By Lawrence Furbish, past President and past District Governor, Sanford-Springvale Rotary Club
One Friday in the summer of 1922, Willis H. Folsom, a Springvale furniture dealer, went to the Falmouth Hotel in Portland for a meeting of the Portland Rotary Club. When the luncheon broke up, he waylaid the club secretary, explained how he was a great admirer of the organization, and asked how he could be proposed for membership. After some discussion, the secretary said that given the distance between Sanford and Portland, it would be hard to keep up the attendance requirement. Besides, the Portland club already had a member who was a furniture dealer. (At that time Rotary limited how many members could have the same profession to better represent a cross-section of the community.) The secretary suggested that Folsom start a Rotary Club in his hometown.
The idea appealed to Folsom. He began discussions with friends and eventually rounded up 20 business professionals who agreed to be charter members of the new club. They were a group of diverse and talented community leaders who would meet weekly for fellowship and informative programs, with a common goal of local and world community service. The first gathering was at a Greek restaurant on Bridge Street in Springvale, where Folsom was elected as the first President. Annual dues were $25, with a $20 entrance fee and $1 charge per meal.
Arrangements were made with the Knights of Pythias to hold the club’s meeting at their lodge in the Bradford Block on Main Street in Springvale. However, at that time, the Ku Klux Klan was active in the area, and a rumor got around that the Rotary Club was a front for the Klan. So, one snowy cold morning, when the commissary committee of the club showed up at the lodge to get ready for the meeting, they were curtly informed that Rotary could no longer meet there. Needless to say, there was no truth to the rumor, but the club found another venue in which to meet.
The club’s charter from Rotary International arrived on Jan. 19, 1923, and the formal charter night festivities occurred on Feb. 17 at Goodall Hall (now part of the Sanford Unitarian Universalist Church). With that, the Sanford-Springvale Rotary Club was off and running.