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Rotary: service, fellowship & teasing
It was truly a great birthday celebration for Jo Dean Hart who got tagged with a bear hug from past president Jeff Liotard. - photo by GLENN KAHL

There is so much behind the gavel possession of a Rotary president – Dana Solomon of the Thursday noon lunch bunch knows that only too well.

Solomon, who directs the operation of the Manteca District Ambulance, became president of the group back on July 1 and has had a problem keeping track of his gavel and his brass bell ever since.

It’s really an embarrassment for a president not to have his bell to gong and a gavel to do the gonging.  Some local business man sympathized with his plight and brought him a rubber mallet and another came up with a tiny hand-held variety that he could use to call the meeting to order.  Both only served as light harassment that everyone seemed to enjoy.

He has finally retrieved the official bell and has come up with a wooden gavel that he uses, but it is only half the size of the original.  Solomon is to the point he almost has to chain his symbols of office to this lectern to make sure they won’t disappear into the woodwork.

Shenanigans are nothing new with the noon Rotarians and Solomon was one of the prime suspects in years past when the president received pictures of his missing bell and gavel from faraway places ranging from a pack trip (on the side of a saddle) in Tuolumne Meadows to the beach in Monterey and even in Lake Tahoe.  Gavels at other clubs in the region have been known to appear back at a meeting frozen in the center of a block of ice – addressed to the acting president.

One less drastic attack on the Manteca bell caused its brass surface to give off the sound of a piece of solid lead – more like a thud than a resonating ring when struck by its gavel.  A cloth restaurant napkin had been stuffed inside the bell housing above its base.  It couldn’t be seen but the bell’s report was nothing more than that loud thud.

While it’s all fun and games for otherwise serious business professionals, it is a departure from the often hectic and anxious week of work’s pressures.

Manteca Rotary goes back to its inception in the mid-1950s with most of its meetings held at the MRPS Hall.  It grew to almost 80 members in the ‘70s having most of the businesses and professions in Manteca well represented.  It wasn’t until much later that women were approved to be included in the formerly all male group and the birth of the morning club that meets at Doctors Hospital.

Back in the ‘70s we had a great time with the gag department.  One that stands out in my mind was when Curly Harder owned the Datsun dealership on North Main Street at Northgate.  As we all got to the MRPS there was a brand new Z-model sports car parked blocking the entrance.  Harder had put those classy looking brochures showing the Z in all its splendor – one at each seat in the hall.

The then president fined the Datsun owner only $5 for blocking the entrance with his new floor model.  But those 70-some brochures cost him $2 each for advertising – with the fine nearing $200.  It was obviously a shock to him and brought immediate laughter from club members.

The gals have been well accepted, and they have proven they are often more active and productive than their male counterparts.  It was difficult for some of the charter members initially to appreciate their real value, albeit they are quick to accept leadership roles.

One prime example is how Jo Dean Hart – manager of a Golden Valley Federal Credit Union – was treated on her birthday.  It came with a song and a big hug by Mountain Mike’s Pizza owner Jeff Liotard after singing happy birthday to her.  And president-elect is Renee Key who operates an ornamental rock firm with her husband.

Manteca insurance broker Mark Oliver has been part of Manteca Rotary for some 40 years having served as president and district governor as well as leading projects in needy Third World countries.  Oliver presents a “Rotary Moment” just about every week shortly after the meeting gets underway.

Rotary has been meeting at Isadore’s Restaurant for the past several years where they are currently welcoming new business professionals to their numbers in the organization’s continuing effort to make a difference in Manteca, in the nation and in the world as well.

Two of the Rotary tenets ask that members are fair to all concerned urging its members to build good will and better friendships.