Club History - Wilson

 
This is a narrative by Bud Wilson discussing past Rotary personalities  and their influences on the history of Chula Vista.  Bud gave a talk to the Chula Vista Rotary club in February 2012.  He transcribed into a voice recorder his presentation of February in May 2012.
 
On 1/5/1926 the San Diego Rotary Club newsletter “The Rotator” had the following quote:" Beginning  this week the Chula Vista Rotary club will become reality.  This will give another close point of contact for makeup of attendance and extend the idea of service throughout the County.  Hal Hobson, the daddy of this club and other officers who attended this initial meeting, are to be highly commended for their efforts in selling the idea and ideals of Rotary to the Chula Vista businessmen."
 
The actual meeting that is referred to took place in the office of Ed Melville in Chula Vista.  His office was at the corner of Third and F street .  That building is owned today by a Rotarian and a Kiwanian.  They had invited an attorney from San Diego, Harvey Atherton, to come out and talk to them.  This group of Chula Vista businessmen wanted to get together to form a service club.  They were concerned about some of the requirements that Kiwanis had and therefore turned to Hal Hobson of San Diego Rotary to have him explain the Rotary possibility.  His message has prevailed.
 
Note: This narrative will concentrate primarily on members of Chula Vista Rotary who did not serve the club as president.  There are many such members through the history of the club who were wonderful participants in developing the city of Chula Vista.
 
Ed Melville came from Missouri and traded sight unseen for lemon orchards in  1901.  He began building buildings, including the Security Bank.  This was the building in which the group met. He acquired large chunks of land around that building which became known as the Melville block.   He also acquired land at Fourth and E St., where his home stood for many years.  He had a realty company, a company called Quality Creamery, South Bay Building and Loan, and the Chula Vista Lumber Company.  That lumber company property is approximately where the  Congregational Tower now stands.  All total he was a great Rotarian and great citizen of Chula Vista.
Another charter member was Dr. William McCausland.  His son John was a very fine member and president of the Rotary club as was Dr. Frank Robinson, John's partner at the McCausland-Robinson Clinic on F St.  Many Rotarians were treated at that clinic throughout the years.  Dr. Gerry Eklund, a member of the clinic, was also a Rotarian, as was past president Dr. Tom Bucknell.
Note: Due to time restrictions this narrative only goes through the 1960s.  Therefore no women will be mentioned because they could not be admitted to Rotary prior to that time.  However, everyone knows that without the strength of the Rotary Ann’s, many bells would have gone unrung.
The 1930s in our club saw the rise of Calvin Lauterbach.  He became superintendent of the elementary schools and rapidly made a name for himself.  Many schools and parks were named after him.  He continued in our club into the 1960s.
Lowell Davies, a prominent San Diego attorney who served on the Old Globe board for several years, and in fact the stage at the Old Globe is named for him.  John D MacDonald was the superintendent of the high schools.  He was a great big fellow, an imposing figure.  He was a great speaker.  He stepped down as superintendent in 1956.
Lowell Howe, a local attorney who became judge of the South Bay Court.  He held that position for 38 years.  He lived just off Bonita Road on Vista Drive.  I got to know him up close and personal when I was towing a boat in 1955 and got a ticket and had to go before him.  He was a fine man and a great credit to the Rotary club.
George Ash was  another member in that era.  He was our first member who went on to become our Rotary District Governor. 
In the 1940s, Dr.  Robert Griffin, became president of Cal Western University.  He was also a property owner here in Chula Vista.  His daughter Patti married David  Phair, who became a member of our club. David founded, with Chris Franovich, the Highlander Men's Stores.  Their main office was here in Chula Vista but they branched out into all of San Diego County.
Bob Wilson, my uncle, was a club member in the 40’s and 50’s as an advertising executive.  He designed San Diego’s Rose Parade Float several times and was named San Diego’s “Outstanding Young Man” in 1950.  In 1952, he was elected to the U.S. Congress and represented San Diego County for 28 years and continued as an “Honorary Rotarian”.
Another fine member of that era was Bill Eckardt.  Bill was a longtime manager of the Bank of America and was what I would call a hand-shake banker.  He was a very quiet gentle man. He was named “Mr. Chula Vista” by the Boys and Girls Club and was a candidate for Chula Vista's first elected mayor.  He did not win and that was politically a loss for the city.
Charles Stream was in the realty insurance business and he represented our area in the California state assembly.
Another prominent individual was Joe Rheim.  He became president of Rohr Aircraft Corporation, a major factor in the lives of the citizens of Chula Vista.  One of the big things that happened in the 1950s involved Rohr who at that time employed up to 10,000 people.  A great percentage of them lived in Chula Vista.  Therefore they took part in activities in Chula Vista.  Two or three of them served in prominent positions being elected to the city Council by Chula Vista residents.  They also served on the city of Chula Vista's Planning Commission.  Some local folks took offense at that.  They thought Rohr was extending too much influence over the city of Chula Vista.  In fact they were doing nothing of the sort.  Some disgruntled people who may have lost popular elections to these people took up a recall election.  The result was two members of the city Council were recalled.  Bob Campbell was one and Jim Hobel was the other.  Joe Rheim was not a vindictive man but he was a very clever man.  Over a short period of time he amassed all of the silver dollars he could find from banks throughout the Western United States.  Nobody knew what he was doing.  One particular Friday afternoon payday, all eight or nine thousand employees of Rohr were paid in those silver dollars.  There were merchants literally lugging gunnysacks of silver dollars to the banks.  It made a tremendous impression on the citizens of Chula Vista and an impression on business people all over the country.  We saw good service by many Rohr employees after that, many of them fine members of our Chula Vista Rotary club.
One of the really great people was Fred Stafford, a farmer who grew celery and vegetables and flowers.  He had a wonderful home on Fifth between I and J st.  It was a typical lemon orchard farmhouse and still exists.  During World War II, many of our local farmers who were Japanese were interred.  Fred watched over their plantings and their farms and took care of them so that they would be there when they came back.  He was an incredibly fine man who played tennis all his life.  He actually died on a tennis court in Hawaii.
Ray Coyle was the editor of the Chula Vista Star News when that paper really was your friend, and not a “gotcha” instrument for businesspeople in Chula Vista.
Another prominent member of our club was Art Lynds.  Art partnered with Robert Tyson and H. H. Johnson to form the Hobart Corporation which built many of the homes in Chula Vista and  San Diego County.
(Speaking to member Ansel Watrous) “What was the program on 7/18/1956?”  Past president Ansel Watrous was the program chair for that day.  Sco Bonnet was the program and later became a member of the club.  Dr. Watrous became the initial chair of our club’s Special Projects Committee.  And later that committee was instrumental in raising $10,000 for the heliport, at what is now Sharp Chula Vista Hospital. This was the largest amount we had ever raised as a club.
Stan McMains was a member at this time.  He was a bakery owner, councilman and bon vivant and man about town.  He loved politics.  He would hold forth most Wednesdays in his bakery. He would go across to Glenns Meat Market and pick out a nice prime rib roast, roast it in his bakery ovens and then provided many an evening of casual political conversation enjoyed by all.  All this was with freshly baked potatoes and prime rib all courtesy of Stan McMains.
Next to McMains bakery was Chubs Club.  Chubb Erwin ran that pool hall and card room for many years.  He was a quiet member of our club but his wife Kay was very involved in the Jobs for Youth program which caused many youth in our community to get work through the sponsorship of our club.
Dick Allen was a great member.  He owned the Sweetwater Fruit Company.  He inherited it and ran it through the 30s and 40s.  There were vast lemon orchards in the Chula Vista and Bonita area and a big red barn.  His brother Morris became a realtor and replicated the red barn as part of the insignia for his real estate office.  It is still in existence in front of the Vic Wulff building on Bonita Road.  The Ella B. Allen school is named for Dick Allen's mother.
In the 1960s, Jack Gardner was a builder with his father-in-law Fred Stafford.  Stafford and Gardner started building houses on a lot of the property that heretofore have been flower and vegetable gardens.  They owned a large tract of land on Broadway.  He served with distinction on the Sweetwater school board.
Jim Dowe was a wonderful veterinarian in the Bonita area.  He never served as president.  He was just an example of one of the good guys in Rotary doing wonderful things in the community.
Dr. Ed Kemler was a wonderful man.  He was an orthodontist and an absolute dedicated Rotarian.  He served on the Elementary School Board.  June continues to this day working with Inner Wheel and doing many important things in the community.
Reginald Seabrook lived with his wife on Hilltop Drive in Chula Vista.  He was one of the great gentlemen of Chula Vista Rotary.  He was a philanthropist and had a classification of Electrical Engineering.  It was noted in the Chulatarian in the early 1960s about a trip he made to Europe in a quote that said, “What better ambassador could we have sent to Europe from Chula Vista Rotary?”  His granddaughter is a member of our club today.
February  15th, 1957 the program chair was Henry Algert who was the father of current member Jim Algert.  Henry was listed in the 1959 Who's Who in Civil Engineering.  He helped Dick Wilson on many projects throughout the years, one of them was Barrren’s Hill above the dairy at Bonita Road and Otay Lakes Road.
Joe Bush looked just like a leprechaun.  He had a great love of songs.  With Jon Miller and Lane Cole and Jerry May they formed a great quartet.  Joe would do a program based on a song, for example, “Yes we have no bananas” and convinced the whole audience that that was part of the Hallelujah Chorus.  It was great theater.  He had a society for the naming of Joe.  He would collect a dollar from every Rotarian named Joe.  He would do this every year and the proceeds would go to any member who had a son or grandson named Joe.  The proceeds went unclaimed.  He was a philatelist and a great Rotarian and we miss him greatly.
Phil Creaser, Bill Holland and Tom Huntington were great members in the 70s but that ends this portion of the narrative.
 
David “Bud” Wilson
Past President 1974-1975