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Monday, May 2, 2016

Club finds history in documents

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Found in a briefcase, documents give brief glimpse of Rotary's past

The amount of information that is either lost or thrown away because it's assumed "everybody knows that" is amazing.

Howard Junker was surprised to find photos and a copy of what appears to be a report in a briefcase. The case was filled with Rotary papers and was passed on to him when he became club secretary.

While Rotary old-timers are probably familiar with the booklet, many other people, who know about Brazil, would find it interesting.

The label on the cover identifies the Brazil Club as "#658" and the first page is titled "Brazil Rotary July 4th Celebration".

The last page is an open letter to local Rotarians that begins, "On or thereabouts May 16, 1986, this document was compiled, printed and distributed to fellow members for their use and for Club records."

The booklet was compiled by Jack Stark, the 1975 president.

It contains newspaper articles from Brazil and Terre Haute about club activities.

It also contains a list of past presidents, 1957 (Dr. Timothy Weaver) through 1985 (Curt Gilbrecht), and a history of the local organization.

A brief summary of the 58-page document follows:

The Brazil Rotary Club began Feb. 26, 1936, as a Lion's Club; interesting in that a new Lion's Club was formed in Brazil in 2004.

Joseph D. Smith was the 1936 club president.

At this point, the club's history becomes a little fuzzy.

According to Stark's letter, "At some point in time, the records of our Club have either been misplaced, lost, or possibly destroyed." This would explain why Stark's history begins with the 1957 club president. It may also explain why the club is celebrating its 69th annual 4th of July Celebration in 2004 when simple math would indicate that, if Stark's history is correct, this should be the 68th celebration, if there was a Celebration in 1936.

Club members would agree that the date of the first Fourth of July Celebration is not as important as the fact that all the money raised is distributed to local charities. In 2003, that amount was about $28,000, money that would be sorely missed if the Brazil Rotary Club did not lead the city's Fourth of July Independence Day Celebration. The Brazil Times archives appear to be incomplete and I could not find a copy of newspapers for the year 1935 or 1936 in the newspaper's microfilm library.

Shortly after the 1936 Lion's Club was formed, members chose to withdraw from Lion's International and become an independent club, called the Brazil Service Club.

On Oct. 20, 1937, the club became affiliated with Rotary International and was chartered as a Rotary Club on Dec. 8, 1937.

Probably the most newsworthy event (other than the club's formation) was a visit by a foreign dignitary.

Rotary International President Armando de Arruda Periera of Sao Paulo, Brazil, South America visited the Brazil, Ind., club on Feb. 12, 1941 (some 10 months before Pearl Harbor!)

More than 600 persons attended the banquet at the Brazil High School Gym in his honor. This number included "Rotarians and their wives from many clubs throughout the Midwest," Stark wrote.

In 1986, there were 58 men and no women in the club. The 2004 roster indicates a total membership of 55 men and 13 women.

On Sept. 20, 1945, The Brazil Daily Times reported "Rotary buys boys and girls club camp site".

The article described the area, to be known as Camp Rotary, as a 40-acre tract at the northeast corner of Harmony Road and Pinckley Street. It was purchased by the club from Shannon Steward, a Clay County Deputy Sheriff.

The camp was purchased for use by "all youth groups of Clay County - both boys and girls who may use the camp gratis, but who must be properly supervised by their own adult leaders."

The article went on to say Boy Scouts had used the property for their annual "Camporee" and was welcome to continue doing so.

During the years Camp Rotary was owned by the club, several improvements were made, including, a large lodge with a fireplace, electric stove, refrigerator and indoor water well, a 20-by-30-foot building to be used for conferences or sleeping quarters, an "Adirondack camping area" and "an area for outpost camping with lean-to" and many other general improvements.

Eventually, times changed and fewer youth groups were interested in using Camp Rotary.

Amos Thomas was chairman of the camp project for nine years. In the early 1990s, the camp was sold.

The club discussed what to do with the proceeds. Some members wanted to divide the proceeds among charitable groups and others suggested giving it to the YMCA. After a "spirited discussion", Thomas said, the money was donated to help build the new YMCA in Brazil.

So, every year, the Brazil Rotary Club not only raises tens of thousands of dollars for local charities; it also reminds Americans that our Independence is worth celebrating.

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