– Barney Semtner
First, an old story or two. When I was president of Club 29 in the early ‘90s, we developed an activity from the podium where Rotarians were honored each week. A committee would decide who to honor and one of the committee members would come to the podium and toast that Rotarian. On one particular week, Rotarian Ken Mui was the committee member who came to the podium. If you remember Ken, he had a pretty thick Asian accent. He came to the podium to propose a toast for a fellow Rotarian, Paul Rice. No one in the audience knew who was to be toasted until he spoke. He began by saying the words “Paul Rice”. The half of the Rotarians who were listening thought he requested everyone to “All Rise”, so they stood up. The rest, followed suit and everyone stood up. There was a short moment when everyone realized that we weren’t really supposed to be standing. The honor for Paul was somewhat lost. Everyone laughed and sat down. Looking back though, it was really pretty funny. The toasting activity eventually went by the wayside even though it was intended to feature club members who weren’t as well know as others. I still remember the special honor for Paul Rice. I can’t tell you who else we honored that year.
Another funny story happened at a Rotary meeting where we decided to advertise the upcoming Inaugural dinner. President Rick Vermillion’s Inaugural Gala included Nashville entertainers “Riders in the Sky”. To hype the entertainment and western theme, the inaugural committee thought it would be great idea to have someone ride into the Rotary meeting on a horse and invite everyone to attend. Our Club 29 meetings were held in the 2nd floor Ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel. The logistics of getting a live horse to the meeting became a project. We had resistance from the Hotel’s staff who didn’t want a horse in their ballroom. Then, where do we get a horse. Then, how do we get the horse to the second floor. Then, who was going to ride the horse. Then, who was going to clean up if the horse had an accident. The hotel staff blamed it on the health department, but in reality, the health department didn’t really care. One Rotarian knew someone who had a horse who would help out and bring it to the meeting. Never in a thousand years did we think we could pull this off. The day of the meeting arrived and the horse owner showed up with trailer in tow. He backed up to the hotel loading dock and brought the horse in via the service entrance. At first glance, the horse was either really old or had been given a tranquilizer. He was very mellow. We all laughed that he looked like the leaning horse on the “Blazing Saddles” movie from the 1980s. The owner lead him to the freight elevator and we all held collective breathes as the horse entered and rode to the second floor like a champ. We had put black plastic sheeting down over the carpet on a 12’ x 12’ area in the ballroom near the door in case of an accident. A young, fearless Rotarian, Fred Morgan, dressed in his finest cowboy duds, took the reins to the horse, mounted him and headed through the door into the Ballroom filled with our membership. He was handed the microphone and proceeded to invite all Rotarians to attend the Inaugural. The horse was totally un-phased, leaning slightly, doing exactly as envisioned. There were no accidents. Fred maneuvered the horse with all the experience of a rodeo star. The horse rode the elevator back down and out the way he came. Attendance at that Inaugural Is still one of the all-time largest in Club 29 history.
Now for the news… the Santa Fe Parking Garage is getting new elevators. All of Club 29 members who park in the garage have experienced the price of progress over the last several months. Unfortunately the process is only half through, so please have patience. Standing in the elevator lines with several dozen or so Rotarians waiting for an elevator is a fellowship opportunity. Shared Rotary experiences are some of the best! The two South Elevators were taken out of service in the summer as they are in the same elevator shaft and it required both to be closed. The efforts were completed but the city elevator inspection took an extra month because of a backlog. Two weeks ago, as the south elevators were completed, the contractor moved to the Plaza elevators and immediately closed the north one to begin the replacement. Call it bad luck but as soon as we only had one Plaza elevator working, the new South elevators decided they weren’t quite ready to work consistently. There were repair calls on the new elevators almost daily and a bearing failure has caused one elevator to be shut down for the last week while they wait for a replacement part. It will take about 6 weeks per elevator in the Plaza Tower to get them replaced so look for delays lasting through the end of the year. Remember, COTPA gives Rotary the lowest priced parking in downtown. It’s all in the name of progress.