The torch of Rotary community service in Merced was first lit on Wednesday, December 7, 1921. The morning paper that day headlined that there were bread riots in Berlin due to the World War aftermath; British officials regarding Irish Peace as an Accomplished Fact, and nationally, on December 6th, President Harding gave his first Annual Message to Congress of which taxes were the most important topic.
Locally, the Merced City School Board, after much controversy, have decided where to place a new school, eventually to be known as John Muir. Bootlegging was in high fashion and within a week, a general round up showed that eight would be arrested in Merced.
As for the actual formation of the Merced Downtown Rotary Club, the scene is set for it’s beginning at 6:30 p.m., December 7, 1921. That evening sixteen (eventually charter members) prominent citizens of Merced (population 4,500) drove their Essexes, Hupmobiles, Hudsons, Packards and Model T’s to the corner of 17th and M Streets parked diagonally in front of the El Capitan Hotel, and went inside and the formation of the club was started. Walter Killam, a Rotarian from Modesto was a leading catalyst between the sponsoring Modesto Club and the new Merced Club. The original sixteen Merced Charter Members warmly welcomed him and forty-seven other members of the Modesto club, who had journeyed down for the special occasion. The next morning the Merced Morning Star reported: "The Modesto Club came in force bringing their orchestra and quantity of good talent which furnished amusement every minute of the meeting.” This meeting led to the Merced Rotary being officially chartered, March 1, 1922.