|The idea of a Rotary Club for Magnolia was the "brain child" of three men - Oscar Moore, the local manager of the Arkla Gas Company, W.C. Blewster, president of the First National Bank of Magnolia and J.C. Hutcheson, a Magnolia druggist. The Club was sponsored by the El Dorado Rotary Club, the officers of which who took the lead in the organization of the Magnolia Club were Harold Thurston, the El Dorado manager of the Arkla Gas Company and Lew Stephen, a life insurance company representative.
There was only one men's civic club in Magnolia at the time, that being the Lions Club, organized in 1932. Their membership in 1938 was around 25 to 30.
The preliminary work for a local Rotary charter was started in November 1938, at which time a list of charter members was drawn up along with an application to Rotary International.
Notice was received in February 1939 that the Charter had been approved in Chicago; and it was in order to elect officers and start meeting every Thursday at noon.
The Charter Members were:
|W. C. Blewster - Banker
Kelso Couch - Retail appliance sales
Dr. Winston Couch - Dentist
Walter Dees - Barber
Roy Fawcett - Minister
J. C. Hutcheson - Druggist
W. L. Jameson, Jr. - Cattle farmer
|Oscar Moore - Manager of Arkla Gas Company
Charles Overstreet - College administrator
Dr. Joe Rushton - Physician
John Warnock - Retail furniture sales
Robert "Bob" Warnock - Auto sales
Maurice Lewis, Sr. - Men's clothing retail
The first meeting was held in a special section of the dining room of the Columbia Hotel on West Main Street - the site now of Yvonne's Florist. The hotel was a two story structure built by R. L. Emerson in the early 1900's and later purchased by Luther Longino. The operator of the dining room was Mrs. Rossie Frances Smith. It was noted for having the best food in Magnolia, especially pies. The room was separated by bed sheets to accommodate the Rotary Club, so you can imagine, trying to have a program with that thin wall to eliminate noise from the other diners! Oil had been discovered in our area in 1938; and the hotel was the meeting place for "lease hounds." drillers, geologists, contractors and well operators. One would not know whether to listen to the Rotary program or try to hear a tip on where the leasing was "hot."
The Charter for the Club was presented at a dinner meeting in April 1939, held in the Leland Clegg Education Building of the First Methodist Church. The church women served the meal. Sponsoring representatives of the El Dorado Rotary Club and Rotarians from Camden, Hope and Stamps were present. Wives of the charter members were special guests. District Governor Ed MCFaddin of Hope delivered an inspiring address on Rotary principles. Being an Attorney, Ed was later elected to the Supreme Court of Arkansas.
The Club's growth was slowed by the start of World War II in 1941, as several members as well as many other men in Magnolia and Columbia County were called into the service.
During the first years, finding a meeting place presented a constant problem. We moved from the Columbia Hotel to the Fountain Grill, across the alley, then to the Chatter Box on East Main, and, after a short while, to the new Webb Hotel on South Jackson, where the KVMA offices are now located. None of these places were large enough, so Oscar Moore opened this home on North Jefferson, to the Club, and various church ladies again provided the meals. The Community Club house, which had been built in the 1940's and was located where the Magnolia Hospital parking lot is now located, was the Club home for a period. Church women still furnished the food. When the Magnolia Inn opened in 1947, the membership had grown to 45. The dining room in this hotel closed in 1966, so meetings were moved to the Peace Court restaurant on East Main Street. In 1980, another move was made to the Coachman's Motel; and, in 1984, when the membership had reached 100, the Club moved to its present location, Miller's Cafeteria, where we currently enjoy fine food and fellowship.
Through the years the programs have been interesting, with talks and presentations by governors, senators, congressmen, local office holders, religious leaders, corporate executives, judges, humorists, beauty pageant winners, educators and even by club members, themselves.
In 1953, Magnolia celebrated its 100th birthday. In January of that year, District Governor Phil Loh, of Morrilton was making his official visit to our Club. Also present that day was Miss America, Miss Arkansas, Miss Magnolia and Miss Columbia County. Members reported that little was learned about Rotary from the Governor's address that day!
One program many will never forget was provided by a Banner News reporter, not a Rotarian, consisting of "off color" jokes. The then publisher of the Banner News, Bill Whitehead, who was a Rotarian, was also present that day. Orville Hancock's letter of resignation was awaiting him when he returned to his office.
Vernon Porter once was asked to give a vocational talk on his profession of accounting, but, instead, talked about an animal friend he had discovered named Bre'r Rabbit, whose exploits he loved to tell. So, the Club was treated to a series of Bre'r Rabbit tales.
When Loyd Hunnicutt was program chairman, he scheduled a program that had been suggested to him, involving a lady named Pat Wood, who did imitations of Minnie Pearl, the country star. But, this "Minnie Pearl" told some jokes that didn't come from the church pulpit! A red-faced Loyd ducked out of that meeting amid much laughter from the members.
The community has benefited by the Rotary Club; and the membership has taken the lead in supporting many worthwhile projects over the years. The Clubs of Arkansas and Tennessee supported a hospital for crippled children in Memphis for many years and our Club sent patients there. The Boy's and Girl's Club, Boy's State representatives, various school projects and scholarships to Southern Arkansas University are local projects the Club has sponsored. On the District level, we have been a "100% Club" on the Polio Plus project, providing vaccines to people around the world. The Club has a number of "Paul Harris Fellows," revealing our support of the Rotary Foundation. The exchange of visitors from New Zealand, Australia, India, Germany, France and Brazil are some of the countries our Club has hosted. We have sent representatives from our Club for study abroad in several countries of the world.
Over the years, three of our members have been District Governors and one currently serving, to wit:
| Oscar Moore - 1943
D. O. Talbot - 1956
Harold Brinson - 1985
Jim Davis - 2008-2009
|This history was provided by long time member and local historian, Archie Monroe.|