We’ve asked some of the senior members of the Arcadia Rotary to recall some of their memories of the club’s early days. This is the second in the series of these recollections. It’s from Bob Harbicht, who has been a club member since 1982. If you have memories you would like to share, forward them to Dan Place (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll get them published.
Share some of your early memories of the club.
I joined the club in 1982. Ernie Gekas was President and my sponsors were Lyle Cunningham and Chris MacGuire. I recognized right off that this club was different, in that it was a lot of fun. Ernie got George Fasching up to fine him for a message he had on his message board taking General Telephone to task for some very poor service he received. As George expounded on the poor service General Telephone provided, Bill Killeen called out, “I think Faschings should change its name to General Car Wash.” This was my kind of group.
Your most memorable highlights from your years in the club.
Our President in 1993-94 was Paul Lambert. Until then, every President had been his own finemaster. Before his year started Paul came to me and said, “I’m really not a very funny guy. How about if you did the fines and recognitions during my year?” I agreed and had a lot of fun in this role, and the members seemed to enjoy it also. Since then, I have been finemaster for several Presidents and have thoroughly enjoyed it each time.
I’ve also enjoyed authoring and directing the Presidents’ demotions. I’ve done about ten of these and, although it’s a lot of work, It’s also a lot of fun.
What projects, both local and international, we emphasized in the early days of the club.
One of the club’s major accomplishments, in my book, was the building of the dining hall at Camp Trask, the Boy Scout camp in the hills above Monrovia. Arcadia Rotary had completed a number of projects at the camp, including the administration building, the lake, a BB gun rifle range, and others, most under the leadership of Nick Pokrajac and Paul Minoian. But the dining hall was truly a major undertaking, a 2,000 square foot building including kitchen, shower room, and restrooms.
I remember when Nick, Jeff Johns, Jim Kuhn and I went up there the first day and started to lay out the site of the building in the mud. Nick was using a sextant (or whatever the tool is called for leveling building sites) and I was holding the stick he was sighting in on. Jim & Jeff were putting sticks in the ground at the proper places under Nick’s direction. When we finished, I was feeling pretty proud of myself in my newfound role as building contractor when Nick informed me that the pole I was holding for him to sight in on was generally referred to as the “idiot stick.”
We worked on that building for months and months of Saturdays (and maybe a few Sundays) and it really brought the club together. Lots of people that I thought I knew from our weekly meeting, I really got to know when we were swinging a hammer together. When we were doing the framing, a cute, tiny Chinese gal, who was manager of a bank and whose name I unfortunately can’t recall, was holding a huge nail gun. She had it cradled in her arms because it was nearly as big as she was. When we got a section of wall framing laid out we told her to go ahead and shoot the nails in. She bent down, barely able to hold the nail gun, and bam, bam, fired the nails through the studs. When she stood back up and cradled the gun in her arms again, she looked at me and said with a look of accomplishment in her eyes, “I got to have one of these!”
Compare and contrast the club of the past to the present day club
Our club has a unique “personality,” which it has had since I joined 32 years ago and retains to this day. Somehow we maintain an irreverent, fun-loving club, but accomplish great things. I can’t count the times I’ve heard a speaker preface his/her remarks with a statement like, “I’ve never seen a club like this; you guys have fun!”
Take a look at the photos in the High Gear each week and you see genuine smiles on everyone’s face. That’s because we are all having a good time and truly like our fellow Arcadia Rotarians and being with them.
Anything else you think would be if interest to club members
• During the year-plus we worked building Fort Rotary at the Scout reservation, Bob Novell provided lunch nearly every Saturday. No good deed goes unpunished! He was constantly ribbed about his baloney sandwiches (they weren’t baloney) and the general poor quality of the lunches (they weren’t poor quality).
• The time some gal carrying a baby wrapped in blankets barged into the Rotary meeting and demanded to know where Rudy Serar was. When the President pointed Rudy out she cried, “There’s your daddy.”
• District Governor John Fee (from our club) holding his District Conference in Kuaii because of some loophole in the Rotary rules of how far from your district the district conference could be held. It was the first one I ever attended.
• Four of us pouring a concrete slab behind a house where an iron lung patient lived, on which a backup generator would be installed so the iron lung would continue to work in case of a power outage. Something that hardly anyone knew about, including many of our club members. But the iron lung patient did!
• Mike Real and Tom Crosby acting as foremen for all us unskilled workers as we built the dining hall and Fort Rotary at the Boy Scout camp.
• Bob Kratt’s Craft Talk. Bob was the first of three speakers scheduled that day and told us he was not good at speaking before a group. He then proceeded to relate his life history, running right through everyone else’s time. At about 25 minutes after 1:00, he said, “Well, to make a long story short . . .” and everyone fell out of their chairs laughing. By the end of the half hour Bob was only up to about 1953. For years after, whenever there were a few extra minutes in a meeting, someone would call out, “Maybe Bob Kratt could finish his Craft Talk.”
• Back in 1985 our program one week was a foot phrenologist, a woman who spoke with a very strong German accent. The High Gear report that week was written in broken English with a strong German accent (“It is not generally knowed dat der feeten is de termination of der nerves, such becoming apparent as soon as taken offen der shoes und walkin around naked on der sharp rocken”).
• When Rotary was opened to women members, two of our first three had the same name, Laura Christiansen. One Laura Christiansen was to marry, become Laura Freedman, and lead our club as our first female President.
• Our first woman member, Phyllis Tompkins, was very arty, something that our formerly all-male club was not used to. Phyllis passed around a sign-up sheet for an event with helium balloons attached to it with a ribbon. Someone cut the ribbon as a protest. It wasn’t hard to identify the culprit; the balloons were floating against the ceiling right over Jeff Johns’ head.
• When Bob Daggett was being recognized for his anniversary and was asked “how many years.” His answer, “This wife, or in total?” When I was President I announced from the podium that he had a phone call. I told him I thought it was his ex-wife as the caller was identified as “plaintiff.”
• The fantastic vacation the McCallums, Jensens, Swenssons and Harbichts had at a lighthouse in Connecticut that we purchased in a Rotary auction. Nicest place I ever stayed!
• Whenever David Hu was called on, the room erupting in calls of “Who? Who? Who?”
• The fly fishing trip I took with Doug Aaseby, Butch Chinn, and Jeff Johns where we floated down the Deschutes River in Oregon for three days. One of the boats sank on the third day, leading Butch Chinn to tell anyone who would listen how I saved his life by inviting him to ride in the other boat with me that day.
I could go on and on, but this is probably already longer than most people want to read. Suffice it to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every one of the 32 years I’ve been in the Arcadia Rotary Club.