History of Kiwanis

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History of Kiwanis International

The first Kiwanis club was organized in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. on January 21, 1915 as a men's service organization.  A year later, the Kiwanis club of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada was chartered.  Kiwanis International grew rapidly into a leading service club in these two founding nations. At this time, it had 5300 clubs and 270,000 members. In 1962 worldwide expansion was approved and in 1963 the first European club was established in Vienna, Austria. At the 1987 International Convention, membership was opened to women.

Today, Kiwanis clubs are active in every part of the world. There are about 8500 clubs in 82 nations and regions and a total membership of over 315,000 civic minded individuals worldwide.

The name, "Kiwanis" was coined from the language of the Native American tribe, which lived in the area where Kiwanis was founded. The original phrase was "Nun Keewanis" which means "self-expression" or "to make oneself known." It was shortened and modified to become Kiwanis.

Local Club History

Late in the fall of 1918, a group of Cleveland Kiwanians met with some Elyria businessmen and discussed the formation of a Kiwanis Club in Elyria. Mr. Hal P. Denton, then in charge of building new clubs in Ohio, sent Mr. Al Hay, Jr., his assistant, to Elyria.

At first, meetings were held at the YMCA, but after a few weeks the meeting place was changed to the Andwur Hotel. In successive years, the meetings have been held in the Chamber of Commerce rooms, Masonic Temple, back to the YMCA, Graystone Hotel, the Elk's Restaurant, again to the YMCA in the 1970's. Meetings moved to the YWCA, presumably due to the closing of the old YMCA when the new structure, a fitness facility, was built. After a club vote in December 1999, the club moved to its present meeting location at the Wesleyan Village.

The Kiwanis Club of Elyria was chartered March 5, 1919. It was the 127th such club organized. The charter party was held at the Elk's Hall with about 180 people in attendance. Past international President O. Sam Cummings, who was then International secretary, personally presented the charter. For years, this was deemed the most successful charter party in Ohio.

The first officers were H. G. Redington, President, G. H. Chamberlain, Secretary, and C. M. Braman, Treasurer.

During the first year, the club was active in the Victory Loan Drive, the Red Cross Roll Call, and other civic matters. Representatives attended International Convention in Birmingham, Alabama in 1919. The club sponsored two other clubs during its first year, Lorain, chartered June 26, 1919 and Sandusky, chartered November 18, 1919.

1920s In the fall of 1920, the Elyria Rotary entertained the Kiwanis Club Meeting at the YMCA for dinner. At this meeting the "E-L-Y-R-I-A" song, written by Jim Armitage, was first sung in public. It became the official song of the city.

In December of 1920, Kiwanis organized the Kiwanis Loan Fund, which operated through 1922. A guarantee fund was raised. Families out of employment applied to our committee for assistance. About forty families were helped, without losing their self-respect, during the period of industrial depression.

In 1921, we sponsored the building of the Berea Kiwanis Club. We also hosted the Rotary Club at the opening of a new dining room at Alber's Villa. In the fall of 1921, the club entertained the High School football squad and presented them with blankets. This began an annual event, which eventually outgrew the noon meeting and became and evening event. In 1936 it grew to become the Annual Elyria-Lorain Football banquet.

In 1922, the club led a movement to widen Court Street, Middle Avenue, and Third Street around the Courthouse Square. In 1923, the club's annual Red Cross Call was record setting. Children of members were entertained with a Christmas party.

Also in 1923, the movement to build a swimming pool at Cascade Park began. Preliminary investigations were made and plans were prepared. This became the major activity of the club until the pool was completed and turned over to the city to operate on June 29, 1927. As a member wrote in the 1970's "One cannot visit the park on a warm summer day and see three or four hundred kids enjoying the pool and not feel proud that Kiwanis forced the issue and made it possible."

In 1924, the Kiwanis Club of Elyria sponsored the building of the Wellington, Ohio club.

The largest number of people ever fed at one time in Elyria, up to that time, was due to a Division inter-club meeting. About 450 people came to the Elks hall to hear District Governor Howard Smith speak on February 9, 1927. The club also welcomed people to Elyria by erecting "Welcome" signs along the main highways. Four members, Ed Hannum, Bill Struck, J. E. Thatcher and Paul Wainwright formed the Kiwanis Quartette, which created much enthusiasm in 1927 and 1928.

During 1928 the club initiated the movement to widen Second Street. They also chartered two buses so 71 people could attend the charter ceremony for the Olmsted Falls Club. The Kiwanis Quartette entertained at the International Convention. That same year, they painted "Elyria" on the Parsch Lumber & Coal Company roof for the benefit of the airmen. The sign, 440' x 22', was deemed the best in Ohio. With Rotary, they erected a tablet marking an Elm near the Courthouse as the largest tree in Northern Ohio. They sponsored public Band Concerts for several summers.

The club's 10th anniversary was celebrated with a front-page story in the Chronicle-Telegram. That year they journeyed to Port Clinton for a Ladies Night party.