All posts by Brian Hall

Nat B. Reed recites Robert W. Service

Our stimulating program was given by Mr. Nat Reed  and started by his reciting the entire 770 word poem the Cremation of Sam McGee, then a summarization of the history of Robert Service.

Born in Lancashire, England to a bank cashier and an heiress, poet Robert William Service moved to Scotland at the age of five. He wrote his first poem on his sixth birthday, and was educated at some of the best schools in Scotland, where his interest in poetry grew alongside a desire for travel and adventure.

He worked in a shipping office and a bank, and briefly studied literature at the University of Glasgow. Inspired by Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson, Service sailed to western Canada in 1894 to become a cowboy in the Yukon Wilderness. He worked on a ranch and as a bank teller in Vancouver Island after the Gold Rush, gleaning material that would inform his poetry for years to come and earn him his reputation as “Bard of the Yukon.”

A prolific writer and poet, Service published numerous collections of poetry during his lifetime, including Songs of a Sourdough or Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses (1907), which went into ten printings its first year and Ballads of a Bohemian (1921).

He was a correspondent for the Toronto Star during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, and served in World War I as an ambulance driver in France. After the war, Service married Germaine Bougeoin and they resided mainly in the south of France until his death.

Nat ended his presentation by reciting another of Robert Service poems, inspired by a request to write a poem for a church social resulting in The Shooting of Dan McGrew.

What follows is the entire Cremation of Sam McGee:

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows. Why he left his home in the South to roam ’round the Pole, God only knows. He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell; Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail. Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail. If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see; It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow, And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe, He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess; And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan: “It’s the cursèd cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone. Yet ’tain’t being dead—it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains; So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail; And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale. He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee; And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven, With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given; It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains, But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code. In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load. In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring, Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow; And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low; The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in; And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay; It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.” And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum; Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire; Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher; The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see; And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so; And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow. It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why; And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear; But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near; I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside. I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; … then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar; And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door. It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm— Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

The Economy and Investing Today and the Near Future

The January 12 program was presented by past president Bob Novell and Bob Hoffman.

Bob Novell began by challenging Rotarians to think of the changes that will occur in our nation and economy in the next 20 years. Some mega trends including: a low birth rate in the US, immigration challenges, income disparity between the rich (income growing) and the less rich (income declining) and how employment is being impacted by the efficiency of robots and increasing computer technology.

The overall economy is also influenced by aging Baby Boomers going into retirement, challenges with health care, not only with the elderly but with uninsured.  The economy is full speed ahead now, however, worries of another recession and for inflation persist. The Federal Open Market Committee has been raising short term rates and promises to continue to raise rates in 2018.

Will we have another recession like 2007?  Bob thinks not, however, he thinks there will be some pull backs in the market perhaps 10 to 20%.  Other concerns are promises state and local governments have made to retirees that increase pressure on future workers to pay for the retirements, the $20 Trillion National deficit and Student Loan debt. With regard to Student Loan debt, concern is both for the borrowers and the lenders (will some of that debt be forgiven).

Bob Hoffman talked about the importance of diversification in our investing, while we can’t predict exactly what area of our investments will perform best, having diversification in our portfolio assures us that when one area is negatively impacted other areas pick up the difference.

Bob also reviewed Bitcoin a newer digital currency or Cryptocurrency. Bitcoin balances are kept on a public ledger in the cloud. Bitcoins are not issued or backed by any banks or governments, nor are individual bitcoins valuable as a commodity.

Bob concluded by answering questions about alternative investments, the impact of the legalization of Marijuana and other non traditional investments. Overall it was a very informative program by our two Rotarians. Many thanks to you both.

Why the Mayflower Matters

Erica Hahn introduced a stimulating and timely program about the history and challenges for our early Pilgrim settlers, beginning in 1620 with 102 men, women and children establishing a colony at Plymouth.

Erica gave us a history lesson on the Roman Catholic church, the predominant religion in western Europe in the 1600’s.  The church divisions driven by the Calvinist belief in predetermination vs the Armenenisiam view of man’s choice in the matter of salvation, and Martin Luther’s establishment of the Reformation church.

Also a quick trip down memory lane with Henry VIII seeking an annulment of his marriage, which the church could not do, therefore the establishment of Protestantism in western Europe.

Beginning with and following the “discovery” of the new world by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the early efforts to colonize the new world were driven by the quest for riches.  France, Spain, Denmark, Great Britain and others sought gold, beaver pelts, cod, cochineal (a bug used for its red dye) and silver.  Many of the colonial attempts, like Jamestown in 1607, were comprised of only men and the death rate was as high as 50%. They did not want to plant or build the infrastructure needed to sustain a community.

By contrast, the “separatists” from western Europe as they were called lived in Leiden Holland for about 12 years before coming to the new world.  They were not coming to get rich, but to plat, build and create a colony to live in.  The Mayflower arrived in 1620 in Cape Cod, shortly thereafter creating the Mayflower Compact, an agreement among the new settlers.  In 1621 they had the first Thanksgiving Feast, with food including turkeys and deer meat provided partially by the native Indians.

There are as many as 30 million direct descendants of the Pilgrims in the U.S. and many famous ones like Marylyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, President Bush, Hugh Hefner and others like Ashley Smith an Arcadia Rotarian!  Erica says you can check out your history on Family Tree DNA.

Not enough about the Mayflower, check out the book “Mayflower” by Nathaniel Philbrick, a good read.  There are also Mayflower Society’s in many cities.

Raghada Khoury – District Govenor

Following an update and call to action for repair of the Camp Trask Boy Scout Fort by Mike Real (Real Food Marketing) and Keith Brown (KB Construction), President Tony Parrille introduced the service area leaders.
Environmental Service director, Glenn Oyoung introduced plans to partner with the Arboretum sponsoring student tours of the Arboretum.  Arboretum President Richard Schulhof described how influential this can be with some students that have not experienced the outdoors, wildlife, open fields and the extensive variety of plant life at the Arboretum.  More to follow on this project.
Community Service Director, Brent Forsee, Principal AUSD reminded the club that we will continue to recognize both students and teachers of the month.  We will also have two meetings recognizing the Arcadia police and fire department key personnel.
International Service director, Dick Martinez informed the club about the multitude of projects the club has sponsored in Tijuana building houses, helping orphanages and providing wheelchairs to handicapped people.
Membership Chair, Francine Chiu provided an update on membership, noting that we are at 84 members with two pending new members.  Francine reminded the club of the great job our finemaster is doing reminding us all of the purpose and history of Rotary.  The question for next week is what is the definition of Rotary.  A new up-to-date booklet titled Rotary ABCs was published, everyone should have a copy.
New Generations director, Kathy Ellison updated on TLC, RYLA lead by Mike Real and Interact being lead by Jim Ryder at Arcadia Unified School District, all important opportunities for Rotarians to participate and provide leadership in our community.
Vocational Service director, Larry Callaham thanked Brent Forsee for allowing the Arcadia Rotary Club to partner with AUSD on teacher mini grants, student scholarschips, the Dan Stover music competition and the 4-way speech contest, all great programs. Larry reminded everyone of the dinner and program on February 9 at AUSD.
District Governor (DG), Raghada Khoury finally was given the floor and reminded Rotarians of the serious nature and responsibilities of properly maintaining our tax advantaged status as a 501C(3) non profit.
DG Khoury noted that many changes are coming from Rotary International, for example moving the focus from attendance at meetings, to activities sponsored, hours of service and financial contributions into our communities.


Jackie Lacey, Super DA

Our own Rotarian Eric Barter introduced Jackie Lacey, vintage 1957 Los Angeles the first African-American to serve as DA since the office was created in 1850.

Jackie, a graduate of the USC Gould School of Law, took good natured exception to John Wilson’s observation that O.J. Simpson, recently out of incarceration, is available for the Athletic Director position at USC.  Jackie gave us a bit of background about her parents who moved to L.A. from Hinderson, TX in 1956.  Her early home life as Southern Baptists consisted of school, church, school, church, school then more church on Wednesday evenings.  Her dad worked many years for the City of L.A. and her mom worked initially in the garment district, then as a cook for the L.A. School district.

Jackie attended Dorsey High School, class of 1975, then moving on to obtain her undergraduate degree  in Social Science & Psychology from Irvine before attending USC where she met her husband.  Jackie determine that teaching was not her love, applying for and getting a job as a prosecutor for the city of Santa Monica.  Jackie then moved to the District Attorney’s office where she met Steve Cooley.  Steve was a wonderful mentor, encouraging Jackie to run for the District Attorney position, which she did.

Since her election in 2012, she has championed training police  officers to deal more effectively with the mentally ill, the reduction of sex trafficking and a conviction review process.  It is estimated that 1 in 4 inmates at the County Jail are mentally ill.  So far 1,100 officers have been trained to be more effective when faced with a mentally ill persons.

Sex trafficking has become the business of Gangs.  Initially the DA focused on prosecuting the children, however, after doing more research on who was benefiting financially, the DA’s office no longer prosecutes the child, but targets the gang members trafficking these women.

Several questions were ask relating to recent propositions 36 & 47 reducing sentences for repeat offenders and certain felonies being reduced to misdemeanors.  Jackie acknowledged that crime has increased and she challenged us voters to dig in and understand the legislation before voting to approve.

Ask what she thought of L.A. becoming a “Sanctuary City”.  She wants the police to investigate the crime and get the cooperation of victims first and foremost.  If you focus on the immigration status of the victim it tends to prohibit cooperation with law enforcement.

GO Jackie!

Building Men In Uganda


Image result for laine wagenseller uganda

The program today was presented by Laine Wagenseller, a LA 5 Rotary Member.  Laine was invited to hear about an Orphanage for young boys in Uganda and while he initially was not terribly interested, when he visited and saw the needs he quickly found a way to encourage teenage boys.  Uganda is in the middle of Africa and has been left with thousands of orphaned children the result of brutal dictatorship and AIDS.

Laine’s first visit to the orphanage left him searching for how he could best contribute.  He is a lawyer, not a nurse, dentist or doctor and as he said, spends most of his time arguing with others.  He did not want to teach Ugandan’s how to sue each other.  So far he has made 8 trips to the orphanage in Uganda.

Laine found his niche in working with the teenagers, knowing that most of them did not have the benefit of having a father during their critical developmental years.  Laine told of listening to the story of one young Ugandan (Robert) telling that in the 4th grade his dad died, in the 6th grade his mother died and soon after his caretaker died, leaving him an orphan.  Laine quoted from the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.  The paraphrase is that it is very important for a young man to have a father to observe and ideally for the father to approve of and validate his beloved son.  Without a fathers influence, many young men search for meaning and significance in life thru work, money, sex and lots of other harmful ways.

Laine has helped many of the young Ugandans by listening to their stories, bringing in other men to talk about growing up.  Laine tells of one boy he took to the farm school, David, who when asked to pack his belongings came to Laine with just 1 shoe box with some sugar, a cup and a tooth brush, nothing else.

Laine’s final story was of Adolf, who was severely burned by his Aunt for taking food, resulting in his being unable to straighten his legs and essentially walking on his hands and feet.  The Rotary Club in conjunction with the L.A. Burn Center worked together to allow Adolf to come to the US to have several surgeries to restore use of his legs.  This was a tremendous gift to Adolf and a wonderful effort by LA 5 Rotary and the Burn Center.  During recovery, Adolf stayed with Wagenseller’s brother and sister-in-law in Thousand Oaks, playing with their four children and going to school at Westlake Hills Elementary School.

When Adolf was asked what he was going to do, now that he could walk, he said he was going to Thank God.