The Story of Rotary
 . . In the beginning
 
It was 1872.  A lone gas light was burning when a passenger train approached Wallingford, Vermont.  A three year old boy was scared to death because a father, in financial difficulties, was bringing his son to live with Grandpa and Grandma.  When the train stopped a solitary figure was waiting for the boy to get off.  As Grandpa helped the boy off, he put down his thumb, to take his small hand like a security blanket.  They walked up the street to the Grandparents’ small house.  This was the beginning of a mentoring process that would nurture the first service club in the world.
 
   Wallingford was a small town.  Paul Harris grew up never knowing a stranger.  Grandpa knew everybody.  Whenever there was trouble, like sickness, injury, lack of food, shelter, Grandma was the servant to the community.  Grandpa was of Puritan descent.  He was honest, frugal, fair and a hard working man of God.  He was an environmentalist.  He loved to fish and hunt, but only for their needs.  The rest was turned back not to be wasted.  Education was very important.  From the time of reason, Paul was encouraged to think and plan for a college education.
His mind unconsciously was being planted with the philosophy of his environment.  The values of the grandparents.  The nurture of the community.  The beauty of the green hills of Vermont.
 
Paul did go on to college.  He returned to Wallingford before his freshman year was completed due to his Grandfather’s death.  Paul was devastated.  He was determined to stay home to take care of Grandma.  Grandma’s wisdom prevailed.  She reasoned with him, that to honor Grandpa Paul needed to finish his college education.  Instead of returning to the Eastern school, he enrolled at the University of Iowa to study law.  When Paul completed his law studies, a professor suggested that before he put out his shingle, he travel for five years to get a feel for different kinds of people.
 
Paul’s adventures led him to Montana to work on a ranch, to San Francisco to be a newspaper reporter, and to southern California to work in the fruit harvest.  Denver recruited him as an actor.  Back again across the mountains to work again as a cattle hand.  He spent some time in Mississippi boxing fruit.  A friend in the granite business called him to work in Jacksonville, Florida.  He knew stone from his days in New England.  He was successful, so his company sent him to Baltimore, Maryland to open a branch office.  Living by the sea, his wanderlust said to him, “Let’s go to Europe.”
 
A cattle company that transported cows to England hired him as a deck hand.  The trip was rough, but the sights of England beckoned him back.  He returned on another boat and this time traveled to France, Germany and Italy before returning home.  Upon returning to Mississippi to box more fruit, he realized that his five years were up.  Chicago was the booming town of America at the turn of the century, so Paul headed to the Windy City to put out his shingle.  During the late 1890’s, less than 5% of people ever traveled more than 30 miles from home.  Paul was a world traveler by most standards.
 
Chicago was a booming business town, but there were no business ethics.  Business people lied and cheated.  They were afraid to have close friends for fear they would divulge company secrets.  The motto of the day was “Let the buyer beware!”  This environment was totally foreign to young Paul.  He longed for the days of Wallingford, VT.  He dreamed of having close friends.  He couldn’t do business without honesty and integrity.  He longed for community where he could help those in need.  He was very discouraged.
 
One day a client invited him to his home in a Chicago suburb for Sunday dinner.  After dinner as they walked the streets in the neighborhood, his friend was continually saving greetings to his friends, awakening Paul’s senses to his former roots in Wallingford.  An idea started to form, but it took some time to mature.
 
On February 23, 1905, he gathered three business friends – Silvester Schiele, Gustavus Loehr and Hiram Shoery – to share his idea of the first Service Club.  The object of this small group was to form friendships, help each other in business and to provide a service to the community.
They called the club Rotary, because they rotated their meetings among each other’s offices.  The first Service Club in the world had been born.  Its motto “He Profits Most Who Serves Best” is still a beacon for personal, business, community and world relationships.