History Of Our Club

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara was chartered by the International Association of Rotary Clubs–now Rotary International (RI)–as Club No. 351, effective January 1, 1918. Preceding that date, a number of events had occurred.

James Briscoe had been a member of the Oakland, California, Rotary Club, before coming to Santa Barbara. Here, he operated a ladies ready-to-wear business but missed the fellowship and service aspects of Rotary. Early in 1915 he wrote RI asking permission to organize a club in Santa Barbara. The reply, dated March 9, 1915, advised Briscoe that it would be ineffective to organize in a city of only 13,000 people. Byron Terry, a real estate man, had previously been a member of the original Rotary Club in Chicago and knew Paul Harris. He sought permission in 1916 to start a club, but was refused on the same grounds as Briscoe.

Through RI and the Los Angeles Rotary Club No. 5, Briscoe and Terry were brought together. Finally, in the fall of 1917, permission was granted to Briscoe to try out the Rotary system with leading businessmen of the community. He called a meeting of an organizing committee comprising himself, Dr. C. A. Bell, M. W. Beadle, Thomas Mason, D. H. Shauer, and C. M. Gidney. They drafted a list of 20 men representing various classifications. Interviews and small meetings followed.

With a very favorable response, a meeting was held on October 19th. There was an impressive attendance and a large amount of business was transacted. It was ordered that proposal blanks be distributed among those present and to other likely new members. The minutes stated “It was moved, seconded, and carried unanimously, that a Rotary Club of Santa Barbara be organized.”

On November 2, the first election was held with James W. Briscoe named President, D. H. Shauer, Vice President, and R. H. Paulin, Sergeant-at-Arms. At the next weekly meeting, the additional members of the Board of Directors were elected: H. G. Chase, M. W. Beadle, J. S. Reynolds, T. M. Storke, and Winfield Hogaboom.

Charter Night was held at the Arlington Hotel on December 14. In attendance was a large delegation from the sponsoring Los Angeles Rotary Club along with District Governor Dewey Powell, representing the International Association of Rotary Clubs.

The Charter bears the date January 1, 1918, although the Club was fully operational with officers, bylaws, & constitution on November 2, 1917. On this date, the first weekly newsletter, “The Hub,” was distributed and it has been published ever since. Charter members in addition to the officers, directors, and organizing committee were: S. L. Boyd, Frank A. Conant, A. J. Dingaman, George R. Drysdale, J. I. Eisenberg, L. W. Gaguier, W. N. Grant, William R. Hayward, Fred G. Law, Henry Levy, Michael Levy, Major MacGregor, Burt Moore, F. C. Nicholas, L. W. Northrop, A. C. Olney, Charles A. Ott, John Parma, C. E. Phoenix, W. H. Pratt, Fred H. Shauer, W. J. Spaulding, Charles Spear, and Bryon Z. Terry.

Club membership rose from the initial 35 members to nearly 100 by the end of the 1920s. Members provided great assistance to the community following the disastrous 1925 earthquake. The Depression resulted in a loss of about one quarter of the membership but the Club rebuilt to over 100 members in the early 1940s. World War II drew about half the Rotarians into serving their country. After the war, a rapid growth spurt took the total to 160. In the 1950s, membership peaked at over 200. In the early 1970’s, due to the expansion of new clubs in the community and a lack of a sufficiently large meeting place, membership was held to the 150 – 160 range, where it remains today. High levels of perfect attendance have always occurred, including many weeks of perfect attendance. Hundreds of members have achieved many years of perfect attendance.

The Officers and Directors are elected from nominations by an elected nominating committee and from the floor. To facilitate the training, planning, and preparation necessary for the Presidency, the election is for President Elect; he or she then becomes President the following year and Vice President for the third year. Of the 37 living Past Presidents, 21 continue to serve as active members of the Club. In earlier years, the Board of Directors administered the charitable funds with a committee taking care of the details. In 1962, the Santa Barbara Rotary Charitable Foundation was formed for tax purposes with a separate elected board and officers with the Vice President serving as liaison.

Leadership for many community and professional organizations is provided by Rotarians. Our list of accomplishments and successful activities is but a prologue for the future and a challenge for new members. We proudly salute our past and welcome the opportunities for further service and fellowship in the future.