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THE DISTRICT 5020 HISTORY

From "Under the Northern Lights"

Canadian history at www.canadaclubs.org

Edited or written by Rotary Global History historian PDG Jim Angus

District 5020

District 5020 is an international district encompassing Vancouver Island and adjacent small islands and northwest Washington.  The District is large in terms of both the number of clubs and total membership. There are thirty-four clubs on the Canadian side and forty-seven in Washington with a combined membership of about 5,243. The American clubs are in Zone 23. Several times, efforts have been made to split the District at the U.S.-Canada border, but the American clubs, enjoying the privilege of meeting their Canadian neighbours at District Conferences and other Rotary activities, have always voted against division.

               It is interesting to note that Rotary was brought to the Pacific Northwest only four years after its founding in 1905 by the chartering of the Rotary Club of Seattle in 1909. Then followed the organization of the Rotary Clubs of Tacoma (1910), Portland (1910), Spokane (1911), Vancouver (1913), and Victoria (1914). In 1912 the Rotary world was divided into eight divisions, each with a vice-president. Their duties were largely confined to organizing new clubs in the rapid expansion of Rotary. The Pacific Northwest Division was part of the Western Division which comprised Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Montana, and later British Columbia. The six clubs in the Northwest area, including Vancouver and Victoria, met in Tacoma on 21 February 1914 in what is assumed to have been the first area Rotary Conference ever held.

               In 1915, the divisions were changed to districts and Vancouver and Victoria were placed in District 18, which included the western Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. The American Pacific Northwest clubs were placed in District 15. In 1916, the Rotary Clubs of Vancouver and Victoria petitioned Rotary headquarters to be transferred to District 15. The request was granted, and the first international district was created. Claude Eckert of Seattle was the first district governor. In 1918-19, the number was changed to 22 and in 1922, the District number was changed to Number 1 in recognition of the first “district” conference held in 1914.  Since 1915, when the districts were first formed, Rotary Clubs in what is now District 5020 have served under  eight district numbers – 15, 22, 1, 101, 151,152, 502, 5020 – and a number of boundary changes.

   The second club formed in District 5020 was the Rotary Club of Nanaimo, chartered on 1 May 1920.  The Nanaimo Club’s RI number was 689; in later years this numbering system was abandoned.  In a history of the Nanaimo Rotary Club, it was pointed out that, in the first two years of its existence, the main function was raising money so they could be of service to the community. The Club’s history records projects that were money-makers and community service activities.

               One story concerned an elderly member speaking with the Club realtor. He informed the realtor that he would sell his home for six thousand dollars provided he could live in it rent-free for the rest of his life. At that time, six thousand dollars was a fair price for the house and since the Rotarian was eighty years of age, it seemed to the realtor that this would be a fair proposition, so an agreement was signed. Little did the realtor know that the eighty year old senior would live to be one hundred and four and would have twenty-four rent-free years of residence. The realtor reported that it was the worst real estate deal he ever made. (The Nanaimo Club is very proud of its Annual Old-Timer’s Day when all the old- timers in the city are invited. The average age is well into the seventies. (The editors of this Rotary story are indebted to Doug McFadden, historian of the Rotary Club of Nanaimo.)

               The Rotary Club of Victoria Harbourside, chartered in 1980, is the first Breakfast Club formed in Canada.

Books and other writing by Paul Harris

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