President Dudley Thompson called the 5,388th Civic Thursday meeting of the Rotary Club of Oakland to order as he rang a cowbell. He announced that next Thursday’s meeting and hopefully every Thursday meeting thereafter (at least through the end of June) will be in-person at the California Ballroom. There will be no meeting on July 7. Mary Geong’s inauguration as our next President will be on July 14. Of course, much depends on what the future holds on the Covid front.
Pres. Dudley then offered a little history on Memorial Day. It was started in 1869 by General John Logan, a Union Veteran leader, who called for a national day of remembrance when Americans would decorate the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers whose bodies “lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet in the land”. Memorial Day has since become a major National Holiday on which we remember all military men and women who have fallen in service of their country.
For his Thought for the Day, Past President Jack McAboy gave us a memorable quote from James Baldwin: “I love America more than any other country in the world. For exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” Jack then led us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Past President & District Governor Ed Jellen greeted Catherine Coleman’s guest, Diane Williamson. Another guest who signed in after Ed’s greeting was Ruth Stroup’s guest, Rachel Crawford.
New member Etan Fraser broke the Club record for giving his Three Minute Self-Introduction a mere week after joining the Club! Etan is a real estate developer and broker and also a corporate attorney. He recited a personal experience that inspired him to become a Rotarian. While working for a nonprofit in a very impoverished area of Ghana in the summer of 2009, he suddenly came upon a new facility bearing the Rotary logo. He has always remembered this as proof that Rotary is willing to support projects in poor areas of the world that the international community often ignores. Etan also remembered seeing a school being built in Ghana with everyone in the village taking on a chore, from women carrying bricks on their heads, to the bricklayers and the planners. He soon realized that was a good analogue for Rotary’s emphasis on collective engagement in community service. Because Rotarians are blessed with a special degree of professional and financial success, they feel a special calling to join in collective action to serve those in need here and abroad.
Speakers Committee Chair Robert Kidd introduced our speaker, food historian and chef George Geary from Palm Springs. George is the author of Made in California, a history of the fast food industry that began in California. In addition to his other credits (including hosting several TV and radio shows), George worked as the pastry chef at Disney Co. for ten years. Later on, he made all the cheesecake and food props for the “Golden Girls” TV show. More recently he has led food tours through the South of France and has been a star food guide on numerous Holland America cruises throughout the world.
Some highlights from George’s presentation:
He got the idea of writing about California being the incubator of fast food when, on his way to teaching a food class at Purdue, he noticed that 16 out of 18 restaurant recommendations at a particular Indiana locality were launched in California. Eighty percent of his Made in California book is about restaurants that are still around; the rest is nostalgia for ones that had their heyday but have since vanished.
The Sonora Café began in 1923 in Southern California; it later changed its name to El Cholo and is still in business and expanding. Hinky Dinks, which began in Oakland, later on turned into Trader Vics.
McDonald’s began as “McDonald Brothers”. After failing to make a go running a movie theatre, the brothers got their fast food venture going by using pretty, winking girls as car hops to build up a clientele.
Carl’s Jr. began in 1941 as “The Blimp”. Denny’s began as “Danny’s Donuts”.
Swensen’s ice cream began in San Francisco in 1948; it’s still there, but there are only three left in the US. Its demise began when it outsourced the ice cream making and added a hamburger lunch menu.
A&W diners began in Lodi in 1919. In ‘n Out began in Southern California in 1948.
George’s next book is “L.A.’s Landmark Restaurants”, which is due to come out later this year. After that he plans to publish a sequel to Made in California that covers the later period of 1965 to 2012. George’s website is: www.georgegeary.com
Click here to watch George Geary's video segment.
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