Member since February 1973
You know you’re speaking to a true-blue Rotary member when they struggle to remember when they joined but they believe it was about a whopping 37 years ago.
Johnny Johnson has clearly been part of Rotary for a very long time “I think I joined in… 1963? But I couldn’t be accurate, I’d have to look it up,” Johnny admits sheepishly with a laugh.
It was Frank Drewit who brought Johnny into the club, “I just went along one day, that was when it was at the old Majestic Theatre, it was a good club they had the sing-song in those days,” remembers Johnny – something that he admits he doesn’t miss “I’m pretty tone deaf,” he laughs.
Johnny then tells a tale of his school days when during a singing rehearsal he suddenly felt a big thump beside his ear – the singing master had struck him for putting every one else out of tune and then demanded that he leave!
“After that whenever all the other boys were at singing rehearsal I had to roll the cricket green,” he says, so maybe its just as well Rotary scrapped the sing-a-long.
In the time Johnny has been a member the club has undergone a number of changes from the venues to the food to the membership demographics, “the injection of females has been very good,” says Johnny “its brought variety to the club and created a different culture and atmosphere.”
Rowing has played a big part in Johnny’s life, he started while he was at school in the UK in 1944, he then took a break for a few years and came back to it in 1958 when he played rugby for College Old Boys and a friend there took him along to Wellington rowing club STAR. Since then he has been heavily involved with umpiring and coaching and still umpires in the odd regatta, helps to repair the boats and does a little coaching when required.
Johnny’s not as active in the club as he used to be, but he still manages to run the door welcoming roster. He’s served on most of the committees, has hosted a Rotary exchange and played a big part in the Wellington Rotary Charitable Trust. In fact, it is his involvement with the WRCT that Johnny is most proud of. He was there in the initial stages as they carried it, worked it through and developed it “it’s nice to see the progression of it,” he says.
Rotary has enhanced and influenced Johnny’s life “an awful lot,” he says “I’ve met so many people, made lots of friends, there’s such a good camaraderie - that’s why you see so many people coming every Monday, you’re surrounded by friends.”
Johnny found it difficult to pin-down a favourite memory of his time at Rotary “that’s a cold, tall one,” he muses “I like everything! Nothing really specific, it’s all so well run.” But when pressed he says he always enjoys the schools leavers luncheon. “Yes,” he decides “that’s one of the highlights; we host the luncheon at parliament and invite all the principals, head boys and head girls from all the secondary schools in the area. I like it because I’ve coached a lot of them and it’s nice to see what I would call the ‘good youth,’” says Johnny.
Johnny also enjoys the Monday lunch time meeting where he can hear a good sergeant’s session and some very interesting speakers.
Johnny thinks the clubs motto ‘Service Above Self’ is a very good one, “it can be hard to live up to,” he says “but you always do your best.”
Johnny hopes that he’ll be able to keep coming to Rotary for a good while longer “but you can’t guarantee anything as you get older!” And for the club he would like to see it continue to grow and get stronger “but it’s been going so long, I see no reason why it wouldn’t continue!” he says.
It’s a bit hard for Johnny to remember now but when asked about what he recalls from his first meeting he speaks of the food they had “it was fish and chips or sausages and mash - pretty mundane stuff, not the kind of food we get now!”
Johnny must have attended a great deal of meetings in his time with Rotary but he thinks fellow member 90-yearold Colin Mcleod would have been to more ”he’s like part of the furniture,” jokes Johnny “he’s perpetually here.”
During that first meeting Johnny simply absorbed everything, “it seemed to be a right fit for me, I was used to being apart of other organisations so it appealed to me,” he says “I feel like you need to belong to these types of organisations and I love to be involved and get into as many things as possible whether it’s rowing, rugby or Rotary.”
Johnny believes the way to sell Rotary to those unfamiliar with the club or those thinking of joining is by talking to them about it “I would tell them what the club does, what it aspires to, and I’d get them to come along to one or two meetings, so they can experience it for themselves and see if suits them or not. It either gets them or doesn’t get them.”
And Rotary certainly got Johnny, “I’m not sure if the club grew on me, or if I grew on the club,” he says, but either way the club has been all the better for his part in it.
Written by Vanessa Higham - Communications Intern 2011