The Rotary Club of Summerville was started by the Charleston Club in 1947. Charter night was April 11, 1947 at the St. Paul’s Parish House. There were 22 charter members, our District Governor was John V. Brookshire, and our District was #190. Our first President was the first of two father-son President’s in the Club’s history: Joe Hutchinson in 1947 and son Steve in 1985-86. We have had two brothers as President and we’ve also had our Mafia period which consisted of two Italian Presidents – Pete Garbarini in 1974-75 and Bert Cicenia in 1975-76. Woman-kind made their mark in the year 2000 when Jan Freeman became our first female President. As of today, our Club boasts 92 members.
We are the Home Club of two former District Governors – JC Lipham in 1973-74 and John Ramsey 2005-06. Jaime Moore is currently the Assistant Governor for our District which changed to #7770 some years ago.
Our Club started fairly small and remained that way for over twenty years. There were some reasons for this – Summerville was a small town with about 1,800 residents and only two rural mail routes – one north of the railroad and one south.
While Summerville has a past history of many fine inns, hotels and guest homes, there were no restaurants of any size in the 50’s and 60’s. There were only two – Flowertown and Eva’s and then there was the Tastee Freeze which was an old converted service station.
These things are mentioned so you can understand why we have met in so many and varied places. The Club started out at the Curve Inn (restaurant-swimming pool) on Bacons Bridge, Sweet Shop, Carolina Inn (corner of Carolina and Sumter), Flowertown Restaurant, Hamilton Motel, Masonic Hall (the Eastern Stars prepared the meals), Squirrel Inn (members of the club bought $1,000 certificates and the monies were used to add a large dining room to the Inn. The certificates were redeemed when the Inn was sold), Summerville Cafeteria (SCE&G’s present site), Live Oak Nursing Home (now a enclave of high-end homes on Central Avenue), Coastal Center Baptist College (Charleston Southern University), King’s Grant Country Club, Iron Kettle Holiday Inn, Sticky Fingers and now our meals are catered at the Holiday Inn Express. One or two places have probably been missed, but you can see we have certainly eaten our way around town.
An attendance ploy the Club used back in 1957, when Merry Jones was President went as follows – the Club brought a smelly old billy goat to the meeting that the first absentee had to keep until another member missed a meeting and then the goat became their responsibility. The Club had fourteen straight weeks of perfect attendance.
To say that some of our Rotarians have been colorful characters would be an understatement, Admiral Ellis Reed-Hill (head of the Coast Guard during WWII) was Sergeant at Arms and took his job to heart. He made all the Club members wear coats and ties to the meetings and would fine you if you didn’t. He fined Father Aiken (a Catholic Priest) for not wearing a tie – he was in his clerical habit. Our present day Sergeant at Arms, Dr. Bill Lomax, makes the Admiral sound like a pussycat.
Our Club projects have been many and varied. We started the old-fashioned July 4th celebration on the country’s bicentennial. In 1980-83, we collected approximately 236 tons of aluminum cans. This improved the environment and infused $140,000 into the local economy as well as continuing to supplement the educational scholarships the Club awards. After Hugo, Rotary was a key player in putting together a Crisis Ministry that aided our community with $250,000 in funds and even more in materials. We’ve seen first hand what our Gift of Life program and the generosity of our members has provided to others in third world countries – life altering opportunities for medical treatment they would otherwise go without. Our Golf Tournament, which is a great reason to take a day off from work, has been a huge success and only continues to grow each year. On a more global scale, Rotary International has been praised in the medical community and around the world for our efforts in eradicating Polio.
Our history spans sixty years today and we are very much a part of this community. To be a member of this organization is an honor indeed.