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This is the first chapter from the 1955 Golden Anniversary Edition of the History of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles. The chapter deals in great depth not only with Homer Wood, previously referred to as the father of the other early west coast clubs, but also the practice of "boosting."    Prepared for Rotary Global History  Doug Rudman

Organization

The early history of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles, particularly its organization, is so interwoven with the early History on the Pacific Coast and the organization and activities of the San Francisco Rotary Club, which it would be well as a background to review briefly how the expansion movement started.

Three and a half years after the few men were called together by Paul Harris in Chicago in 1905 and formed the club that was afterwards given the name of Rotary, the San Francisco Club was organized by Homer Wood. At that time Homer was a young attorney and a member of the Union League Club. Late in June, 1908, while in the lobby of the Hotel Cadillac, where he was living at that time, he struck up a casual acquaintance with a Chicago man by the name of Manuel Munoz. During their conversation Munoz told Homer about a new kind of a club they had at Chicago called the Rotary Club. He also explained its workings and that its membership was limited to one man from each line of business. In this morsel of information given him by Manuel Munoz the fertile brain of Homer Wood found inspiration sufficient to start Rotary on its movement around the world, which now has reached all the civilized countries of the world with a total membership of over 400,000.

Shortly after meeting Mr. Munoz, Homer Wood decided to organize a Rotary Club in San Francisco. Having already obtained the address of Paul Harris, then President of the Chicago Club, he wrote for further information and Paul responded, sending on a copy of the Chicago Club's by-laws.

Many members of the Union League Club whom Homer knew, were invited to membership in the new organization. The standing of the membership of the Union League Club gave assurance that the members of the San Francisco Rotary Club would also be of fine standing in the city. The fact that the membership of the Rotary Club of San Francisco in its early days was of such a high type and well regarded in the community is largely responsible for the fine type of members who joined the various Rotary Clubs which afterwards sprang up through the efforts of some of the members of the San Francisco Club.

The organization meeting of the San Francisco Club took place in November, 1908, at the St. Francis Hotel. Charles M. Schwab, the famous steel manufacturer, was a guest at the hotel at that time and as he was a friend of one of the members of the Rotary Club he was induced to make a talk at the meeting. Mr. Schwab's appearance on the program gave excellent publicity to the new organization and started it off in fine shape. Homer Wood was elected the first President, serving for two terms.

Homer Wood had made the acquaintance of Arthur S. Holman, Manager of the San Francisco office of the Travelers Insurance Company, and this office practically controlled the Pacific Coast business of the Travelers at that time. Because of Arthur's wide acquaintance among businessmen in San Francisco, Homer Wood enlisted his assistance in securing members for the San Francisco Club. Later these two men worked together in the organization of other Rotary Clubs on the Pacific Coast.

Homer was very enthusiastic about the new organization and took on his shoulders the job of forming other clubs. Some of his friends in Oakland, who had expressed interest in this new organization, were asked by him to call a meeting of some of the representative men of the East Bay cities, one from each line of business. This was done and Homer addressed them with the result that the Tri-City Rotary Club was formed, with three from each line of business, one from Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda. This was in February, 1909.

While Homer was busy organizing the Tri-City Rotary Club he wrote to his brother, Walton J. Wood, then a young attorney who had just opened a law office in Los Angeles, and suggested that he endeavor to organize a club in that city. At about this time Arthur Holman reported to Homer that he was going to Los Angeles on a business trip. Homer then asked Arthur to contact Walton while in Los Angeles, which he was unable to do as Walton was out of town. However, he did tell the story in detail to Jerry Muma then Los Angeles Manager of the Travelers Insurance Company and outlined to him the promotion procedure that had been used in organizing the Rotary Club of San Francisco. Shortly after Arthur Holman's visit, Jerry Muma and Walton Wood (who incidentally had been at college together) met at luncheon and arrangements were then made toward the organization of the Los Angeles Rotary Club, which afterwards came to be known as Club No. Five.

At about the same time Arthur Holman on a trip to Seattle talked to the Manager of the Seattle Office of the Travelers Insurance Company, a Mr. Roy Denny, explaining to him all about the organization of the Rotary Club of San Francisco, with the suggestion that he endeavor to organize a new idea club in Seattle. Roy Denny immediately went to work in the Puget Sound metropolis and with the help of Arthur Holman succeeded in getting that Club organized just prior to the one at Los Angeles. The Seattle Club was given the honor of being listed as Club No. Four, in what was later known as the National Association of Rotary Clubs, now Rotary International.

It might be well here to quote from a letter written by Jerry Muma to the National Association of Rotary Clubs in Chicago dated October 10th, 1910:

"Early in May, 1909, Mr. A. S. Holman of San Francisco, talked with me in connection with the organization of a Rotary Club which had just been completed in San Francisco. On my return to Los Angeles I invited Mr. Walton J. Wood, an attorney, and Mr. C. H. Woodruff, a shoe dealer, to have luncheon with me, in order that we might have an opportunity to discuss the founding of Rotary Club in Los Angeles. I had with me at that time a "roster" of the San Francisco Club, together with the constitution that had been adopted by the Chicago Rotary Club. At that time there were but two Rotary Clubs in existence, the parent Rotary Club in Chicago, and Club No. 2 in San Francisco.

We decided at this luncheon to send invitations to fifty prominent business men representing different lines, inviting them to a meeting at the Hollenbeck Hotel, where luncheon would be served and where we would discuss the organization of the Rotary Club. Out of the fifty invitations mailed, thirty-one responded and were present at the initial luncheon. At this first meeting a temporary organization was effected with thirty of the thirty-one businessmen as charter members. Regular weekly meetings were held at 12 o'clock on Fridays."

We also quote here, a portion of a letter written by Walton Wood, several years after the organization meeting:

"Shortly after the organization of the San Francisco Club, Homer sent me certain printed matter concerning the club arid suggested that I organize a Rotary Club in Los Angeles. At that time I was a newcomer in Los Angeles and had just opened a law office here. In a few days Homer wrote me another letter telling me that one of the Holman brothers, who were members of the San Francisco club, and who were representatives of Travelers Insurance Company, had sent a letter to Jerry Muma, the Los Angeles representative of Traveler's Insurance Company, with a suggestion that Jerry organize a Rotary Club in Los Angeles. Homer suggested that I contact Jerry in this matter, which was easy for me to do since Jerry and I had been in college together.

Jerry and I had lunch together one day and laid plans for the organization of the Los Angeles Club. At that time a civic organization for boosting the Los Angeles harbor had completed its objects and one Herbert C. Quick, a professional secretary who had been working for the harbor association, was suggested as available, to become professional secretary for the new Rotary Club. Arrangements were made for Mr. Quick and Jerry and me, and we each gave him names to inter. view as prospective members for the Los Angeles Rotary Club. These arrangements were effected and the first meeting was called for June, 1909, at the old Hollenbeck Hotel. I do not recall the exact date of the meeting, but doubtless the records of the club will show the date and the names of the members present. Jerry Muma was elected the first President of the Club."

In a letter written from San Francisco by Arthur Holman to the author under date of July 11th, 1938, he had this to say:

"During the recent Rotary Convention I thought several times of our luncheon together because your assignment to make some notes about Rotary's first days in Los Angeles, got us all to reminiscing. Here were 10,444 registered Rotarians from all over the world and here you and Bru Brunnier and I were talking about Clubs Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5! We must ask ourselves the question, what was that secret ingredient in the original Rotary idea? In those early days it hit Homer Wood harder than any one else, for here was the first real missionary of Rotary. He sent men to other places to preach its gospel. It is very difficult for me to understand why Homer Wood was so possessed, for no one else in the San Francisco Club was. Some of us were infected with his enthusiasm and in our travels we did missionary work but he is entitled to the credit of direction and inspiration."

From all of the above it is quite apparent that the early members of the Rotary Club of San Francisco, especially Homer Wood and Arthur Holman, should be given credit for actually starting Rotary on its way to being a world-wide organization. About three and a half years had elapsed between the time the Chicago Club had been organized and the founding of the San Francisco Club. The Rotary Clubs of Oakland, Seattle and Los Angeles were directly started through the efforts of these two men.

Jerry Muma, first president and co-organizer with Walton Wood of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles, is described by many of his friends as a real organizer. He was dynamic, had a wide acquaintance with the businessmen of Los Angeles and was a very enthusiastic worker.

For many years June 25th, 1909, has been accepted as the date on which the Los Angeles Club held its organization meeting, and all the early rosters and club literature carried a statement to that effect. Nothing definite has as yet been found that could be considered positive proof of that date. Will Stephens, who succeeded H. C. Quick as Secretary late in 1909 or early in 1910, wrote to Chesley R. Perry, Secretary-Treasurer of the National Association of Rotary Clubs, under date of April 17th, 1911.

"Referring to your letter of the 12th inst.—Please be advised that June 29th, 1909, was the date on which this club was organized and elected its officers, as shown on its minutes."

In an article in THE ROTARIAN of March 1917, entitled "Los Angeles Club No. 5" also written by Will Stephens, appeared the sentence "The Charter of the Club is dated June 29th, 1909."

The files of the Los Angeles Club do not contain a copy of the minutes of the organizational meeting to which Will referred in his letter of April 17th, 1911, nor does it contain a copy of Will's letter of that date. There is no copy of the charter to be found, either.

Some time after Will Stephens passed away, Tony O. Babb, secretary of the Los Angeles Club during the year Stephens was president, presented to the historical committee a small collection of rosters and pamphlets of the early period of Rotary, and which had been given to him by Stephens. In this lot there was what might be called a "mock up" for a new booklet describing the Los Angeles Rotary Club and apparently intended for use in obtaining new members. This "mock up" was prepared either by ;H. C. Quick or Will Stephens, and the pages used to prepare the mock up were apparently taken from the "Bulletin of The Rotary Club of Los Angeles" and dated July, 1909. These pages most probably had been written by H. C. Quick, the club secretary at that time. One of the pages of this book states:

"The Rotary Club of Los Angeles was organized—on June 25th, 1909."

The information contained in the letters from Will Stephens to Rotary International and the information contained in the pamphlet, were submitted to the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Club at their meeting of December 16th, 1943, and in order to clarify the uncertainty, the Board passed a resolution adopting June 25th, 1909 as the date on which the club was organized. The following excerpt is from the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors:

 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16, 1943

 

"A request of the Historical Committee of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles for a decision by the Board of Directors on the question of the organization date of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles, which is printed on our roster and letterheads as of June 25, 1909, whereas correspondence during the administration of William Stephens gave the date as of June 29, 1909. On motion of Director Cannon, seconded by Director Miller, it was the opinion of the Board that inasmuch as the date of June 25, 1909 has been considered the organization and founding date of the Rotary Club-of Los Angeles for many years, that this date be not changed.

Immediately after the organization meeting, which was held at the Hollenbeck Hotel in June, 1909, a campaign for members was started. At that time the headquarters of the Rotary Club were installed in the office of the Travelers Insurance Company and H. C. Quick had a desk adjacent to one occupied by Charlie Bent, a charter member of the Los Angeles Rotary Club. Charlie had the opportunity of listening in to one side of many telephone conversations between Mr. Quick and prospective members. We are quoting Charlie’s own description of some of the selling talk used by Mr. Quick:

"Thus it was my lot to suffer this man's telephone selling talk to prospective Rotarians morning, noon and night! In other words, the charter membership of Los Angeles Rotary was born practically under my very nose! The selling talk ran something like this. 'Hello Mr. Jones, this is Mr. Quick, Secretary of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles. I am extending an invitation to you to become a member of our Club as the sole representative of your business in Los Angeles. By simply doing your trading with your fellow members, you will, within a few weeks, at our present rapid rate of growth, have more than 200 men as your valued customers. It's simply a case of you scratch their backs and they will scratch yours. Meet me next Friday noon, with your check for $5.00 initiation fee, and you will be welcomed as a full-fledged member and start at once receiving the patronage of new customers."

Friendliness and good fellowship prevailed in the new club from the beginning, but the unique purpose of the club was for the members to give and to influence business to, and to get business from, fellow members and persons influenced by them. It took direct issue with social clubs and other institutions wherein it was considered dishonorable or unethical to belong for business purposes. No such restraint existed in the Rotary Club. It was declared to be a business club and that it, therefore, was proper to join it for business purposes.

This was true in the Rotary Club of Los Angeles just as it was true in the Rotary Club of Chicago, as is evidenced by the excerpt from the letter written by Charlie Bent and from the statements of many other early members which will be quoted in part in the following pages. While the writer feels it was indeed a wise decision on the part of the early leaders of Rotary that the objects of the organization were later changed, for it is doubtful if it could have endured by working under such self-centered motives, he also feels that the early object of trading among the membership was responsible for the quick growth of the first clubs, and for that reason alone it was at least excusable.

In organizing the Rotary Club of San Francisco, Homer Wood claimed that it was not meant to be anything but a booster organization. This is set forth in a letter from him dated April 27th, 1938, from which we quote as follows:

"In the By=laws of the Chicago Club which I received in 1908, there- was a statement relative to the urging of members to patronize each other. In organizing the San Francisco Club I ignored this entirely. I felt that I could not get a club started in San Francisco with that idea. I avoided reading the Chicago By-laws at the organization banquet in order that that idea would not come up and would not be discussed. After a year, however, the San Francisco Club did go into the trade with each other idea the same as Chicago had previously. This idea perhaps helped to keep some clubs together for some time, but as you know it was taken out of all clubs a few years later."

As stated by Homer Wood, the San Francisco Club did go in for trade; likewise the Tri-City Rotary Club across the bay. H. J. (Bru) Brunnier of San Francisco told the writer that for- a time the Tri-City Rotary Club met more or less secretly owing to resentment which developed against a club whose main objective was to promote the business of the membership.

In the organization of the Los Angeles Club the "Trade with each other idea" was the principal argument used in gaining members. The following, taken from a letter written by Charles E. Carver, a charter member, quotes from a roster dated November, 1910, and from one dated July of the same year:

"As you of course know, the principal theme or spirit of the club, in its earlier days were "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." In other words, each one was to throw all the business he could to the other members. Nearly every occupation being covered that pretty well took care of the wants of everybody."

In the foreword in the November, 1910 directory or roster is this statement:

O B J E C T S:

"The promotion of the business interests of its members.

To advance loyalty, good fellowship and sociability among its members.

To further the best interest of Los Angeles and the Pacific Coast, and to spread civic pride."

In the foreword of the July, 1910, directory, or roster, is the following:

"Here is a club differing from any you have ever joined or heard of, a club so unique, so unusual, that those on the outside want to get in and those on the inside, once within the portals, are anxious to remain.

Other clubs frown upon any effort on the part of members to use the club as a means for securing business; but the rule they make in that respect is more often lived up to in the breach than in the observance.

What is done sub-rosa in other clubs is here done openly, a part and parcel of the club's work, one of the reasons for its very existence. Rotary Club says frankly and plainly, cultivate your fellow members and use them to get business from; they in turn to do the same with you. It goes even further. It says, influence all the business of your friends and acquaintances that you can for the benefit of your fellow members. The spirit of reciprocity is strong in Rotary."

We quote also from a letter from Dr. Edward S. Merrill, dated October 1st, 1937, who, while not a charter member, came into the Club during 1909:

"You can't saw wood with a hammer."

"It's worthwhile to be a booster."

"Help boost the membership roll up to 500. You will then have 499 boosters working for your business interests."

These from the March, 1910, Directory of Rotary Club No. 5.

"Do you see the 'cash register' idea? That's the basis of which membership was sold to the then members of the Club. Now with our superior (more adult) ideas of ethics, we decry any cash register thought of profit in Rotary except as acquaintance breeds friendship, friendship breeds confidence and confidence breeds business. We have added a couple of steps in between membership and profit."

"It's very interesting to know that the early office secretary received his salary by a commission on the membership fee."

"Social development of the Club was aided by campaign after campaign of putting fences around the name Rotary, of attempts to define the central theme, along with the almost weekly reports and prizes given for the largest amount of business thrown to another Rotarian with a constructive effort to tell just what Rotary meant."

"Los Angeles was smaller then, one quarter of its size now, and the camaraderie and enthusiasm of a rapidly growing city carried through the activities of our Rotary Club.

"There were many new ventures, social and physical, for I got my first automobile, a two-cylinder Maxwell, about the time I came into Rotary. Dick Ferris, under the head of Aviation and Amusement, showed us our first airplane at the Dominguez Air Field and the longest flight in the world's history when Louis Paulhan flew to Pasadena and back. 

"Many men who have markedly influenced the growth and reputation of Club No. 5 were then getting their start. Walton Wood, our fourth president, coming from San Francisco, was beginning to climb the legal stairs which finally placed him in his present exalted position. Allin Rhodes was developing the Title Abstract and Trust Company, which is still growing, even though Allin left us this last year. Dudley Dorman, under the classification of 'Butter', left behind him Creameries of America."

"We watched the growth of the Hill Chemical Company and have seen the mantle of Charlie, as past president, fall to the shoulders of a son, Beverly. We have seen Silverwood's win with a triple play from Shaw to Nagle to Rebard to Gregg Layne. The hotel man, John S. Mitchell, has gone but left his son, Stan, who is Secretary of the Southern California Automobile Club. Of the insurance men Charlie Carver and Charlie Bent are still carrying the load, and Irwin Muma, first President of our Club, and Will Stephens, second Secretary and later President, are no longer here but leave glorious memories. We have seen Bob Hutcheson make an outstanding company of E. K. Wood Lumber concern, and Oswald Granicher carrying the Boston Optical Company on his shoulders. To Doc Traughber, a tribute, not only from his patients but from me, for he moved over in his classification and invited me into Rotary. The exigencies of business have left in Club No. 5 only four per cent of the original group and this is only 1 1/2 per cent of the present club. Tempus fugit!"

The following is from a statement by charter member, Dr. W. F. Traughber:

"Piled high at each plate at all of our luncheons was literature and advertising specialties of all kinds. These had to be cleared from the tables often before there was room for food. Members were urged to trade with fellow members. It was like a clearinghouse for business deals. Even the President of the Club not only urged that, with everything else being equal, we trade with our own members. He would often announce how many Rotarians he had patronized during the week and had others make similar announcements. On several occasions some one would announce that he had just completed a house and that all the material bought was from Rotarians and all the subcontracts were let to Rotarians.

Members were urged to visit the places of business of each other and to report at some future luncheon giving the man or his firm a boost. We often had our luncheons at the place of business of some firm and after lunch were shown through the plant. Special introductory contests were often held and the man voted making the best speech, and the man he introduced, would be given a week of free advertising; and every member was not only expected to visit the places of business of the two, but was urged to patronize them when possible.

Much time each week was spent in getting acquainted, so that practically every member knew every other member and his business. When we had Ladies' Day, we loaded down all the women present with prizes and gifts of all kinds."

Oswald Granicher, who became a member in 1909, stated:

"It was in the fall of 1909 on my return from a month's vacation that my partner told me of a new club called Rotary that had been organized to which we were invited, indeed urged to join. The idea was to meet at luncheon, boost each others' business and enjoy a pleasant and social gathering. I suppose there must have been 'something in it' for him as the promoter was both zealous and proficient."

What attracted me primarily was the fine class of fellows that I met at the meeting so I 'joined up'. An old stub shows that I drew a check for $3.00 in favor of H. C. Quick as dues to the Rotary Club for October, November, 1909. Since that I have paid several! I do not recall the exact nature of our programs, but it was always a feature to tell how much business and how many Rotarians we had patronized. It was always perfectly proper to display samples and to advertise in any way possible. Frequently meetings were held in stores or manufacturing planes of members. Sometimes the luncheons were composed of the various products donated by members, including liquid refreshments both as to quantity and quality. Opportunity was frequently given to tell about your own business or to boost some fellow member. Ladies were often invited and many prizes donated, so with good eats and drinks "a good time was had by all'

Changes came gradually, but always toward higher and better ideals like a plane reaching toward the sunshine. I remember well the meeting (it would be fine if the exact minutes were available) when the line of cleavage between the commercial and ideal was clearly drawn and definitely crossed. It was a matter that a vote of the club settled and I well remember my keen satisfaction at the outcome

All of the above letters are set down here for their historical interest and for the purpose of indicating the type of meetings of the early days of the Los Angeles Rotary Club. All are in practical agreement on the trading idea, and some bring out that the promotional Secretary, H. C. Quick, received his compensation from the membership entrance fees.

PORTERVILLE EVENING RECORDER

PORTERVILLE, CALIFORNIA September 27, 1943 Mr. A. J. Lynch 2424-30 Enterprise St. Los Angeles, Calif. Dear Rotarian Art:

Accept my thanks for your kind favor relative to history of the Los Angeles Rotary Club in its early days.

I am very glad that you sent a copy to Bru Brunnier of San Francisco as well as Arthur Holman.

As to your work in this history and references to other clubs on the Pacific Coast, I feel quite sure that you have made it as accurate as possible.

I thank you sincerely for your very good work in this matter. I trust also that all the members of your club will feel grateful and appreciative.

Rotarily Yours.

Homer W. Wood

HWW:RM