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Club History -- Our First 60 Years

edited by George Kaplan
assembled by Ruth Dorfman and Bill Miranda

The Brookline Scene in 1938

Brookline became the first community to introduce voting machines, as $900 was expended to lease 6 voting machines for the Annual Town Election, which drew 13,813 voters. Theodore G. Bremer, was elected Chairman of the Board of Selectmen. Town Meeting passed a budget of $5,126,684.21. The resignation of Frederick Law Olmsted from the Planning Board was accepted with regret; he had served since establishment in 1914. At the request of Town Meeting, Moderator Erland Fish enlists Olmsted to Chair the Committee to draft a By-Law to establish an elected Planning Board.
The Hurricane of September 21,1938, was the most significant event that year in the Town eclipsing even the establishment of the Rotary Club of Brookline. Extensive damage was caused to buildings, electric lights, telegraph wires and poles. In Town trees alone 487 were lost on the golf course, 375 at Baker, 157 major street trees and over 1,000 others were damaged.
On the hopeful side, after eight years of no activity there was a resumption of new apartment house construction and single family homes. Town Meeting voted to lay out the largest number of streets in a single year: Aston Road, Chestnut Street, Conant Road, Denny Road, Fairway Road, Hackensack Road, Hilltop Road, Laurel Road, Leland Road, Payson Road, Princeton Road, Rangely Road, Risley Road, Sherrin Road, Valley Road, and Woodcliff Road.
The Park Commission introduced softball on three fields and expanded the Playground Supervision Program. Originally funding had been provided by the National Youth Administration now it was assumed by the Town and would be restricted to employ Brookline Youths. The Park Commission also instituted a Discarded Christmas Trees collection and used them as protection for Town shrubs during the winter season instead of erecting snow fencing. The Library reported that circulation was up for first time since 1932, with 455,093 books in circulation in 3 branches, Coolidge corner, Chestnut Hill, and BHS.
The Police Department made 1,799 arrests, most for crimes against persons or property but there were others among them such as: for Willful detention of library books, for stealing rides on streetcars, truancy, and registering bets on a horse. Speaking of horses, in line with the policy of elimination of horses in snow plowing Town Meeting voted to further reduce the number of horses in use to only 8 and increase the number of tractors and explore building Town Garage to replace the Barns on Kendall Street.
With the completion of the Edith C. Baker School the Newton Street building (known as Putterham School) was declared surplus and given into the care of the Historical Society.
The Rotary Club of Brookline holds its first meeting and receives its Charter.

The Brookline Rotary Scene

Organized on October 25, 1938, the original Brookline Rotary Club consisted of 30 members, many of them community leaders. Of course, as custom dictated the membership was all male. The Club met at historic Longwood Towers for more than half of its history making for a comfortable and elegant site for the Thursday noon meetings. From the beginning Brookline Rotarians assisted the community with boundless energy, time and fundraising. The Club has always been active in all of the Rotary areas of service particularly education with funding scholarships and participation in Ambassadorial Scholars Programs, Group Exchanges, RYLA, and the Bandy Hefler Exchanges.
Most significant have been the people and personal relationships among the club members and the town. The first President was Wilfred Ringer, Headmaster of Brookline High School. Other original members represented a variety of classifications, including Arthur O'Shea, Executive Secretary to the Board of Selectmen and known as "Mr. Brookline" to many residents; Jim Henderson, famed real estate proprietor; Bill Milligan, local jeweler; Wes Ringer, dentist; Frank Carrarro florist; Rev. Ashley Day Leavitt of the Harvard Congregational Church; Ray Fallona, interior decorator; and music retailer, Herman Prasse. Naturally a most important participant was Roger Keane, our host at Longwood Towers, who was a genial friend to all Rotarians for many years and helped us to feel at home at our meetings!
In 1941, the Club established an award for Distinguished Public Service to be presented annually in a joint meeting with the Brookline Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club. This award has been bestowed on over a 100 men and women who have distinguished themselves and our community in all fields of endeavors. Among the recipients have been Nobel Prize winners Dr. John Franklin Enders and Dr. William P. Murphy and a plethora of other renowned physicians including Dr. Sidney Farber, Dr. George Shattuck, Dr. Francis P. Denny and Dr. Tryve Gunderson. Dr. William B. Castle and Louise M. Castle were both honored in different years. In the Arts recognition has gone to Arthur Fiedler, Roland Hayes, Harry Ellis Dickson and Boris Goldovsky. Among educators are Wilifred H. Ringer, Charles W. Taylor, Ernest R. Caverly, Ann E. MacDonald and Robert I. Sperber and many members of the Clergy and Public Servants have been recognized.
Gratifyingly, the Club grew in membership, with wonderful new additions such as Rev. Bill MacDuffie of the First Presbyterian Church, who was our sensitive Chaplain for several decades, and Dr. William Murphy, Nobel Prize winner for medicine. Dr. Murphy was always modest and amiable and lived into his 90s. Other members included Selectman and gas dealer, George Brown; lively debater, Adrian Bessey; and Chiropodist, Al Grennan, an enthusiastic member for over a half century!
In the early days town government was well represented with Brookline officials. These included Water Department Superintendent Walter Bushway; Town Engineer Walter Devine; Asst. Treasurer Matt McNally; and Baker School Principal, Bob Newbury. Currently our first Town Administrator Richard Leary is both a Past President and current member.
Interestingly, in the beginning physicians-from many specialties-outnumbered lawyers. Some Rotarians have actually shared Rotary with their successors in their classification, as Arthur O'Shea did with Dick Leary. Others have brought in family as President Elect Elias Audy introduced his wife Laurde Audy, who has become a dedicated member. One tradition began early with Brookline Rotarians. They brought in their Sons who carried on representing the family. Laundry owner, Roy Milbury, was succeeded by his son, Vin. Jewelry manufacturer, Wally Wallbank, sponsored his son, Harry; and fuel oil retailer, Ray Miranda, introduced his son Bill. A unique example of this passing of the gauntlet occurred when Bo and Bill Winiker happily brought in their late dad, Ed Winiker. Today we are starting them even younger with Don Neuwirth bringing his son Ben from the time he was an infant and our very active Junior Rotarian Zana Audy.
It is also important to take note of a great Rotarian who made a very meaningful contribution first as District Governor, then as Rotary International Director: Art Richardson. For many years he was principal in the world-famed landscape architectural firm of Olmsted Associates. His memories of Rotary are of pleasurable times, great friends and worthwhile projects. Another wonderful member, still on our roster, is Arthur MacKinnon, active in financial affairs in both town and state government; he's been a Brookline Rotarian for over forty years.
Emphasis in meetings in our people oriented club is in sharing our personal and professional joys and successes through "Happy Dollars" providing a tangible contribution for vital programs and on networking where many life-long friendships have been initiated. Many Rotarians too busy day and night to foster the contacts and sociability they wish find they enjoy that special weekly lunch time to learn more about the people and the community in which they live or work.
In the last twenty years, various circumstances resulted in the Brookline Club's movement to various restaurant locations, from Longwood Towers to Coolidge Corner and then out to the Chestnut Hill area. Programs that added to our knowledge, provided entertainment, or stimulated citizenship and community involvement grew more interesting and relevant as time goes on. Membership has more than doubled over the years with more people joining who work in but live outside Brookline.
In recent years, emphasis on providing the community with needed funds and with one's personal time and energy has only increased, promoting Rotary's ideal of service above self. Our visibility has dramatically increased with our participation in Arts in the Park, Marathon Day, and our incredible fun and fundraising experiences at our Annual Pancake Breakfasts.
Proximity to Boston has always meant fascinating visitors to Brookline Rotary from many countries, and numerous Brookline Rotarians have participated in international exchanges and projects. Also in spite of being the easternmost Club in our District #7910, we continue to increase Brookline's participation in District activities and were delighted this spring to see the daffodils in bloom, with 1000 planted in every town in the District. Especially in the Adopt-A-Space where Our Club participates as sponsor of the Webster Street Triangle.
A change occurred in Rotary in the late 1980s when the Supreme Court decreed that sexism must end in Rotary and other community service organizations. No longer would women's participation be limited to a sociality of members' wives who frankly did most of the work at social events! Now great women from the community have joined Brookline Rotary, serving as Committee Chairs and Officers, and in fact, women have become about a quarter of the membership.
Participation in community events, fundraising, and great social occasions as well as increased visibility in Brookline has been the result of the efforts of so many in Brookline Rotary. Many visitors to our Club proclaim it as one of the liveliest and friendliest in the District. Notwithstanding our many achievements, it's certain we will continue to thrive, serve the community, and enjoy each other's companionship as we eagerly look forward to our next sixty-years of camaraderie and service above self.