In Depth History

Tacoma #8 Roots
In 1909, Tacoma Insurance agent Harry L. Pelletier had been invited by his Seattle counterpart, Roy Denny, to attend a meeting of Seattle's newly founded Rotary Four. Pelletier was so impressed by the organization and its goals that he enlisted the support of Denny and others in the Rotary movement to assist in setting up a Tacoma chapter. The first meeting was held at the Tacoma Sheridan Hotel on January 29, 1910, and articles of incorporation were signed on February 2nd. Pelletier was elected the chapter's first President.
  • Minutes from the early days show that the club concerned itself with a variety of issues such as building club membership, improving roads, fostering good government, the promotion of Tacoma city interests, the retention of Tacoma's baseball team, and various civic matters.
At the opening of the year 1910, Tacomans had much reason to be proud of their city and to have faith in its future.
  • The population stood at 83,743, up from 37,714 in 1900.
  • Shipping, lumber and manufacturing interests were booming, and the city was a thriving business and commercial center.
  • Many substantial new buildings were under construction or recently completed:
    • Union Depot
    • Stadium High School
    • The Carlton and Olympus Hotels
    • The YMCA
    • The skyscraper tower of the National Reality Company
  • Major engineering projects:
    • Rail tunnel under Point Defiance
    • Eleventh Street Bridge over City Waterway.
Major Events throughout the Century:
1910s
  • A club newsletter, The "Gyroscope," was established in 1913.
  • In 1914, member William W. Woodbridge published his inspirational booklet "That Something."
  • Funded the Pierce County Rural Development Company, dedicated to providing quality breeding stock to local dairy farmers.
  • Promoted an endowment campaign for the College of Puget Sound, now UPS
  • Supported the development of the Hylebos waterway
  • Promoted the establishment of the Army post at Camp Lewis
  • Speakers in the "teens" included Puyallup pioneer Ezra Meeker, University of Washington President Henry Suzzalo and Washington Governor Herbert Lister.
1920s
  • In 1923, the name of the club newsletter was changed from "The Gyroscope" to "The Gearshift," and it has continued under this title to the present day.
  • Arthur H. Wickens became Chapter Secretary effective January 1, 1923. His fifty-one years of service to Tacoma 8 and the community is unique in Rotary history.
  • Tacoma 8 sponsored the launch here of the S.S. Rotarian, and the establishment of the Rotary Club of Paris, France. The gavel of the Paris club was a gift from Tacoma.
  • Speakers during the decade included many congressmen and governors, and Professor Edmond Meany of the University of Washington.
1930s
  • The Great Depression of the 1930's did not spare Tacoma 8, and membership decreased in the hard times. A Business Advisory Committee was founded to assist hard-hit members.
  • A major undertaking was the construction of Rotary Lodge at the Boy Scout's Camp Kilworth near Dash Point.
  • Speakers included J.C. Penney, racing driver Barney Oldfield, and Carlos P. Romulo, later vice-president of Rotary International and President of the United Nations General Assembly.
1940s
  • Tacoma 8 created the "Duration Dormitory," a 400 bed facility to provide economical accommodations for servicemen on leave.
  • After the war, the club was sponsor of a "Help a Vet find a Job" program, which continued for several years.
  • All told, 16 Tacoma 8 members, 83 sons, and 4 daughters served in the Armed Forces during World War II.
  • Speakers included Selective Service director General Louis B. Hershey and the actor Edward Everett Horton.

1950s
  • Tacoma 8 grew rapidly during the 1950s.
  • Mark of the 50th anniversary of Rotary, and the 45th of Tacoma 8, in 1955.
  • To commemorate this occasion, the Tacoma chapter constructed a Rhododendron Garden at Point Defiance Park and donated it to the community. Near the commemorative stone in the garden, the chapter buried a time capsule to be opened on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Rotary movement, on February 23, 2005.
1960s
  • On the 50th year for Tacoma 8, the club donated a room for the use of foreign students at the University of Puget Sound.
  • Two years later, the chapter cooperated with other area clubs in sponsoring the "Rotary House of Friendship" at the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle.
  • Major activities of the decade included support of a self-improvement program for inmates at McNeil Island Penitentiary, annual International Students nights, and a student exchange program with a sister club in Roturua, New Zealand.
1970s
  • The 1971 closing of the Winthrop Hotel ended nearly a half-century of meetings at this location.
  • The seventies saw the continuation of Tacoma 8's traditional projects, and increased involvement in support of activities for girls.
  • Arthur H. Wickens achieved his 50th year as chapter secretary in 1973, and the occasion was marked by the establishment of the Rotary Club of Tacoma #8 Community Service Award, bearing Art's likeness.
1980s
  • In the 1980s, Tacoma 8 opened membership to women.
  • This decision led to an influx of new life and talent to the chapter.
     
Today
Today, Tacoma 8 continues to change and evolve, while staying true to tradition. Promoting friendship and service for supporting community projects continues much as it was in Harry Pelletier and Art Wickens' time. Meetings are still held on Thursdays, as they have been since 1910.

Tacoma 8 recognizes a Rotarian of the Year, a club member who demonstrates the ideal of “Service Above Self.”