Milt Wylie, History

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I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to relate some of my Rotary experiences since I joined the Burnaby Rotary Club on September 9, 1960.

 

I had arrived in Burnaby in May, 1952 as an articled law student with the firm of Hyde and Hean, located at the corner of Kingsway and Sussex Streets in S. Burnaby. The work that I was initially engaged in was real estate and conveyance work and making submissions to the courts and governmental authorities. I was enrolled as a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and enjoyed participating in their activities. However, I soon became interested in the work that the Rotary club was doing in the community and beyond.

 

Following my year as a law student, I was called to the bar of British Columbia on May 30, 1953 and made a full-time lawyer with Hyde and Hean. Later, I was made a full partner of the law firm and they sent out an advisory memorandum to their clients. It contained a notation that the firm name had not been changed yet. They were surprised to receive a return memo suggesting a new firm name of "Hyde Wylie and Scream". from a client who knew me well.

 

I continued working in Burnaby, mainly in property development and real estate and became quite familiar with members of the Rotary Club, several of whom occasionally invited me as a guest to a Rotary meeting when there would be a speaker in whom they thought I would be interested. During this period, I continued working with the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the May Day Association, both of which I was president.

 

One day, I received a call from Bob Marshall, a lawyer who was a member of the Burnaby Rotary Club. Bob indicated that he was leaving Burnaby to practice law in Prince George and that he desired that I take his place as holder of the law classification in the Burnaby Rotary club. I declined with the statement that as a lawyer, I was busiest on Fridays and that I would have great difficulty making Friday meetings in a club that desired perfect attendance by its members. Bob's response was that I would be able to shuffle my work times and that Rotary offered make-up provisions whereby Rotarians could maintain attendance by making up at other clubs. I responded favourably to his explanation and joined the Burnaby Rotary club on September 9, 1960.

 

Initially, I became involved in two things:

1)       Since my office was very near the post office, I became club mailman.

2)       Our club had a policy of granting transportation assistance to a club member who had difficulty generally or in particular circumstances in getting to the weekly club meeting. I was one of those who agreed to help provide such transportation assistance when and where it was practical. In recent years, I have appreciated that transportation assistance is still made available.

 

At Easter the following year, 1961, I attended the Rotary District conference at the Harrison Hot Springs auditorium. I really enjoyed attending the meetings and having personal discussions with the Rotary officers and members who were present. The topics of discussion really captured my interest - matters such as club membership, growth and efforts to become more effective as a club. These discussions and meetings greatly influenced my future participation at Rotary at both the club and district level.

 

I would like at this point to advise you of a number of projects that were undertaken by the Burnaby Rotary club at that time:

 

1)       Participation in the CNIB Salmon Derby - arrangements for boats and tackle and helping man the boats.

 

2)       Preparation of a club event calendar booklet for the District Governor's visit - and to help new and old members plan their year. Currently e-mail has substantially replaced this.

 

3)       Assisting our Rotary Anns in their major project of providing visits, entertainment and assistance to the mentally handicapped at the WoodlandsSchool in New Westminster.

 

4)       Hole-in-one golf tournament - a fundraiser run by Sev Morin and surprisingly participated in by comedian, Bob Hope.

 

5)       Adventure playgrounds. A total of 8 adventure playgrounds were constructed in the two years, 1971-72 under the direction of Irwin Swangard (who was later our president in 1975).

 

6)       Operation Identification. (1975-76). This program was initiated by club member, Inspector Cy Thomas of the RCMP and then president, Irwin Swangard. Home break-ins and thefts were a serious problem, particularly in Burnaby. A pilot program was set up in approximately 735 homes in the East Burnaby area. These homes were visited by one of our club members, accompanied by an active or an auxiliary RCMP officer.  Individual items were marked for identification purposes. Most impressive was the discussion that the police had with the home owners outlining to them how they could make their home less susceptible to home robbery. This pilot project was so successful that it was later extended to the rest of Burnaby in a modified form.

 

7)       Rotary House. This is a S. Burnaby group home for the disabled. As you know it continues to operate successfully.

 

I'd like to return to my own activities in the Rotary world. Firstly, I would like to mention that in addition to visiting local Rotary clubs, wherever I traveled in the world, I tried to visit other district, area, or world conferences when I was able to do so. I particularly appreciated my visits to Rotary clubs in Scotland, England and many other European countries.

 

Like most clubs, the Burnaby club followed the practice of financing the visit of its incoming president to the next District Conference. I recall John Haddy, president for 1963-64, having a delightful time telling the club and individual members about his experience in traveling to and attending the 504 District Conference held that year in Anchorage, Alaska. To my delight, I was elected club present the following year (1964-65) and of course had an all-expense visit to that year's District Conference in... New Westminster. Seriously, that year I attended club meetings and District conferences in many parts of the Rotary world and appreciated being welcomed as a visiting club president.

 

Without taking time to mention particular District Conventions, I would advise that I did attend world-wide conferences in Calgary, Mexico City, Honolulu, Japan and Thailand. Of these conventions, I regarded Calgary as the best organized and most memorable. The convention occurred the same week as the Calgary Stampede and many events occurred with a crowd-pleasing atmosphere, somewhat similar to our recent Olympics.

 

I would, at this time, like to refer to some of my other activities in the Rotary world. In 1966, the District Executive appointed me to be in charge of a new Foundation program, called Technical Training Awards. In the fall of 1966, I received a notice that a student named Kassa Gabre, from Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, was coming to study Applied Science at BCIT. What amazed me was the part of the notice that indicated that Taffara Deguefe was the president of the Ethiopian club that had recommended Kassa. I remembered studying Statistics with Taffara at UBC in 1949!

 

I met Kassa Gabbre at the VancouverAirport when he arrived from Ethiopia. I assumed the responsibility of looking after him and arranged that he stay temporarily at our home. The next day, I took him to BCIT where I left him with officers to arrange his studies and show him around, with an indication that I would pick him up later. A couple of hours later, I received a very excited phone call from Kassa, advising me that he had toured BCIT and discussed programs with officials - but that he had been a teacher in a place like that and that he wanted me to arrange for him to get a proper education. To make a long story short, I contacted the Vancouver Rotary Club to determine if they had any members in Community Planning and Organization at UBC who might be able to arrange for Kassa to enroll in UBC's Regional and Community Planning, which I had learned was Kassa's major interest. I also arranged for Kassa to spend time with the Burnaby Planning Department to enhance his local planning experience. In the year 1967, the Emperor of Ethiopia visited Canada for our Centennial. Kassa arranged to join the visiting group on their Victoria trip. He ended up going back with the Emperor's group when they returned to Ethiopia.

 

Kassa found local governmental work in Ethiopia. Later, he became in charge of all school construction and was Minister of Public Works. Taffara Degueffi, who now is a member of our Burnaby Rotary Club, has written 3 or 4 excellent and best selling books on the history of developments in Ethiopia and the efforts of the Emperor to have his supporters remain in power. Kassa now lives in the States. I am delighted to be one who receives an annual Christmas call from him.

 

There has been many a story of continued contact with individuals who had studied under our Foundation Student program. For example, Gus Cruickshank, who became president of our club in 2005-06. Every Christmas, other former students from distant lands communicate with their Rotary families in Canada as Reg Millway and I can well confirm.

 

Finally, my most inspirational experience in Rotary was to lead a 5 member Group Study Exchange team on a two month tour of Rotary in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, with many side visits to such places as Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, Borneo, New Zealand and Australia.

 

One memorable point was our visit to the relatively small community of Lopburi, Thailand. We learned that their Rotary Club had undertaken the building of a community auditorium for meetings and related youth recreational activities in a central area of the city. However, they were greatly lacking in funds needed to complete this project.

 

Our team quickly reviewed its resources and was pleased to make an immediate grant of US $1,000 to assist with the project. In addition, we indicated that we would seek further funds from back home. Jack Hutchins, of the Burnaby club, took on this project, and was able to forward a contribution of CDN $6,667.00 from the Burnaby-Kingsway Club. This was augmented by CDN $20,000 from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The Lopburi Club raised another 250,000 Bahts (~CDN $25,000) to help complete the project.

 

Delightfully, our past president, Bill Marquart (1980-81) and his "Rotary Ann" (his wife) were able to visit Thailand and attend the opening of the auditorium in March, 1987. He received great acclaim for the Burnaby-Kingsway club and a special booklet prepared for the opening (including a picture of Bill and his wife). A copy of this booklet is in our archives and can be available for quick review at a club meeting.

 

I have mentioned only a few of the many activities undertaken by our Rotary club. Among the activities not related above, I would at least like to acknowledge the many projects arranged by Donna Scott and her youth contacts and the park project on BurnabyLake.

 

In my past 49 years, I have watched my fellow Rotarians welcome visitors here, just as I have been welcomed at local Rotary clubs around the world and thereby developed many friendships. It is a pleasure to watch relationships develop and projects be undertaken, that not only help individuals, but whole communities. Truly, Rotary is a world community. I am proud to be an active participant. As for the perfect attendance, Bob Marshall was right. There are a lot of ways to make up and have fun too!

 

T. Milton Wylie

April 7, 2010