February 26, 2013
Vol. 100, No. 35
Rotary Club of Beaumont: “A Progressive Organization” 100th Anniversary Rotarygrams The 75th Anniversary Rotarygrams, published February 26, 1988, told the story “How Rotary Came to Beaumont,” when Robert Cornell, president of the Houston Rotary Club, and R. Stanley, Rotary International Vice President, came to town on February 26, 1913 and presided over the organization of the Beaumont club at the Crosby Hotel.
Founding members included Charles Emmer, Beaumont Telephone Company, Marshall Muse, Rosenthal Dry Goods, Will Keith, Keith Drug Company, Marshall Walker, Beaumont Gas Company, Jim Mapes, Beaumont Enterprise, Jim Edwards, Insurance & Real Estate, and Ed Emerson, Beaumont Electric Light &
Power. Emerson, born in Baltimore and reared in Boston, worked for Stone & Webster, a Boston holding company that sent him to Texas in 1911 to operate Beaumont Electric Light & Power Company. He was elected president of the new Rotary club and served two terms, presiding over the Second Anniversary in 1915. On February 24, 1915, the Beaumont Enterprise published the “Rotary Club Birthday” story, reporting that the Club headed by President Emerson would celebrate its second anniversary on Friday night, February 26, with a banquet at the Crosby Hotel and a dance at the Neches Club. The party would also celebrate the tenth anniversary of the first Rotary club, the one founded February 23, 1905 in Chicago. For the Beaumont club, a celebration committee headed by Tom J. Lamb and including Marshall Muse, Peter Bihn, and Rupert Cox announced that Emmett Lennon, a well-known Houston singer, would perform at the Neches Club, which was located on the fourth floor of the Kyle Opera House. The Enterprise noted that the local club had grown to a membership of 114 business men, each representing a separate industry or profession. The Club was growing rapidly as was the city. Since the spectacular Spindletop oil discovery in 1901, the town’s population had grown from 9,000 to well over 20,000. An economy based on lumber, rice, and railroads had been transformed by oil
production and refining. Now, 600 men worked in the Magnolia Refinery, 350 in the Spindletop oil field, 85 for Gulf Pipe Line, 265 in iron working shops, and over 400 on the railroads. The city boasted two newspapers – Beaumont Enterprise and Beaumont Journal – and four banks – American National, Commercial National, First National, and Gulf National. There were ten public schools, seven for white children and three for colored children; and more than thirty churches, white and colored. Numerous civic, cultural, and social groups included the YMCA, Women’s Reading Club, Shakespeare Club, Daughters of the American Revolution, Beaumont Musical Society, Knights of Columbus, Beaumont Country Club, and Beaumont Chamber of Commerce. Community leaders included County Judge Robert W. Wilson, Mayor Emmett Fletcher, and Chamber President J. J. Nathan. The Chamber worked hard to promote regional economic development, praising local business and industry – lumber, rice, railroads, and oil -- and reporting about a new dredging project on the Neches River to develop Beaumont as a deep water port. “Beaumont is the logical … gateway for commerce created by these industries,” the Chamber declared, “and is surely destined to become a great inland port and important gateway for commerce, not only for our immediate territory, but for entire Southwest.”
As Beaumont was changing, so was the Rotary Club, growing in membership and expanding its mission. Like Paul Harris and the founders of the Chicago club, founders of the Beaumont club probably aimed first at self-interest, that is, to promote their own businesses. But like Paul Harris and his fellow Rotarians in Chicago, Ed Emerson and Beaumont Rotarians soon amended their program to include ethics and public service. Emerson, who also served as president of the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce and the Beaumont Country Club, became a spokesman for service ideals in the new Rotary Club. “Selfishness has no place in Rotary,” he said in 1915. We are working for “the up building of Beaumont and its great future,” and believe “that every man owes an obligation to his generation and to his community. “ Paul Harris, Ed Emerson, and other Rotarians who founded clubs and championed public service were part of the Progressive Era (18901917), a period of national reform which has been covered by numerous historians including John W. Chambers, II, author of The Tyranny of Change: America in the Progressive Era, 1900-1917 (1980). Americans all across the nation strived to solve problems arising from industrialization, immigration, and urbanization, problems including corruption in business and government, crime, poverty, overcrowding, disease, child labor, prostitution, and alcoholism. Chicago, the birth place of Rotary, was notorious for crime, corruption, and prostitution, as depicted by muckraker Upton Sinclair in his novel, The Jungle (1906), which described the filth and terrible working conditions in a Chicago meat packing plant, and as portrayed by the poet Carl Sandburg in his poem Chicago (1914), when he pointed to the “painted women … luring the farm boys,” the gunmen who “kill and go free to kill again,” and the faces of “women and children” who suffer from “wanton hunger.” At the same
time, Sandburg praised the energy and power of Chicago, “half–naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.” During the Progressive Era, Americans were optimistic. They believed in a better world and the ability of people to achieve it. Energized with collective action, they worked to solve problems and reform the nation. Political officials, business people, professionals, and volunteers attacked myriad problems. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson initiated anti-trust litigation against corporations, expanded national parks, and supported legislation for regulation of business and industry. Congress passed laws requiring safety in food and drugs, outlawing interstate transportation of prostitutes, regulating the banking and monetary systems, prohibiting unfair trade practices, providing federal funds for state highways, limiting medicinal use of narcotics, and restricting child labor. American voters approved constitutional amendments for a federal income tax, direct election of senators, women’s suffrage, and prohibition of alcohol. States initiated
workers compensation programs and adopted democratic reforms for the initiative, referendum, and recall. Doctors organized the American Medical Association, teachers the National Education Association, workers the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, farmers the National Farm Bureau Federation, social workers the National Federation of Settlements, black and white people the National Association for Advancement of Colored People, businessmen the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, and women the National Consumers League, Women’s Trade Union League, and National Child Labor Committee. Volunteers organized the Anti-Saloon League, YMCA, YWCA, Camp Fire Girls, Boy Scouts of America, and settlement houses for immigrant families, such as Jane Addams’ Hull House in Chicago. Chambers and other historians do not mention Rotary as a manifestation of the Progressive Era, but probably the organization does qualify, as it was founded “center stage” in Chicago in 1905, and was an energetic fellowship of businessmen who soon adopted a progressive agenda of public service. Not long after its founding, Rotary developed numerous
clubs across the nation, having more than 70 by 1913 when the Beaumont club was organized. In 1907 Chicago Rotarians led a campaign to install public restrooms on city streets, and later, many clubs sponsored public service projects in their communities. Rotarians in Beaumont helped develop Central Park, donated dental equipment to a charity hospital, and in 1919 provided leadership for the organization of the Trinity-Neches Council for the Boy Scouts of America program. Here, in a community service partnership, Beaumont Rotarians led by member J. Cooke Wilson helped advance the Boy Scout program with its progressive ideals of character, citizenship, and personal fitness. In March 1922, Beaumont Rotarians answered a call for community service. They rallied to support fellow Rotarian B. A. Steinhagen, mayor of the city, when Beaumont suffered an outbreak of violence by the Ku Klux Klan, when Klan members beat, tarred, and feathered two men, one white and one black, and threatened to dynamite Blessed Sacrament, a black Catholic Church. Mayor Steinhagen denounced the mob action and Rotarians followed suit. At their regular meeting in the Crosby Hotel on Wednesday, March 22nd, Rotarians passed a resolution condemning the Klan violence, and the next day joined other business and professional men to sign a petition demanding enforcement of the law and protection of the constitutional rights of all citizens. Signers of the petition included Rotarians Judge Stuart Smith, T. V. Smelker, J. Cooke Wilson, and L. Paul Tullos, along with other civic leaders such as J. H. Phelan, B. R. Norvell, Marrs McClean, J. E. Broussard, Leo Ney, W. F. Keith, W. D. Gordon, and J. S. Maida. From the beginning, the Beaumont Rotary Club prospered, growing in membership, benefitting by strong leadership, and carrying out numerous community service projects. Having
more than 100 members in 1915, club membership reached 200 in 1937, and 350 in 1973, when the club qualified for “large club” status. Beginning with founding President Ed Emerson, the club has been led by one hundred presidents, men and women, diverse in culture and religion, prominent in business and profession, and notable for civic leadership. They include oil investors, real estate owners, retailers, agents, brokers, auto dealers, printers, contractors, publishers, ministers, rabbis, architects, lawyers, accountants, professors, corporate officials, plant managers, manufacturers, city officials, and bankers. Especially noteworthy was banker and civic leader John E. Gray, who served as Rotary president for 1952-1953.
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Over the years, the Rotary Club sponsored numerous community service projects including a Back to School Program, Student Loan Fund, Babe Zaharias Women’s Professional Golf Tournament, and Arbor Day, a beautification program planting oak trees in city parks and the Lamar University campus. The Club supported development of the Family Violence Center, a jogging tract and playground equipment at Babe Zaharias Park, wheelchair ramps in downtown Beaumont, Jacob’s neighborhood park, Wuthering
Heights Park, Tyrrell Historical Library, and a greenhouse for patients at Schlesinger’s Geriatric Center. For a number of years, the Club sponsored Camp Enterprise, a three day retreat where Rotarians and high school students discussed the ideals and realities of the Free Enterprise system. In a major project to celebrate the historic role of Beaumont in the Texas oil industry, the Club joined with the Lucas Gusher Association, city of Beaumont, Lamar University, and the Chiles-Western Company Oil Museum of Fort Worth to develop the Texas Energy Museum in downtown Beaumont. And, to help fund community service projects, President Ken Ruddy and other club members created the Beaumont Rotary Foundation in 1973, an account that reached almost $200,000 by 1988, and currently over $400,000. With these projects and others such as Nicaraguan layettes for newborns and mothers, an expansive literacy project providing a personalized book for every first grade student in Beaumont for many years, a generous college scholarship program for multiple recipients, and the necessary Foundation funding, the Club strives to fulfill its mission of service to the community. Ed Emerson, a spokesman for Progressive and Rotary ideals, died not long after completing his two terms as club president, and did not have the pleasure of seeing the national and international development of Rotary. Now Rotary International has more than 33,000 clubs and 1.2 million members worldwide, as well as a variety of national and international service programs including Interact, Polio Plus, Rotary Youth Exchange, Rotary Youth Leadership, Rotary Centers for International Studies, Rotary Literacy Programs, RYLA, Rotaract, and Rotary Community Corps. Nor did Emerson live to see the official adoption of Rotary ideals about business ethics and community service, including “the four objects of Rotary – acquaintance as an
opportunity for service, high ethical standards in business and professions, service ideals in personal, business, and community life; and a world fellowship in business and professions for advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace.” He also missed seeing the publication of Rotary’s pledges of “Service above self” and the “Four Way Test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? “Here, in business ethics and human relations, Rotary reached for high ideals: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Many Beaumont Rotarians, including banker John Gray, strived to fulfill the community service ideals of Rotary. Former president of Lamar College, Gray served as president and CEO of First National Bank in Beaumont during 1959-1972. As president of the largest bank, a locally owned institution, Gray became the town’s number one civic leader. He exemplified the Rotary objective about “development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service,” when his memberships in Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce provided networks of friends and associates with whom he worked on numerous civic projects. Also, extremely valuable as a network of acquaintances was the Board of Directors at First National Bank, a group of twenty-eight persons who owned the bank and had much influence and power in the town. In1960, the twenty-eight bank directors included eighteen Rotarians, men with whom he shared business and civic interests and who he saw every Wednesday at Rotary. These Rotarians included H. E. Dishman, Oil Operator; Lum C. Edwards, J. S. Edwards & Co.; Roy Maness, Gulf Supply; L. W. Pitts, Architect; D. C. Procter, Jefferson Drug; A. E. Shepherd, Shepherd Laundries; E. Harvey Steinhagen, Investments; Ewell Strong, Attorney; L. E. Cranston, manager of the Mobil Oil
refinery; and Roy C. Nelson, president of Gulf States Utilities, the only New York stock exchange company headquartered in Beaumont. With these remarkable networks of acquaintances – Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, and First National Bank board -- Gray worked to build the bank and advance the financial and civic interests of his customers and associates. But also, he strived to fulfill Rotary’s “ideal of service” to his community, and to answer the Ed Emerson’s challenge that “every man owes an obligation to his generation and to his community.” Over the years, Gray provided critical leadership for United Appeals, Beaumont Port Commission, St. Elizabeth Hospital, McFaddin- Ward House Museum, Trinity-Neches Boy Scouts Council, Neches River Festival, Babe Zaharias Memorial, YMCA, U. S. Savings Bonds, Beaumont Roughnecks, Lamar College, and Jefferson County Navigation District; he also served four years as chairman of the very important state-wide Coordinating Board for Texas colleges and universities. While many applauded Gray’s leadership on numerous public service projects, some Beaumonters also credited him with high ideals. Lawyer Robert Keith once remarked, “I doubt 5% of Gray’s efforts were motivated by personal gain.” Likewise for lawyer Jerry Nathan, former Rotary president who served on the First National board, remembers Gray as “a very humble man” who “had no hidden personal agenda and was genuinely interested in improving every facet of community life.” In Nathan’s eyes, Gray personified the Rotary motto: “Service above self.” In terms of Rotary ideals, and in response to the evolution of civil rights in America, the Beaumont Rotary Club amended its membership practices with respect to race and gender. In 1972 the Club welcomed its first African American members, Joe E. Bryant, Jr., principal of Odom Junior High School, and Elmo R.
Willard III, civil rights attorney; and in 1987, the Club admitted its first female member, Margaret Cherb, longtime executive director of the Club. Numerous African Americans and women have been members of the Club and have served in various leadership positions. Kevin J. Roy was elected president in 2009, Lois Ann Stanton in 1997, Maurine Gray, 2004, Angela Baker, 2007, Roberta Applegate, 2010, and Becky Mason, 2012. President Mason is working hard to carry out a two-fold mission: celebrate the Centennial of the Club and answer the call of President Emerson to “help with the up building of Beaumont and its great future.”
Moving Around by Jay Johnson (1988) Each week when the members of Beaumont Rotary gather for their meeting in the Beaumont Hilton, it seem so natural to greet fellow members in front of the button boards before going into the International Ballroom for luncheon, fellowship and program. Even the newest redbuttoned members emerges from his or her orientation session understanding that each week Rotary meets on Wednesday noon at the Hilton. But it has always not been so in our seventy-five year history, we have moved five times always seeking comfortable meeting places for our growing membership. When the seven original members first met at the Crosby House in February of 1913, the meeting room was not given any special name. By the end of the decade, however, it was the Pershing Room which hosted the weekly meetings of Rotary even as the
members resolved to urge the city to build a larger hotel. But for almost ten years regular Rotary meetings were held in the Crosby House, the premier hotel of the boom and post-boom days in Beaumont. But it could get crowded, when, even after the Great War in 1919, one meeting had to be put off so the Savings Stamp Committee could meet on important “war time” business. While in the happy days before the war Rotary met with a rather loose commitment to the word regular, special arrangements put summer night meetings on a river excursion with music and dancing, or on other festive moments as in the summer of 1914 the meeting moved to the Country Club and was followed by two innings of baseball. That must have been a great summer, because the very next week the club meeting moved to the Imperial Theater for a box lunch and movie. While Germany was moving to march on Russia, it did not seem to bother Rotary. Any visitor trying to find the meeting place the following week would have to go down to the river when the club members and their wives went fishing and ended the evening with a barbecue and watermelon feast. In retrospect this was America’s last summer of innocence and the young Rotary Club of Beaumont was in the spirit of the day. Perhaps it is in the nature of younger clubs, or a characteristic derived from the informality of their small number and closer fellowship, but in the earliest years it was often a question of “if” more than “where” meetings were held. In May of 1915 meetings were not held for two weeks so members could prepare for the minstrel show. A year later the meeting was suspended in respect for the death of the club’s first president, Ed Emerson. Even the city closed down Rotary meetings, along with movies, war worker meetings, and the Chamber of Commerce, during the Influenza Ban which was lifted on November 3, 1918. Peace, prosperity and normalcy turned the corner when the quarter-
million dollar hotel, that Rotary supported by resolution in 1916, opened in the Hotel Beaumont opened in 1922. The beautiful Rose Room of the hotel, in the very heart of the city was the meeting place for Beaumont Rotary from that opening day in 1922 to the sad departure in August, 1966. For forty-four years Rotary and the Rose Room of the Hotel Beaumont lived together – through a second oil boom with Frank Yount – through depression days that gave birth to the club’s unique whistle tradition – through a second world war, local riot and martial law, the atomic age and Korea. It all seemed so permanent. Only after the commercial life of the expanded city moved to the new shopping centers beyond the drive-in movies, only then Rotary moved the “down town club” north to the new Ridgewood Motor Hotel on the city’s super highway IH-10. Now here indeed was the comfort of driving access and convenient parking. Why there were even tables equipped with special receivers for older members with a hearing problem. Other members were not lucky enough to not have to hear everything the speakers wanted to say about inflation, and socialism’s path to communism. The club had visited the Rose Room for a great Sixtieth Anniversary program and birthday cake in February of 1973 but the move to the Ridgewood on August 24, 1966, lasted until September 1, 1971. When the Beaumont Rotary Club moved to the Red Carpet Inn, the progress of IH-10 led the way west and there was even room to drive “General Ken Ruddy’s Swan Song jeep” right through the double doors at the service entry end of the expanded dining room (at this point nearly asphyxiating the entire club). Ironically this fourth Rotary “home” was subject to change on Ash Wednesday – March 24, 1982. The Red carpet had burned; the Rotary Office had burned. Photographs of all the past presidents were destroyed along with
much of the club’s records. Rotarians and Margaret recovered the wet and smoking remains and moved them to the Petroleum Building where President Joe Bob Kinsel, Jr. arranged new offices. It was the first and only time since 1936 when President Fuzzy Roane opened our first office in Hotel Beaumont, that our Rotary office was not located in the hotel where we held our weekly meetings. In the meantime, Rotarians, like victims of the hurricanes, took refuge in the most available public facility. In this case the city had recently built a new Civic Center and for a brief three months with catered meals, the club “camped out” three blocks from the old Rose Room while leadership negotiated with the management of the recently opened Sheraton Hotel. When the Rotary Club moved into the Sheraton Hotel, it was June 30, 1982. After two years and five months the club moved out. That brought the club’s last, or at least most recent, move to the Beaumont Hilton’s International Ballroom. The Rotary Office was moved to the mezzanine of the hotel where new and recently expanded offices had space enough for an assistant to Margaret, a position ably filled by Mrs. J Culbertson. On Friday evening, February 26, 1988, when Rotarians gather at the Hilton to celebrate their 75th birthday they will need to be alert. Perhaps, just perhaps, lurking in the shadows of the ballroom will be Rotarians from earlier days, old friends who just came from the Crosby or the Hotel Beaumont, or the Ridgewood, Red Carpet, or Sheraton, former comrades of Rotary who come to wish us well.
… and for the rest of the story: The biggest change in the last quarter century, as far as the location of Rotary meetings and office locations, related to the change of name syndrome – an economic and social phenomenon that touched many
banks, many times, with some deletions and a few additions. Regarding the Beaumont Hilton, the name changed to MCM Elegante' Hotel. There, through the remainder of the Club’s first century, remained the location of weekly meetings and the club offices.
Beaumont Rotary Foundation by S.L. Greenberg (2013) The Beaumont Rotary Foundation was organized in 1973 and was the result of efforts of then Rotarians Ken Ruddy, Peter Wells, Tom Lamb, Elvis Mason, Mark Steinhagen and Robert Robertson. All of these men were past presidents of the Club and recognized the need for and the benefits that would derive from the creation of the foundation. One of the primary reasons for establishing the Foundation was to develop a reliable method of funding local community projects. It has become, in four decades, the Beaumont Rotary Club’s main source of funds for community service projects. On February 21, 1973, sixty years after the first meeting of Beaumont Rotary, Ken Ruddy met with Peter Wells to propose the idea of a foundation. Two days later, Wells submitted proposed articles of incorporation for the new organization. During the following summer of 1973 Ken Ruddy was named the first president of the Beaumont Rotary Foundation and after bylaws were composed by Ruddy, Steinhagen, Robertson and Wells. Then thereafter, Peter Wells was able to report to the Board that the Internal Revenue Service had approved the Foundation as a qualified charitable organization. The IRS application and various other
legal matters were handled by Well’s associate, John Quigley, a young lawyer who in five years joined the Rotary Club and in the next quarter century would be elected president of the Club. In the beginning years of the Foundation (1972-73), Bill Deevy was Projects Committee Chairman and he suggested the Club needed more continuity in its community service projects. Bill’s fund raising project that year was a tennis tournament at the Beaumont Country Club. A golf tournament was then added and this produced the Rotary Sports Invitational event, a pay-and-play affair with the proceeds going to the Foundation. This first fund raising event netted approximately $$5,000 for the Foundation. More recently contribution to the Foundation’s “Service Above Self” campaigns and the Club’s Flag Project have provided significantly to the Foundation. From its modest beginnings and the vision of its Rotarian founders the Foundation has grown through projects and event, regular donations and memorial contributions or special gifts with assets of over $400,000. The Foundation has already exceeded the dreams of its founders, having funded numerous community projects over the years. Our latest project, The Centennial Playground Project will have significant financial support from the Foundation. At the same time, the Foundation’s policy of transferring income realized on investments to the Club while maintaining and preserving the Foundation’s principal should insure that the Beaumont Rotary Foundation will continue to be in a strong position to support the Club’s service to the community well into its second century.
Club Service by Like the memory of an over active child, the history of the realities of “Club Service” in the first ten years of the Rotary Club of Beaumont, are lost in vague hints of what must have been and the evidence from later years. The oldest living members of the club were not yet born when the first seven members of the Club met in what would be, by the end of the decade, the Pershing Room of the Crosby House, Beaumont’s quality hotel near the Railroad Station. You may visit the location when you go the Rotary Fountain which the Club established in 1988. There were no badges to help identify members or tabulate the record of attendance. These “administrative” essentials were the responsibility of each member and for at least three years the rosters, as well as the minutes of meetings, were maintained in a small leather bound note book provided by the club secretary, Marshal Muse who was the proprietor of Rosenthal’s, a wonderful dry goods store on Pearl Street across from the old Post Office There must not have been too much organization since one of the president’s weekly duties was to announce who of the seven members would be the speaker at the next meeting. In three years, however many things were different. For one thing there were now over 115 members and by the end of Club’s first century there would be over 3200 men and women who were members of the Rotary Club of Beaumont, some for as many as seventy years and one for less than a week. To serve such a large and growing membership the men, and they were only men for the first half century, could wear a Rotary lapel pen. Until the great fire on Ash Wednesday in 1982, the Club office had a collection of old, and they were very large, pens. The efforts to keep members informed
were published in the Beaumont Enterprise in the first decade, perhaps because Jim Mapes was one of the original seven members and was the business manager of the paper. The development of a weekly bulletin of programs and events, which we came to call “Rotarygram” began in 1918, according to the clever article Bill Cable published in 1988’s collection. However, the volume number of the Rotarygram in 1924 claims twelve volumes and this suggests some publications might have started earlier. For years the “executive secretary” sat at a table in the Hotel Beaumont Rose Room. The Club had moved from the Crosby to new quarters in 1922. Perhaps Lorice Beular Thomas was checking attendance which was a rather strict obligation in the first seventy or even eighty years of the Club’s history. By the time the Club moved to the Ridgewood Motor Hotel the checking of attendance was done with three giant “button boards” wheeled into place for each meeting. If your button was on the board when Margaret Cherb checked, you were absent and by next week all the buttons were back on their respective boards for the next meeting. Young Rotary members know a different ritual as they come to the meeting, look for their name badge in one of four boxes and present it to the doorman, or doorwoman, to be scanned and recorded electronically. A hotel staff sets the stage with flags and banners, power-point presentations, and laser pointers emphasize items on two giant wall screens after the house light dim. Yes, the Club’s big brass bell still has to be carried in and out and dedicated volunteers have to put those ‘name buttons or badges” back in place for next week, but much of the “club service” (helping to make the meeting work) has been improved or at least computerized since those first day of Marshall Muse’s notebook. Now in the next century, perhaps we can train the speakers to use the
microphone on the speaker’s stand. At least President Jerry Nathan knew to stand on the wood box and speak into the microphone.
Rotary Professionals by Raymond Hawa (1988) If you have been a member of our Club for a decade or so, you might think Margaret Cherb, our Executive Director-Secretary-Fellow Rotarian, has always been in charge. No so; before Margaret was Lorice. Lorice Beular Thomas. In 1954, when I was invited to join the Club, Lorice was in charge. In those days, things were different. We met in the Rose Room of Hotel Beaumont and our membership was made up men in their late forties and up – way up. Tobacco smoke always hung in the Rose Room and gray heads outnumbered all others by a wide margin. The Executive Secretary was much in demand as she is today. Lorice was one of those impeccably dressed career woman who knew everyone in Beaumont who WAS someone, and if you had an idea you would like to join Rotary you had better forget it unless you were known to this grand lady. I’m sure there were exceptions – but I never knew of one. Lorice was hired in 1947 by President Chick Dollinger on a half time basis, but soon she was working twelve hours a day. For twenty years she gave it her all. For two decades she guided the course of our Club, monitoring all lines of service – club, vocational, international and community. On Wednesdays Lorice was always at her “second” desk at the entrance to the Rose Room at the end of “Peacock Alley”, the long hallway leading to the room, by eleven thirty, making sure all was in order – checking with
the headwaiter, Simon, placing name cards at the head table, and taking care of a hundred other little things. Meals were served covered and hot and Lorice had special plate brought in and dined while the program was being presented. The Rotary Office was at 209 Hotel Beaumont on the mezzanine of the hotel, and it was as impeccable and organized as Lorice. I really believed she asked Rotarian Bob Schieble, the hotel manager, to change the carpet every time it had the slightest spot. During Lorice’s reign the inevitable happened. She and Rotarian John Thomas began having their lunch together at meetings. They fell in love and on October 28, 1964, were married. Rotarian The Reverend Charles Wyatt-Brown tied the knot. Lorice kept secretarying until she decided it was later than you think and decided to retire … That’s when Rotarian Jack Dahmer stepped up and told us about his sister-in-law in Dallas who wanted to move to Beaumont and who might be, just maybe, what Lorice had been to the Club. And so Margaret Cherb came to Beaumont. On February 1, 1967, President J. O. Crooke made the right decision and we got Margaret – wideeyed, enthusiastic and determined to be every bit as good –if not better – than the only previous Executive Secretary the Club ever had. If you thought she was going to be on the phone every hour asking Lorice what, hoe, and when, you were wrong. She was going to do it her way … and you all know the results …WOW! For over twenty years, Margaret has been the heart and soul of our Club. She has caused us to dream and dare, to grow and prosper. With Margaret’s help we are what we are, the rotary Club of Beaumont, one of the best anywhere. And Margaret, excuse me, Rotarian Margaret, is still a bubbly,
cooperative, and wise as the first day I met her in the Rotary office. Promoted to Executive Director in 1980 in the presidency of Jerry Nathan, Margaret became our first female member. What else could be more right and logical. Margaret knows more Rotary than Paul Harris and there’s no checking the book – it’s all from memory. And here we are celebrating 75 years of Beaumont Rotary – and in all those years, only 2 Executive Secretaries. Unfortunately Lorice is gone but thankfully Margaret is still with us. From all of us to both of you, we say … THANK YOU!
… and for the rest of the story: by Jay Johnson (2013) While the first thirty-four years of the Club’s first century were served and administered by the officermembers who were elected president or secretary, volunteer members donated time to the recording of minutes and retention of files for membership and project expenses. Then almost fifty years were served by two ladies: Lorice Thomas for twenty years and Margaret Cherb for the next twenty-nine years. The last quarter century’s administrative service, however, saw the Rotary Office in the hands of four different ladies: first there was Patricia Armentrout, her favorite Rotary name was “Tricia” and she held the office, after a four month overlap of training with Margaret, from August--1996 until November of 2001. Then the office was managed by Alexine Boutin from November 1, 2001 to mid-January of 2008. Both of these lady executives became members of the club about the same time they assumed the responsibilities of the office. Donna Qualls, however, was a full member of the club for over two years when she was selected to be Executive
Director in April of 2008. She managed the office for the next three years. And then the Club’s century concluded with the advent of Jacque Chapman who became our Executive Director on March 28, 2011. In last quarter century the office retained its location on the mezzanine of the Hilton Hotel but the name of the hotel was changed to The MCM Elegante’ Hotel. However, more than the name of the hotel had changed. The size of club membership had increased, there were increased duties brought to the office when administrative functions of the District Governor’s office were assumed, and a different work-world was developed as the Club went electronic, computers arrived and paper publications of the Rotarygrams changed to an Internet copy that members could read and print at home or office on personal computers. Not only the Rotarygrams came by e-mail but invoices for dues were also part of the “green” or paperless world. Many of these changes proved to be more economical in postage charges or future storage of what were shelves of bound volumes of early, and sometimes charred and water marked records. Part of the benefit of the “electronic office” was reflected in the annual operational budget which in the mid-1990’s was over $195,000 for all club activities and at the end of the club’s first century was almost $279,000. As the Club enters a second century of service, the value of the office staff to the successful operation of the Rotary Club of Beaumont also continues. The members of the Club are most grateful to the six talented ladies who have shared, shaped, and served the Club in the successes of this century of service and we repeat in a paraphrase the salute of Raymond Hawa: “From all of us to all of you, we say… THANK YOU!”