1920 - 1929

It all began when several Oshawa business men became interested in the idea of an Oshawa Rotary Club. At first there was very little interest because Rotary was not well known in Oshawa before 1920. At that time, Canada had only two Rotary Clubs; the first was established in Winnipeg in 1910 and Toronto followed in 1912.
The Oshawa Club had its inaugural meeting in Welch’s Parlor on March 10, 1920. On May 7, 1920, the new club received its charter, numbered 680, which means there were six hundred and eighty clubs in the world. That evening attracted many guests which included fifty Toronto Rotarians who represented the Toronto Club which sponsored the Oshawa Club.
Effective leadership was imperative for the club to succeed and survive. The first president was Bert Smith. It was he who faced finding dedicated members and to cope with disagreements, disappointments and win over new members and to accept what Rotarty had to offer and to embrace the Rotary ideals that have served Rotarty International well for 115 years. What stands out is service to one’s community and beyond. This meant that Rotray grew from a social club to one of world wide good deeds.
Excellent projects began to appear here in Oshawa. In 1923 a good example was the cooperation between Rotary and the Town Council that created an open air community ice rink. Credit must be given to the first president Bert Smith who backed so many successful projects. His qualities of a happy-go-lucky person and an inborn friendliness made him the right man for the job. He served Rotary well. This led to a strong and successful club over the years.


ART LOVELL 1926-1927

In 1926 the club elected Art Lovell (grandfather of the present Board member Art Lovell). With this new president the club had elected someone who could inspire and create enthusiasm and solve challenges such as waning interest and a dispirited membership. A new era had begun.
President Lovell’s philosophy has stood the test of time. He said, “When more money is needed the club must get busy and find ways to raise whatever is required.” One of his first successes was a cottage on Lake Ontario for needy children; another was a summer fair for the people of Oshawa to enjoy. It raised money for the club as well. This project continued successfully for years with necessary innovations and true enthusiam among the Rotary members.


In 1928 the club had 60 members. The vitality of the club continued with President Alex Storie. As vice president, Gordon Conant announced an agreement to accept an offer by General Motors of Canada for the Rotary Club to take over the Convention Hall. The building was moved to Rotary Park where it still stands next to the park and a swimming pool. It has been a great gift to the city. The Air Cadets now use the building for meetings. Many other groups such as the Legion have also used this building throughout the years.
At President Conant’s first club meeting, he announced that each member would be responsible for a weekly meeting. Some members did not follow through. Because of his association with outstanding and successful people, his meetings became extremely interesting and informative because he invited them as speakers. He expanded the Rotary Fair to spring and fall. The club was able to raise $15,000.00 for community betterment. Later, Gordon Conant became Premier of Ontario following his service in Rotary.

THE WAR YEARS 1939 - 1945

After Parliament declared war on the 10th of September, the Club “buckled down to meet whatever might be required”. The first action was to cooperate with the IODE to send clothes and blankets for evacuee children of Britain. Then there followed the Greek Relief Fund, Chinese War Relief and the Aid to Russia, to mention a few.
On the home front the Club entertained young airmen who came from all parts of the Commonwealth and the USA to train at the Oshawa Airport under the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The luncheon speakers’ topics reflected the times such as “Price Controls”, “London Can Take It’, “Should Moscow Fall!”, After Hitler What?”. New songs were added to the song sheets (eg. “The White Cliffs of Dover’, There’ll Always Be An England’, ”Roll Out The Barrel”.
In 1945 the Club voted to sponsor the local air cadet squadron named after a young Oshawa airman, Lloyd Chadburn, who was killed over Normandy. The “War Committee” of the Oshawa Rotary Club got busy hanging up “Welcome Home” signs to greet returning servicemen. MacLean’s Magazine (May 1, 1995, pg. 64) reprinted a photo of the returning Ontario Regiment on November 29, 1945. For Oshawa and the Oshawa Rotary Club, World War Two was over.