Rotary Club of Portland Maine USA

The History Minute Project

The History Minute Project
As part of its Centennial Celebration in 2015-16, Portland Rotary members presented weekly "History Minutes," each of which provided a glimpse into the Club's activities during most of the years between 1915 and the present. These weekly presentations (led by a committee of Jim Willey, Laura Young and Rusty Atwood) have been preserved online, and taken together offer a compelling look at life in the club and in the community, state, nation and world during each year. On the right is a picture of the Falmouth Hotel in Portland, the now-vanished site of many of the Club's early meetings.
1914-15 - Rusty Atwood talks about World War I, Arctic Explorer Robert Peary and a novel transcontinental telephone connection in which Rotarians in Portland spoke directly with Rotarians at tables in San Francisco.
1919-20 - Laura Young speaks about the League of Nations, Casey at the Bat, and an attendance challenge. Fundraising causes included Opportunity Farm and "Daughter's Day" at Prout's Neck.
1924-25 - Bob Traill spoke about Rotary in the roaring twenties, including an account of a juggler who clocked the entertainment committee chairman with a juggling club!
1931-32 - Laura Young covered subjects ranging from Amelia Earhart to the Lindbergh Baby, the Portland Centennial and more. 
1932-33 - David Smith - in one of the most entertaining history moments - took us deep into the days at the end of Prohibition, including a reference to Jim Willey's father and discussion of programs that year, which were universally "interesting, instructive and inspirational."
1934-35 - Don Lowry talked about the dust bowl and a series of programs including a service club "summit," Maine's taxation climate and a meeting at the fire station. 
1935-36 - Dick Hall talked about the dedication of the Hoover Dam, the start of the FBI and the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous. Programs that year covered G-men, radium, and "romantic spots in Maine."
1936-37 - Erik Jorgensen took us back to the center of the Depression when the game of Monopoly was the rage and where programs included discussions of fascism, and a Western Union bike messenger brought greetings to the Club from other clubs. We also hosted one of the last Civil War Veterans.
1937-38 - Mike Fortunato talked about the Hindenburg, Bugs Bunny, and a year when Adolph Hitler was named Time Magazine's 'Man of the Year.' Lots of programs on international affairs, as Rotary sought to make sense of the changes in the world.
1939-40 - Tom Nickerson spoke about the year when his dad was born and when World War II started. Houses cost $3,800. Service activities included a reading group at Nathan Clifford School.
1940-41 - Bruce Jones spoke about World War II. Most programs that year were around the war and Nazism.
December 7 1941 - A special history minute was presented by Jim Willey, who described our member, Earle Leavitt's, remarkable personal experience at Pearl Harbor. 
1941-42 - Bob Traill, himself a World War II vet, described the Club during this year, when all programming and all our context was about war. 
1942-43 - Jerry Angier spoke about a year of food rationing and the Battle of Guadalcanal. Portland Rotary crushed the Lions and Kiwanians in a Service Club golf tournament. Percival Baxter joined the club.
1943-44 - Bruce Moore spoke about the continued experience of the War. Military speakers included the head of BIW and a New Zealand airman who had personally shot down 36 Nazi planes. 
1944-46 - John Marr spoke about the end of the War. Rotary programs included discussions of youth, race and identity as well as "the surplus of pretty young women in liberated countries."
1950-52 - Bill Blount spoke about a time of postwar activity, worry about communism and the development of the hydrogen bomb.
1952-53 - Meredith Small, our Club's fourth woman member, who spoke about a year when, among other things, a hydrogen bomb got dropped on America, but fortunately it did not go off. Programs included a discussion of the poultry industry, in which every member received a chicken. Richard Nixon appeared at a joint meeting of service clubs.
1953-7 - Tom Nickerson spoke about the postwar boom, the civil rights movement and the red scare. Programs included discussion of the TV industry and the Turnpike Authority.
1958-59 - Leonard Scott talked about the years of the hula hoop and the dawn of the "Barbie" doll.
1960-61 - Alex St. Hilaire talked about the arrival of the Beatles, the struggles with segregation, and a program featuring Senator Margaret Chase Smith.
1962-63 - Ben Lowry spoke of Rotary during the year of his birth, the Cuban missile crisis, and a high school debate featuring future Congressman Tom Allen.
1963-64 - Amy Chipman talked about continued Beatlemania, the assassination of JFK and programs including drug research and "hot stock picks."
1964-65 - Bob Traill spoke about the Club during a period of Civil Rights and deterioration in Vietnam. Programs included a high school debate including David Flanagan, who "still remembers visiting Rotary as his first experience with a serious adult group."
1965-68 - Bruce Moore spoke of continued turmoil in both a social and economic sense. Vietnam was in full swing and programs included Governor Ken Curtis, Attorney General James Erwin, Senator Muskie and judge Edward Gignoux. This was the year when toilets stopped being flushed into Back Cove.
1969-70 - Jim Willey spoke for Erik Jorgensen who could not be there. Lots of talk about social unrest, drugs, the wealth divide and social justice. 
1971-72 - Dick Hall took us back to a year when lots was spoken about the University of Southern Maine, then in a merger.
1973-74 - Jim Willey took us back to a time of high inflation and low oil supplies. George Mitchell was among speakers, talking about Watergate.
1982-1983 - Mike Fortunato said if you don't know 1982-3 "you should Google it." Lots of familiar folks in the club, many of whom had more hair, during a year where Bob Patten was president.
1997-98 - John Curran took us back to the era of Lady Diana and Dolly the "cloned" Sheep. Programs that year included focus on Ireland and Romania.
Special: A look Back at the History of Jews in Portland Rotary - a program described by Jim Willey as being about "Truth, not sunshine and flowers," it explores the story of Portland Rotary's Jewish members.
Special: Judy Cavalero and Loretta Rowe discuss their experience as early woman members of Portland Rotary.