Anniversary Dinner

OCTOBER 23, 2003

Written and presented by Bob Pearcy


          When President Bill asked me to share some memories of our club for this evening, I asked him how much time I could have. His answer: “Every man is a fool for at least five minutes. Wisdom consists of not exceeding the time limit.”

          You will have to be the judge on which path I chose, as we look at some of the events in the life of the Danville Rotary Club.

           The “Good Old Days” is a relative term – yet looking back 46 years to the time when Rotary came to Danville – it means remembering when the square was filled with business and professional firms – with retailers and services outnumbering the lawyers. In defense of the lawyers, most replaced out-of-town building owners and dressed up their property.

          For just a few moments, consider the business community upon which Rotary built its local foundation. Around and near the square were:

Danner's 5 & 10, House of Hadley, Ralph Norman Agency, Ed Stevenson Agency, Lawrence Pharmacy, Turner Pharmacy, Thompson Drug Co., Kroger's, Johnston’s Regal Store, Saunder's IGA, Lawson’s Market, Heads Clothing, Danville Plumbing & Heating, B.P. Roeder Plumbing, Wellman’s, The Ideal Shop, Beecham’s.

          E.J. Roberts Garage, Dutch Stuart Studebaker & Mercury, Zimmerman Insurance, First National Bank, Danville State Bank, Danville Electric Hatchery, Mandy’s East Side Café, Royal Theatre, Poynter Insurance, Dinsmore’s Grocery & Baskets, Baker Ace Hardware, D.F. Roberts Furniture, Nay’s Appliances, J.C. Logan Mobile, Will’s Cleaners, and Citizens Building & Loan.

          York Jewelers, Taylor & Taylor, Abstract & Title, B & H Grill, Joe Bennett Liquors, Danville Book Store, Roberts Pastry, H.C. Rodney & Son Chevrolet, Meazel Jewelry, Mac’s Implement Sales, Dalton Realty, Public Service Indiana, Danville Radio & Record Shop, and Community Loan Co.

          I do not mean to omit anyone, but this list of the business community is based on my advertisers in The Danville Gazette at that time. I do not mean to slight the attorneys, but lawyers did not advertise then and The Republican, next door, did not advertise in my newspaper.

          The year 1957 was a busy time for our county – and an important time. The year started with the Hendricks County Hospital Planning Board recommending the construction of an 80-bed hospital and ended with the appointment of the first Hospital Board of Trustees. Danville’s tax rate was $5.50 per $100, and ground beef was selling for 3 lbs. for $1. A 2-door Buick sedan could be had for $2595.83.

          In the summer of 1957, a transplanted banker and Rotarian from Greencastle started talking to local businessmen about starting a local Rotary Club. On Sept. 20, 24 of the 29 charter members met for an organizational meeting and elected L.J. Arnold, President; Joe Stevenson, vice-president; Luther Poynter, secretary and Bob King, treasurer.

          The first official meeting after being chartered was October 3 at Mollie’s north of Danville. The formal presentation of the charter was in mid-November with more than 200 Rotarians and guests present. Lebanon was our sponsoring club. Just who were our 29 charter members?

          We had two bankers, L.J. Arnold and Fred Shelton. Our architect was E. Ford Bergen, who designed a special bathroom for Luther Poynter’s new building east of town. Joining Luther in the insurance classification was Ed Stevenson and Les Zimmerman. Norm Comer, Amy’s grandfather, was our abstractor, while H.O. Crowley was in the plumbing & heating business. Howard Fretz was our electric utility member and Bob King was the bridge contractor. Elmer Koch was our in-house physician and Milton Hamilton, an engineer, manufactured top-secret products for the Department of Defense.

          Noble Dinsmore operated a grocery but came in under the classification of “baskets,” which raised eyebrows at Rotary International. Paul Raver was our county extension agent, and Dave Richardson managed the Hendricks County Farm Bureau Co-op. Bill Nay owned a home appliance store, and Glen Tharp had his own savings & loan firm. E.J. Roberts sold new and used cars, while Leroy Rutledge dispensed gasoline and tires at his D-X station. Joe Stevenson was our legal eagle, and Hugh Weaver, our friendly undertaker.

          Don York provided jewelry and watch repair, while George Smith of Danville Christian Church watched over our souls. Charles Miles was our token farmer and Elmer Davisson pushed automotive parts. Floyd Hadley was our haberdasher at the House of Hadley and Ralph Norman was our real estate agent.

           In charge of publicity was Pug Weesner of The Republican and Bob Pearcy of The Gazette.

          Of the 29 charter members, 12 served as President, and today, four charter members remain on our rolls as Honorary Members: Hugh Weaver, Leroy Rutledge, Elmer Davisson, and Bob Pearcy.

          Starting with 29 members, we reached 51 by our 25th year. Over the years, our membership has stayed around the 45-50 count. Today, we have 42 active members and six honorary members.

          Since our chartering we have met at Mollies, the Christian and Presbyterian churches, Farm Bureau Insurance building on Lincoln Street, the Waffle House (now Mayberry), the County Community Center, Conservation Club, Citizens Savings & Loan, (now Union Federal), and currently at Mayberry Café.

          From the beginning, our club has been community-based, with numerous fund-raising projects to benefit all ages of local residents in the community through support of the local park and its programs. With the Optimist Club, we worked to build the first swimming pool in the park

          We have participated in Rotary International projects, such as providing funds for a workshop for the handicapped in India. We later contributed more than $400 to help establish a mobile eye clinic in that country. Many of our weekly programs have focused on the international aspect of Rotary, with Rotary Foundation Fellows and exchange students sharing information about their home countries and their experiences while attending school in this country.

          Our club supported the 3-H and PolioPlus projects, contributing more than $5100 to help eradicate polio in the world. Currently, members are continuing their support of the Polio Plus project. Locally, we have supported Sycamore Services raising funds with our annual golf outing. In recent years, our annual bake sale has provided funds for scholarships to local high school students.

          We have hosted Rotary exchange students and GSE teams from Scotland, Australia, Brazil, Norway, India, Japan, Sweden, and Germany.

          In June of 1998, club members opened their homes for home visits during the Rotary International Convention in Indianapolis. Several of our members were volunteers at the convention center and airport during that event.

          We have had bake sales, and auctions, hosted a Civil War re-enactment, and sold strawberry shortcakes and roses to raise funds. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Rotary, our club donated $1000 for a new baseball backstop at Ellis Park. We have continued annual financial support for park programs.

          It is important to note that we have had our fun while traveling the Four Avenues of Service. To raise funds for the swimming pool, our club joined with the Optimist Club to present the Flapjack Follies. Following a pancake dinner, Rotarians, dressed in drag, put on a style show that brought down the house. The highlight of the evening was a basketball game between Rotarians and Optimists, with the “older” Rotarians stomping a much younger team of Optimists. During that evening we served more than 6,300 pancakes and netted $1,100 for the bathhouse at the swimming pool.

          As part of the Flapjack Follies fun, Rotary Dan made his debut. This mannequin rested in peace in a pine coffin on display over the grill at Gibby’s Steak House (now Mayberry). In the weeks, preceding the Follies Rotarians and Optimists vied for possession of Dan. One night, a group of Rotarians descended on the steak house, and one, who shall remain nameless, committed an illegal entry, and Rotary Dan was kidnapped. Here we have a case of a group of dignified business leaders of the community; breaking and entering a place of business; grabbing the coffin with a dummy inside; and then racing through the streets and alleys before finally finding sanctuary at the Christian Church.

          In later years, Rotarians and guests enjoyed trips on a party barge at Raccoon Lake, but earlier, we had an outing at Cataract Lake, complete with boating and water skiing. Those present will never forget the scene of Floyd Hadley’s first venture on water skis. He left three wakes – two feet and one rear end – skimming across the lake. He never did make it to an upright position.

          We had a cookout at the conservation club, with volunteers obtaining grills from members’ garages – some with permission, some without. Of course, the grills were returned in mint condition – not.

          We had heated attendance contests – some inner club, some outer. President Luther Poynter challenged the Plainfield club to an attendance contest, secure in the knowledge that Plainfield was always last place in the district. Plainfield posted a 100% meeting the first week and it was all downhill from there. During a Tons of Fun weight-loss contest, club members lost a total of 318 pounds while raising $500 for the Child Abuse Council and Sycamore Services. We had our fun, but we were serious about helping others.

          Through the mid-60s, there were club attendance contests, which kept us at or near the top of the district attendance. During the 1975-76 club year, we recorded nine (9) consecutive 100% meetings. I cannot remember our last 100% meeting – can you?

          We have had three sets of fathers and sons to serve as president of our club: Luther and Max Poynter, Charles, Don and Brent Pope, and Harold and Jeff Martin.

          For several years our club hosted the annual Hendricks County Easter Seal Luncheon and was treated to hearing from top pro football players of the time, such as Rocky Bleier and Joe Theisman.

           It was during the 1989-90 club year, with Jeff Martin in charge, that Rotary changed forever in Danville and in the free world, for that matter. We admitted our first female member and things have not been the same since. However, we took comfort in the fact that some 3,000 women were admitted to Rotary that first year.

          Of equal significance during Jeff’s year, we inaugurated our first Interactor Club, with 24 outstanding DHS students.

          We have had visitors from all over the world, inviting us to their meetings. One Florida visitor promised us that Florida was a good place to make up – they served their martinis with prunes, rather than olives.

          In our first effort for the Rotary Foundation in 1959, we raised $43. At last count, we have 21 Paul Harris Fellows and 2 sustaining members still active in the club. In 1993, we had 22 Paul Harris Fellows and 23 sustaining members.

          From the membership of the Danville Rotary Club has come eight presidents of state and national professional, service, and fraternal organizations.

          Forty-six years of Rotary in Danville. It has been quite an experience regardless of when you joined the trip. I have to believe that the 29 charter members built a firm foundation upon which Rotary continues to build today. In 46 years we have explored the World of Rotary and discovered that by traveling all Four Avenues of Service, we can create harmony, not only in our club but also throughout the Rotary World.

          I am convinced that Rotary can build bridges of friendship and understanding in an ongoing effort to achieve peace in our world.

And now – those famous two words – IN CLOSING -

Is anyone happier because you passed his way? Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?

The day is almost over, and its toiling time is through; Is there anyone to utter now, a kindly word to you?

Can you say tonight, in parting, with the day that’s slipping past; that you helped a single brother, of the many that you passed?

Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said? Does the man whose hope was fading, not with courage look ahead?

Did you waste the day or lose it? Was it well or sorely spent? Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent?

As you close your eyes in slumber, do you think that God will say, “You have earned one more tomorrow, by the work you did today?”

This IS Rotary.

Rotary Facebook
Club Events

© All content belongs to the Rotary Club of Danville unless otherwise specified.
Any and all Rotary marks are the property of Rotary International and their use is permitted by License from Rotary International.
EZ-Website powered by Member Minder Pro © 2003-2024, and its affiliates. All rights reserved.
Privacy Statement | Terms of Use