outlive Paul Harris.

The second meeting was held in Paul’s law office in the Wolff Building, and the original foursome were joined by Harry Ruggles, real estate broker Bill Jensen, and organ manufacturer A.L. “Al” White.

Silvester Schiele hosted the third meeting of the group at his coal-yard office on 23 March 1905. There were 15 men present, and the occasion was significant in that it was the first real business meeting at which decisions were made, some of which the organization still honors 100 years later. The first question addressed was what they should call themselves. There was no shortage of suggestions. Some members felt the club should reflect their community: Windy City Roundup, Chicago Fellowship, Chicago Circle, the Lake Club, and the Chicago Civic Club were proposed. Others argued the name should have a business ring to it, such as the Booster Club, Friends in Business, Men with Friends, the FFF [Food-Fun-Fellowship] Club, and the Trade and Talk Club.

None of these names generated much enthusiasm, although all were apt descriptions of the group’s purpose. Other proposals included the Blue Boys and the Conspirators. The Round Table earned several votes, but not a majority. Then Paul Harris quietly made a new suggestion. They had already agreed to rotate meetings between members’ places of business, with the leadership of each meeting also rotating to the man hosting that meeting. Why not call themselves the Rotation Club? They knew they were on to something, but that name sounded a little clumsy. “How about Rotary Club then?” suggested Paul. The name was unanimously approved.

The fledgling organization decided there would be no dues— all club expenses would be paid from 50-cent fines collected from miscreant members for such misdeeds as missing meetings. Membership would last for one year, with each member needing to requalify annually. A single “nay” vote from existing members would prevent anyone from joining, and a three-fourths vote would be required to stay in the club at each anniversary. To promote fellowship, members would greet one another using only first names; any salutation beginning with “Mister” would surely incur a fine, as would risqué jokes and religious or political discussions. A board of directors was elected at that third meeting, and although Paul Harris was the obvious choice for president, he declined the position, nominating Silvester Schiele instead. Thus Silvester became president number one of club number one by acclamation, with Paul preferring to work behind the scenes to attract new members and shape the club’s early character.

Hiram Shorey only attended two more meetings, although he did return for a short time in 1906 before dropping out. Gus Loehr’s health deteriorated and he subsequently left the club. (Both men were always supportive of the club and voiced pride at their early association with it.) But far more men joined. By October 1905, when Harry Ruggles printed the first roster, the Rotary Club had 30 members. A little more than a year later, the number had grown to 80.

By the fifth meeting, it was clear that the membership was too large to fit into any member’s office. Al White suggested to President Schiele that they meet in a hotel. White approached the manager of the Palmer House hotel and persuaded him to let the club use a meeting room on the balcony at no charge. It was such a success that President Schiele asked White to make similar arrangements for the next meeting. This time, the club met at the Brevoort Hotel which served them dinner. This marked the beginning of another tradition: that of having the meeting over lunch or dinner, usually every two weeks, except during July and August.

For many months thereafter, they rotated between hotels and restaurants throughout the Loop—Chicago’s central business district. For a while, they ate dinner in the dining room of the Sherman Hotel and then retired to a guest room to conduct the club meeting. “The members would not only occupy all the chairs that could be crowded in, but perch on the window sills, bureaus, radiators, and even fill up the beds,” recalled Rufus Chapin, a 1905 member. Increasing membership soon rendered such a venue impractical. Following a complete renovation of the Sherman Hotel, the Rotary Club of Chicago elected to make this its permanent meeting place in January 1911.

The reciprocal exchange of business was a central theme of early Rotary. Indeed, one of the most important club officers was the statistician. Whenever a member gave business to, or received an order from, another member, he wrote the details on a postcard and mailed it to the statistician. Detailed records were maintained and the results reported regularly at club meetings. One did not have to belong to the club for very long before realizing that patronizing other members had obvious advantages. Yes, it would help each member’s business. Yes, it made sense to trade with people of integrity whom one knew personally. But the best reason was that these were people who enjoyed each other’s company.


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14 responses to 22 February 2016 — Funny Math, When 2 + 23 + 2016 = 111

  1. Rotation Club? Good thing they didn’t stick with the FFF Club.

  2. Happy Birthday, Rotary!

  3. Happy Birthday Rotary! :)

  4. Love the history lesson!

  5. I had read the story before, but it was nice to be reminded on Rotary’s 111th birthday.

  6. I know our Club doesn’t do fines but, being an election year, can we PLEASE revive the tradition of fines for political discussions?

    • Over the past couple of weeks, two of the candidates for US President have been given speaking engagements at larger Rotary Clubs and been shown on major media outlets in quick visual “bites” in front of the Rotary banner. And there has been a bit of a backlash–it’s a violation of the RI rules. You can have a candidates’ forum, as a service to your community, but a Rotary Club may not give the podium to “a” candidate for office. Not sure where it’s all going yet…

  7. Nice reminder of why I joined Rotary – the honor of friendship with those who value integrity.

  8. Thanks Mel!! Great history lesson. And Yes I agree Rotary should never be used as a political forum. That line should never be crossed.

  9. That’s a great history lesson. Very interesting and a good reminder of our founding principles.

  10. I really enjoyed the presentation.

  11. Always good to revisit the history. One of my first days at work at R.I. was during the celebrations for World Understanding & Peace Day in 1988 (Rotary’s 83rd birthday).

  12. Dang it Mel, you took my program for next week. But it’s more fitting for this week. Great history none the less.

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