Rotary the world over

RGHF Senior Historian Basil Lewis 27 July 2006

There are almost as many different types of Rotary Clubs as there are clubs. They range in size from the immense, like Seattle and San Antonio with ±700 members to the miniscule like Sakae South West Osaka in Japan with 4. The official number of members divided by the number of clubs suggests that the average is just below 40.

We often imagine that all clubs are like ours, meeting weekly throughout the year. Wrong!! Some clubs, such as Wolverhampton, England, actually close down in August, while several clubs who met fortnightly before the amalgamation of the British and International Rotary Associations in 1922, continue to do so. Rugby, Hastings and Buxton are three British clubs in this category. While most clubs meet at regular meal times Monday to Thursday, and a few on Friday, there are not many like Rugby’s Saturday Breakfast Club who meet on a Saturday morning at 8.20. Meeting times are varied….and sometimes vary. Wishing to be the first to meet in North America, the Windermere Club in Florida brought forward its meeting time from 7 to 6.55. When another club challenged this, they altered it again to 6.54. Now its listed as 6.45.!!

Visitors too are treated in different ways. The same Windermere Club famously had one ‘greeter’ whose first words were “Look me straight in the eye”. This was an interesting approach especially when one saw that he had a glass eye in which the iris was in the form of the Rotary wheel, colour and all. The Tokyo Club, who graciously charged half price for visitors, offered a radio receiver with a simultaneous translation of the proceedings for those unable to understand Japanese. Some years ago there were three clubs in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, one of which awarded a badge decorated with a picture of Mickey Mouse to the Rotarian who had travelled furthest to be there. It was known as the ‘Long distance Mickey’. A few clubs offer printed histories of their club and others a guide to local amenities. The Breughel Club in Brussels, meeting in the palatial hospitality suite of the Anderlecht Football Club, produced a superb reproduction of a Breughel painting for visitors.

It was perhaps inevitable that the Jerusalem Club should meet in the YMCA but one hopes that Bristol South have no ulterior motives in meeting under the Church of St Mary Redcliff, in the Undercroft. It may be horse for courses but the Burton on Trent Club meet in the Coors Brewery Centre. We are often reminded that Rotary is full of senior citizens but the Celebration Club, Florida, is at least prepared for any eventuality. It meets in a hospital.

Visiting clubs, especially in distant lands, is always a rewarding experience, but don’t be fooled into thinking that there is any standardisation, except in the fellowship and friendship to be found in a Rotary Club. Some clubs sing before they eat; many do not. Some have toasts; some salute flags; most are dual gender but not all. It is in this diversity that Rotary is at its best. Do go visiting and if you find a club with something new, unusual or interesting, please let us know.