The Rotary Club of Salem was organized September 16,1919, by a group of five or six forward-looking business and professional men. As noted in the September 17, 1919 edition of the Oregon Statesman: “The Salem Rotary Club, the second in Oregon, was officially organized and directors were elected at a meeting and luncheon held at the Marion Hotel at noon yesterday at which a group of Portland Rotarians led by Nelson Pike and Harry Joyce were special guests.” The first meeting of the Club was above Gile’s Wholesale Fruit Store at South High and Trade Streets. Starting with September 16th, luncheon meetings were held at the Hotel Marion, with minutes duly recorded October 8th and following. The Club grew rapidly through the fall and early winter of 1919-20 and by February 18, 1920, the Charter Night celebration, the membership was 22. Rotary International recognizes January 1, 1920 as the Rotary Club of Salem’s official charter date. The club was assigned number “527,” being the 527th Rotary club chartered in Rotary’s 15 years of existence (in 2000, the Club’s number was reassigned as “306”). From the beginning, Wednesday luncheons were held in the Hotel Marion. Through the years, and throughout this compendium, the club has often been referred to by an assortment of names. They include, “Salem Rotary Club, Downtown Rotary, and Salem Rotary.” These are all “nicknames.” The true name of the Club, as recognized by Rotary International, is the Rotary Club of Salem.
“Service Above Self” motivated members in those early days, as it does now. Very soon, the Club went enthusiastically to work on community projects. These included: Boys Work as early as May 1920. In cooperation with the police and juvenile court authorities; the Children’s Playground Project, beginning in May 1920 and continued until June 1928 when the City of Salem took over the work; a Boy Scout troop beginning in November 1930; and aided in furnishing supplies and funds for the Salem hospitals as early as June 1920. Later worthy projects involved the Willamette Scholarship Fund dating from November 1951; child welfare work, in cooperation with the public schools, beginning in January 1936; and Career Night to advise the Salem High School students was a project in 1952. The “founding fathers” of Rotary Club of Salem also realized the international service interest of Rotary by the entertainment of visitors to Salem from other lands, and hosting programs at Club meetings emphasizing international understanding.
The Rotary International Scholarship Fund has been supported since 1950. American Field Service students were adopted by members’ families and travel costs paid by the Club. In recent years, the Club has participated in the International Youth Exchange Program, hosting high school age youth from Denmark, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Chile and other nations. Fund raising projects have included hobby shows, auctions, barbershop and other musical concerts, minstrel and variety shows with members performing, and suit sales. The Rotary Club of Salem’s Pops Concert was an annual event in Salem for many years. The Club’s auctions have been a major fund raising source.
Also for years, Rotary Youth Exchange students were “adopted” annually by members’ families, with insurance and various personal expenses paid by the Club. Sending Salem students abroad completed the “exchange.”
The Rotary Extension Committee of the Salem Club was active in past years in sponsoring and assisting in the organization of new Rotary Clubs in Oregon in the following cities:
- Eugene 1919-1920
- Dallas 1950-1951
- Tigard 1965-1966
- Roseburg 1920-1921
- Toledo 1956-1957
- Keizer 1964-1965
- McMinnville 1921-1922
- Monmouth – Independence 1959-1960
- South Salem 1974-1975
- Silverton 1928-1929
- East Salem 1961-1962
- West Salem 1981-1982
- Capital Sunrise 1986-1987
100th Anniversary Goal
A number of our club members are currently working diligently to organize and archive the history of our club. There is still much research to be done from our formative years, through 1980. Our goal is to complete this archive for our 100th anniversary in 2019. If you’re interested in helping with the research effort, contact us!
You can review the recent history of our club by clicking through any of the links below: