EARLY HISTORY

Adapted from "Rotary Club of San Bernardino 75th Anniversary History Book (1994)" , Chapter 2 

1918  AND 1919

          The San Bernardino Rotary Club was first conceived on November 5, 1918, when five men, standing in the cigar store of William H. Billingsley, heard and liked Dr. Russell D. Marvin's description of Rotary and its ideals. These five agreed to meet for a luncheon that day at the Stewart Hotel in downtown San Bernardino. Continuing with the idea of forming a Rotary club affiliated with the International Association of Rotary Clubs, the group met again. This time each one of the five brought a guest, so a total of ten men attended the meeting on Tuesday, November 12, 1918, in the Stewart Hotel. The armistice ending World War I had just been signed on the day before.
          The ten men at this meeting and their occupations were Dr. Russell Marvin, optometrist; R.A. Tiernan, retail typewriter; Richard P. Head, whole­ sale wrapping paper; Carl C. Stormont, laundry; Foss S. Funk, retail clothing; William T. Smith, automobile accessories, wholesale; W. H. Billingsley, retail tobacconist; Milton R. Standish, publicity representative; Harry S. Webster, newspaper, executive dept.; and O. M. Cannon, San Bernardino News.
          On Tuesday, November 19, 1918 all of these men, together with E. H. Sharps, met at the Stewart Hotel for lunch. A list had been prepared which included names and occupational classifications of those proposed for selection as charter members of the San Bernardino Rotary Club (as they were calling it). According to official minutes of the November 19 meeting, the "names on the prepared list were voted upon in accordance with Rotary regulations." One from each distinct line of business represented in the city and shown on the list was selected. The meeting adjourned with a decision to call the prospective members together at a banquet at the Chocolate Palace on Tuesday evening, November 26, 1918.
          Invitations to attend the Tuesday, November 26th meeting at the Chocolate Palace for a preliminary organization of3rd Street looking west into what is now Central City Mall. The Chocolate Palace is on the lower right next to the walking couple. the proposed San Bernardino Rotary Club were sent to 65 businessmen. It was decided, and unanimously agreed, "that the charter membership be limited to those invited to the session on Tuesday, November 26th."
          Of the total, 37 businessmen were in attendance, and all but six eventually became charter members. In addition, ten names on the list of those invited, but not present at the November 26th meeting, would later be included to make up the 41 charter members of our Club. Harry S. Webster was nominated and elected temporary chairman and Milton Standish was nominated and elected temporary secretary of the organization. The meeting was adjourned until Tuesday evening, December 3, 1918, at seven o'clock at the Chocolate Palace.
          When they resumed meeting the next week on December 3 at the Chocolate Palace, the charter members adopted the proposed constitution and bylaws. "Upon motion of W. C. Seccombe and seconded by W. H. Billingsley, amendment carried and that all Tuesday meetings be noon luncheons except the fourth Tuesday, which should be a night session."
          Nominations were made for officers of the San Bernardino Rotary Club. Unlike elections for officers in the Rotary Club of San Bernardino for the past several years, the elections in 1918 were very close. The first ballot for president showed the following results for the 45 ballots cast: H. S. Webster-21, R. D. McCook-22, and W. N.Glasscock-2.
          Apparently, there were some present who were not charter members. Since there was no majority of the votes cast, a second ballot was taken with the following results: H. S. Webster-24 and R.D. McCook-21. The vote for the vice-president also had very close results, with R.P. Head winning by one vote. The secretary recorded that the following were duly elected as officers of the San Bernardino Rotary Club: president - H. S. Webster, vice-president - R. P. Head, and sergeant-at-arms - W. H. Billingsley.
          The first regular luncheon meeting of the San Bernardino Rotary Club was at the Chocolate Palace on Tuesday, December 10, 1918. There were about 50 members present. The by-laws were amended to provide an initiation fee set at five dollars and dues at twelve dollars per year, payable quarterly in advance.
          The members signed the temporary constitution and paid their fees and dues for the first quarter. The name they gave the club was San Bernardino Rotary Club. Chairman Webster announced the appointed committee members to serve as directors: F. V. Chandler, L.A. Murray, Grant Holcomb, A. F. Hansen, and W.W. Savage. A motion was made, seconded and carried that "all those invited to the organization meetings, those who sign the charter roll at the Tuesday luncheon, December 10, and pay fees, be charter members."
          The newly elected board of directors, after adjournment of the regular meeting, announced the appointment of James Cunnison as permanent secretary. President Harry Webster and Secretary Jim Cunnison led a party of virtually every charter member of the San Bernardino Rotary Club to the first district conference in San Diego. At that conference for District 23, District Governor Clint Miller was succeeded by Lester Evans. Despite the scarcity of Rotary clubs in the southern California area the San Bernardino Rotary Club enjoyed receiving many visiting Rotarians from Long Beach and Los Angeles.
          Due to the fact that officers of the San Bernardino Rotary Club were elected in December, the first term of office was shortened to coincide with the official Rotary year which begins on July l. Therefore, President Harry Webster's term only lasted from December 1918 to June 30,919 when he was succeeded by Dr. Frank S. Chandler.
          It is interesting to note that in the case of the Rotary Club of San Bernardino, meetings pertaining to the formation of a Rotary club, together with the organization meeting and first meetings were held on Tuesdays. Our Club established Tuesday as its meeting day and has met on that day since the meeting of November 5, 1918.
          When information pertaining to the organization of San Bernardino Rotary Club was sent to Rotary International, it was learned that Rotary procedure had not been followed. The organization of the Club had been conducted without the endorsement of the district governor and without the sponsorship of another Rotary club. With this in mind, District Governor Clinton Miller was brought into the picture and the Los Angeles Rotary Club, Club Number Five, became our sponsor.
          A second organization meeting was held on February 21,1919. The action taken on February 21 elected the same officers and selected the same charter members as established at the December 3, 1918 meeting. Rotary International, in a letter to Cloyes Collins (RCSB club secretary) sometime after 1919, confirmed the organization date of December 3, 1918, and Rotary International records confirm the charter officers and directors and members as established at the first organization meeting.
 
          “At the first meeting of the group that may be termed the founders of the San Bernardino Rotary Club, they proceeded with little or no knowledge of the prescribed routine necessary in the formation of a new club. A sponsoring club was necessary with the approval of the District Governor, Clinton E. Miller, at that time.
          We had proceeded without that approval or knowledge on the part of the district or national affairs. It was when the first president, Harry S. Webster, took the matter up with Rotary headquarters that we found we followed the wrong course to organize a club, and we had to back up and start all over, although the ultimate result was approximately the same.”
 
          The charter of the Rotary Club of San Bernardino, dated June 1, 1919, was given to President Harry Webster by International Secretary Chesley R. Perry at the convention in Salt Lake Ciry in 1919. Chesley Perry, a close friend of Paul Harris, was the "Cloyes Collins" of Rotary International; among other achievements, he was its secretary for 32 years (1910-1942). Cloyes Collins was the secretary-treasurer of our Club. He was re-elected continuously and provided a total of 36 years of devoted service.
          When our Club received its charter, it became the 483rd club in the International Association of Rotary Clubs, which had grown to a total membership of approximately 40,000. At the 1919 convention in Salt Lake City, a new continent – South America added to the Rotary world when a club in Montevideo, Uruguay, was chartered. At this time, Rotary clubs in China, India, Panama, and the Philippines were also added. At the convention of the International Association of Rotary Clubs in San Francisco during 1915, the standard constitution and model by-laws were adopted. Then, at the annual convention in 1922 held at Los Angeles, the Standard Constitution and Model By-laws adopted in 1915 were completely revised; the revisions were adopted, and made mandatory for all new Rotary clubs organized after that date. The Standard Rotary Club Constitution may be amended only by action of Rotary's Council on Legislation.
          Inasmuch as the San Bernardino Rotary Club was organized and chartered prior to 1922, it did not have the Standard Constitution and Model By-laws. However, it actually wasn'r until April 23,1935 that the Standard Constitution approved by Rotary International in 1922 was adopted. Thus, the Club officially adopted the name in its charter, the Rotary Club of San Bernardino.
 

DISTRICT MEMBERSHIP

          When the Rotary Club of San Bernardino was chartered on June l, 1919, it was assigned to District 23, which included California, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. In 1922, District 23 became District 2, which included California, Nevada and the Hawaiian Islands. Because of the early date of our founding, the Rotary Club of San Bernardino has been a member of many districts. We remained in District 2 until 1937. From 1937 to 1939 we hopped into District 38, then into District 2e of District 108. Our membership in District 108 lasted ten years, until 1949 when our Club called District 162 home. In 1957, we said hello to District 532, and in 1970
to District 533.
          Due to rapid Rotary Club growth during the 1950s and 1960s, Rotary reorganized its overall structure in 1970 and formed District 533. This new district consisted of 19 clubs from District 532, of which the Rotary Club of San Bernardino was a part, and 17 clubs from District 534 for a total membership of 2,000 Rotarians. In 1990, each district added a zero to its number, and so District 5330 began.
         The Rotary Club of San Bernardino provided two district governors while in District 108 and five in District 5330. They are:
Fred Mack
John Lounsbury
Clarence Gurr
Hollis Hartley
Arthur Jensen
Robert Henley
Evlyn Wilcox
 
Dr. John Lounsbury was the first governor of District 533. Evlyn Wilcox was the first woman to serve as governor for District 5330.
 

SPONSORED CLUBS

          In 1920, only two years after the organization of the Rotary Club of San Bernardino, Rotary clubs were formed in Redlands and Riverside in 1920. The Corona and Colton clubs were organized in 1922, followed by Fontana in 1926.
          A total of ten Rotary clubs were sponsored by the Rotary Club of San Bernardino. We sponsored six clubs in the surrounding areas: Redlands, 1920; Colton, 1922; Barstow, 1945;Big Bear Lake, 1946; Blythe, 1947; and Lake Arrowhead in 1949. In 1956, with a membership of approximately 230, the Rotary Club of San Bernardino sponsored the organization of the San Bernardino North Rotary Club. A number of our Rotarians switched to the North Club, including Joe Hertel, the first president of the new club. Beginning membership was 49.
          Ten years later in 1966, we sponsored the San Bernardino East Club. Several Rotarians from the original club became chafter members in the East Club and the initial membership was 28. Peyton Taylor, a former member of the parent San Bernardino club, was the first president.
          One year later, in 1967, San Bernardino South (San Bernardino Crossroads) Club was organized under our sponsorship. As in the case of the other clubs, there was a transfer of members from the parent club to the Crossroads Club, which had a beginning membership of 28.
          The tenth Rotary club to be sponsored by the Rotary Club of San Bernardino, the San Bernardino Breakfast Club, organized in 1988. Bruce Douglas of our Club was the chief founder of the 22-member Breakfast Club and served as its first president. The club has since reorganized itself to become an evening club and is now the San Bernardino Sunset Rotary Club.
 
 
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