About Our Club
 

HISTORY OF HARLINGEN

ROTARY CLUB NO. 1328

Spring 1922 - February 1960

 

By

 

John B. Challes

A Charter Member and Past President *1942

 

On a balmy evening in the spring of 1922, a small but representative group of Harlingen business and professional men met, by previous arrangement, to hear something about Rotary from George A. Toolan, an enthusiastic Rotarian. For more than an hour he extolled the virtues of Rotary-its philosophy, its aims and objects and its growth. He painted a glowing picture of what it would do for us as individuals and for our town, and how glad Rotary International would be to have a survey made to see if we could muster the minimum number required to secure a club charter. Remember ~ - 1920 census showed a population of only 1,784!  It had not materially increased in two short years.

 

George's enthusiasm was so contagious that we voted unanimously to take the necessary steps toward securing a charter for a Rotary club in Harlingen.

 

At last, in November of that year, "came another evening", when practically the same group assembled in Manhattan Cafe to enjoy their first of many happy associations together as Rotarians; for it was that evening on which Club No. 1328 was to receive a charter from Rotary International.

 

In those days, all of Texas except EI Paso was in Rotary District 13. John V. Singleton, of Waxahachie, was District Governor, but as he could not be present in person he designated the aforesaid George Toolan as his representative. After our dessert, George, in one of his characteristically flowery moods, yet in a very appropriate speech, presented our Charter to Finley Ewing, who had been chosen our first club president.

 

Since the cafe did not boast a piano nor the new club a song leader, group singing was very wisely dispensed with. The deficiency, however, was more than compensated by the timely and eloquent address of the Reverend Mike, later Bishop Mike Quinn, who had been invited down from Houston for that purpose.

 

Thus was launched on the untried sea of Time and Experience, Harlingen's first civic club. Following are the names of that pioneer band who constituted our charter membership, as furnished to me by the Secretary of Rotary International.

 

J. Anson Alderdice

Sam Botts

John B. Challes

Reuben M. Eubank

S. Finley Ewing

Richard Henderson

L. Robert Hollingsworth

Duval West, Jr.

William M. Hundley

Casper W. Letzerich

Osie W. Liston

Frank Martin

Paul E. Phipps

Joe R. Roberts

Smith A. Thompson

 

It was also during President Henry's administration that the club, in February 1956, changed the location of its weekly luncheons from the Madison Hotel to the new and beautiful "Gold Room" of Richard's Sun Valley Restaurant. This gave us more room for our growing membership, for entertaining and for our visiting Rotarians and guests.

 

On June 26, 1956, President Henry surrendered the gavel and going to his duly elected successor, H. George Chaffin.

 

George had attended the Rotary International Convention in Philadelphia, and, no doubt inspired by its magnitude and its marvels, offered the "Four Objects" of his regime-to-be as follows:

 

1.) "More Harlingen Men in Rotary",

2.) "More Rotary in Rotarians",

3.) "A 5% increase in Club Attendance" and

4.) "Plan and Achieve a Successful District Conference."

 

His almost uniformly good programs, balanced between Rotary and non-Rotary subjects, helped to maintain a more lively interest in club affairs, and because of this and the zealous efforts of his Attendance Committee our "average attendance" reached its highest figure in ten years.

 

A "highlight" of George's year as President was the District Conference, held in March 1957, with approximately 500 in attendance. Past Presidents Stanly Crockett and Bill Briscoe were Co-chairmen of the Conference, which was the first one held in Harlingen since 1949, and was generally acknowledged to be one of the best ever held in this Distirct (It was unfortunate, however, that we failed in our efforts to have a 100% registration of our members,)

 

At the usual annual "Ladies Night," held in Richards "Gold Room" on June 25,1957 Vernon M. Murphy was inducted into the office of President for the ensuing year. Having attended the Rotary International Convention in Lucerne, Switzerland, and having visited clubs in various other countries of Europe, Vernon was exceptionally well prepared to assume the leadership of his club's activities in each of the Four Lanes of Rotary, which role he filled with distinction.

 

Programs were presented in each of the four committees of service, namely Vocational Service, Club Service, Community Service, and International Service. Perhaps the outstanding committee program was the one by the lnternational Service committee under the direction of General "Bob" Harper, presented by the Reynosa, Mexico, Rotary Club, Past District Governor Roscoe C. Pryor introduced Senor Alonso Gonzalez Zamora, Governor of District 413, there was a musical program by a group from Reynosa, which was followed by a stirring address delivered in English by Senor Edmundo Zuazua. The Rotary Range said that if the applause following his address was any indication, it was the most appreciated presentation offered to this club in many a year.

 

The listing and registration of our club by the Secretariat of Rotary International for its cooperation with 700 other clubs of the world in the search for better international understanding and good will is further indication of Vernon's ability and efficiency as a leader. It was on the evening of June 27, 1958, that Col. E.D. ("Giff') Giffen was duly installed as our 35th President.

 

President "Giff' was-and is-a dedicated Rotarian. His term as President was year of "solid Rotary," cradled in sincerity and presented with warmth and affection for all. Never before, probably, were our members so conscious of the "Chair"-for the eyes of President Giffen were upon all; and no opportunity for friendly "sarcasm" and witty, but good natured criticism of interruptions by club members was overlooked, Names of members were called when he felt too inclined; and a "standing invitation" was extended to any, or all, to "match wits" with him on any subject or occasion.  A lot of real fellowship resulted from this relaxed situation, and at the end of his administration it was said of him that he could more appropriately be called an "outgoing" President than a "retiring" one. During his term there was a consistency in the matter of good programs.

 

The club increased its allotment to the "Little League" baseball in Harlingen, and made a substantial gift to the Texas Tubercular Hospital-a mechanical figure or "doll" for the use of nurses in training.

 

And then, on a "Midsummer's Night," June 22, 1959, a new President-J.M. "Mike" Powers-was formally installed at a coloful Ladies Night dinner. The program, following consisted partly of an interesting report by Past President Giffen of his year as President, the installation of the new officers and the usual presentation of attendance awards.

 

Incidentally, "Mike" is the youngest Rotarian, in years as well as in Rotary, ever to have served as our club president, but this in no way prevented him from having a splendid year, including an improvement in our attendance record, which climbed to "better than average" for the District.

 

In August 1959, the entire club was saddened by the death of Roscoe C. Pryor, for many years an outstanding and valuable member of our Club. He had served as club president, District Governor and as a member of important committees in Rotary International. He had traveled extensively, and was known in Europe, Africa, and South America as an ardent Rotarian, who, while his health permitted, had a perfect attendance record, and who never missed a meeting of the International Convention.

 

After a successful year as President, "Mike" was succeeded on June 24. 1960, by General Robert W, ("Bob") Harper, (retired).

 

In his address upon the occasion of his installation, President Bob made known his program for the year ahead. He expressed his desire for the active participation of all the members of committees in the various activities of the club, based on the Four Lanes of service, with emphasis upon Vocational Service. His ability as a trained and experienced leader have kept his committees active and on the alert. Special mention might be made of his program chairman, O.C. Holaday, who with the assistance of his committee and other Rotarians, has come up with remarkably fine programs almost without fail.

 

In 1944 it was obvious to Rotarians that our town had outgrown our public and that one of our greatest needs as an up-to-date building to house larger and more complete library.

 

A movement was stated by E.H. Poteet, club president, to raise funds by public subscription for such a building. With characteristic perseverance and the cooperation of the people of Harlingen this dream was eventually realized and a beautiful library building on the comer of Travis Park at Fifth and Tyler housed several thousand volumes as a memorial to Lon C. Hill, the founder of Harlingen.

 

Our club also claims the distinction of having originated the idea of an "Educational and Advisory" committee consisting of past presidents, whose function is to have a short meeting with members-elect before they are inducted into the club, and "indoctrinate" them, as it were, briefing them on the history, principles, aims and objects of Rotary, and the privileges and responsibilities of members. This practice has been followed ever since it was instituted, about 1937, by Sam Cobb, Bill Briscoe, Frank Davis, Paul Hoidale, Stanley Crockett, and other past presidents of that era, and has been by a great many clubs throughout the country.

 

Our Rotary Club holds a 100% rating in its supports of the Rotary Foundation mid the Paul Harris Memorial Fund for the International Advancement Students Educational Programs, for studies in countries other than their own.

 

In the Golden Anniversary year, Club Officers and Committee Chairmen, with the assistance of the GAC, completed a Golden Anniversary Program of activities, including some fourteen important and valuable projects.

 

This is a brief history of the Harlingen Club No. 1328. Who can foresee what its future may be in the years to come?