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On a mission to build

Kiwanis Club of Vienna (Wein) charter night 

Fifty years ago, more than 200 Kiwanians and guests from North America boarded planes to make history. The previous year, 1962, Kiwanis opened the door to establishing clubs outside the United States and Canada, and a “European Mission” was organized to officially welcome new clubs in three Continental cities: Vienna, Austria; Basel, Switzerland and Brussels, Belgium.

This year, Kiwanis celebrates the 50th anniversary of Kiwanis in Europe. The first European club, the Kiwanis Club of Vienna-Europe 1 will host a three-day party, March 14-17.

During the mission, the North Americans also visited Zurich, Paris, Amsterdam and London. Kiwanis magazine recorded some of the trip’s highlights: a tour of a Holland tulip farm; coffee and cake at a Swiss physician’s home; an opportunity to see the Iron Curtain and the laying of a cornerstone at a House Kiwanis in Hinterbruhl, Austria—a home for orphan children.

Gerda Schmidt had a front-row seat to the chartering ceremonies in Vienna. In 1960-61, she had been a exchange student sponsored by the San Benito, Texas, Kiwanis Club. When her Texas hosts learned about the European Mission, members suggested she contact the Austrian Kiwanians. This introduction led to her assignment as an official interpreter for the charter gala.

“This certainly was a wonderful evening,” Schmidt reported. “All the men wore tail coats and the ladies very fancy dresses. I wore white shoes, gloves and purse, and a pink-reddish dress and a white overcoat. Altogether, I imagine there were 150 American couples and 50 Austria couples. A very exclusive dinner was served for all those people.”

Leslie Carlson, president of the North Hennepin, Minnesota, Kiwanis Club, summarized the nonstop charter party in Basel: “We started at 8 p.m., and the festivities lasted until midnight. We’d be served a course and then entertainment would follow, served another course and more entertainment.”

In 1973 and ’83, 10th and 20th anniversary European Missions were arranged, expanding the itineraries to include Norway and Iceland.

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