The 31st Convention

The 31st Convention
Habana, Cuba June 9-14 with 3,713 in attendance.
Walter D. Head of Teaneck, NJ, USA was the President and Armando De Arruda Pereira, of Sao Paulo, Brazil was president elect.

The last paragraph of RIP Walter D. Head's article in the July, 1939, issue of the Rotarian reads thusly, I do not like slogans, but if I were to express my hope and aim for the coming year, it would be: Every Rotarian a living example of Rotary principles in action.

Rotary Club of Havana was the first Non-English speaking club in Rotary, formed in 1915, during the Rotary presidency of Minneapolis Rotarian, Allen D. Albert. The international convention was held in that city June 9-14, 1940 with 3,713 registered. Below is a collection of stamps, signed by Rotarians from Chicago and other cities, including president Walter and president elect Armando and and editor of The Rotarian Magazine.
As part of their appreciation in being allowed to host the 1940 International Convention, the Cuban government issued stampsin honor of the convention, and hoped that delegates would use them to write home.

Havana stamp (and hotel postcard) collection, courtesy of Wolfgang Ziegler

The Officers and Directors Rotary International for 1939 - 1940Havana Convention
1940 RI president Walter D. Head's signature is in the center of these stamps General
Secretary Ches Perry and RI President Elect Pereira hold
in informal conference Convention Stamp signed by A. de A. Pereira,
"Future - Past Pres" of RI, S. Paulo Brazil
Gifts from Havana Rotarians.Leland D. Case, Editor ofThe Rotarian 1935 - 1950
H. W. Hines of Chicago #1Chicago #1 signature

Chicago #1 signatureRotary Headquarters hotel
Our complete history of Rotary in Cuba
From the collection Dr. Wolfgang Ziegler
History of Rotary on Stamps Fellowship
The Convention of 1940 was held between June 9th and 13th in the temporary haven of peace and tranquility in Havana. Initially, the Convention was scheduled for Rio de Janeiro but the outbreak of war ended that plan. An inevitable low turnout of 3,719 registered representing 2,686 Clubs. The main Convention Hall was the Centro Asturiano.

Carlos Manuel Calvet, President of the Havana Rotary Club welcomed all to Cuba. Fredrico Laredo Bru, the President of Cuba was also present to greet Rotarian guests.

Again, there was the loss of many Rotary Clubs. Spain's 24 and 39 Czech clubs officially ceased to function. The Clubs in Holland, Belgium, Norway and Denmark had not been in contact - little was known - and regretfully it was assumed they also had ceased to function.

Paul Harris did not travel to Cuba due to ill health and his message was read out by Guy Gundaker. Harris referred yet again to Burns' poem A Man's A Man For A' That - a poem whose subject is the brotherhood of man.

Future RI President Tom Warren spoke to the Convention about his home town of Wolverhampton. His Club had called a meeting 2 days after the War broke out. There was a debate as to whether Rotary should carry on but the feeling was positive that 'we should adapt our program to the changing circumstances'. War did affect the Rotary program as no night meetings could function due to the blackout. Vocational Service took on new meaning due to War.

Community Service concentrated on the refugees from the Eastern seas. Rotary acted as foster fathers to children who lost their own fathers. Warren was, also, Chairman of the newly established nominating committee for President. The committee would choose the Brazilian Armando de Arrudo Pereira. Fluent in five languages, he had, as district governor (District 72), increased Brazil's Rotary Clubs by 15. Pereira was a friend of Paul Harris and had translated his book 'This Rotarian Age' into Portuguese. As Clubs in Europe disappeared, Rotary in South America began to expand at gigantic rates.

The Board of Directors conceived a document entitled 'Rotary Amid World Conflict'. This stated the official view: "It is outside the competence of the board of Rotary International to instruct Rotarians as to their duties as citizens of their respective countries". But the Board went on to conclude that Rotary can't exist where human rights don't exist. 

Secretary Chesley Perry who had indicated a desire to retire rescinded that decision and vowed to carry on. Many of the British Rotarians viewed the old secretary as an obstacle to RI taking a more active and decisive role in this second World War. 

However, almost all could agree that refugees were Rotarians main priority and all Rotarians everywhere could help in this area.

Calum Thomson

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