The Beginning of the Rotary Club of Flemington
According to the records of club historian Pete Haines, September 5th, 1923 is the date that Oscar LaRue met with two (2) railroad executive Rotarians at the Union Hotel to discuss the advantages of having a Rotary Club in Flemington, New Jersey. While we do not know their individual names, they impressed Oscar enough to begin the charter process. Incidentally, Oscar’s category shows up later as “Railroading” so it is possible that the executives were his bosses.
On Wednesday, September 12th, 1923, Oscar met again for lunch at the Union Hotel along with six (6) Flemington businessmen, two (2) Rotarians from Newark, NJ and one (1) from Bound Brook, NJ. The intent of the meeting was to get the machinery started for securing a charter. On September 19th, another Wednesday luncheon meeting was held at the Union Hotel with the original seven (7) members and ten (10) additional prospective members.
It is interesting to note that the Wednesday noon meetings were never officially adopted as a meeting time; it just sort of stuck. Likewise, the Union Hotel seemed to become the accepted meeting place. Except for a period of time during the Hauptman trial, the Union Hotel continued as the official meeting place for 50-years until the early 1970’s. At this time, the club outgrew the Hotel and moved to the Hill Top.
The club charter arrived by mail on October 3rd, 1923, thus the official beginning of the Flemington Rotary Club. The charter was formally opened and read aloud at a director’s meeting. Fred Mueller of Newark acted as chairman. Is so happened that a large inner-city meeting of Rotarians from all over northern New Jersey had been scheduled to be held on October 3rd, 1923 in Newark at the Krueger auditorium. More than 600 Rotarians were present. Flemington now had seventeen (17) members. One was sick, however, sixteen (16) drove to Newark that night in a pouring rain. Our records do not indicate who was program chairman for the meeting. It was decided, though, that the main feature of the program be a formal presentation of the Flemington Charter. Guy Gundaker, President of Rotary International, made the presentation.
After a business meeting and formalities, the curtain was raised, and there on stage was a replica of a railroad station. A large sign hanging in the middle read “Flemington Junction”. There was a freight cart and benches, a ticket booth lighted with kerosene lanterns, and the sixteen (16) members of Flemington Rotary were sitting or strolling around. Two (2) dressed as conductors and one (1) each as an engineer and a fireman. For sound effects, there was a hidden whistle, bell and steam engine noise reproduced by an old Victrola and Victor Records. To top this all, steam rolled in under a backdrop curtain following each passing train. (Pouring hot water on dry ice produced the steam.)
Records indicate that the evening was a noisy, boisterous and hilarious success … does this sound familiar to any of our current meetings?
Some History of the Rotary Club of Flemington
Flemington Rotary can boast of the fact that it was the first Rotary Club in the world to have its charter presented at an inner-city meeting. It is also the first club in the world to have its charter presented in person by the President of Rotary International.
Some interesting tidbits from the initial beginnings of the club include:
On December 12, 1923, the first “Ladies Day” with an attendance of 100% was recorded.
In 1925, the club was instrumental in establishing the first Boy Scout Troop in Flemington, NJ.
In 1926, a special committee established the Egg Laying Test for Hunterdon County. In the same year, another committee prevailed upon to establish a Motor Vehicle Testing Headquarters for Flemington.
In 1931, the club sponsored two (2) 4-H Forestry projects.
In January 1935, the club took on the responsibility of escorting visitors through the Court House on Sundays during the Hauptman trial from 1 PM to 5 PM. On the second Sunday, there were 930 visitors, which continued on the following Sundays and forced the club to seek help from the Sheriff’s office and the American Legion.
Some outstanding accomplishments over the years include:
■ Assistance in securing a new Post Office for Flemington.
■ Contributing to and helping erect the Indian Chief Tuccamirgin on Bonnell Street.
■ Helping to establish the Visiting Homemakers Service of Hunterdon County.
■ Sponsoring the North Hunterdon Rotary Club.
■ Assisting in the formation of the Whitehouse Rotary Club.
■ The annual Flemington Christmas Tree Lighting began in 1923 and we have helped Santa distribute oranges and candy to the area children ever since.