Eighteen years after Rotary International was founded in Chicago, a club with 25 members was formed in San Luis Obispo, California. The Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo received its charter on December 3, 1923. The first President was Francis H. Throop, and meetings were held in the dining room of the Anderson Hotel.
By 1946, membership had grown to 90. At that time, fines were between 25 cents and $1. All members were fined equally with $10 maximum per year. Birthday fines were $1 and missed meeting fines were $1.25, which was the cost of the meal. A popular fundraiser during the last 40’s was the Men’s Rummage Sale which brought in about $400 annually for club projects.
Our club began its tradition of supporting academic and vocational education by awarding scholarships in 1958 under the leadership of President Kline J. Williams. By 1963, a membership of over 100 outgrew the Anderson Hotel and meetings moved to the Elk’s Club, and then to the Madonna Inn in 1965, where we continue to meet today.
By 1982, membership had grown to 162, and under the leadership of President Jack Dewer, our Club sponsored the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Rotary Club. Charter night was on August 8, 1984 at the Achievement house. President Dewar presented a Rotary Bell to the new club’s 33 members.
In 1986, Lynn Frady Kelley became the first woman nominated for Rotary membership. She was sponsored by Jim Brabeck. Prior to that time, the club was “men only.” Wives (Rotary-Anns) were included in special events, but were not included in regular meetings. 1986 was also the year we endowed the Billy Watson scholarship for music students with $10,000 raised from sponsoring the Pops concert, a popular fundraiser during the 80’s and 90’s. By 1988, the fund had increased to $40,000. Today, in addition to our academic and vocational scholarships, we award two scholarships for students pursuing a music education.
Membership increased again to over 130 and in 1997, under the leadership of President Dick Pottratz, we sponsored the Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo Daybreak.
Our popular Homes of Distinction Tour was started in 1993 with Diane Blakeslee Brocato at the helm. By 2003, the Home Tour, along with a golf tournament and various other fundraisers were allowing us to contribute over $100,000 annually to community organizations, community improvement projects, and scholarships. We also began a Spaghetti Western Fundraiser around 2010, which combined with the Home Tour fundraiser provided the major funding for our club's projects.
COVID created a new environment for Rotary including our Fundraising options and opportunities, and so those past fundraising events were no longer viable or sustainable in their previous forms. Recently, the club has moved to a few new options for Fundraising, with the newest major fundraiser kicking off in 2023 with our "Rotary Eatz" gift card raffle (more info here). This event along with others will help us continue to provide strong support for our local student scholarships in the current and coming years.
Currently, we also have joint projects with our sister club in Compostela, Mexico in addition to semi-regular local volunteer events and projects.