History 1939-1963

A Firm Hand on the Tiller

The Club entered its second quarter century with a solid membership, a great track record of community service and with a program polish that can only be earned by hard work and close attention to the Rotary ideals.

The Club was reminded, however, by L. S. Klinck, a long time member and President of the University of British Columbia, who wrote a short note in the Silver Jubilee booklet, to look for younger members who have the energy and virility of youth. “Men beyond forty may supply the Club with experience, caution, and wisdom:  but imagination, aggressiveness and idealism, prompt decision and resolute action — these things must come from those who have the gift of leadership combined with the energy and virility of youth. The University President did not place much faith in the adage that “life begins at forty”.

Vancouver had more than doubled its population since the Club began, to a respectable 300,000 plus, and it was widely recognized as Canada’s third largest city.

The new Hotel Vancouver was completed in 1939 and welcomed King George VI and Queen Elizabeth as the first guests. They visited Vancouver on their famous Canadian tour and captured the hearts of the people. In honour of the Royal visit the Club sponsored a fireworks display.

The Club which had met for years in the old Hotel Vancouver located at the corner of Georgia and Granville moved to the new Hotel and the first luncheon was held there on May 30, 1939.

The outbreak of hostilities of the Second World War in September 1939 put the Club once again on a wartime footing and a resolution was promptly passed providing that any member who would be absent for wartime duties would be automatically listed as an honourary member during the period of active service.

War service dominated the Clubs activities until 1945. Canvassing for the Canadian War Services Fund, support of Victory Loan drives, assistance to the Queens Canadian Fund and many other lesser kinds of financial aid was supplied.

Two major projects dominated the war years, the founding and support of the Vancouver Air Cadet Squadron No. 59 and the operation of the United Serviceman’s Centre located on Burrard Street. The Serviceman’s center was financed from the proceeds of the raffle of a house that was donated by a member. A total of $71,018. was raised, a very sizeable amount at the time. The Women’s Auxiliary largely staffed the center on a volunteer basis from early morning till late at night. The success of the centre which served 1,700,000 service men and women remains an outstanding example of selfless community service.

In spite of war conditions life in the growing city continued and many social needs were exacerbated by wartime instability. A grant of $5,000. was made to the Children’s hospital, $2,935. was provided for underprivileged children and a grant of $2,000. was made to the Alexandra Community Action Association for special community services. Many other lesser grants were made in support of social welfare programs.

The cessation of hostilities in Europe in May 1945 and the termination of the war in the Pacific in August of the same year set the stage for a vital period of postwar recovery.

The Club in cooperation with the YMCA developed the British Columbia Youth Counselling Service in 1945 with a grant of $4,000. The service was begun early in 1947 and the first Executive Director was a young University graduate by the name of Ken Weaver. Ken organized the service and later became a member of the Club rising to the Presidency in 1972-73. In the next decade the Club provided a total of $43,925. in support of this service. It was eventually financed without the help of the Club and continued to give a valuable community service for many years.

A grant of $5,000 provided a garden especially designed for the blind when the CNIB built their new residential center, Queen Elizabeth Hall on Main Street. The recreation facilities of the city received a boost when the Club granted $25,000 to the Point Grey Community Center Association to help construct the Kerrisdale Ice Rink which continues to render fine community service to the present.

Health Services, particularly those to children, have been of special interest to the Club. And in the early ’50’s a grant of $15,000 was made to the General Hospital to help build the Provincial Health Center for Children and later a sum of $15,450 was provided the Center for a special research laboratory. In the same period a grant of $5,000 was provided the Children’s Hospital to help purchase new X-Ray equipment.

The legacy of the war and the revolution in transportation drew attention forcefully to the world as a global community and the International objectives of Rotary commanded the attention of the Club.

The Club combined its interest in Education and International affairs when in 1954 the members undertook to raise $150,000 to build an International House on the campus of the University of British Columbia. By late 1957 these funds had been raised,  $115,000 from Club funds and individual members and $35,000 from private donors.

There was a sod turning on November 20, 1957 and the cheque for $150,000 was presented by President Reg Rose to the University. The facility was completed late in 1958 and continues to the present as a jewel in our crown.

The official opening of the International Center on March 4, 1959, was a gala occasion. None other than Eleanor Roosevelt the United States Ambassador to the United Nations attended the opening ceremonies;  and she firmly supported the purposes and principles which had motivated our Rotary Club to invest in this project which has effectively demonstrated the Rotary concern for the development of International Understanding and Goodwill.

The Preventorium which the Club had helped to launch in 1932 had grown in size and scope over the years. Its focus now was not so much the prevention of tuberculosis as it was the care of children with special handicaps. To reflect this new look the hospital in 1954, adopted the name Princess Margaret Children’s Village, and later it came to be known as Sunny Hill Hospital for children. The Club continued its interest in the hospital and in the early ’50’s provided $4,000 to build a wading pool for the children.

A new organization “The Childrens Foundation” to provide special treatment for emotionally disturbed children was developed in the late ’50’s and the Club provided a grant of $46,000. for dining room facilities.

The Salvation Army Camp “Camp Sunrise” at Hopkins Landing on the Sunshine Coast received a grant of $10,000 to purchase additional property and later as a Golden Anniversary project the Club provided a further $30,000 to the camp.

A landmark in the History of the Club occurred in March 1950 with the establishment of the Oscar A. Olson Foundation by Past President Oscar Olson, by the kind donation of a considerable sum of money. The Foundations purpose is to provide assistance to Charitable Organizations

and Community Enterprises in Vancouver. The Club now had the beginnings of a fund that would continue to make funds available to the community for many years to come. At the time of writing the assets of the foundation stand at $130,881.