PP John  Abraham PHF 50 Years of Rotary Service
 Rotary Service
Inducted 11.8.67 Joinery Manufacturing.
Chairman Youth Service 1969/70
Chairman Vocational Service 1970/71
Chairman Programme committee 1971/72
Deputy Sergeant Arms 1972/73
Sergeant at Arms 1973/74
Chairman Vocational Service 1975/76
Director Club Service 1976/77
Chairman Community Service 1977/78
Voce President 1978/79
President 1979/80
Immediate Past President 1980/81
Induction Officer 1981/82
District Governors Rep. 1981/82
Chairman Rotary Foundation 1986/87
Chairman Classification Comm. 1986/87
Chairman Membership Development 1987/88
Rotary Information 1990/91
Club Historian 1992/93/95/96
GSE Team Leader to Seattle 1994/95
Bulletin Editor 1993/94/95
50th Anniversary Booklet Editor 1995/96/97 (With Wife Shirley)
Chairman International & Foundation 1996/97
PP John Abraham PHF
Memories of 50 Years of Rotary Service
A few years ago, Shirley and I worked with the late David Sommers to write the Clubs 50th anniversary history, known as the blue book, and now we are looking at celebrating the clubs 75th birthday.  How did that happen so quickly??  So, what did the club look like in the early years?   In a word, Formal!   Everyone wore a suit or Jacket and all wore white shirt and tie, no exceptions. On particularly hot evenings the president may declare “You may remove your jackets fellows”
The meeting began by singing grace and then follow a very strict time table with the meeting concluding sharp at 7.15 with singing God save the King. In 1953 that became God Save the Queen. Singing was an important part of meetings in those early years and there would be song books on the tables and a sing-along of two or three of the old favourites, such as cruising down the river and ‘She’ll be comin’ round the Mountain’, etc
There were 22 charter members in 1947 and their membership was by invitation only and according to a strict regime of classification. Only one person from a recognised trade or profession could be a member and our early member’s classifications included:- Share broker, Draper, Railway transport, Bread baking, Plumbing, Hospital administration , Department Store, Footwear retailing, Medical services , Medical surgery, Draper, Vegetable Retailing,  Meat retailing, Stud breeder. That’s a lot of occupations that have disappeared from our community.
After the meal there was the command to “Clear the tables fellows” and then  a cup of tea poured in a Savoy tea cup (no coffee- it was never served) and then light up a fag. Almost every man smoked cigarettes and a good number smoked pipes. What a fog of smoke went up! I will always remember a line of men sitting in a row and lighting up their large pipes at the same time. It looked like a stubble paddock going up and Allan Meyer was one of them.  The meetings were held in the Savoy Tea Rooms and continued to do so for the next (65) years. I am sure that is some sort of record for continuous meeting at one venue but it has never been acknowledged.
The early projects were many and varied but one of the most significant was the building of the Scout Den at Attwill Park. A building that is still a credit to the men who gave hundreds of hours of manual labour.
In 1955 Alex McRae donated two and a half acres of land  at the top of his farm for the club to plant in trees for future club funds. We all know the results of that initiative and the legacy continues with the recent planting of the third crop. Incidentally Alex named the block Hiwiroa Park but the name hasn’t been used in recent times.
My first memories of Rotary were as a schoolboy growing up on Bill Fletcher’s farm and hearing my father talking about “the Boss” becoming embroiled in this new-fangled rotary club and that’s all he could talk about.  Dad was responsible for the spud crop and I can remember him getting frustrated on occasions when they only had a bit to go to finish the job of the day and at 4.00 o’clock on Thursdays Bill would say “right boys, I’m off” and head away to his Rotary meeting!
My firsts encounter with Rotary was in March 1967 when a man I vaguely knew rang and asked if he could bring 2 or 3 people to talk to me. No further explanation! I was still single and living with my parents and they were really worried—what the hell had I been up to?  Well on the arranged evening Gerald Lewington together with Mayor Alex McRae and Mr Andrew McClay met with me in our lounge room, and explained the duties and obligations of Rotary and invited me to join.  Wow.  I remember them being somewhat surprised when after some discussion I accepted there and then. I discovered later they were really chuffed at being successful with their salesmanship.
So, on the 7 May 1967 I was inducted into the club:-
John Abraham
Classification Active -Joinery Manufacturer
Club Name -John
 At age 26 I was the youngest Rotarian in New Zealand. That only lasted for about three months and then a young Chinese market gardener in Pukekoe became the youngest. All members were addressed by their Christian name or club name and so for the first time in my life I had to call Mr Fletcher, “Bill” and the Mayor “Alex”. I was the first of a new crop of members to be inducted and was closely followed by Howard Rollinson, Donald Hunt, Alan Meyer and Charles Ruddenklau. Howard has died but Donald, Alan and Charles are still members of our club and attend our meetings regularly, with the four of us together making up over 200 years of Rotary Service.
My next vivid memory is the occasion of the clubs 21st birthday the following year. So, on the 14th March 1968 in the St Pats hall I was required to introduce my new bride to the club. We must have looked like a couple of teenagers.
In June of that same year Rudd Brown was inducted as District Governor of District 298 which was still the whole of the South Island.  Rudd’s induction as district governor was a huge honour for the club and a massive undertaking for Rudd, our local Pharmacist. He with wife Ruth had the obligation to visit and address all the clubs in the South Island - we didn’t see much of him for the rest of his term.  He is reported to have said “my main purpose as your DG is to be a helping hand and to help everyone enjoy Rotary.” He was a very successful DG and set the standard for subsequent DG’s
The membership grew and several men who had been members of Jaycees and Young farmers clubs   joined us. There was a sort of natural progression that when you reached 40 you moved on to Rotary. These men brought a new culture to the club and were skilled in debating, some having competed at national level.   Thus, there were frequent interjections of “point of order Mr Chairman” and they would correct each other on finer points of meeting procedure to the extent we lost track of the original motion. Another discipline of those days was attendance. Each member was required to attend a Rotary meeting each week and if not possible you were expected to “make up” at a neighbouring club. This meant that we frequently had visitors making up at our meetings and we would present a makeup card to the secretary to register our makeup attendance for the records.
To have 100% attendance for the year was a highly-prized achievement and some members had successive 100 percenters. Donald Hunt was one of the most consistent achievers.
About this time came the advent of the annual fishing weekend. Initially using the shearers quarters at Te Aka Station on the shores of  Lake Aviemore and subsequently in recent years to Otematata lodge. The event continues to be a fellowship highlight each year and is enjoyed by many guests and past members. In 1979/80 the South Island District 980 ran a fund-raising project to build an accommodation unit for families of patients at the Burwood hospital spinal unit. One of the fundraisers was named Super Plod, A relay of Police running the length of the South Island. It was a huge success and I still remember as president of the club running a few Ks through Waimate with local Policemen Barry McLachlan and Ray Currie.
1988/89 Ewan McKenzie was inducted as our next District Governor.
Ten years later in 1998/99 Jim Rayner served as our third DG and then in 2005/06 Martin Jensen was the fourth member to be installed as District Governor.   Four DGs from one club is a rare honour. The organizing and successful running of a District conference at an away venue is not easy.
Hours of planning goes into the hosting of 400 plus delegates to a three-day conference but on each occasion the challenge galvanised the club into working together to ensure a successful result. At Ewans conference in Oamaru my stand out memory is Doug Bailey’s marching girls.
Fifteen blokes dressed in white skirts, white freezing works gumboots and frilly hats trying desperately to do a serious marching girls routine was a sight to behold.  Donald Butler with his two left feet was hilarious and one of the funniest moments was when the team was standing in line strictly to attention to salute the DG, and a member of the audience poured beer down the back of Harvey Moore’s gumboot.
Then 10 years later came Jim’s conference in Timaru and the undertaking to have a member on duty to personally welcome every person with a handshake each time they entering the conference venue.
In 2006 Martyn’s conference in Twizel was another success and I will never forget Gordon Ronson sitting on Martyn’s lap on stage performing a lip-sync love song. It absolutely brought the house down.
In  1989 came the Rotary International directive for acceptance of Women into Rotary membership and this was a huge shift in culture for an all men’s organization. Our club has embraced this change and it has been a major factor in our continued strength..
Another significant event in the culture of the club was the granting of a liquor licence.
Until that happened about half the club went to the local for a drink before the meeting and, as a result, would arrive at the Savoy at 5 minutes to 6 pm, or in the case of Ron Hutt and a few others at 5 past six and miss the singing of grace. A finable offence, hotly debated by Ron.
With the 1992 granting of a liquor license and Bruce Arthur managing a bar in the Savoy, members quickly changed to arriving early to enjoy a social time before the meeting and this has become an important part of our weekly meetings.
The health, hunger and humanity projects that Rotary International has sponsored over the years have been too numerous to detail but the Polio Plus campaign has been by far the most demanding and the most significant. There have been many other causes that the club has supported and some of those names have changed including the Crippled Children Society, Intellectually Handicapped Children, the Foundation for the Blind and the Leper appeal fund.
For many years we held an annual fun day for the Crippled Children Society with visits to farms, picnics at Kelcey’s Bush, and of course, the fun jet boat rides on the Waihao river at Haymans flat. In 1986 the club  organised a Sports and Fun day for people with disabilities.  Competitors came from Canterbury and North Otago. 182   people of all ages competed in Olympic style events including medal presentations. It was a very heart-warming experience for us to work with these amazing people.
In 2007 we ran the first of two Woodcraft Festivals with competitors and exhibitors coming from all over the South Island. My lasting memory of that event was the chainsaw carving young man from Nelson achieved of a Skink lizard carved in relief from a bent  Macrocapra Log. How did you visualise that I asked. “Ho, no problem” he said, he’s been in the log for years, I just let him out.” Sadly that artist was killed in a forestry accident a few years later.
Our annual Foundation night auctions are legendary and the projects that have eventuated from accessing the foundation matching grant funds are too numerous to mention but the international stage has become a major part of the club’s activities. That together with GSE and Youth exchange have a wonderfully successful history.
The local project that has evolved and survived is Meals on Wheels. Commenced in 1955 with meals prepared by Woman’s organisations and delivered 3 days a week , this early community initiative has developed into an essential service providing meals 7 days a week to those in need.  Many thanks go to Jim Young for his continued management of the rosters.
The four-way test was frequently recited at meetings to remind us of the principles of business ethics and although it is not so frequently used now it is still a valuable yardstick to measure our behaviour of the things we say and do.  (displayed on our notice board each week)
“Is it the truth”
“Is it fair to all concerned”
“Will it build goodwill and better friendships”
“Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
There are so many people who I remember with respect and it’s not possible to name them all but three who stand high for me :-the late Keith Denholm, Bill Parker, and Stewart Laing and of more recent times:-   Doug Bailey, Lester Paul, Allan Headley, John Campbell, Ian Hayman and Bruce White. Service above self is the Rotary motto and these men certainly live up to that.
So here we are and what of the future?
A recent addition to our meetings has been the inclusion of our High School Head boy and Head girl.  These students have brought a refreshing new dimension to our meetings and surprise surprise, they seem to enjoy our company. Sharyn’s initiative in establishing a Rota Kids club is another first, in fact the first club in Australasia. PDG Stewart Heal made this famous statement at a conference a few years ago when he called Rotary – Male, Pale, and Stale. Well that went down like a lead balloon but it did initiate a serious and ongoing review of our Rotary Club to ensure we evolve in this rapidly changing world.
To me the most significant development has been the influx of a new generation of enthusiastic members who are taking up the challenge of running the club and introducing modern technology, using social media, identifying different social needs, and most important -having fun doing it.
Well done you guys and I look forward to hanging onto your coat tails into the future.
  • As well as the 3 acre area at the top of the hill donated by Club Member and Past Mayor Alex McRae for the tree plantation, the club also owns trees planted in 1991 on the area owned by the Waimate District Council.
  • The President’s Chain of Office was gifted by Allan Grant.
  • The Gong and Gavel donated by District Governor Rud Brown.
  • The Sunshine boxes one by President D’A Stanley Grut. The second by Stuart Robbie Grandson of District Governor J.S.Robbie (Invercargill) and son of Past President Gordon Robbie.   Stuart made this box whilst being an apprentice for B.J.Abraham Ltd.
  • The badge box was made by John Abraham.
  • The large Rotary Emblem was purchased with club funds in 1960.
  • The cupboard (Honours Board) listing the names of Past Presidents was made by John Abraham.
  • The liquor cabinet was made by John Bailey and purchased from B.J.Abraham Ltd. With funds from the Fellowship account.
  • There are also named items, the Queen and the Clock, Banners and Lectern. 
  • The club at one time owned a yacht donated by a former member, Trevor Parr, (A Veterinary) and eventually donated to the scouts.
  • The Primary School Shield was purchased by Club Funds whilst the trophy for the High School Speech Contest was donated by Past President Keith Denholm.
  • There is also a Speech Contest Trophy donated by Past Rotarian Harvey Moore.
  • There are also trophies to be won at the Te Aka Fishing Weekend.
  • We are indebted to Past President Allan and Patti Meyer for the donation of the piano.
  • Stanley Grut spent a considerable time in fashioning and varnishing the table name blocks. (Some other clubs have since copied the idea)
The District Governors and their officers offered the Club full participation White Elephant drives, Straw Carting, Forestry establishing and harvesting, Sheep Raising and funding,  District Maps, Large Print Phone Books, G.S.E. Teams, Meals on Wheels, Rural Urban Nights, Formation of two Probus Clubs, the Scented Garden, assisting with the Abbotsford and Taieri disasters. 
Providing drivers for the blind outings since 1959.   These have all been rewarding.
Working with and for Youth saw two major undertakings – the Scout Den and later the Scout Hall.  The arranging for a home of their own for the Girls Guides, Interact, assisting Outward Bound participants, the Debonair Scholarship, Peer Support,  New Caledonian exchanges, Primary and  High School Speeches, The formation of the local Crippled Children’s Branch and later organising two most popular sports days for the handicapped from a much wider area and also the annual boating outing at the Waihao Box.  Books to the Public Library, the Picton Holiday Home, Not the least the social event of the year – the Te Aka Fishing Weekend, the Christmas celebrations and the forty five Change over Nights.