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Rotary Happenings: Annual Arts, Crafts Festival comes and goes

By Staff | Feb 19, 2019

Our major fundraiser – the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club’s Arts and Crafts Festival – has come and gone. Our brilliant hard-working festival committee was hard at work for over nine months; yes, it’s like birthing a baby. All proceeds from the festival support our club’s Trust Fund Giving to non-profit projects locally, nationally, and globally aligned with Rotary International’s six areas of focus: fighting disease; providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; saving mothers and children; supporting education; growing local economies; and promoting peace. Last year, the club gave over $100,000 to organizations and individuals we believe will support our Rotary focus.

Now on to the recent Rotary meeting. It does happen, but not that often, our scheduled morning speaker must bow out for whatever reason and one of our not-so-shy Rotarian volunteers steps up to the podium to fill in. Rotarian Charlie Emerson has been pulling together his recollections of being part of a Methodist missionary family during the 1940s and 1950s in India. This still is a work in progress, so what he had to offer us was somewhat of a beginning outline. Emerson was born in Ratlam, India, in 1941. At the age of 3 months, his family returned to the United States. The family stayed in the states for over four years while his father completed studies.

In the 1940s, India crossed the bridge from colonialism to independence. In 1945, it was time for the family to return to India. A very different India. Lord Mountbatten was the last viceroy of British India. He remained viceroy of India until August 1947. Emerson’s father and mother used their missionary assignments as conduits of Christian believes while providing education and medical care to families in rural areas of India.

Kids no matter the circumstances find ways to explore their surroundings and find adventure and he was no exception. Emerson was fascinated with the primitive farming equipment used to mill grain. Villagers used a team of oxen to power a large grain grinding stone wheel. The oxen wore leather type yokes with extended wooden spokes attached to the stone. As the oxen walked around the large stone, the stone churns and grinds the grain. So, young Emerson decided to get up close and personal with the process, jumped in the center of the turning spokes and got run over. Lesson learnt, maybe, or maybe not. He did spend some time in the hospital, possibly that’s were he decided to go into the medical profession.

Snakes, yes snakes. Large deadly India Krait snakes. They slithered about, not a totally unusual sighting, but you learnt to be aware. One even invaded his household, when his sister and Emerson were taking a bath – up through the drain pipe a good size Krai emerged. Luckily, someone must have intervened, and he is here to tell the story. India had a large population of wild tigers and other game animals and it wasn’t unusual that young boys were taught to hunt. Emerson was no exception. Tiger hunting, yikes.

Emerson was home schooled until 4 years old and then attended boarding school. Many missionary children attended boarding school in India, this was a fairly normal routine. From 1945-1952, his parents lived in Central India and during the school year Emerson attended boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. As a normal routine, he and his school mates boarded trains in groups to travel north to their school. Traveling to and from school was a three-day journey for him. He was the first stop on the train line to school and last stop home. Sounds like an adventure on its own.

Emerson had to stop here, time was running out and we had only gotten to his teen years. This is only the beginning of putting together the story of his childhood in India, maybe we’ll hear more of the story when he finishes flushing out more memories of his childhood in India during the ’50s.

For information about the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary. The club meets every Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel; visitors are welcome to attend.