Highlights of the History of the Rotary Club of Hendersonville

The Rotary Club of Hendersonville was organized in September of 1927 -just past the middle of that decade that has become known as the "Roaring Twenties", just after the crest of the land boom that had swept through Hendersonville and Henderson County, had broken, and just before the onset of the Great Depression. The charter members elected C. D. Weeks as the club's first President.

For the first few years the luncheon meetings of the Club were held in the dining room of the old Hodgewell Hotel at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Church Street, Hendersonville's finest, later renamed the Bowen. It is now gone. When the Skyland Hotel was built the Club elected to hold the meetings there. Later it moved a couple of blocks away, to the Chariot cafeteria, where it now meets.

The club frequently has unpaid speakers at its weekly noon meetings, many of whom are quite informative and entertaining. One of these speakers was Carl Sandburg, distinguished poet, biographer of Abraham Lincoln, and a local resident, who was accustomed to being substantially compensated for speaking engagements. Nothing having been said about compensation on this occasion, when introduced by the Club President, Mr. Sandburg rose to his feet, bowed three times and sat down. What followed is not recorded.

In about 1946 the Club Bulletin, the Inognito, came into being The name is a product of the fertile imagination of member Andrews-"Cog" for the Rotary wheel and the whole title representing the fact that the identity of the above editors and publishers was at the time not known to the general membership.

Soon after its organization the young Rotary Club began to be active in the civic affairs of Hendersonville and Henderson County, and has remained so ever since. In 1930-1931, for example, the Club resurrected interest in an unfinished and abandoned golf course (designed by the famous Donald Ross) and took out a bank loan of $30,000 to restore the golf and country club using as the only collateral for the loan an open note signed by all members of the Rotary Club. The loan was eventually paid off and the old golf course eventually became the flourishing Hendersonville Country Club, one of the finest private country clubs in Western North Carolina.

Al Edwards, who served as Mayor of Hendersonville for thirty-seven years, was President of the Club in 1932-1933 -the depths of the Great Depression. At one of the Club's weekly meetings, President Al served soda crackers as the main and only course. The member who could eat his crackers and be the first to whistle without taking a drink of water was given a prize. As an old-timer reminisced years later, "We didn't have much money then, but we had lots of fun and fellowship."

From its very beginning the Club has had as its main interest support of the young people of the town and county, and this continues down to the present day. The club has sponsored 4H clubs and Boy and Girl Scout troops. It has organized and sponsored Interact Clubs at all of the four county high schools. Two Interact Club members in rotation attend the regular weekly luncheon meetings of the Rotary Club, and these young people have worked actively together with Rotarians in many civic projects. The Interact Clubs have also shown great interest and participated in the club's Foreign Exchange Student program. In 1988-1989 a Rotaract Club, similar to the Interact Clubs, was started at the Blue Ridge Community College, with the help of its President, Rotarian Dave Sink.

An outstanding event in the history of the Hendersonville Club was the attendance at one of our luncheon meetings of Paul Harris, founder of Rotary International. He proved to be a quiet, unassuming man who made a lasting impression on every member who heard him speak that day and shook his hand at the end of the meeting.

Starting in 1972-1973 the club began taking an active interest in international relations. In addition to the one-year International Student Exchange Program sponsored by the District, the club established a working relationship with the Rotary Club of Cham, Germany, by which students are exchanged every year during the summer months. The club also frequently hosts international Group Study Exchange Groups. There have been many exchanges-Australia, England, Korea, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, India, Japan, Hungary, and Ecuador, to name a few.

In 1987-1988 the club admitted its first female member, Brenda Bradshaw.

In 1979-1980 the club sponsored the Hendersonville Sunrise Rotary Club, chartered May 17, 1980.

The club necessarily is very much involved in fundraising, in order to support its many charitable activities, principally in the filed of education. The club's first Annual Pancake Breakfast was held on February 21, 1981. This was the first of a series of one of the Club's most successful fund raisers that continues down to the present, with the proceeds going to various educational activities in Henderson County. In 1990-1991, under President Albert Gooch, the first Rotary Golf Tournament was held at Champion Hills. In 1999-2000 the club donated $500 for the purchase of American medical textbooks to be translated into Russian for use in the medical school library in Kyrgystan. "Happy Dollars" collected on September 11, 2001 were earmarked for disaster relief following the terrorist attacks of that date.

In 1994 a Rotary Endowment Fund was set up with the Community Foundation of Henderson County, with initial funding of $5,000.

By 1998-1999 the club was the second largest in District 7670. In that year its annual pancake breakfast made a profit of $6468. Members of the club disassembled several hundred school desks and sent them to Belize, Honduras in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in January.

In the same year the club's first paid Assistant Secretary, Phyllis Payne, also a member of the club, started work for the club using a computer and specially designed Rotary software. Club bylaws were revised for the first time in many years. A "Time Capsule" was created, to be kept unopened by the Club Secretary until September, 2018. A Club Historian--Sid Sherwin-- was inaugurated-after 71 years!-and commenced doing historical record-keeping for the club, making regular additions to a distinguished club history, month by month.