A century ago, in February 1919, the “war to end all wars” finally was over. Soldiers were on their way home from overseas, and even the deadly influenza pandemic had subsided.
Four of Boulder’s leading businessmen looked to the future and decided to form the Boulder Rotary Club. They wasted no time signing up charter members, drafting by-laws, and collecting dues.
A Camera reporter noted that the men got down to business with “society building and toleration and uplift.” There were important issues to discuss.
The first item on the agenda was submitted by Hugh Mark, one of the charter members and the general manager of the Hotel Boulderado. Club minutes reflect that he made a motion to get behind the “anti-fly campaign” and asked that fly-traps be placed in front of every place of business.
At the time, influenza cases were still being reported, and public health was an ongoing concern. The less-publicized, but still serious, polio epidemic of 1916 had amplified an already existing national crusade against diseases thought to be spread by house flies.
Now, 100 years later, the Boulder Rotary Club is gearing up to celebrate its 100th anniversary. And it’s still on the cutting edge of public health.
The service organization was started in 1905 by business owners in Chicago, then spread across the county and throughout the world. The name “rotary” was chosen because, at first, meeting venues rotated from location to location.
Looking back to the Boulder club’s founders is like reading a “who’s who” of Boulder. Of the original members, all had varied backgrounds. Only two, both insurance agents, had the same occupation. Professions of the others ranged from a banker, a realtor, and a merchant, to a mine operator, an undertaker, and postmaster.
Just about everyone worked downtown. Frank W. Persons, the Boulder club’s first president, became a longtime owner of the Lashley-Persons Investment Company with an office, for decades, in the First National Bank Building at 1200 Pearl St..
The club’s last surviving charter member was Dr. Charles Monroe, a dentist. His office was on the third floor of the Mercantile Bank Building, also still standing and on the northeast corner of Broadway and Pearl streets. Most of the early day Rotary Club meetings were held in the Hotel Boulderado, a short walk away.
Unfortunately, no one took very good notes in the early days, and club minutes are sketchy. We don’t even know if the far-sighted hotel manager was successful in eradicating Boulder’s fly problem.
After the World War, however, automobiles had replaced most of the horse-drawn vehicles, resulting in cleaner streets — and fewer flies. That much, Manager Hugh Mark lived to see. But he would have been astounded if he could have known that one of the Boulder Rotary Club’s current projects (along with Rotary International) is the global eradication of polio.
There’s a reason that “Service Above Self” is the Rotary’s motto. For more information on the club’s many other projects, and for details on its anniversary celebration on April 6, see boulderrotary.org.
If Persons, Monroe, Mark and Boulder’s other early day movers and shakers could attend the club’s anniversary, my guess is that they would be proud.
Silvia Pettem and Carol Taylor write about history for the Daily Camera. Follow Carol’s Instagram @signsofboulderhistory. Email Carol at [email protected], Silvia at [email protected] or write to the Daily Camera, 2500 55th St., Suite 210, Boulder, 80301.
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