Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.
Click here for audio in .mp3 format
Rotary International celebrates its 100th birthday this year and Concord Rotary, formed in 1931, will be marking 75 years in 2006.
Dick - I had been associated with Dick Shoemaker, who was a Rotarian in Lexington and also I had been to Rotary meetings in Lexington as a student. In Concord, we call that Student of the Month. In the course of my paving business, I had occasion to do business with Cap Jenny, a well known Concord builder. At one point I asked Cap if I could join Rotary even though we don't like people to apply to Rotary, I was applying for Rotary because I didn't know any better at the time. Cap said, "Well, why don't you wait about a year. I'll be president and then I'll propose you." Well, I never heard a word for a year. I actually joined on November 7, 1963 which was my induction date 41 years ago coming up on 42. I joined the Rotary Club of Concord as the first and only one I've joined.
Neal - I came to Concord as Postmaster in 1980, and my father was president of the Rotary Club in Boston. He said it would be a great way to get to know the people in the community and put down some roots for the customer base I had to serve. I had a similar experience in that the club likes people to be around for a year. So it was September, 1981 when I was actually invited to join by Tom Byron. And I was happy to do so.
Dick - At the time I joined, the club was meeting at Howard Johnson's, which is now Papa Razzi restaurant. We were meeting in that large room with the fireplace at the end of it. It was owned by Bob Parks, whose son-in-law Will Smith was married to Carol Parks Smith, and Will was a member of the club as well. He became an officer of the club and eventually retired and sold the restaurant, actually the Howard Johnson's company sold the restaurant, and therein led to our moving ourselves to another location.
We moved to the Elks Club for a few years. We had a big survey of possible places to meet in the town of Concord and there aren't many. We looked at church basements, every place you could think of. Eventually in Dave Winstanley's term as president, we went to the Colonial Inn. That was probably in the late 1980s.
After my first week in Rotary, if I missed a meeting I got a post card reminding me to make up the meeting before the next seven days were up. In those days you had seven days before and seven days after to make up the meeting. Concord was well known for its high attendance, usually 97-99 and sometimes even 100% attendance. We consistently led the district. In subsequent years, that's been relaxed a little bit. The waiting period or the time period before and after a meeting is 14 days. So anybody that can't make all the meetings really isn't trying very hard, but we're not pressing people like we did. Things have changed and people don't have the time they had before.
Neal - The club invites a prospective member to what we call an information meeting. I can remember attending that in Tom Bryon's office. Jim Mercer was there and a number of people who have passed on now. When they began to talk about Thursday noon meeting every Thursday, and they emphasized every Thursday, I sat there and thought to myself there is no way that I can be there every Thursday. But I sit now 23 years later with 23 years of perfect attendance, and Dick is now 41 years. I tell prospective members nowadays, that doesn't happen because it is an onerous, arduous task. It happens because it is an event that you want to do, that you look forward to. In fact, over the years when another meeting is proposed on a Thursday, I really weigh whether or not I really want to miss a Rotary meeting to do that. Sometimes I do and as Dick says, you make that up. But, it's been my experience that the attendance is the bedrock that really makes this club different from a lot of clubs. I think it is part of the reason we are so large. It just flows. If you come to the meetings religiously or just often, you can't help but get involved in activities of the club.
Dick - It's also important to support the meeting place and that's become more important lately as the attendance has been relaxed, and attendance at committee meetings and functions outside the regular noon meeting count as a meeting. So some people make take that as the only meeting they're going to go to. We encourage them to go to the noon meeting if they can. We're not as fanatical about it. I'm a little fanatical because I think it's so important. You're not involved unless you're at the meeting.
The Concord Rotary was formed in April of 1931. We're going to mark that 75th anniversary next year, but right now the Rotary International is celebrating the centennial year. Actually it was February 23, 1905 when it was founded, and it was celebrated this year. Every club in the world was encouraged to have a meeting on the actual founding day, and we did have a regional meeting of about 12 or 13 clubs on February 23, 2005 and Concord had 66 of the 250- 260 people present. It was a great meeting.
I'd say there are about 33,000 Rotary Clubs around the world. The Concord Rotary was the number 2,802 club that was formed. There is an international president and board of directors and then it's broken down into zones, and the zones are broken down into districts, and the districts are broken down into clubs. We have about 55 clubs in district 7910, which is our district. Lexington is district 7930, and there are probably three or four districts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Two new clubs were just formed in Afghanistan. It just came out in the Rotarian last month.
Neal - I always take the opportunity to point out that Concord is really an extraordinary Rotary Club. It's unheard of for a population of 16,000 or 17,000 like Concord to have a Rotary Club that is pretty consistently around 80 members. I think that says a lot about the vitality of the club, about the retention of members, and about the attendance I was talking about. In this district as Dick mentioned, Concord is the second largest club of those 55 odd clubs and there are some much larger places in this district, the largest being Worcester. Worcester is the only club that is larger than Concord, and it's not a whole lot bigger.
Dick - And its attendance has dropped from 200 to something like 100. So you really have to keep focused on membership more than you ever thought of.
Neal - The original concept of membership was you had one member in each business category. That was the concept of Paul Harris who founded Rotary. It was a good idea and still is. To represent all the businesses and locations in a given town or city, that gives strength to the club. It enables the club to represent a cross-section and also to work on projects and bring those resources to bear. What we have found over the years is that that flows almost naturally. We are a club of such a size in this community that we've had a very good cross-section, and it hasn't been essential that we have that first criterion. So we look more towards people who can give something back to the community and are of that mind and have demonstrated that perhaps before they became a Rotarian. Those are the kinds of people we are looking for and secondarily we think about what they do. Although Rotary does have a requirement that these people be principals of an organization, either of senior management or the owner of a business.
Dick - It's still based on the classification system to say the least, we just relaxed it so we can have five lawyers or three or four bankers. But what is another major factor that has occurred as trends of effective Rotary as businesses have changed and businesses have consolidated, we now have what I call rooted and transient members. A rooted member is a Jim Mercer who is in the Middlesex Bank for 40 years or John Collins. They've both been Chairman and CEOs of that organization and members of our club. Now the bankers are branch managers, assistant vice presidents, loan officers, and they are here today and gone tomorrow, so we're not going to have a president of the club who is involved with a bank more than likely. So we need to change our outlook in looking for leaders, we've got to be paying attention to who are the people who are going to run the club. A lot of the clubs don't have the luxury that we have where somebody might be in our club for 15 years before they're president.
Neal - Another impact to the club is the younger people and their lifestyle. I don't know what the mathematical mean age is of the club, but it's certainly older and has grown older in the 23 odd years I've been involved. It's difficult to attract young members in their 20s or early 30s. I think family involvement in activities with children take a large amount of their time and their work takes a large amount of their time. Dick and I have not taken that as an excuse from someone we thought would be a good Rotarian. A busy business person is a very typical Rotarian.
Dick - We've always been an active club and when I first joined in 1963 in November, we had a White Elephant sale in December at the old Veterans Building. We probably made $1,000 and probably the Rotarians put up /4 of that. That was one of the major activities at the time. As far as community service, the first real project was Monument Square in 1981. The money was raised during a downturn in the economy as Cap Jenny said, "You'll never raise that money." And we raised $100,000 in a bad time. We were appointed by the town to undertake the renovation of the main island in Monument Square. We didn't have to go get bids or give prevailing wage or any of that other nonsense. We were able to hire our own contractor and administer the job the way we wanted to. In fact, we had Cap Jenny administer the job to keep him out of trouble. He certainly did a great job of it. In three weeks we put down 30,000 bricks and had a dedication in November in the Town House with a reception.
Subsequent to that, we've had five other major projects which included Helipad '91 which was really a monster accomplishment in our estimation. It was something the hospital had been trying to do since the early '70s and even set aside $50,000 for legal fees to try to battle the environmental restrictions. Through the fact that we had such a cross-section in the club, people like Henry Dane put a tremendous effort out toward all the legal maneuvering and meetings at night. We brought Glenn Smith into the club subsequent to that, but he and Glenn worked together and they went to all these hearings and we produced a helipad at Emerson at a cost of about $180,000. Monument Square was around $100,000. Then we had some other things after that. We had the Rideout Field House which was about $60,000 and that was in 1997. In 1998, we did the War Memorial which is meaningful in another direction where a bunch of people got together for nine straight weekends working with the Celebrations & Ceremonies Committee to create a place that was really in a shabby state of affair into a place of respect for the veterans.
Neal - That was a very formative event in the history of Concord. It's a day I'll want to remember. There were hundreds of people in attendance at this war memorial location at the edge of Monument Square, and it was a very moving time attended by many, many veterans who were residents in the town. I think we even had an F18 flyover. That helped raise the town's awareness of what Rotary is about. It certainly helped us, and we took a lot of pride in that.
Dick - It changed the spirit of the town. There were probably more than 1500 people in the street, and when that plane took off from Hanscom and Molly Bergin announced that the plane was going to fly over, you could hear the roar when it took off. During the pass, it flew from the Monument Street end down at about 1000 feet and then made a big roar as it took off. Then during Stars and Stripes Forever after the ceremony, it flew back from the Lexington end and wagged its wings. It was flown by a Concordian, Lt. Col. John Underhill. He's a reserve lieutenant colonel. He flew it up from Andrews Air Force base. My father heard the thing land at Hanscom. It made such a racket. But it was a truly meaningful project. One of the key statements that was made by a Vietnam veteran, and if nobody knows, Vietnam veterans were not pleased at all with their reception or their situation, a fellow named Greg Sullivan from Carlisle was heard to say, "I feel like we really belong now."
A couple of other projects were for the Concord 350th. We did Kenneth Dunn Square in 1985, and we did the skate park in 2003 and 2004. Our Centennial project which is yet to happen is the display of the U.S.S. Concord bell at Kenneth Dunn Square.
It's been a key part of all these Rotary projects that either there was a standing committee or in the case of Monument Square, the Selectmen formed a citizens committee to work with us. In the case of the War Memorial in '98 there was a standing committee, the Celebrations and Ceremonies Committee, and they were in a quandary as to how they were going to get this work done. They were charged with rejuvenating the existing World War II Memorial, which was built in 1952. They called me one night and said who built Monument Square, and I said Rotary did. The next thing I said was no night meetings. After a year of night meetings and Tom Hutchins as the treasurer, we raised $40,000-50,000. We have money in the bank right now for maintenance, and people keep putting money into the fund. More recently we just had an ever more meaningful ceremony where the name of Brian McPhillips was dedicated with a new plaque for Iraq. He was killed in Iraq in April of 2003. We had about 40 or 50 members of his family there. It was a very meaningful ceremony.
We came in to the War Memorial project after it had already been approved by the Historic Districts Commission. The plan was done by Cliff Prentiss, whose brother is a captain in the fire department in Concord and a Vietnam veteran, and that was fine. So we took on the plan as it had been approved. As we got into it, there were a couple of things that just had to be changed. I think there was a bench that was in the way, and I felt the need for some cobblestones. The HDC felt the need to leave it the way it was. So we had a few confrontations, some big meetings, and finally we were forced to adopt serious action and we put an article on the Town Meeting warrant to have them eliminated. We really didn't want to eliminate them necessarily because they serve a great purpose as long as they are objective and exhibit consistency which they weren't doing. So we were able to negotiate our way out of it and their way out of it and everything we did was approved, and that was the end of that. So we worked with the system pretty well.
Neal - The major factor in some of our biggest projects is that we don't have to go out for bids and fight the bureaucracy. In a related way, it was a major factor with the helipad because the various regulatory people had to be satisfied for that project was a daunting task for the hospital to undertake. Each year those factors pulled it down on their priority list. They had only so much resource to fight it so more years went by than they would have liked. When we came along and did mention using the resources within the club, for instance somebody like Henry Dane donated his services to guide this process through agencies and permitting processes. That is one of the unique ways that Rotary gets things done. Then as Dick also mentioned, when the club did Monument Square, which the way Monument Square looks today I almost wish we had some before and after pictures around the Square, because you tend to take it for granted. It was a rather well worn patch in the center of town you really wouldn't want to see. The club transformed that into a very handsome square that the town can be proud of. It was able to use various resources within the club, within other Rotary clubs, and outside of the public bidding process that a municipal entity would have to undertake. So Rotary is in a unique position to things like that.
Dick - There's an interesting anecdote with the helipad. As the helipad was nearing completion, we were going to have a visit from the incoming President of Rotary International, Cliff Docherman About 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday I was waiting to hear from our incoming president, Al Corderman, who was up at the president-elect training session where Cliff was presiding. I won't tell you where his phone call came from but Al called me on a mobile phone, and this is now 1990 so it was kind of ancient history with mobile phones, but he says, "He's coming." So I got on the phone and I think I got about 30 or 40 Rotarians down there at 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning and the place was pretty well complete. So Cliff showed up and he went around and talked to all the Rotarians. My father was alive at the time and he took videos of the whole event, and Nancy Tenney was heard to say, "Well, what country are you from?" He said, "California".
And the other interesting thrill we'll call it was when the helicopter landed the first time on a test run. We ran all over town trying to get a video camera. Nowadays you have video cameras all over. So we got one from Anderson's Photo and it was a holiday, I believe Patriot's Day, in the afternoon, and there was a senior nurse in charge of the hospital. I came running down the driveway. The helicopter called me on my mobile phone. He was on his way from UMass Medical. The nurse grabbed the camera. I think I had two tape recorders on each side of the landing spot, and the helicopter came over the trees from New England Deaconess, what a sight to see that thing to land. We were testing to see if enough trees had been cut down. We had to cut down something like 100 trees on the floodplain, which was the big issue. Anyway the helicopter came in blowing dirt and dust all over the place and landed. That was quite a thrill to see that happen.
Neal - I remember just a few months after that, we had somebody come to the Rotary meeting whose daughter had been Medivaced out, and that was one of the great things about being involved in a Rotary club. You undertake a project like this and you accomplish it. Then you start to see the service that it pays. That's quite gratifying.
Dick mentioned the International President, Cliff Docherman, I think that's a good segue to talking about the international aspect of Rotary because it's in our name, Rotary International. Rotary is truly an international organization. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain we are in 90% of the countries of the world. International service is one of the major thrusts of our club. The most effective international projects that Rotary International has undertaken is the eradication of polio and seven other childhood vaccine preventable diseases in the world. This club in its initial push raised $60,000 to contribute to that effort which has gone on and has now grown into hundreds of millions of dollars. We have been on the edge of eradicating polio in the world. There have been some setbacks, but Rotary and the World Health Organization and some other organizations of that type are continuing to pursue that. We think that's on the horizon.
Through funding, this club has contributed to building wells in Haiti for agriculture purposes. We have built shelters and homes in Fiji. We really do reach out and touch people around the world. Most recently we have funded the Women's Health Project in Pakistan. We have funded school books in South America. And to Dr. Nancy Hendrie's Sharing Foundation in Cambodia where we just provided a year's college education for 11 ladies to start their first year in college. Of course, we're talking about a Third World country, but I'm just thrilled to think that we made it possible for these people to start their college careers.
Dick - And, for a relatively small amount of money. At today's meeting, Jessie Weinstein made a nice presentation to the club. She is representing our club and is going to Ecuador in a youth exchange. This is what it's all about.
Neal - She is going to be a senior at Concord-Carlisle High School and instead of spending her year there, she will be in Ecuador.
Dick - She'll be hosted by three families, and is quite excited about it. She also knows the pressure that is on her to be a good representative of this country, and to put a good foot forward to represent us carefully.
We had a very active Youth Committee. RILA conference is held each year, and we sent eight juniors from CCHS to this conference that was held June 27-29 in Webster, Massachusetts. These young people get together and they have specific programs, but what comes out of it is a tremendous strength of camaraderie. They come back and speak to the clubs and they are so enthusiastic about all the friends they've made. It's just a very meaningful Rotary youth project.
Neal - We have four or five meetings during the year that are dedicated to the members bringing gripes, ideas, weaknesses and strengths, and things they'd like to see. There was a recurrent theme that the club should be more involved with the youth of the town. We kind of wrestled with that for some time. Then a core committee took root on that within the last year. Anne Trudeau and John Lombard just to mention a few on that committee really brought a great project to fruition and they named it "The Class Act". Essentially the committee went to the high school and asked the people in charge, the principal, the teachers, the coaches who were heads of all sorts of activities, to identify for us those outstanding students in each one of those activities. We had a great gathering at the high school with a barbeque, and we presented each one of those people with an award and a small gift. It was another great coming together of the club and the community. You could just tell there was a real electric feeling in that room, and you could tell that this was something that was going to become a tradition.
Dick - We had about 150 people, the students and their parents and about 35 Rotarians. We don't have to have our entire club show up at every single gathering. That's one of the beauties of having a large club. Everybody doesn't have to do everything. Some of us try to do everything, but I didn't do the 4th of July slush stand. Already Phyllis Mauer has been president for seven days and she's had two events, a slush stand at the Picnic in the Park and a special Paul Harris presentation to Dick Spaulding.
Neal - This award is named after Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary. The Foundation of Rotary International is the arm by which Rotary accomplishes its good deeds in the world. Say what you will but when you come right down to it, it takes money to do that. So the Paul Harris Fellowship was started to recognize a significant contribution, a $1,000 contribution, to that Rotary Foundation. And it's been kind of a tradition in this club that it was something you worked towards, that you would one day become a sustaining member by a $100 donation, some people do it that way, and some people make the whole contribution at once. Once you reach that $1,000 level, Rotary International recognizes you as a Paul Harris fellow for having made that contribution. Beyond that, it's become a nice tradition for Rotarians or Rotary clubs from time to time to make that contribution on behalf of somebody and make them a Paul Harris. That was what was done this week. Sharon Spaulding, a member of the club, designated her father to be a Paul Harris fellow and we did a ceremony.
Dick - In the recent installation on June 30, we had two Paul Harris fellows designated, one was done by the club to honor a member who's going to be leaving us and has done a lot for the club, and the other one was Dick Howe who became a Paul Harris fellow for the second time. You can be a Paul Harris fellow as many times as you want.
As to a creed, we have what is known as the four-way test. A fellow named Herb Taylor actually composed that in 1937, I believe. It says, "Is it the truth?, Is it fair to all concerned?, Will it build goodwill and better friendships, and Will it be beneficial to all concerned?" We usually recite that when we're inducting somebody as we did at the installation. We had a new member come in. Neal handled the induction, and I talked a little bit about him, and then we recited the four-way test, which is something you hang on your wall in a frame and you try to run your life by it.
Neal - It costs very little in my opinion to be a part of Rotary. We have some dues that amount to about $125 a year, some of it goes locally and some of it goes to the district, and some of it goes to Rotary International. The largest expense of course is having lunch. Now we charge $16.00 for our meal at the Inn. So that really represents the largest expense to a Rotarian who joins.
Dick - One of the things we talk about in information meetings when we invite prospective members to join is that Rotary is not a money club. We don't want them to be intimidated about the amount of money. It costs about $1,000 for the dues and the meals. They really don't have to spend any more money. Of course, there are some evening functions but the club subsidizes them as they did at the installation banquet where the individuals were only charged the noon meal fee for something that probably cost $50 or $60 and that includes guests, spouses, and so on. So it's really a chance to have a good time on what's been earned.
Neal - I think it's important to point out that the fundraising that the Rotary Club does, none of those funds are used for the benefit of members including the payment of meals. Whenever we go out to raise funds, all of that money goes to projects. For years we've given scholarships at the high school, and sometimes they've been awarded at the Minuteman Tech School.
Dick - That's done through our non-profit corporation known as the Concord Rotary Charitable Endowment Inc. Rotary is not officially non-profit. It certainly is not for profit, but it's not officially non-profit. Most Rotary clubs are not non-profit. Some have incorporated. We are not incorporated, but we have that little corporation which we hope will grow to large sums. We hope it will accept a lot of memorial gifts and outright donations, and we hope that Rotarians that have had a good experience in Rotary will leave some money in their will to the Rotary Club of Concord.
Neal - Dick mentioned that we don't want new members to be intimated that they will be put upon to write checks to Rotary and donate money. The Bristol Lodge is a soup kitchen that we support in Waltham and that's an alternative. You join this club and there are many ways to contribute. That's a great one. When Henry Dane was president, he looked about for such a venue to support and he identified this one. It's in a church in Waltham, and every other month the club goes down there. We'll have anywhere from 10 to 15 members show up for that. At the previous week's meeting, Henry hands out cards with food purchase assignments on them, like a bag of potatoes, or a half gallon of milk, or something like that. That's another way for members to participate. Those are collected and dropped off at Henry's office and on Tuesday afternoons at about 3:00 a van shows up at this kitchen and they start peeling the potatoes, and from soup to nuts, it begins. We cook the meal, we serve the meal, and we clean up afterwards. That's a real hands-on great way to contribute. That's every other month.
Dick - We feed about 75-85 people as a general course. One of the key things is that it is not that much money and possibly the club could afford to foot the bill, but the idea is to have people participate. It's only probably $10 a piece and not everybody has to take a card.
Neal - There's something great about that. I've seen spouses and children going up the stairs to Henry's office to drop off those groceries. It gives you pause for thought about the things we take for granted so much. Here's an opportunity to do something for others.
I think there are two things that bring people to the meeting each week. One of them is collegiality and you identify with this group of people. You participated in these programs at various levels. That's a real bond with people. I make a point of moving around the room and I think many members do. I love to move from table to table and sit at different places each week. It keeps me in touch with people. I hear about things going on in town, and I hear their reactions to things in town. That's a great bonding thing. That's what has always drawn me to meetings each week. Then the other thing that I don't think we touched upon is the program that we do each meeting. When you are on the way to the Rotary meeting, you know you are going to meet at a fine place like the Colonial Inn in the center of town, you're going to have a good meal with people you enjoy, and there is going to be an interesting program. The programs are assigned a year in advance at the beginning of the year. You know what date you have to bring the speaker. We charge them to bring someone you are passionate about, a great humanitarian effort being made, an accomplishment by an interesting person, or a hobby even that you yourself are passionate about. So every week we have a very good, almost consistently, excellent program. We had a great one today. Ray McCarthy, one of our older speakers and a distinguished and accomplished scientist, spoke on the Declaration of Independence. He told me about a dozen things I didn't know about it and put it in perspective.
Dick - We also socially have evening events once in a while. We'll have a summer cookout at Jane Barrett's house for instance. We go to Newbury Court for a Christmas party. And sometimes we just have a gathering such as last fall we had the Fall Fling at Sharon Spaulding's office catered by LaProvence. So we have those events as well. And this was year number 30, more or less, for the Spring Pops.
Neal - I think Dick started to go there early in our conversation when he talked about the fundraiser at the Armory and there was $1,000 made. Well, Dick and Joan Hale over the years have hatched and honed and produced a fabulous function that we look forward to each year and that is the Rotary Night at the Pops that the Concord Band plays. Dick has made it a social landmark in Concord and a great fundraiser for the town. We have a program book supported by many of the businesses in town. It's also a great time for Rotarians and guests and friends and the general public to come together and enjoy a fine performance at 51 Walden by a local group, the Concord Band.
Dick - As projects get senioritis and get old, there's a push to maybe do something else. When you think about it, what better thing to do than just make the Pops better. So we put a big effort in this year to kind of rejuvenate the Pops. Not that others haven't done a good job, but you've really got to be passionate and you've got to dig in hard and really work at it. We had a full house, 250-260 people, and "Stars and Stripes Forever" is played as the last number. It's a spirited evening and it's a short evening and a great chance to pay back your friends and neighbors for parties and other invitations. Just bring them to the Pops for a wonderful time.
Neal - At the meetings you're not supposed to talk about your business. As a matter of fact, we have a little something that we have some fun with that we call fines. You can actually get up and boast about something, a child's accomplishment at school or something of that nature and you can pay a fine. But we also levy some fines from time to time, and that is when somebody is overheard talking about their business at the meeting, we might make note of that and fine them $1.00 or $2.00, and it's all done in good fun. But as we tell prospective members at the information meeting, people shouldn't and don't join Rotary for the purpose of promoting and expanding your business. That is not the purpose of the Rotary Club. The purpose is to serve the community and the international community. But, as we talked about as camaraderie takes place and as you meet people from the whole cross-section of the town, it almost falls naturally that your business is certainly not hurt.
Dick - Wouldn't you rather do business with a Rotarian who lives by the four-way test than going out in the street and dealing with just anybody you don't know? As far as fining is concerned, in the olden days, fining used to be much nastier than it is today. We have mostly happy fines. Jack Mattison was happy to be back and playing golf in Canada and Scotland after playing golf all winter in Arizona and it cost him some money. Anyway I'm for nastier fines.
When a member dies, we gather at the church or the synagogue 15 minutes before the time of the service, the funeral director has set aside 40 or 50 seats, and we all march in together two by two including some spouses. Of course, we have Rotarians who may be the funeral director or participating in the service as was the case recently when Bill Bott's service was held. We had two of our three pastors officiating. It was a very moving service and very meaningful. That was a typical Rotary situation when it came to funerals.
Neal - Invariably, the families make note of that. It means a great deal to them to see the members of this organization that the departed was such a part of and identified with.
Dick - In other clubs out of necessity people are president more than once. It's never happened in all my years. I know it hasn't happened in our club. It doesn't mean it couldn't happen.
Neal - In fact, there is an unwritten tradition in our club that you actually go through the chairs. You come on the board of directors and you become assistant treasurer, treasurer, secretary, president-elect, and then you become president. That's about a seven year process, and that's another strength of the club. By the time a person gets to be president, they've experienced seven years of performing these functions and getting to know how Rotary works in the district and internationally. So it's a real strength.
Dick - We hope Rotarians will be regular members six or seven years before that. I was inducted in 1963 and was president in 1977 so that was essentially almost 15 years. We're not going to enjoy that luxury as much because people are more transient. Even the rooted people are somewhat transient. Things are just so much different, so we have to be on the ball to keep that spread going. It's too bad that when somebody comes into a small club where they have just a handful of people who can be president and they don't even get a year out of them, and they are not ready. Clubs do not get stronger that way.
Neal - Dick and I worked together, as usual Dick did most of the work this year, but we worked on membership and what Dick was just mentioning, we had more turnover and people are more transient these days. So there really has to be a conscious effort for somebody in the club and particularly this year to go out and find people who are going to make a contribution. We rely on our members to identify people who may be good candidates.
Dick - And preferably without letting them know they are being considered. That's important because in the end if somebody is turned down which is a great rarity, it's too bad if they know they are being considered. It creates a hornet's nest. It's always better to do that way.
Neal - When Dick started in the club, it was a men's organization. That's the way it was. I can remember early in my Rotary years, I was assigned to bring a speaker at a certain date. I had come across a woman who was a local politician in her town, a lawyer in Concord, and she was involved with the abolishment of county government, which at that time we still had. I brought her to the meeting. She gave a great talk on it and spoke on that effort and that the likelihood was that it would happen. I can remember at the end of it saying to the club assembled at the time that I thought she was a great example of why there should be women in Rotary. I just knew that there were a few in the crowd that bristled at that remark. Finally it was a few years later that Rotary International changed its charter and allowed Rotary clubs to begin to invite women. It was about 1987 internationally, and it was in March 1988 that we had our first two women members, who were Joan Hale and Grace McWalter. In response to that, a couple of those people I think I had bristled actually chose to leave the club in protest to that new development. Some of us chuckled over that and thought we really weren't going to miss them all that much.
Dick - One of them was going to leave no matter what and the other one said he just liked it the other way. So that's his opinion and he probably can't make it into the 21" century for all we know. A lot of clubs had difficulty with it and they still do. There are still clubs that do not entertain applications openly from women. One club in particular that is nearby is a culprit in that regard. I always remember going to Sanibel where the membership grows from 50 to 150 in the summer. Joanie had just been inducted in March, and we went down there for a vacation, and they were introducing the visiting Rotarians and I said, "I'm Dick Hale from Concord." And they said, "Well, introduce your wife." I said, "Well, she's a Rotarian." They weren't accepting applications from women at the time. But most of those clubs have gotten over it. Even in Europe where we thought it would be really tough, I think it's working pretty well.
Neal - It was a transition, no doubt about it. When I stop and think about it, I think it quickly became a non-issue. And if I look at the membership today and think what we would lose if we chucked all the women out of this club and their contributions to the club, it's just incomprehensible to think.
Dick - Unfortunately, we've lost several of the good women members we had over the years, just for various reasons, not just because they didn't like Rotary. Some of them would have make good presidents.
Neal - We haven't had as many women presidents as I would have hoped having started in 1988 with our first women members. Jane Barrett was our first woman president in about 2000. Just today was the first meeting that was presided over by our second woman president, Phyllis Maurer. Jane spent all those years on the board coming up the offices and Phyllis was on the board for a number of years going through the offices.
Dick - The key is not everybody is going to be president. I like to think that people should agree to be president or want to be president if they're capable, but for some people it's just not their thing.
Neal - Well, some women have chosen not to start the process.
Dick - And a lot of men as well. I do consider it a non-issue. We're looking for people who are qualified Rotarians not if they're women or men, black or white or anything else.
The award I was just given was a big surprise. It was given at the installation banquet on June 30. I was very surprised to see one daughter show up, the second daughter from Cape with five children, another daughter from Vermont, my son from Concord, a number of past district governors that hadn't been invited, and the other thing that was unusual that there many more seats set up than I had arranged for, so I knew something was up. The District Governor was there and spoke very eloquently about different things. This particular award apparently had been given once as far as I know in the district, and it's called a Life Achievement Award. It was quite an honor and I hope it sets an example for others who could do a lot in Rotary.
Neal - Once you begin the function in the offices of the club, you get exposed to the district. It becomes quickly apparent that the Concord club enjoys a very good and strong reputation at the district level. Two people from Concord over the years have started that reputation before us. One was Tom Huckins who did a fantastic job on efforts on one of the foundations at the district level. He was a financial powerhouse and for years was the spirit of the Concord Rotary club. And the second one was Dick Hale. Dick works tirelessly and that's an understatement for the Concord Rotary and likewise for the district. This Life Achievement Award -- there's nobody in this district that I can think of who deserves that award more.
Dick - One other item that we didn't touch on is the fact that it is 75 years old founded in 1931 and one of the charter members was Fred T. Boyd, a realtor in town. Fred was our only district governor I believe in 1936. We also have what is known as Distinguished Service Awards from time to time. The first one the club ever had was for Payson True who was a contemporary of Fred Boyd. Payson had a dry wit and he worked for the old Concord National Bank, which eventually became the Harvard Trust, Bay Bank, Bank of Boston, Fleet Bank, and Bank of America. We had a distinguished service luncheon for Payson who was about 89 years old at the time. He got up and made a little talk. He was so funny. He talked about going down to Atlantic City for the 1936 international convention with Fred T. Boyd in a 1936 Ford.
In succeeding years, there have been a few people in our club who have been asked to be district governor and it just hasn't worked out. It's an enormous commitment to Rotary. They now work it as a triumvirate where the district governor nominee and a district governor designate and they even have a fourth person in line. Unfortunately, the district is reaching for people who are quite new.
Neal - It's a tremendous commitment. It's almost a full-time job for a year. A lot of people just aren't in a position to do that.
Dick - As I referred to those distinguished service award banquet people like Cap Jenny, Mort Seavey, Doc Elliot, John Forbes, Charlie Dee, Bob McWalter, we've had about a dozen Rotarians in the past who have received the accolades of the club for long terms of service to the club. I hope we will do some more of that.