R. R. Alexander – First Club Secretary

History Minute

As you know, the History Committee periodically takes us on a little trip to the past to learn about the founding fathers of Boise Rotary. Today I’d like to take you back to the Boise of 1917, and also tell you a bit about RR Alexander, the Club’s first Secretary.

In 1917, the First World War was in full swing and the United States had declared war on Germany just three weeks before the ceremonial establishment of Boise Rotary on April 28.

Boise itself had a population of just over 30,000, making Boise the smallest town to have received a Rotary charter. The public school district owned eleven buildings valued at nearly $1,000,000, the cornerstone of which was Boise High School, pronounced by educators to be one of the best high schools in the entire West. The district boasted some 4,000 students and 135 teachers. In addition to the public schools, Boise was served by St. Margaret’s, St. Teresa’s, and St. Joseph’s as well as by a commercial college.

The YMCA and YWCA were flourishing, and the Natatorium and its attached amusement park provided entertainment opportunities for residents and visitors alike, although there was some concern about Boise’s lack of public parks. Julia Davis was the only park of any significant size at the time.

Boise boasted four fire stations with paid firemen and modern fire fighting apparatus, and was justifiably proud of the fact that, unlike many towns, fires had always been quickly contained and had never done widespread damage.

Boise had an active interurban street car run by electric power connecting most of the suburbs to the downtown business district. The streetcar connected Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Middleton, Star and Eagle in a loop that allowed Boiseans hourly access to the Oregon Shortline Railroad station located in Nampa. Additionally, Boise had many miles of cement walks, and its principal streets were substantially paved.

Boise was a thriving community, with population and resources growing at a steady rate surpassing any other town between Salt Lake City and Portland (except for Walla Walla).

All this in spite of the fact that Idaho had officially become a “dry” state January 1 of 1917.

Mr. R.R. Alexander was a relative newcomer to the flourishing community of Boise when he became involved as a charter member and the first Secretary of the newly organized Rotary Club at the age of 35. He had been born in Indiana where he attended Wabash College and subsequently went to law school. Like many of Rotary’s founding fathers, Mr. Alexander had several professions. He was involved in the insurance industry both in sales and as a traveling company auditor. He then came to Idaho where he was a teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools in Idaho Falls and Salmon between 1908 and 1911. He was admitted to the Idaho Bar in 1912, but apparently gave little time to the practice of law.

Mr. Alexander founded the Western School Supply Company in Boise, and was the Boise manager of the Northwestern Teachers Agency which was a teacher placement service covering eleven states as well as Alaska and Hawaii.

He was involved in numerous civic organizations, and his biography in Hawley’s 1920 History of Idaho credits him as being “a member of the Rotary Club of Boise, in the projects of which he is helpfully interested…As a business man Mr. Alexander stands high, enjoying the entire confidence of all who have had dealings with him.”

Presented by Marcia Wing, Presented January 28, 2010