A History of the Port Allegany Rotary Club
Compiled by Club Historian Frank Rackish
The Port Allegany Rotary Club was chartered in 1930. At intervals, after 10 years, 25 years, 45 years, 50 years, and 70 years,. Rotarians have written brief histories of the Club. The present attempt is based on information from those previous histories, on information from. Presidents' scrapbooks for the years 1956-¬1957 through 1962-1963, from Charles Catlin's historical writing preserved in a scrapbook of the Community Park, and from verbal and written information from current Rotarians. The written records fill two cardboard boxes and are housed in the Bayline Insurance building. Most of the information in those boxes is for the years 1930 to about 1970. If there is a good written record of Rotary for the last 33 years, it is dispersed and not readily available.
History should be an objective record of things past, but often history is shaded and revised with the biases of the historian. Hopefully, this attempt to chronicle the organization of the Club, its accomplishments, and some of the people responsible for the accomplishments will have only minor rhetorical flourishes.
In 1929, the Governor of the Twenty-Seventh District of Rotary International suggested to the Bradford Rotary Club that it attempt to organize a club in Port Allegany through its Rotary Extension activities. (A District Governor had made a similar request several years earlier, but "it was not a propitious time.") On October 14, 1929, Bradford Rotarians George Stewart and Bruce Mellinger visited with several Port Allegany men whom they considered potential Rotarians. It seems that they received a positive response. Soon after, on October 23, 1929, there was a second meeting with a larger group of Bradford Rotarians. Following the second meeting, the interested Port Alleganians formed a committee to contact and to select potential members. On November 07, 1929,* F. Dean Miller of Bradford presided at the organizational meeting of the prospective members. Officers elected were Howard C. Herger, president; Dr. D. C. Hannah, vice-president; R. A. Scherer, treasurer; A. L. Duhart, secretary; and ). S. Pfeil, sergeant-at-arms. The first directors were A. L. Duhart, J. A. Carlson, D. C. Hannah, H. C. Herger, 3. W. Isherwood, R. A. Scherer, and. J. L. Wood. Charter members were Andy Anderson, Bill Barrho, Unk (Henry) Boudon, Jim Carlson, Clint Cooper, Charlie Catlin, Duhy Duhart, Father Fitzgerald, Bob Flint, Doc Hannah, Howard Herger, Jim Isherwood, Elmer Carlson, Dan Lloyd, Billy Mangold, Leo Meacham, Pop Pfeil, Bob Scherer, John Seltr, Martin Teater, and Jack Wood.
At a dinner on January 06, 1930, featuring roast turkey and Canadian turnip, George Stewart, president of the Bradford Rotary Club, and Dean Miller, also of Bradford, acted as the representatives for the District Governor and presented the Port Allegany Rotary Club with its official charter and with a gong as a gift from the Bradford Rotary Club.
*organizational meeting listed as November 07 on the Charter Night Program; as November 14 on the Tenth Anniversary Program and the Silver Anniversary booklet.
In today's terminology, the Rotary Club of the 1930's was "goal oriented." Four months after the club was chartered, members had selected development of a Community Park as their project. The project included the purchase of property, construction of a swimming pool and wading pools, bath house, tennis courts, a playground, and a picnic area including a pavilion. Seventeen months after the Club was chartered, the Community Park opened on May 30, 1931. Bill Barrho, H. C. Herger, I. B. Berstein, and Martin Teater were identified as Rotarians who led the effort.
Charles Catlin describes the project as "of unbelievable magnitude." He also marveled that Rotarians implemented the plan during the Great Depression. Rotarians themselves pledged $3500 and solicited pledges (most for $50) from the community. The original estimate of the cost of the project was $4000 to $6000. By the time that the project was completed and expanded in the late 30's (including the purchase of the entire Doll farm), $60,000 had been expended. The amount did not include the hundreds of hours of volunteer labor and labor donated by the Pierce Glass Company.
During the ten-year period, the Rotary also supported the Crippled Children's organization, the Four H Club, and Boy Scouts. They sponsored the mathematics award for graduating seniors, and contributed money for fireworks displays on Memorial and Independence Days. As committed Rotarians, through Rotary Extension, they helped to organize Rotary Clubs in Smethport (May 16, 1938) and Eldred.
Rotarians were a major presence in the community and sometime later, on August 03, 1961, after completion of another significant project, Charles Roller, the editor of the Reporter Argus, wrote: "The Rotary Club will dedicate the new tennis courts at the Community Park this Thursday noon, the conclusion of another splendid achievement by the Port Allegany Rotarians. The Rotarians are responsible for the construction of the Community Park, for supervision during many years of its existence, for the construction of the hogan, and for many other accomplishments in the area. Our hats off to the Rotarians."
It can be deduced that Port Allegany Rotary received its stimulus for service by the Rotarians of the 30"s, the golden years,
As the result of a devastating flood in July, 1942, much of Rotary's work was destroyed. The Flood changed the landscape and demolished most of Community Park; the swimming pool and the bath house survived.
In Rotary archives, there is little specific information about the years 1940-1955. (It seems likely that World War II and its aftermath affected the Club's activities.) In "History of the Club," included in a booklet celebrating Port Allegany Rotary's Silver Anniversary, the following accomplishments are listed: a high school athletic field, a picnic Hogan for the Community Park, support of the McKean County Crippled Children's Society, individual and corporate support of youth activities, and support of Rotary International Projects.
The Hogan, as it was called, was an ambitious project completed in the early 50's. It was a picnic pavilion, unique in design,, built into the side of the hill near the present picnic shelter. The back wall was stone and framed a fireplace from which there were stairs leading to ground level. The Hogan may be the Club's only "white elephant." Probably because of design (Frank Lloyd Wright Influence) rather than construction flaws, it began to deteriorate almost immediately and was a source of grim humor for cynics. Efforts were made to maintain the structure and to correct deficiencies. All failed, and it was razed in the early 1970's. (Photographs of the Hogan are included in the Community Park Scrapbook.)
The following paragraph from the Reporter-Argus shows that the Port Allegany Rotary Club was unique in the District. "The President's Award, a recognition of Rotary International to the club in each District which has done the most in promoting Ideals of Service, was presented to the Port Allegany Rotary Club in the years 1944 and 1947."
In 1955, there were 58 members in the Club, including 9 of the original 21 members. From 1930 to 1955, "104 men .had held membership in Port Allegany's Rotary.
The Club, at the time and for years after, was proud of the attendance of its .members. The usual average monthly attendance exceeded 90%. Rotarians who were absent received cards informing them of others who were also absent so that they might make up with one or more of their fellows.
In 1955-1956, Port Allegany Rotarian Arvid (Doc) Baker was the District 728 Governor. In 1956-1957, there were 52 Club members and Frank Butler, owner of the Ford agency, was president. The highlight of that year was a social one. Nineteen Rotarians flew to St. Catherine's, Ontario, to visit the Rotary Club. The group flew in five planes from the airstrip owned by the Hergers. Two of the planes were owned or leased by Frank Butler, one by R. V. Hall, one by Nick Georgetson, and one by H. C. Herger,
In .1958--1559, Rotarians were heavily involved in the fund drive for a new Community Hospital. Chairmen were Howard Herger, Jack Goddess, V. L. (Bud) Miller, and Arthur Ellison. The Club donated $3000 to the Drive. The goal of $252,000 was exceeded by $52,000, enhanced by the efforts of the chairmen, Phil Meacham, and many other Rotarians.
1960.. Rotary approved construction of the tennis courts. Then, on April 20, 1961, Rotary received the District award for the tennis court project. The courts were completed, and dedication ceremonies were held on Thursday, August 10, 1961. President Jerry Bozzo spoke in a light rain and presented a key to the courts to C. Richard VanNette, treasurer of the Community Park Association. The courts were built at a cash cost of $9,225 and significant donated labor and materials. C. B. (lake) Barrho was chairman of the project.
Rotary sponsored two exchange students during that year: Holger Skribanowitz of Germany and Arenda Dyssel of Denmark.
From today's (2003's) perspective, there were two eye-catching programs in 1962: an electronic computer was demonstrated at a Rotary luncheon and, at another meeting,. Dr. Robert Niles presented information about the Sabin oral polio vaccine.
In 1962,.Rotary also decided to improve the area near the tennis courts. That "improvement" resulted in the removal of a wetland.
There was an inter-city meeting with Smethport and Eldred Rotaries. During the period, the Port Rotor was inclusive, extensive, informative, and well written by Juny Boudon. It was either mimeographed or dittoed, two duplicating processes almost extinct, and mailed to each member. Current Rotarians on the 1962 roster are George Failey, Clyde Lynch, Bob Frison, and Gordon Anderson.
1966. The Rotary Club led the effort to purchase bleachers for the north side of the football field.
In 1972, Rotary initiated the Multiphasic Blood Profile Testing Program as a community service and fund raiser. Bob Frison has been involved in the Program since its inception-usually as the chairman. The testing program continues.
During 1972-1973, Albert Skelton, superintendent of the Port Allegany School District, served as Governor of District 728. In the early 70's, Diane Edgreen was a Rotary Exchange Student to the Philippines; Terry McDowell was a Rotary Fellow to Brazil, and Elaine Chandler was a Fellow or exchange student to Argentina.
Reporter-Argus of March 01, 1970. "The Port Allegany Rotary Club has accepted the responsibility of coordinating the fund raising efforts for the renovation and improvement of the Port Allegany Swimming Pool." The swimming pool, dedicated in 1931, served its purpose for forty-eight years. During that period, preventive maintenance and minor repairs were completed by Pierce Glass and North Penn Gas Company employees as a community service of the two companies. By 1979, the pool had to be "rebuilt."
Extensive renovation and modification of the pool structure was again an ambitious project which required $235,000. The Borough, through the efforts of Larry Griffith, borough manager and Rotarian, secured a Federal grant of $100,000. The grant had to be matched with local funds. The. Fund Drive goal was $135,00.0;; the amount collected, about $150,000. General Chairman of the Fund Drive was Howard Johnson.
Bids for the Project were opened March 05, 1979; the contract was signed by the Borough on April 02, 1979. The pool was rebuilt, and Doc Baker volunteered his time as building inspector for the Project.
In 1980, the Port Allegany Rotary Club celebrated the Fiftieth Anniversary of its existence with a dinner at the Moose Lodge. President Michael (Ki) Bayline presided. In honor of the occasion, Jeff Speeth made the stained glass window featuring the Rotary emblem which was placed in the wall of the alcove at Canoe Place Inn.
In 1985, Rotary international approved Polio Plus (now Polio 2005) as a International project.
lead to the conclusion that the Club was more formal that it is today, that they came to lunch dressed in suits, and that Rotarians considered attendance at weekly meetings a solemn requirement-that to be a Rotarian was a status symbol.
When considering differences, it is easy to generalize; but there are several obvious differences between Rotary of the 30's to the 80's and today's Rotary. A look at past rosters shows that there were usually ten to fifteen Rotarians (including presidents, owners, and plant managers) from the local industries: Pierce Glass, Pittsburgh Corning, North Penn Gas, American Extract, and Port A!!egany Corporation. Today, there is one Rotarian, Dave Fair, from Pittsburgh Corning. Today's Club, different from the past, has a liberal representation of retired people and one woman (Susan Barnett). The dress code has certainly changed; today's luncheon meetings can be characterized as informal. Regular attendance today is not considered a sacred trust.
Those seem to be obvious differences. Probably each Rotarian today has his own perceptions of whether the changes are good or bad. Whatever the perception, the Rotary Club of Port Allegany has a history of major accomplishments and a core of local, District, and International services that it supports annually. The review shows that during all of the years of its existence the Club has had Service at its objective and ideal.