November 29, 1921 - In San Francisco, the defense rests in the “Fatty” Arbuckle celebrity murder trial. In Washington, the Federal Government returns 51 indictments against the country’s glass manufacturers, charging them with price fixing. In Santa Cruz, another quiet day in paradise is under way.
Ebert’s Motor Co., 49 Pacific Avenue, is selling new Cleveland Roadsters for $1,350. For the more daring, a used Indian Motorcycle can be had for $75. “The Face of the World” starring Barbara Dedford was playing at the New Santa Cruz Theatre on Walnut Avenue. And Wilson Brothers Realty advertises 70 acres for sale three miles from downtown, including a six room house, barn and chicken coops, priced to sell at $5,000.
At the St. George Hotel on Pacific Avenue, 25 men gather for lunch constituting the first meeting of the proposed Santa Cruz Rotary Club. The club was granted its charter from Rotary International four months later. The charter was officially presented by the San Francisco club at a banquet held at the St. George Hotel on June 24, 1922. This was the first charter issued to a club in a city with a population under 11,000. The success of the Santa Cruz Club opened the door for the formation of other clubs in small towns across the country.
Harry Bias was elected to serve as the club’s first president. The Board of Directors included George Cardiff, Robert Jones, Fred Howe and George Wood.
The Santa Cruz Club is still well known for its fun and fellowship. This characteristic seems to be rooted in the very beginnings of the club. In the 1920’s the club was a place where one could always hear a song or two sung at the lunch meeting, generally accompanied with a well-meaning prank. At a 1929 dinner, to poke fun at the officer who installed the club several years earlier and who had a penchant for wearing bright colors, all the club members rushed to Morris Abrams clothiers and purchased the loudest, widest ties possible. The incident garnered a lengthy a lengthy front page story in the Sentinel the next day. A pattern of fun, fellowship and service had been set. Rotary was on its way to becoming an intricate part of the fabric of Santa Cruz life.
The 25 charter members of the Rotary Club reads like a who’s who of Santa Cruz’s social, civic and business life in the 1920’s. Judge Bias was elected president in March 1922: his term expired with the end of the Rotary year, June 30, 1922. He was then elected to a full one- year term, making him the only president in club history to server more than 12 months.
Morris Abrams, clothier, was an active leader in the Santa Cruz business community for six decades. Mr. Abrams once said, “Santa cruz is not only a good place for a man to rest at the end of the road, but for a young man to work at the beginning of it.” When Mr. Abrams opened his store on Pacific and Lincoln in the early 1900’s, his was the last building toward the river, and pine forests grew near the back of his shop. Whenever he had to pay a fine at Rotary, regardless of the amount of the fine he would simply throw in a handful of pennies. He enjoyed the penny-pinching image this gave him. However whenever a project came up or a need arose, Mr. Abrams was always the first one to step forward with a contribution, usually the largest donation in the club. Because of his friendliness, his generosity and his belief that every customer should be a friend, Abrams was know as “The Poor Man’s Friend.”
Charles Klein was the owner of Klein & Trumbly Jewelers on Pacific Avenue and was known as the “Grand Old Man of Golf”. In 1950, at the age of 80, Mr. Klein shot a 36 on the front nine of Pasatiempo. An early and ardent supporter of Rotary, Mr. Klein remained active well into his 90’s.
William T. Jeter, a charter member, was Lt. Governor of California from 1895 to 1898. He was born in Illinois in 1850 and came to Santa Cruz in 1877. In 1884 he was elected district attorney, where he served until 1890, when he was elected mayor. He was instrumental in securing 12,000 acres of north county redwoods for a state park as well as the Big Trees Grove in Felton. After completing his political career, he served as president of the Santa Cruz County First National Bank for many years. He was an active Rotarian with a perfect attendance record until the illness that eventually lead to his death in 1930. Flags around the state were lowered to half staff to honor this great Santa Cruzan.
Throughout its history, the Santa Cruz Rotary Club has attracted some of the city’s most important and influential business people and civic leaders. As the club celebrates over 86 years of service to the community, this continues to be the case. However, there may never be a more illustrious group than the charter members of 1922.