Friday, December 28, 2012

The Origins of the Kiwanis Club of Puyallup

The Origins of the Kiwanis Club of Puyallup
By Hans Zeiger

In 1942, W.R. Sandy prepared a book called “Birth and Infancy of the Kiwanis Club of Puyallup,” which is the main source of the information I am going to present. I want to start by reading Sandy’s account of the Club’s origins:

“During the fall of 1921, the Kiwanis Spirit lit upon Puyallup.  Although we were supposed to be in an ‘after war depression,’ however, things were rather ‘rosy, the town receptive. So the spirit abided.

“The Commercial Club was about the only club in the city at that time: and there was some fear on the part of a few that a Kiwanis Club might work against the best of the Commercial Club. But those fears were soon allayed; and the Kiwanis Club has proved a help to the Commercial Club rather than a hindrance. The Tacoma Club was our Mother Club, or sponsor. Several personal visits were made and preliminary meetings held. The first preliminary meeting was held in ‘Paul’s Pantry’ at the Pacific Northwest Cannery.”

Paul’s Pantry referred to the cannery’s dining hall, and Paul, of course, was William Paulhamus, the father of the Puyallup Fair and the father of the berry industry in the Puyallup Valley, and his Pacific Northwest Cannery had been responsible, among other things, for canning all of the blackberry jam for the U.S. Army during World War I.

So it was there in Paul’s Pantry that “Several explanatory and ‘booster’ talks were made by Tacoma Kiwanians.” The most powerful of these speeches was given by Rev. Clarence Weyer, who was the pastor of the Tacoma First Presbyterian Church. It was evidently the speech that moved the group of prospective Kiwanians to take the next steps (Sandy, 33). They elected a man named W.C. Robb as the Secretary for the prospective club.

Robb was an ice cream entrepreneur who was taking advantage of advancing technology in home refrigeration. He would incorporate his ice cream business the following year as the Puyallup Ice Cream Company (The Soda Fountain, March 1922, 88). He also opened a cold storage and creamery plant in Buckley (Creamery and Milk Plant Monthly, March 1922, 56).

Robb called the next meeting at the Commercial Club on September 23, 1921 at noon to hear from Walter Meier from the Seattle Kiwanis Club. According to Sandy, “Fifty names were required in order to form a new club. Fifty-six names were secured, however, only fifty four became charter members. Initiation fee at that time was $20.

“Before charter presentation, officers must be elected. Consequently on Tuesday evening, September 27, an election was held.”

It was held at the Commercial Club, and Morton G. Leicester was elected president, T.J. Allen as vice president, P.M. Snider as treasurer, and William Gambill as secretary.

Let me say a few words about the founding officers of the Club, really the visionaries of the Kiwanis institution in Puyallup. I already mentioned W.C. Robb, the charter secretary. Morton G. Leicester was the founding president. He was not only the predecessor of Klaus Snyder and everyone else who’s filled the president’s office, but he was also the predecessor of Jerry Korum as Puyallup’s Ford dealer. W.R. Sandy described Mort Leicester as “active, energetic, and affable.”

Vice President T.J. Allen was a berry farmer. Treasurer P.M. Snider (not to be confused with a later Snyder) had come from Oroville in 1913 to work at Citizen State Bank (Commercial West, November 8, 1913, 36) and rose through the offices there.

William G. Gambill was the Club’s first secretary. As the Superintendent of the Puyallup School District, Gambill was named by the Washington Education Journal in 1921 as one of the “three leading educators of the state” (National School Digest, April 1922, 491). “His middle name is ‘Ginger,’” the article said. “Outstanding characteristics are cordiality, enthusiasm, fairness, democracy. He seems like ‘dad’ to the boys and girls. Everybody likes him.” Gambill was principal of Puyallup High School until he replaced Edmund B. Walker as superintendent in 1920 (Patterson’s American Educational Directory, 1919).

Gambill was known to everyone in the Club just as Bill. Bill Gambill prepared the weekly meeting Bulletins and meeting minutes for the first year of the Club, which I got to read in preparation for this talk. Gambill would represent the Club at the international Kiwanis convention in Toronto in the summer of 1922 (Sandy, 11). Shortly after that, however, Gambill left Puyallup to take a job in Colorado (Sandy, 9).

The founding board of directors included Bill Gambill, W.C. Robb, J.W. Gardiner from Gardiner Motor Company, Jack Lacy from Sundown Lumber Company, real estate agent John Mills, confectioner Harold Thomas, and the publisher of the Puyallup Valley Tribune Robert Montgomery.

Two of these men were leading promoters and true believers in Puyallup. John Mills led the Puyallup Chamber of Commerce at one time, and later in the 1920s he wrote a 32-page promotional booklet to encourage people to move to Puyallup. The title was Puyallup Valley, between Seattle and Tacoma, a Modest Statement of Facts Concerning a Wonderful Country.
Robert Montgomery was the other promoter and the most famous of the founding board members. He published the town’s newspaper, wrote its editorials, and more than any other person informed the community’s opinions about itself and the world beyond. He was a conservative Democrat who served for awhile in the state legislature. He and his wife Agnes, who was as busy and influential as he was, lived in the John Meeker house at 5th and Pioneer.

A few other charter members of the club are worth mentioning:
Streetor Beall, Sr. – Beall’s drug store
William H. Elvins – Elvin’s clothing
Mike Martin – Martin’s confectionary

The charter presentation banquet was held at the Civic Auditorium, which was the onion-dome building downtown, on October 13, 1921. Two hundred fifty people were there, and the cost of $1 per plate paid for chicken patties, fruit salad, French peas, mashed potatoes and gravy, celery, rolls, ice cream, cake, and coffee. Bill Gambill welcomed everyone, a young paint salesman and president of the Commercial Club with a long future in Kiwanis named Burr Gregory sang a solo with Agnes Montgomery on the piano, the crowd joined in Kiwanis songs, and District Governor C.H. Riddell presented the Club Charter to President Mort Leicester. George Osborne, mayor of Puyallup, was the featured speaker. Osborne was a charter member of the Club as well as the longtime secretary of the Western Washington Fair Association (Issaquah Press, May 31, 1928, 2). Several other members of the club were asked to make speeches, and I suppose the audience had a longer attention span in those days than we do.

The first few meetings were held at Paul’s Pantry, but eventually the Club settled on the Chamber of Commerce conference room as its meeting space, meeting there every Friday at noon until 1940. Mrs. Eva Buehner was the Club’s luncheon cook from 1921 until 1933, assisted by Nellie Floberg (Sandy, 7).

The first ever lunch speaker at a Club meeting on October 21, 1921 was an ex-communist Russian immigrant named Schwartz who talked about the dangers of the Soviet Union.

At the meeting on November 18, a businessman from Tacoma named Edwin Rogers spoke about his younger days living in Puyallup, his memories of the first Puyallup Fair, and his thoughts on employer-employee relations. Rogers was the son of the late Governor John Rogers (Sandy, 6).

At that same meeting, November 18, the first non-charter member was admitted to the Club, Dr. Charles Aylen. Aylen grew up in North Dakota and studied medicine at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, earning his doctorate just as Canada entered the World War in 1914. He joined the Canadian Army as a physician in the medical corps. While serving in a British military hospital, he fell in love with a young nurse named Beatrice. They ended up in Puyallup in 1919, where Dr. Aylen began his practice.

Several other men joined the Club within the first few months, including Shirley Berry and Warner Karshner – like Aylen, leading doctors in town. Aylen and Berry were partners, and Karshner was one of the best known physicians in the state and serving as State Senator at the time. All three of them were hard at work on plans for the Puyallup Valley General Hospital which was set to open the following summer.

Dr. Karshner tended to be the center of attention in any organization he joined, and this club was no exception. When he was in charge of the program on March 22, 1922, he staged a medical procedure and surgery. First he brought up all the Club members who were doctors, then had a couple of other members bring in a patient on a stretcher wrapped in sheets, who was said to have a serious condition. Dr. Aylen had an X-ray machine on hand and produced an X-ray showing that there were all kinds of things – scissors, knives, clamps, and other medical waste – inside of the patient. “With the various doctors as helpers, and Dr. Cullen as Nurse in his white rig, socks rolled down, and wig on, Dr. Karshner proceeded to operate. With a large saw and a long-bladed butcher knife, and amid groans, rasping saw-noises he threw out articles in every direction.” Well, of course, it was all an act—the X-ray was pre-fabricated, the surgery was faked, and the patient was none other than the Club secretary and school district superintendent Bill Gambill.

All of this may have inspired someone to write the words to the “Kiwanis Song,” which shows up in the June 30, 1922 bulletin, set to the tune of Yankee Doodle:

            There was a man who had the Flu
            And was feeling rummy
            He had a pain right down his back,
            And a big one in his tummy.

            He hurried to a wise MD
            Doc Karshner was his name,
            Doc said, “I’ll just saw off your leg,
            And win a little fame.”

            Then they called Doc Aylen
            He rushed up in his fliver,
            Gave him a quart of Castor Oil
            And said, “It’s just your liver.”

            But still the man did not improve,
            They phoned for Doctor Sandy,
            ‘A spinal readjustment now,
            Will make him fine and dandy:’

            When they found out this did not help
            Montgomery came right away,
            He pulled his arm, he cracked his neck
            And poked his ‘vertebray’

            Doc Cullen then was summoned quick,
            The man was sinking low,
            Doc said, ‘These little pills I give,
            Will make him well I know.’

            At last they were in deep despair,
            They sent for Doctor Barry,
            He felt his pulse and sadly said,
            ‘He has not long to tarry.’

            And so he went from bad to worse,
            He suffered awful pain,
            The only Doc to fit his case
            Was the Reverend Doctor Lane.

The initial committees of the club included the Education Committee, chaired by Bob Montgomery; Intercity Relations, chaired by Mayor Osborne; and the Agriculture Committee, chaired by John Mills. There was also an informal committee known as the “Razz Bunch.” According to Sandy, “If any Committee failed to function or if any one ‘slowed-up’, neglected or failed in any thing, this ‘Razz Bunch’ got after them. Paul Wrigley was General of the Bunch, Harold Thomas a Lieutenant, assisted by Dr. Ben West, Al Becker and some others. I do not believe the Committee had any legal standing, but it sure did function for a year or two.”

I’ll note a couple of the highlights in that first year of the club:

First was the fundraising and construction of the wading pool in Pioneer Park. Sandy writes, “The excavation was started the first week in June 1922 and the Pool was completed by the middle of June….Charley Phillips and Jack Lacy was the Committee in charge of the construction. The entire cost of the pool was $446.75. Through the excellent planning of the above named committee and their ability to secure co-operation on part of the members of the club and many other citizens of the Community, the pool cost the Club only $97.50.

“Donations were received from people not members of the Kiwanis Club. For instance, the American Wood Pipe Company of Tacoma donated $22.22 worth of pipe; several team owners worked with their teams, namely, Joe Richards, Bill Alberts, George Mason, M. Holdridge, V. Cornell, G.L. Cline, and R. Thomas. On the lumber and hardware, Patterson Mill made a fine donation; Dr. Corliss donated the sand and gravel; Steve Gray donated $45.00 in labor; Bill Friese donated $50 worth of cement; Mr. Sawsett donated $11.85; the Inter-County Improvement Company gave the use of their concrete mixer; twenty-five members of the Club made cash donations in addition to the work that many of them contributed.

“The pool [is] about 150 feet in circumference and 18 inches deep; this pool still stands in the park and gave good service for many years.” That was written 20 years after the pool went in. Now, 90 years later, it’s even more impressive that the results of the Kiwanis Club’s first big project remain, though in remodeled form.

Another highlight was the grand opening of the Puyallup Valley General Hospital at Fourth and Meridian on August 19, 1922. Almost of all of the doctors who worked at that hospital were members of the Club, and the community rallied around their newest institution. Here’s how Bill Gambill advertised the event in the weekly bulletin, which would substitute for the weekly Kiwanis meeting. The opening promised “more thrills than you have ever had in your life before in the same length of time. We certainly cannot afford to miss this greatest meeting of the year. The dinner will be served somewhere in Puyallup’s fine new hospital at 12:15 promptly. The program is being arranged by Dr. Karshner. Anybody who knows ‘Warner,’ can’t afford to miss this program. I understand that the menu is being arranged by the doctors of the hospital staff. No doubt it will be some menu.”

And indeed, it was.

The menu included: Tonsil Cocktail (oysters), White Knee Joints, Pickled Ears, Appendix Salad, Fillet of Sole with Salivary Dressing, Scrambled Feathered Brains, Stewed Kidney Pie, Soft Corns, Cauliflower Wart.

And for dessert: Sanguinary Pudding, Caked Liver, and Polychrome Feezeum

According to Sandy, “The food was served in bed-pans, urinals, pots, pus-cups, etc. Tea was served from a bed-chamber vessel…Of course the vessels were new and had never been used; however, the whole layout nauseated and sickened some so that they did not enjoy the meal.”

The club agreed to adopt the first baby born in the new hospital by presenting him or her with a Silver trophy and a $10 savings account. A race ensued between Dr. Karshner and another doctor to be the first to deliver a baby in the new hospital. Dr. Karshner won, and the parents decided to make his middle name “Kiwanis.” Rufus Kiwanis Biggs was born on August 17, 1922 at 9:00pm. Dr. Karshner sweetened the prize by giving the parents a 50 percent discount on the cost of delivery.

Looking back at those old meeting minutes from nine decades ago, you start to see the culture of this club forming. I’ll close with this poem/friendly reminder by Dr. Fred Cullen at the last meeting of the year 90 years ago this week:

            Doc. Berry needs the patients, Joe Radek needs the dough,
            And Burk needs the customers to make his business grow.
            Ed Moyles needs a motor car that will climb the hills.
            Your secretary needs the patients and funds to pay his bills.
            John Mills needs landbuyers and Karshner needs more that need the knife.
            And we all need Lane to show us our faults in life.
            P.M. Snider needs the savings and Montgomery needs the news,
            But the need that is most urgent, the treasurer needs the dues.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Puyallup High School Baccalaureate Speech

Puyallup High School Baccalaureate Speech
June 10, 2012
Hans Zeiger

Thanks Lisa, and thanks to Cheryl Olson and everyone else who was involved in organizing this. What a wonderful afternoon, and thanks for everyone who has shared their talents here. 

I got to speak at an elementary school recently and a few days later I got a thank you note from one of the students. He said he really appreciated my speech and he was inspired about what I had to say about becoming a politician, but he said that he’s going to stick with being an anesthesiologist when he grows up.

Enough time has gone by since I participated in the baccalaureate service back in ‘03 that I can get up and say things like, “When I was your age,” and “back in my day.”

Some day you’ll come back here too and think about the good old days. Among the things you think back fondly about, the culminating project will not be one of them. But for me I get nostalgic every fall during cross country season. I think about English class with Mrs. Pursley and AP History with Mr. Morgan, and every so often I remember the big earthquake of February 28, 2001. I think you were in First Grade at the time, but I was in the PHS Commons. My friends said I was under the table three seconds before the earth started shaking.

The other day my mom found a dusty stash of some long-forgotten graduation cards, and it was interesting to go back through them, to see what people wrote and to think how those people have continued to be involved in my life in the intervening years. One person wrote, “If you can remain humble and keep your eyes on the Lord, who knows how greatly He will use your life for Him?” Another person wrote out a couple verses from Colossians 2: “As ye therefore received Jesus Christ the Lord, so walk ye in Him: Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”

Next Saturday, you and your classmates will walk across the commencement platform. That verse in Colossians tells us to walk – in Him, and to embrace all of the blessings that go along with walking in Him.

Isaiah 55 tells us how we should go out. Verses 12 and 13, “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be a sign to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” You should be like that as you go out. Go out with joy and peace and believe in God’s awesome and eternal promises for you.

Go out with joy. It’s amazing how often Scripture tells us that we should rejoice and be glad. We have an eternal hope, and when we realize that there’s no end of the joy that we can experience.

Another way that you should go out is with confidence. I have also been struck by how many times it says in Scripture things like “fear not,” and “don’t worry.” You should go out calmly. You should go out like the PHS football team goes out onto the field. There’s a little prayer that the Vikings would recite in the locker room before going out to play in the 1950s. It said, “Our gracious Lord, in the tense moments, give us the calmness to make decisions, and help us keep our cool so that we do not bring injury to ourselves or others.”

For me, the question about how I should go out into the world weighed more heavily my mind at the end of college than it did at the end of high school. If you’re like me over the next several years, you’ll come to a series of junctures where you have to make decisions about what comes next. Maybe some of you have just made big decisions—decisions about where to go to college, what your career path is going to be, and maybe some of you will be making them soon.

For me there was a bigger question. It’s not just what am I going to do when I grow up, but what do I have to do to live a significant life in the limited time we’ve been given? As I thought about that question, I realized that God doesn’t usually give us lives of fame and fortune; for most of us, our calling is to do well in whatever set of opportunities God has given us. I learned a song when I was in Sunday School as a kid. “Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light like a little candle burning in the night. In this world of darkness Jesus bids us shine, you in your small corner and I in mine.”

Scripture tells us not to despise the day of small things. God works in ordinary circumstances, and He can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  

There are lessons in how others have gone out from here before us.

After I graduated from college a few years ago, I was watching Band of Brothers, and if you’ve seen it you know how there are interviews with the actual veterans of the European war in the beginning of the episodes. And I thought, boy, there are guys like that around Puyallup who won’t be with us much longer. So I started out in December of 2007 sitting down for about 5 hours with the late Paul Harmes, Class of 1939, and he just opened my eyes to the need to hear the stories of that generation. Since then I have talked to as many people as I could find who are connected to this community and who were involved in that war.

One of the first things I learned about that generation of Puyallup High School alums and how they went out from here is that they were proud to be Vikings. Wherever they went, this school and this community held a special place in their hearts. 

There is history here in this room where we’re sitting today. Not all of it is good. It was here that an assembly was held in April of 1942 to say goodbye Japanese-American students who were to be interned in the Puyallup Fairgrounds. It was here again, a couple months later, that Japanese-American graduates in the class of 1942 were allowed out of the Fairgrounds briefly to walk with their class in the auditorium.  

But standing on this stage, I think of someone who spent a lot of time here many years ago. His name was Richard Sloat, and everybody in Puyallup thought that he was going to be president someday. He had red, wavy hair and a million-dollar smile.

When I called the Marine Corps commanding officer who was with Dick when he was killed on the island of Saipan in 1944, I only mentioned the name of Lt. Richard Sloat. “My God, my God,” replied Col. Ed Bale of New Mexico. “You raise the hair on the back of my neck, and I’m glad you did, because he was a fine, fine, fine man.” 

In high school, Dick was involved in drama right here as well as debate, but he was known to his peers in the Puyallup High School Class of 1936 and the surrounding classes as the preeminent student leader of their generation. They made him student body president in his senior year, and he was a natural talent in school assemblies and speeches.

After college and a couple years of teaching drama and speech, the war came and Dick volunteered for the Marine Corps. Lt. Sloat was a platoon leader with the First Corps Tank Battalion’s C Company, which ended up on an island in the Pacific called Tarawa.   

Puyallup paid a heavy price in the Battle of Tarawa. In the initial moments of the amphibious invasion on November 20, 26-year old Johnny Holm who lived a few blocks from the high school was killed in the water. Then 27-year old Pfc. Carol Lundrigan, a 1934 graduate of PHS who was wounded a year earlier in the Battle of Guadalcanal, was struck down on the island.

Sloat’s tank came off the landing craft and onto the island through a firestorm. Most of the tanks in their company were disabled on the first day of fighting, but Sloat’s tank made it to an airfield by nightfall where the crew got some rest. The next day, Dick lost his tank commander to a sniper’s bullet, and back out on the beachhead, the tank was destroyed but the remaining crew survived.   

After the battle of Tarawa, Dick became the company executive officer, with Ed Bale as commander. The company regrouped in Hawaii to prepare for battle on the island of Saipan. At Saipan, Dick was in charge of getting a constant stream of supplies from the water to an outpost on a mountainside.

One morning a few days after the Marines’ 4th of July attack on the Harbor of Saipan, Lt. Gerald English of the 4th Tank Battalion called for engineers to clear the roadway ahead of him. He feared landmines in the area. Ed Bale learned of Lt. English’s request. Some of his men had been in the area just hours earlier, so Bale was certain that the road was free of mines, and he intended to relay the message to English personally.

But Dick Sloat volunteered to go in Ed Bale’s place. Col. Bale told me, “It was my job to go. I didn’t go simply because he wanted to go so bad. And he was that kind of officer. I’ve had lieutenants that I’ve had to fire in combat. He was very different. He was very devoted to duty. You could rely on him. You didn’t have to tell him but once. He was always pleasant and enthusiastic, even under the worst of circumstances.”

So Dick volunteered to take Bale’s place and go down into a valley to relay a message to the 4th Tank Battalion. When he arrived at the commanding tank, he picked up the tank phone. It wasn’t working. He crawled onto the tank to make contact with someone inside. But an enemy gunman was watching and fired a direct shot into Sloat. Some of the men in the valley carried his body back up the hill. That July day, Ed Bale learned that a “fine, fine, fine man” had died. Col. Bale told me that he should have been the one to go down into that valley that morning, but Dick Sloat volunteered in his place. “Greater love has no man than this than that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Dick Sloat once stood here. His story should remind us that each generation is called to make sacrifices. Each of us can live in freedom because of what PHS grads before us did.

But in an even bigger and more significant way, each of us can live freely because Jesus Christ died in our place, because He volunteered to bear our Cross. He came for us; the least we can do is to go forth in His name, to abide in Him, to love Him who first loved us.

We can go out with gratitude. You and I have so much to be thankful for. Look around you now and you’ll see evidence of God’s love for you. He has brought all of us together for such a time as this. Think about the wonder of the people who God has brought into your life. It isn’t just by chance. It’s for His glory. Don’t underestimate the importance of the connection you’ve made with this community in these days of your youth. Don’t let the thrill and adventure of going make you forget where you come from. Wherever you go now, remember this place called Puyallup. Come back here at some point and pass along the blessings that have been given to you.

Deuteronomy 28 says, “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” May all of you in the Puyallup High School Class of 2012 be blessed as you go out from here.