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This Rotarian Age by Paul Harris
1935 Book review in The Rotarian
Now, read the entire book online
Now in PDF for easier reading.
“Where shall I begin, please your Majesty” he asked.
“Begin at the beginning”, the king said, very gravely.
“And go on till you come to the end; then stop”
Harris begins his book with a quotation from Alice’s Adventures in
Wonderland, which I find very appropriate for Rotary History, too:
The expression “This Rotarian Age” stems from Mr. G. K. Chesterton
…whose references to Rotary have revealed no inclination to flatter, has on one occasion at least, referred to the present period of the world’s history as “this Rotarian age”.
The photo of “The 1905 Group – The Rotary Club of Chicago”
In the chapter “Genesis of Rotary” he describes the following Rotarians: Silvester Schiele, Gustavus and Hiram (for Gus and Hiram, not pictured, who soon left Rotary, he nevertheless found kind words)
"There was another of German parentage; Gustavus, a promoter. His personality challenged attention. His was a rare combination, the good in him easily out-weighing the bad. He was a stormy petrel, vehement, impetuous, imperative, domineering, in one breath; then calm docile and lovable in the next. He was always thought-compelling; his words were spoken with lightning-like rapidity, and with such force that men frequently stopped in the street to look at him. His educational advantage has been limited, but he English was classical. Where he found expression, was a quandary. Gus' membership was of brief duration. The feverish ups and downs of business resulted first in his resignation from membership, and a few years later in his Death. Requiescat in pace. Dear Gus, you rested little while here." PH
"Hiram, a merchant tailor who hailed from the state of Maine, was of the number. He was an agreeable fellow. He had never quite reconciled himself to life in a large city; in fact, through all the years his thoughts have constantly reverted to the state of his nativity. There he spends his summer vacations, and to the rock-ribbed state of Main he will eventually return to spend his remaining days.
Hiram, due to circumstances beyond his control, did not retain his membership in the club, though he has frequently manifested interest in the movement and shown that he cherishes the memory of the early days."
"There was Silvester, a coal dealer, our first president, he was of German parentage. His was a kindly nature and his face wont to light up with pleasure on meeting friends. He told interesting stories of his boyhood home on an Indiana farm, revealing the picture of a log cabin and family group around the fire place. He Told of the hardships of early life; for example, of the snow that used to pelt through he chinks in the roof of the attic in which he slept, forming miniature drifts upon the floor. He treasure the memory of those early days. Though his life in Chicago had been a struggle, he had managed to be helpful to the younger members of his family.
He had responded to his country's call in its time of need, serving in Cuba curing the Spanish-American war. Cleary he was eligible. Succeeding years have demonstrated the wisdom of the selection; Silvester fills a worthy place, and his life becomes increasingly useful with advancing years. He is the center of community activities and church work, the key man in charitable undertakings. Many young Men have him to thank for years of wise counsel. Many crippled children have him to thank for physical rehabilitation. To Silvester every human need is a command. His telephone rings night and day, but he is never too tired to respond although his health is not always the best, and he is very tired at times. During the early days of the depression, and until the charities in his part of the city were put on an organized basis, Sylvester's office was made to serve as a clearing-house, and many hundred needy were given relief.
While Sylvester's most manifest contribution to the common weal has been through community service, his contribution through vocational service, that is, in the management of his own business has been scarcely less commendable. His "turn over" among employees have always been negligible, though he has had many trying cases to deal with.
His foreman in Charge, who has been many years in Sylvester's service, never fails to avail himself of every opportunity to speak a good work of his boss. More than once he has told the writer that if anything ever happens to the "Old Man" to make it necessary to him to discontinue the management of the business, he will terminate his service, because he never could be satisfied to work for another after having worked so long for the "Old Man."
Sylvester's record in community service, vocational service, as a humanitarian, neighbor and friend, will stand a lot of beating, as the English put it. To put it in other words, it is a splendid exemplification of the doctrine of Rotary in action. In the very early days of rotary, Silvester sponsored the reading of papers on the respective vocations of the members. Was it the beginning of the Vocational service activity in Rotary? Perhaps not, but it certainly was in perfect keeping with the developments which came further on." PH
Ches Perry is not in the photo above, though still a member of Rotary Club of Chicago, he was the General Secretary of what was by now officially "Rotary International."
In the chapter “The Renaissance”, after describing the dreadful atmosphere in Chicago in those days at length, he writes:
"In such atmosphere, Rotary’s first public service was rendered. It consisted of initiating and promulgating the establishment of public comfort stations in Chicago. Of all the multitudinous undertakings of Rotary, the writer can not recall one more ambitious. Rotary’s first public undertaking resulted in the enrolment of every important civic organisation in the city of Chicago, and also the city and county administrations, in its support. For more than two years the battle against indifference, vested interests, and so forth continued until eventually Chicago’s first public comfort station was established on the north-eastern corner of Washington and LaSalle streets."
In the chapter “The Gods were Propitious” he writes:
"The fact that the gods were propitious was manifested one evening soon after the beginning of the renaissance, in the admission to membership in the Chicago club of two men who where to leave indelible imprint upon the movement. One of them, Chesley R. Perry, was a native of Chicago; the other, Arthur F. Sheldon, was a native of Michigan, who had come to Chicago after graduation from the University of Michigan, to take a position with a concern engaged in selling subscription books."
Paul Harris then describes these two men on eight pages.
In the last chapter “For a Neighbourly World” he describes the neighbourliness with Silvester:
"There is a path from “Comely Bank” to the home of Silvester, the first man to whom was breathed the first word of Rotary. It is a well worn path winding through the oak wood made fragrant in the spring by countless blossoms, and radiant in the autumn by blazing sumac.
This particular path has been showing the imprint of Schiele and Harris boots and shoes more than twenty years now." “Silvester took to himself a wife who could never outwear her welcome anywhere were she to try ever so hard. Jessie is a distinguished personage in her own right; President of the Illinois Board of Baptist Missions; President of the Women’s Department of the Chicago Federation of Churches; and twice President of the Women of Rotary. She is of Scotch extraction and Jean considers Scotch extraction second only to being out-and-out Scotch”.
Paul P. Harris
Prepared for Rotary History,
(member number five)
Harry, a printer, was number five. He measured up to every requirement, insofar as his business habits were concerned; he was reliable, punctual, and straight-forward; dishonesty was to him incomprehensible. The only question in the minds of the others was, "How does he stand in the point of fellowship?" He seemed cold, unemotional, and inexperienced in the ways of men. Harry had been raised raised on a farm in northern Michigan. He father had been an upright and religious man, whose weakness bed been his childish faith in all mankind. As a consequence, his cupboard was so frequently bare that the belief that man was created for the purpose of waging merciless warfare against poverty was deeply embedded in young Harry's mind.
“Bill, whose vocation is the real estate business, entered the charmed circle as number six. He was our first secretary.”
A manufacturer of folding organs, could not have been denied membership after one had glimpsed his twinkling eye and sensed his humour. He was our second president.”
“Rufus was a banker. The name Rufus was happily and most naturally changed to “Rough-house” in Rotary circles. The appropriateness of the change will be apparent to all who know Rufe as the most quiet and inoffensive gentleman imaginable. He is the treasurer of Rotary International, a position he held for a quarter of a century. His friends are legion”.
“There was Barney the undertaker. It required little imagination on the part of him who tagged Barney with the pseudonym, “Cupid” – he is such a roly-poly individual and his quiver is always full of arrows. When he lets them fly, they are very likely to reach their mark – the human heart.”
“Freddie is big, hale and hearty, and possesses a magnetic personality; his manifest geniality impresses even the passing stranger. Wherever he goes, he gets the best of everything. What does he give in return? Nothing, that he is conscious of. He is just himself – genial, kindly old Freddie, and he looks the part. He never learned how to be a gentleman; he didn’t need to; he was born that way”.
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