COMMUNITY: Pawhuska Rotary Club celebrates 100 years of service

Robert Smith |

Local insurance and real estate executive Steve Tolson presented the program Feb. 18 for the one-hundredth anniversary luncheon of the Pawhuska Rotary Club, held at the Osage Nation Title VI Community Building, and he traced the club’s history back to its founding in February 1920 at the Duncan Hotel, where it continued to meet for the next 40 years.

Rotary International, which now consists of more than 35,000 clubs, and in excess of a million members, got its start in 1905. The Pawhuska club organized just 15 years later, with 25 charter members. When the Pawhuska club held its 50th anniversary celebration in 1970, three of the original members were still living.

Tolson used documents and club artifacts to examine some of the highlights of the organization’s activities in the community. The documentation indicated the club’s positive influence on the lives of residents of Pawhuska, Osage County and the wider world through financial support for causes such as medical care for disabled children, college education, public library services, Head Start services for young children, tsunami relief and much more.

“I could not do these people justice who were in the club the last hundred years,” Tolson said. “They were truly leaders.”

He found particularly moving the correspondence in the club’s records from members who had been called away to military service during time of war.

Some of the older members of the present-day club offered remarks on their experiences as Rotarians. Jack Shoemate noted that he had always enjoyed the high quality of comaraderie in the club. Frederick Drummond commented that he found Rotary members through the years to be special people — he mentioned particularly his friend Strat Tolson, who was also present for the centennial.

Strat Tolson, who first joined Pawhuska Rotary in 1946, said he had seen the membership rise as high as 70 and drop as low as 10, and he said that the current club is as good a group as any that came before them.

“The club is as good now as it’s ever been,” he said.

Interspersed with memories of serious endeavors were jokes from longtime club members about chicken meals, and humorous observances from the master of ceremonies about the drift at one point in Pawhuska Rotary history from typed minutes in the direction of notes sometimes scribbled on different-colored napkins.

Through it all, a spirit of good humor prevailed, and the club also reflected on the commitment to sound principles that is at the core of the Rotary experience. The club’s motto is “Service before self,” and it is famed for its “Four-Way Test” that inquires whether things one might say or do are truthful, fair, likely to build good will and better friendships, and beneficial to all concerned.