Read About Our Club's History

 
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Written by Stephen E. Bergfors

 

Rotary began in Chicago, Illinois on the 23rd of February 1905.  A gentleman by the name of Paul Harris had a vision and began to talk with business friends.  On the evening of February 23, 1905, four of those friends met, and Rotary was founded.  As other business acquaintances began to join, they decided that meetings would be held in rotation at members' places of business, and thus, the name Rotary was eventually adopted.

 

The Weymouth Rotary Club was started 19 years later. The first meeting was held on Thursday evening, March 20, 1924. 

 

Our charter was officially issued on April 1, 1924.  By the time the Weymouth Rotary Club was formed, Rotary International had grown to 1,687 clubs with a total membership of 98,700 members in 21 countries. 

 

To give you a sense of the times; when the Club started; James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost were the literary figures; Al Capone was on the rise to the top of the underworld; J. Edgar Hoover was just being appointed to the Bureau of Investigation; the G.O.P. nominated Calvin Coolidge, and the Harding Scandals were coming to light, shocking the country.  It turns out that Harding's Poker Cabinet friends, as they were called, had been caught lining their pockets with taxpayers' money and Harding's Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall was about to take a fall for secretly leasing government oil fields to wealthy friends and taking bribes in what was the infamous Teapot Dome Scandal.  As you can see there were some interesting facts at the time.  Some other facts of the 1924 era were: The Dow Jones high that year was 120 points from a low of 89, the price of a Model T went from $800.00 in 1908 to about $300.00 in 1924, and the population of Weymouth was 16,000 compared to its 55,000 plus today.

 

The men who formed the first Weymouth Rotary Club included many well-known Weymouth names.  They were people involved in their community and they represented the business and professional life of Weymouth, just as the membership does today. 

 

At the first meeting, Weymouth Rotarians joined in a good citizenship pledge.  They felt that this was an opportune time, when people had lost confidence in their government and in business integrity due to the Harding Scandals. 

 

Rotary's first President was Charles G. Jordan, a well known and highly respected Weymouth businessman.  Charlie, as he was known by everyone in Weymouth, originally ran a feed and grain sterner on Ledgehill Road.  Sponsor for the new Rotary Club was the Quincy Rotary Club.  The Weymouth Rotary Club met at noon every Wednesday at Pythian Hall in Weymouth Landing. Today that spot is near Sacred Heart Church in the Landing.

 

By 1929 the club had outgrown its headquarters at Pythian Hall and it moved to Cain's Annex, which was located at the corner of Bridge Street and Birchbrow Avenue in North Weymouth.  Right across the street from Kelly's Restaurant, where the Dunkin Donuts is.  Mr. Cain, who with most of his family managed the original Cain's Restaurant and Lobster House, became a member of the Weymouth Rotary Club.

The onset of the Great Depression was a difficult time for local Rotarians.  In 1937, Merle Cain was forced by economic reasons to close the Annex, and to devote most of his energies to running his main restaurant at Cain's.  Soon after that, the Club was forced to move to the Clapp Memorial YMCA on Middle Street, not far from Central Square and Broad Street.  When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Rotary was forced to surrender its meeting room in the Clapp Memorial Building to the United States Army.  It was the practice of the military then to commandeer buildings for the use of different military defense units.  During that time, the Club moved its meetings to the Old South Church Community Building in South Weymouth.  Wartime meetings there were often held under strict blackout conditions.

The Clapp Memorial's facilities were returned to Rotary by the military after the end of World War II.  Rotary would meet there for almost 40 years total, eventually moving to Lambiase's II Restaurant and then to Lambiase's I Restaurant.  In recent years Rotary has met at LaRossa's Hall in South Weymouth, then moving to Hajjar's Restaurant here in East Weymouth.  We now meet almost every Monday Night at 6:15 P.M.

It was mentioned earlier that Rotary is a civic minded organization built on, as you may recall, "Fellowship, Friendship and Sharing."  We strive to live by the motto "Service Above Self" and I think we do a pretty good job of it.

In recent years Rotary has undertaken a program to eradicate Polio worldwide, raising over 200 million dollars to date.  The Weymouth Club alone has raised and donated $20,000.00 to that cause in the last 10 years.

One of the earlier projects that many of our deceased members were very involved in was the Heifer Project.  Former member Ted Dwyer, owner of Dwyer's Dairy Farm was instrumental in assisting in what became a major worldwide project.

The Rotary Foundation Scholarship Program, which we contribute to, is the world's largest privately sponsored international scholarship program.  Since 1947, it has provided over 25,000 full year scholarships for study in other countries.

Weymouth Rotary has had a long history of community service.  In the early years before local clubs grew to the size they are today the Weymouth, Braintree, and Quincy Clubs worked together on several projects.  One of those projects was working with deaf and blind children from the Canton Schools.  Rotarians would take children on day trips to Nantasket Beach.

The hard work and commitment necessary to achieve our goals of providing services and funds for needy individuals programs is evident in the many fundraisers that Rotarians have undertaken to achieve their goals.  Rotarians have run Monte Carlo Nights, auto shows, conducted home shows, gathered Paper Christmas Trees made by elementary school students to sell for donations, and even organized a circus event right here in Weymouth.

For almost 30 years one event supported the club's charities: that event was a Big Band Night. This event was started by Rotarian Earl Hannifan.  Rotarian Lloyd Hazen, a doctor by profession, could be counted on each year to support this program with total ticket sales of 250.  As times change, however, it takes newer and more creative ideas to support our various charities.  One such new idea is an auto raffle.  Three years ago Rotarian Tony Merlino started Weymouth Rotary's first Mustang raffle which raised over $25,000.00 and helped fund the Club's Scholarship Foundation Program.

In just the past twenty-five years Weymouth Rotary has provided well over $100,000.00 in local scholarships.  This year the Weymouth Rotary Club gave $10,000.00 in scholarships to Weymouth High School Students.

Weymouth Rotary has also been active in helping the town's senior citizens; purchasing two vans for the benefit of local elders, and in the past having purchased three more vans, which are still running today.

Weymouth Rotary has also been one of the driving forces behind the new Teen Center, providing not only funds but many hours of hands-on experience.

And one of the projects which I believe typifies what Rotary is all about is the Eddie O'Rourke Christmas Project.  This is a project where we provide Christmas gifts, a turkey with all the trimmings, and food for a Christmas meal to 9 or 10 needy families each year.

We also conduct an annual blood donor drive, and have contributed to a wide variety of community organizations and needy causes, including the Weymouth Public Schools, Father Bill's, the Boy Scouts, the Pine Street Inn, Little League, the Weymouth Youth Office, the Weymouth Farm League, Weymouth Junior Basketball, AGAPE House, the VNA, the Weymouth Energy Council, South Shore Coot, South Shore Hospital Lifeline, the Weymouth Athletic Council, South Shore Association of Retarded Citizens, as well as the DARE Program.  Weymouth Rotarians have also cleaned local cemeteries, built handicap ramps, sponsored tonsil clinics, and co-sponsored the construction of a swimming pool at Norfolk County Hospital many years ago.

It has always been about leadership, conviction, commitment, "SERVICE ABOVE SELF" and a real opportunity to be part of a group of caring community individuals.