Rotary Club of Dallas to mark 100 years of service; Major events to mark milestone; Early meetings recalled with Dallas luminaries

The Rotary Club of Dallas will celebrate its 100th birthday with several major events
including a luncheon, a dinner featuring the international president and a golf tournament.
It was the first Rotary Club approved in Texas and 39
th in the country. Today, more than
33,000 clubs serve their communities in over 200 countries. Rotary was the first service
club created and was founded in Chicago in 1905.
Organized to benefit local and international communities, it is estimated the Rotary Club
of Dallas has committed more than $9.5 million during its history to help local agencies,
fund camps for yout h, provide assistance in education, fund massive efforts to end polio
worldwide, provide relief from natural disasters and much more.
Kicking off the celebration will be a golf tournament on March 31, a luncheon at the
Fairmont Hotel on April 1 and an Eve ning Under the Stars at the Nasher Sculpture Center
on April 2.
Dallas insurance executive Price Cross made several trips to San Francisco and New
Orleans, and in each city he visited a Rotary Club meeting. Back home ion Dallas, he
discussed the Rotary idea with some of his associates. The group invited 100 possible
members to a meeting. On April 20, 1911, 39 business, professional and community
leaders gathered at the Oriental Hotel to form the Rotary Club of Dallas – the first club in
Texas.
The club’s first president, Marvin E. Martin, a General Electric executive and president
of the Dallas Advertising League. It established an initiation fee of $5 and dues of $12
per year. The club created its long-standing tradition of lunch meetings, initially meeting
at the Oriental Hotel’s Ladies Ordinary dining room every Thursday at a cost of 50 cents
per plate. Because the hotel was located at Commerce and Akard streets in Downtown
Dallas, most club members could walk from their offices. Those driving could park at the
curb for free.
During its first decade in Dallas, the club’s slate of presidents offered a window into the
industries and businesses that brought the city into a new era of modernization. Presiding
officers included coffee distributor Lewin Plunkett, cigar distributor Elmer E. Beach,
Harry A. Olmstead of Olmstead-Kirk Paper Company, druggist Jake Schrodt, farm
machine distributor LaMonte Daniels, furniture dealer Fred Ingram, and Richard
Meriwether, general manager of the Dallas Street Railway Company. A cotton broker and
banker, Robert L. Thornton served as president of the Rotary Club before his eventual
election as mayor of Dallas. Listings in the club’s early member directory include
employees of Wells Fargo, Dallas Talking Machine Company, Brooks Carriage Works,
Smith Detective Agency and Dallas Light & Power.
Rotary members understood the importance of encouraging attendance at meetings. In
1912, jeweler Arthur A. Everts was a featured speaker and topped off his talk by
presenting each of the meeting’s 96 attendees with a sterling silver spoon. Early on, door
prizes of $5 were offered. As time passed, door prizes became more interesting and
creative including everything from a case of dynamite and a ton of coal to 10 sacks of
cement and 500 pounds of ice.
Events were sometimes elaborate. At one club dinner, the menu went into great detail
about the impending feast: dry martinis, celery, salted almonds, soup a la rotary, green
olives, sweet mixed pickles, sparkling burgundy, roast young turkey with dressing,
cranberry sauce, cream potatoes, green peas, lettuce and tomato salad, tutti- frutti ice
cream, assorted cakes, coffee a la Plunkett, and cigars a la Beech. These last two menu
items were named after the Rotarians who donated them for the meal.
From its beginning, the Rotary Club of Dallas found ways to serve the community.
Throughout its firstdecade, the club hosted newsboys for special lunches and holiday
dinners. As young as 7 years old, the boys sold newspapers on street corners to help
support their families. The club set up savings accounts for 150 boys, starting each with a
$1 deposit. The boys were encouraged to save money and awarded prizes for their efforts.
In 1913, newsboys who saved $3 from their own earnings were given an additio nal $5
from the club, so they could attend summer camp.
In addition, the club helped disabled children, storm and flood victims, orphans, shut- ins,
the blind and the needy. The club distributed Christmas baskets and gave gifts to the
Oriental Hotel staff.
A centennial history of the Club is in the final stages of production.
Additional information about the Rotary Club of Dallas is available at
www.DallasRotary.org

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