Laura Hawks Flores Cover Sheet:
Interviewee:Laura Salas Hawks Flores
Place of Interview:41 Chatfield Drive, Lakeville, Ct. 06039
Date:Dec. 4, 2013
Summary of talk:Family background, IMS, her computer business, Rotary, first women, President in 1997, Group Rotary Exchange to Brazil for 7 weeks, Presidential duties on three levels, town gift of bandwagon, scholarships, Rotary Youth Exchange Program & Jack Kuhn, Interact Club with Inge Dunham, Camp Sloane & John Hedbavny, future of Rotary, and Shelter Boxes for the Philippines.
Laura Flores Interview:
This is file #69. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Laura Hawks Flores about Rotary. The date today is December 4, 2013. We’ll start with the brief genealogical background
JM: What is your name?
LF: My name is Laura Flores as you mentioned. It was originally Laura Salas.
JM: Your birth date?
LF: February 15, 1934
JM: Your birth place?
LF: That was Antwerp, Belgium.
JM: I believe that you said that your mother was Belgian?
LF: Yes, my mother was Belgian and my father Argentine, so we traveled back and forth. My brother was born in Argentina, and I in Antwerp.
JM: What was your brother’s name?
LF: Saturnino, it is a good Argentine name. There are a number of Saturninos in the family, but it doesn’t go very well here in this country.
JM: It is an unusual name. When did you actually come over here?
LF: We went on the USS Uruguay, an American ship, from the War-McCormick Line, leaving in December, 1940 and arriving January 6, in New York. I just found our names on the manifest of the ship which was fun to do.
JM: Now I believe that you lived elsewhere, and I can’t find it right now, but when did you come here to Lakeville?
LF: Well, my brother was the first one to come to Lakeville. We arrived in January, 1941, and he was here by February 1941, not speaking a word of English. So he was in Lakeville for 3 ½ years at Indian Mountain, four years at Hotchkiss. I was one year in Lakeville at Indian Mountain, and then I really didn’t move here until 1982. I built a house in Lakeville on Route 112. My husband had died; I had 2 sons, and I wanted a place that would be good for them and for us as a family. So we came back up to Lakeville.
JM; I believe you opened a business in 1982?
LF: Yes, Northwest Computer Service; I had been in the world of computers since 1959, working with IBM for a number of years. Then having my own firm in Westchester first, called Hawks Micro Processing, and then when I moved up here, it was Northwest Computer Services.
JM: When did you join Rotary?
LF: That was in 1987 when women were first invited to join Rotary. I was invited by Bob Estabrook. There was one other woman at the time, Kathy Boughton, and she did not last long in Rotary. I think she was too busy. (one year Ed.) But I have been in since 1987, and we are now 2013. I am now one of their “old” members, senior members.
JM: Why did you join, was it for the business aspect?
LF: Well, there was always that, but technically we are not supposed to talk about our businesses in Rotary. I liked the fact that that there were so many possibilities for service within Rotary; so many international possibilities; that really attracted me.
JM: At the time that you joined, your category would have been, computers?
LF: Computer consultant, yes.
JM: Were there any other computer consultants at that time?
JM: You always were an unusual lady. You became President in 1997. How did that come about?
LF: You know every organization has ups and downs; there are really flourishing periods and not so flourishing periods. Actually there is a process for preparing oneself for being President, but no one had accepted that responsibility. All of a sudden two on the members (Dick Dwelley & Bill Pulver Ed.) came to me and said, “Laura, would you please be president?” I said, “We’re not doing well. I wonder whether we should even close the Rotary group.” They said, “No, we promise we will support you.” So a number of us became very active and brought the club back to flourishing. We got 14 new members that year which was a first. We did many good things. That’s how I came to be President. Even though I was President, I was able to take a 7 week break to go down to Brazil with a group from Rotary called the Group Study Exchange.
JM: Tell me about that, please.
LF: That’s really very interesting. It is one of the offerings of Rotary. One Rotary member is a leader and then there are 4 non-Rotarian business people. They go together as a group to another district of Rotary somewhere else in the world. Our group went to the area called “General Mines” in Brazil. We were there for a long stay of 7 weeks. That way it works is this. Before our departure the businesses or the professions of people in the group are made known to the group where we are going. They see to it that each week each member of the group has a professional visit with their counterpart in that country. That’s very interesting. We had nurses, we had a woman who works in local politics; we had a little bit of everything in our group. So they arranged ahead of time for these professional visits. That worked out very well. Each of us was housed in the house of a Rotarian down there. Each week we schlepped to another town in the area, and started all over again. In the meantime we were shown whatever special things were in that area; whether it was a museum, for instance in one place it was a museum of special semi-precious stones, the school or orphanages. We visited a little bit of everything, certainly hospitals, and found out many ways in which the Rotary clubs were different. Most of them met in the evenings and they owned their own buildings, and maintained their own buildings. It was much more a family affair since we went in the evening, the families could more easily go. That was quite a difference from the way Rotary operates here. It was really fascinating from many points of view.
JM: I can see where it would be. Now as a President, what were your duties? Were they local, were they district or were they international?
LF: They were a little bit of everything. Yes, Rotary like any other good organization has an MO, modus operandi which sort of dictates how meetings are run and what we are trying to do. Each club is encouraged to do something on the local level, the national level, and the international level. That can be anything that we find is necessary or important. I remember one year for instance we gave to the town that our club includes; we gave that traveling gazebo that is used for the bandwagon and so forth. It is on wheels and goes from town to town as needed for some celebration. We can often find it at the special days in front of the Scoville Memorial Library. That was nice; that met a need. Of course we work hard on scholarships. We have not only scholarships for attendance at universities, but we also have what we call “Welcome Home” scholarships, trying to help students who may not go to college, but they need some training in their field whether it be nail polishing or automotive training or so.
JM: This is for adults; this is for older than university people?
LF: Well, no necessarily older than university because if a student has gone to high school and finished and not gone to college, they want their automotive training. So anyone who has finished high school is eligible, and they can go even for helping with gasoline expenses to get to study. Those have been popular; we also have done a lot with students.
Rotary has a youth exchange student which meant that we will send one of our students from our local high school to another country. They don’t always get to choose just which country; they are given a choice of among two or three possibilities because there must be a student from that other country that wants to come here. So it is really an exchange. I always admire those young people because they are high school age; they come for one year to a different country that perhaps they have never been to. They have to live with other families who may function in a very different way; they have to study in English at the local high school. Now things have become a little more difficult by way on international travel and all the visas and whatnot that are required. We are trying to get into that again. I think we may. Another thing we have done with students which we did for a number of years is have what is called an ”Interact Club”. It is a Rotary sponsored organization with young people. They are encouraged to do the same things we do which are to have to find a way in which they can serve the local community and the international community as well. So they have to plan their own fund raisers and they do very well. If fact sometimes they do better than the senior club does. There was a very active group at the local Housatonic valley Regional High School under the leadership of one of the Rotarians. (Inge Dunham Ed.) She has now retired from that position. Right now we don’t have the Interact Club, but it is something I hope will get going again.
JM: Now Jack Kuhn, what was his connection?
LF: Rotary is organized with clubs at the local level and then there are areas within the district. We are one of seven clubs within a district. He was the district leader for the Youth Exchange Program. He at that time really had a very extensive Youth Exchange Program; some years there were 20-28 students in the district from other countries. He was in charge of seeing that all their paperwork, their permissions were squared away; that they all had good housing plans for here. He also saw to it that they had chances to get together for social occasions and so forth because sometimes for a while they feel most at home with other foreign students.
JM: Certainly because they are all sharing the same unusual experience. What was the connection between Rotary and Camp Sloane?
LF: For a long time we had John Hedbavny who was Head of Camp Sloane. He was a Rotarian and sometimes we used their facilities for a picnic or something of that nature. We would have a luncheon there, and we sometimes helped receive in our homes the young international counselors.
JM: Yes, I remember that because Foster would go to the picnic and in a couple of weeks, Jack Kuhn would say, “Well, now Foster wouldn’t you like to have a counselor from Camp Sloane for a day?” So that is why I asked you about jack Kuhn and also Camp Sloane. What is you view for Rotary for the future? Where do you think it’s going?
LF: We as a club have gone through ups and downs; we are now on the up climb again. Several of us are making a concerted effort to do more, communicate more with the community, to do things more with other clubs that after all have the same ends in mind. To just make ourselves know better in the community and to get younger people which is our problem in this area.
We are working hard to rebuild it and we are doing some important things; right now with this Philippine disaster there is an organization called” Shelter Box” that was started in England. It is now associated directly with Rotary International. They provide very large tents, housing 10 people, with partitions for family organizations; they provide cooking, all the things they need, two types of stove, all the pots and pans, blankets, things for children , water purification, really subsistence type things. Each box costs $1,000; there is no cost, no expense that if one contributes $1,000 it goes entirely to the shelter box. There is no overhead at all. We have as a club agreed to donate$4,000 which is 4 shelter boxes. We have encouraged 4 or 5 individuals to make gifts of shelter boxes, and we have received some money from the communities so we are at the $10,000 mark now in the space of a few weeks. As soon as we get the last pledges in, we’ll send that money directly to Shelter Box and know that ten boxes are on their way to the Philippines. We can react in those ways; I feel good about that.
JM: As you should. It is a very worthwhile organization. Service above self and it is so important for reacting immediately to all sorts of catastrophes that though out the world.
LF: I feel that when that happens we all say I want to help but how? If you sent money to whom, if you try to send clothing or food, that is very difficult. This way we know what is being sent by an organization that does nothing but and we know that they are delivered there. Sometimes there are tent cities; I know that in one of the disasters in India they sent over 30,000 which mean that one third of a million people are housed. Those tents said to last for 6 months, but actually some people lived in them as long as 4 years. It is incredible; the organization works with local authorities to see that there is water, sanitation, and room for these tent cities to be put in place. It is really well planned and well organized.
JM: It wounds it. Before we close is there anything that you would like to add about your perception of Rotary?
LF: I think that Rotary like every other organization is finding some difficulties; many people have dropped out because of financial reasons or they have to take 2nd jobs which prevent them, but the spirit is always there and Rotary finds a way to get around these difficulties and still provide very interesting possibilities of services.
JM: Thank you so much for your information and telling us more about Rotary.
LF: Well, you are very welcome indeed.
Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068