Rotary Came to Norway

Rotary has
more than 300 clubs and 12.000 members in Norway. It was the Norwegian-American
Iowa senator Olaf M. Oleson from Fort Dodge Rotary Club, who brought the
movement to Norway. He participated in the Rotary International Convention in
Edinburgh in 1921, the first to be held in Europe. After the Convention he
visited Norway where he brought up the idea to start a Rotary Club with friends
and nephew Ola Five, at the time a captain in the Kings Guard. Ola followed up
and on 13 October, the first meeting with nine members took place and the club
was organized. This was the first Rotary meeting held in Scandinavia. Later
they applied for membership in Rotary International. The application arrived in
Chicago 17 of May.

At the
charter banquet in Kristiania, later that same year, past president and Rotary
International architect C. Klumpf from the Cleveland Rotary Club handed over
the charter on the first of June the first in Scandinavia. 

Olaf M.
Oleson was one of Fort Dodge’s best known benefactors. He died in 1944. He was
a native of Norway, who immigrated to the United States in 1870. He operated
Oleson Drug Co., and with his wife, Julie Haskell Oleson, contributed to local
parks, hospitals, colleges, musical organizations and individuals. In 1928
Senator Olaf M. Oleson was awarded the Order of St. Olav. The last time he
visited the club was in 1937.

When the
capital of Norway changed name from Kristiania to Oslo in 1925 the club
followed. Actually that year my grandfather, a member since 1924, had the idea
of using the occasion to do some international branding. A special publication
about the club and the city was distributed to all existing Rotary Clubs at
that time.

presidential bell and club was a gift from the Minneapolis Rotary Club in
1925.The explorer Roald Amundsen became an honorary member in 1926. Also King
Olav V and King Harald V have been honorary members. Crownprince Haakon has
followed up this tradition and is an honorary member today. Rotary’s founder
Paul P. Harris visited the club in 1932. During the WWII the club was forced to
go under ground.

Today Oslo
Rotary Club, with its 220 members, is the largest in Scandinavia.
This year is
the 90th year. The charter date will be marked with a conference in
the recently restored banquet hall at the University of Oslo. Rumours say that
a gift will be presented to the 200-year-old university. The President of the
club this Rotary year is Roar Gudding. He is a director at The  Veterinary Institute, and did research at
Iowa State University and is familiar with the city of Fort Dodge.

Myself I
had the pleasure of meeting with Carl Johnson, president of the Fort Dodge
Rotary Club on a visit to Iowa in1996. Then I extended an invitation to all members
to visit us. They are welcome to this very day. We have our luncheon meeting on
Thursday’s at the Grand Hotel.

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