Saturday, 19 April 2014 01:21

Discovering the Roots of the Founder’s District

Written by Paul F. Clark
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Paul ClarkThe Founder’s District began in a squabble. In 1944 the first Toastmasters district, District One (which still exists along the west side of Los Angeles) covered much of Southern California, a vast area. The need to divide this district to provide better club support came before the Toastmaster International Board. The problem was everyone wanted the “District One” name distinction.

One of the leaders of the new, eastern district, Graham Albright, brought forward a suggestion the western area retain the District One name, and his area be called the “Founder’s District” in light of the fact Dr. Ralph Smedley, our Toastmaster Founder, lived within the area of the new district. This compromise settled the dispute.

Dr. Smedley probably also recognized another reason for naming the new district the “Founder’s District”. The key location of the district encompassed the original permanent clubs forming the foundation for the development of Toastmasters International. Where were these original clubs? They resided in communities within Orange and Los Angeles counties starting in 1924. The first club sprung up in Santa Ana that year, and was followed by a second club in Anaheim early in 1926 – happily both clubs still exists today. These two clubs and others which shortly later formed (in Fullerton, Los Angeles, Orange and Long Beach) created the Toastmaster program which we work with today. Dr. Smedley acted in nearly all instances as a “new club mentor,” sticking with them from their first meetings for several months to get them off the ground. Another Toastmaster characteristic which we now routinely observe is starting a meeting on time and ending it on time – began right away. The original minutes of the second club, the Anaheim Toastmasters Club (#2), exist at the Anaheim Public Library. The club’s minutes on February 2, 1926 concluded: “The meeting adjourned promptly at 8:00 o’clock.” The adjournment notation “at 8:00 o’clock sharp” is a steady refrain in the minutes. Addressing financing the fledgling Anaheim club, the members voted to increase the meeting dinner costs – all the early clubs began with a supper – from 60 cents to 75 cents “in order to create a fund to care for any expenses which we may have.” By January 1927, the club’s treasury contained $24.43. In July 1926, the need to orient and assist new members (called “mentorship” today) found a solution when the club took this action: “It was suggested by the President that different members volunteer to take one of the printed lessons as furnished by Mr. Smedley at our start, and explain same for benefit of new members.” The “printed lessons” refers to speaking guides distributed to the club’s members earlier, probably arising previously at the Santa Ana club. These guides eventually evolved into our published Toastmaster manuals.

The Founder’s District proudly holds a heritage unique in our global organization. We can know that our Toastmaster program, as well as our federation of clubs, Toastmasters International, started here spreading today to over 14,300 clubs in 122 nations.


Read 3697 times Last modified on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 21:48


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