History 1964-1988

Peace – Not War, but Social Change

In this, the third quarter century of the life of the Club, there were no destructive wars nor severe depressions to dislocate society. There was, however, a decade of social discontent that characterized the period of the late sixties and the early seventies.

Large numbers of youth, the product of the baby boom years following the Second World War, took to the streets, many as itinerant mendicants to demonstrate their contempt for what they, disrespectfully called “The Establishment”. The very threads of the fabric of our society were called into question. Any many of our institutions – Education, The Family, Marriage, Sexual Codes, the Economic System and Religion were relentlessly attacked.

In periods of such social turbulence the mettle of organizations such as Rotary is put to the acid test. It is to the credit of the Club that it emerged from this period unscathed and strong.

The bulk of the financial resources that the Club provided for community services was administered by the Community Services Committee and it followed a policy of assisting many small agencies rather than opting for large grants to a few. A total of 185, health, welfare, hospital, education and arts agencies received $1,340,000. in this period. Further 41 International Projects were funded in cooperation with the Canadian International Development Agency.

A number of major projects were also undertaken by the Club and their nature provides an overview of the breadth and depth of its community interests. To qualify as a major project support in excess of $10,000. must have been provided.

In 1969 the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society an agency providing specialized services to people suffering from the crippling disease of arthritis constructed a new headquarters and clinic building. The Club granted the society $25,000.00 to install the elevator system.

In 1971 a grant of $10,000.00 was given to the Vancouver General Hospital to assist in the construction of a Stroke Rehabilitation facility. Later in 1979 the Club provided $60,000. to equip a Low Vision Clinic in the newly constructed VGH Eye Centre.

In 1976 a grant in the amount of $12,200.00, was made to St. Pauls Hospital to assist in the purchase of special equipment for the Heart Surgery.

In 1984 the largest project of this period was established at the University of British Columbia Health Sciences Centre Hospital. The hospital in cooperation with the Triumf Nuclear Accelerator Facility wished to install an experimental Positron Emission Scanner and a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Scanner. Both machines to be used in brain physiology research. The Club provided $125,000. to prepare the physical facilities for this sophisticated equipment.

The facility know as the “UBC IMAGING RESEARCH CENTRE” was officially opened in 1984 by Queen Elizabeth who visited Vancouver to launch the Worlds Fair Expo 86, and to invite the world to Vancouver.

Camping and Youth Work has long been an interest of the Club and several significant grants were given between 1963 and 1980. Camp Byng, the Boy Scout Camp at Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast,  received $37,000 for buildings and equipment. Thirteen other camps in the vicinity of Vancouver were assisted to a lesser extent.

The Children’s Foundation an agency established to provide special services and residential care for emotionally disturbed children, had received Club help before when their main building was built, and now in 1965 the Club provided $15,000 for equipment in an additional residential facility.

In 1968 the Missions to Seamen, a very important service agency in a port city such as Vancouver received a grant of $10,000 to assist in the equipping of a new building.

In this accelerated world, for which we are often ill equipped, education directed to provide us with the ability to handle these rapidly changing times is of paramount importance. The Club has recognized this and has established bursaries at The University of British Columbia,  Simon Fraser University and the B.C Institute of Technology. Each year $7,000. is provided to help students in need for a total expenditure of $175,000. since 1963. Further bursaries have been provided through a grant of $27,000 to the Karen Magnusson Bursary Fund, in honour of the girl who brought fame to our city for Olympic and World Championship Figure Skating.

A total of 26 Educational Institutions have been assisted since 1963 and this help ranges from special programs for dyslexic children to day care facilities to enable young single mothers to complete their High School education.

International House, one of the crown jewels in our community service record, at the University of British Columbia continued to receive attention from the Club. Since 1963 a new sound system and equipment for a coffee shop have been added to this fine facility.

In May 1969 an outstanding move was made by our Club, one that will dominate our financial structure for many years to come. The Club  established the VANCOUVER ROTARY CLUB FOUNDATION, a charitable foundation that has the capacity to establish a capital fund which provides an annual amount to support Club activities. The initial money provided to the Foundation was in the order of $50,000. and each year since its inception a portion of the proceeds from fund raising efforts are deposited in the capital fund. This fund now stands at $582,000 and will continue to grow, as the years pass, for the benefit of our community. Thus the Rotary Club of Vancouver is unique in that it controls two charitable foundations, The Oscar Olson Foundation and the Vancouver Rotary Club Foundation. Sound financial planning for the future, indeed.

The International Service Committee is well known within the Club but it receives precious little recognition in the community at large because its work goes out to third world countries without local fanfare. Since 1963, almost $150,000. has been provided by the Club to projects in far off places in the Philippines, India,  Haiti, and Uganda to mention just a few. Through the cooperation of the Canadian International Development Agency the value of our aid is increased by a factor of three so that the real value of our aid exceeds on half million dollars. Vehicles, Tractors, Wells, Clinic Buildings, Mobile Clinic Vans, Books ad infinitum characterizes the nature of our International activities.

The Salvation Army and their variety of programs was not forgotten and in 1971 funds in the amount of $20,000. was provided to construct a park at the Eventide Residence. Further funds were from time to time provided to help maintain the Salvation Army camp “Sunrise” at Hopkins Landing.

Community Service takes many forms and does not always involve the expenditure of money but can have substantial and lasting benefits for the community. The Pier B-C Community Action project undertaken by the Club in 1982 is one such effort that has earned the Club many accolades.

In the late 1970’s a plan was devised, with Provincial Government support, to convert the obsolete CPR Pier B-C located in the heart of Vancouver‚Äôs waterfront into a modern Convention Center and Cruise Ship terminal. Federal Government financial participation was anticipated. Plans were prepared and work began under Provincial auspices. After the expenditure of many millions of dollars the negotiations for Federal participation
were not brought to fruition and work on the project was stopped and the project mothballed.

The Cruise Ship facility was urgently needed and the City needed a first class convention facility. President Paul McCrea, a visionary and activist, proposed that the Club should mount a Community Action program to endeavour to rally support for the Pier B-C project and to help bring the possible participants back to the table.

The Club set up an Action office, and soon many members were engaged in the task of lobbying key persons and generally publicizing the urgent need for the project. It worked. It was not long before a solution to the negotiating impasse was found when McCrea conceived the idea of tying the project into Expo 86 by building the Trade and Convention Centre to serve as the “Canada Pavilion” for the period of the fair.

The Government of Canada agreed to complete the project, using the new convention facilities as their pavilion in the forthcoming Expo-86 Worlds Fair. The rest is History and now Vancouver boasts not only a Cruise Ship facility second to none but a Convention Centre and a World Class Hotel. The unique “ship: design of the building with soaring sails and public walkways to view the harbour provides a much photographed “Centre Piece” to our Harbour skyline. There is no doubt that concerned citizens can bring about change that leads to progress.

In 1987 the Rotary Clubs of the World of which there are 23,203 at the time of writing, undertook a program that would give real meaning to the name “Rotary International”. Following a request from the World Health organization, after Rotary had demonstrated through a pilot project in the Philippines that Poliomyelitis could be eradicated through mass immunization, Rotary International mobilized each club to raise the funds necessary to virtually immunize every child in the free world against the dreaded and crippling disease of poliomyelitis. The new oral vaccines that can be administered quickly, cheaply, and safely have made such an objective possible.

The Rotary Club of Vancouver happily undertook to do its share in the Polio – Plus campaign. A committee was struck to guide the fund raising efforts and work was begun. With an objective of $75,000 the committee spread the word that Polio could be beaten and that many children would be spared the horror of life as a cripple in societies less compassionate than our own and many other victims would live to take their place in society.

The response of the Club members was greater than anticipated and the sum of $100,000 was contributed to this great cause.

In cooperation with the Pacific Otolaryngology Foundation the Club has undertaken to fund research in the development of cochlear implants at the University of British Columbia Medical School. To carry out this exciting program a new organization the “Rotary Hearing Foundation” has been incorporated to raise and administer funds for this research on a continuing basis.

The annual Bike-A-Thon, which is a bicycle event involving a 75 mile ride from Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs in the Eastern Fraser Valley, will be the ongoing fund raising effort of the Hearing Foundation and it is proving to be an interesting and lucrative event.

Vancouver is now the hub of a metropolitan center of over 1,000,000 people and is the greatest port of the West Coast of North America. The problems of urban growth may change character but they will not diminish. And as the Club looks forward to the last decade of this century and the challenges of the 21st Century it is strong and enthusiastic. Secure in the knowledge that Rotary is always ready for “the time”.

The Club members hit upon the idea of staging a Carnival and Yuletide Festival, the first being held in December 1923, in the Armories on Georgia Street. This first effort raised $6,500. but there was criticism because “gambling” was involved.

The next year the Carnival took the form of an “Ice Show”, with great success and thus was launched the Clubs association with the “Ice Show” the longest running Winter show in the city.

The first Ice Shows featured local skaters and performers and this format continued until 1951 when an association was arranged with a professional show called the “Ice Cycles”. In the 1960’s the professional show changed its name to the “Ice Capades” and our long running Ice Show continues under this name.

The “Ice Capades” is certainly an outstanding success story for the Club and a great credit to many members who served willingly on the Committee responsible for the annual organization of the show. The show also provides a wonderful opportunity for the whole membership to participate in the ticket sales and ticket taking, program sales, and general officiating at the time of the show.

The Ice Show was¬†a consistent money earner for the Club and many of our community projects over the 75 years have been made possible from Ice Show “profits”. The tenor of the show is a credit to Rotary for it provides spectacular¬†family¬†entertainment at a reasonable price. Many famous skating artists have been brought to the city, Karen Magnusson, Peggy Fleming, Toller Cranston, to mention just a few. The most recent feature skaters being the World famous dance team of “Torvill and Dean”.

Ted McRae, A Rotary Club of Vancouver member who in 1988 documented the club's history.
Ted McRae

Rotary Club of Vancouver

20th Century History