ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown Rotary Club was treated to a lesson on the club’s history by Rotarian Walter McDuffie.
“The Clinton Rotary Club came over and helped get this club started. It was chartered in 1928,” said McDuffie of the club’s beginning.
McDuffie said the club originally had a single drawer filing cabinet that held the club’s original charter and some other items and it has become lost over the years .
“If anyone can find it, we do need it,” said McDuffie.
McDuffie said when he first joined Rotary, the membership included such luminaries as the Rev. Bob Poole, Dr. E.C. Bennett, Edgar Powell, Jimmy Powell, C.R. Jordan and Chic Baddour.
“When I got in we were meeting upstairs in the Dixie Restaurant on Broad Street. At that time, we met at night,” said McDuffie.
He added that, at first, the club met at the Townsend Hotel and Restaurant. McDuffie said the restaurant was located where First South Bank now sits. McDuffie recounted that the Townsend Restaurant had someone who would play the piano for the restaurant. At that time every Rotary Club would start off with a song, said McDuffie.
He added that later, the club met in the Dixie Restaurant and the club has met at various locations such as the fire department and at someone’s office. McDuffie said the club even met briefly in the fellowship hall of the Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church and then the Front Porch Restaurant and eventually San Jose.
McDuffie said that when he first joined Rotary, attendance was a big issue.
“Cecil Edge had a perfect attendance in Rotary. If he couldn’t attend a meeting, he would make it up somewhere,” said McDuffie. “If I missed a meeting, Cecile would call and encourage me to make it up.”
McDuffie said Edge would call the members every Wednesday to remind you of the meeting.
“He deserves title of Mr. Rotary,” said McDuffie.
McDuffie said that another very faithful Rotarian was Wallace Leinwand.
McDuffie added that Rotary has been beneficial for him and helped him to grow.
“I’ve seen what Rotary has done for me. I haven’t done enough for Rotary but it has done a lot for me,” said McDuffie.
He said that attendance and meeting locations are not the only things that he has seen change over the years.
“When I first got into Rotary, it was almost a must to wear a coat and tie to the meetings. My occupation didn’t require a coat and tie,” said McDuffie.
He recounted how before a rotary meeting he would go home and shower and change clothes to attend the meetings. He said now the dress code is more relaxed.
McDuffie said some projects the club has performed through the years included a barbecue plate sale, fish fry, pancake breakfast and sold cured hams. He added the club has also held auctions to raise money in the past.
McDuffie recounted how the rotary Club used to have a touring group that bought donkeys and play donkey baseball.
McDuffie said that the members of the club would also make at least one trip to the Lake Waccamaw Boys and Girls Home to visit the Rotary Cottage get to know those living in the cottage.
“It meant a lot to those kids,” said McDuffie of the visits.
He told the group that Rotary began to allow the Rotary Anns to become Rotarians in 1989. McDuffie said the club’s first female Rotarian was Pat Shaw.
McDuffie said that Rotary has been a very profound part of his life.
“It has always been an organization you can be proud of. It is a great organization we can be a proud of. I hope everyone can pass this on to others,” said McDuffie.