The Lindsay Rotary Club: 100 years of service

By Ian McKechnie

Rotarians Mike Puffer, Bernie Nickerson, and Adam Hayward in front of the Rotary wheel at the trailhead on Logie Street. Photo: Ian McKechnie.

Even if we aren’t Rotarians ourselves, many of us can trace some connection to the Lindsay Rotary Club, which this year marks its 100th anniversary.

We might have had a neighbour, friend, or relative in the club. Thousands have enjoyed lunch at Rotary’s annual Burger Day in Victoria Park. Most of us at one time or another will have had occasion to venture into the Lindsay Aquatorium, the Lindsay Public Library, or the Ross Memorial Hospital – all of which Rotary had a hand in contributing to when these facilities opened or underwent significant expansion in the 1970s. Rotary is part of who we are.

The international Rotary Club movement originated in 1905 with a lawyer from Chicago, Illinois, by the name of Paul Percy Harris (1868-1947). Members of that initial club met in each other’s place of business on a rotating basis; hence the name Rotary. Clubs soon sprang up around the world, with the one in Lindsay holding its first meeting on March 10, 1922, at the Benson House Hotel. A second Rotary Club in the area, that in Fenelon Falls, grew out of the Lindsay club and had its charter granted in 1944.

“At seven o’clock a number of cheerful songs were sung and the large meeting sat down to a splendid dinner,” reported the Lindsay Daily Post on March 11, 1922. “Every now and then the proceedings were brightened by songs either en masse or performed by quartettes, trios, duets, or solos as the needs might be.” Tobacco smoke surely wafted throughout the room as members listened to Rotarians from Oshawa, Peterborough, Toronto and Trenton wax eloquent about the aims of the organization.

L.V. O’Conner, a local judge, was elected as the club’s first president, and on March 17, the Lindsay Rotary Club held its first luncheon, also at the Benson House. Twenty-five public-spirited men joined as charter members and pledged to live up to the slogan, “He Profits Most Who Serves Best.” Two months later, the club celebrated Charter Night. Members gathered at the Legion and marched to the Canadian Pacific Railway station, where contingents of Rotarians from across the province were heartily welcomed to the community. In due course, everyone sat down to “a sumptuous banquet provided in a splendid manner by the Talent Workers of St. Andrew’s Church.”

It was the beginning of a century of service in which Lindsay Rotarians have been instrumental in improving the lives of their fellow citizens.

Under the leadership of Frank L. Weldon (1899-1985), Rotary joined forces with the Lindsay Kiwanis Club in the fall of 1931 to form the Lindsay Citizens’ Relief Association. Together, the two clubs ensured that no citizen went hungry or cold at the height of the Great Depression. In the summer of 1944, Rotary held a draw for a fully furnished four-bedroom cottage on Sturgeon Lake. Tickets were 50 cents each, and three could be purchased for a dollar. Proceeds went towards Rotary efforts to aid children with disabilities and war work.

Rotary’s efforts have expanded over the decades to encompass a wide range of public service initiatives. For Bruce Faulkner, who joined the club in 1965 and served two terms as its president, the most memorable might have been the building of the Lindsay Aquatorium. Rotary had been the driving force behind Lindsay’s first in-ground swimming pool, and when that outdoor facility needed replacing, Rotary joined forces with the Kinsman, Kiwanis and Lions clubs to raise money for the project. “The pool was paid for without debt and with no debenture,” Faulkner recalls.

Fundraising events under Rotary auspices were always popular, particularly the annual auctions. “We used to write to clubs around the world and ask them to send us crafts and memorabilia,” says former Rotarian Moti Tahiliani. “Dennis Sweeting (the longtime artistic director of Kawartha Summer Theatre) served as auctioneer for many years.”

Tahiliani joined Rotary around 1968, not long after he and his family immigrated to Canada from India. “Rotary members gave me a very warm welcome,” he remembers. Tahiliani served as president in 1992–93, and it was during his tenure that membership in the Lindsay Rotary Club reached a peak of 75 people. Tahiliani also welcomed the first women into local Rotary membership — something that  was initially met with controversy. “I was told that half the club would resign,” Tahiliani recalls.

Both Tahiliani and Faulkner agree that their adopted community would not be where it is today had it not been for the Rotary Club. “Rotary has done wonders in the world,” says Tahiliani, pointing to the organization’s ongoing support of children with special needs. “I don’t know what small towns would do without the service clubs,” adds Faulkner.

Said the Lindsay Daily Post in its coverage of that initial meeting of local Rotarians a century ago, “the general enthusiasm and good fellowship manifested was infectious and speaks well for Lindsay’s new Rotary Club.” The same appears to hold true 100 years later.

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