Officially deemed the "Chaplain Emeritus" of
the Rotary Club of East Jefferson County, Henry Rogers is known
his wisdom, sharp wit, and ease before a crowd.
While many of you may have had a glimpse into Henry's past,
when he spoke last month on early radio and TV broadcasting,
there is much more to Henry's story.
In 1919, Deerborn, Mich. was known as "Fordson". Henry Ford's
motor company was born there; and so, too, was Henry C. Rogers,
"My father was killed when I was 5 years old," Henry said.
Originally a structural steel foreman for Ford, Henry Sr. became
a residential contractor. He died on the job.
In those days before welfare, Henry's mother, Laura, went to
work cleaning houses. She was 25.
An only child, Henry was a typical kid. Misbehaviors ensured
that the willow tree in the back yard stayed well-pruned. Halloween,
he recalled, does tend to bring out the devil in a 13-year-old.
"They were mild pranks," insisted Henry, now 83. "Like tipping
over the outhouses, which were prevalent in those days." The
town's 10 p.m. curfew no doubt curtailed a lot of shenanigans.
By the time her son graduated from the Ford-built Fordson High
School, in 1938, Henry's mother was the manager of the school's
cafeteria. Young Henry couldn't get away with anything — word
always got back to Mom.
"She was a great gal. Loved to laugh, but she was a feisty
one," Henry chuckled. "You couldn't get anything past her. She
was 94 when she passed away."
Word of Henry's interest in pretty young Marjorie Last no doubt
got back to Mom, too. "We became high school sweethearts," Henry
smiled. But they parted ways. Henry began classes at the Henry
Ford Community College (now Wayne State College).
"I was either going to be an actor or a musician. I was the
front man and played the bass in a (12-to-18-piece) swing band — Henry
Rogers and his orchestra," Henry recalled. "Swing and sway the
Rogers' way and to hell with Sammy Kaye" was their slogan — a
take off of Kaye's "Swing and sway with Sammy Kaye".
Dance halls flourished across the county, and the young musicians
were paying their way through college. They were even featured
on NBC radio's "Fitch Summer Band Wagon".
The year was 1940. The same year the draft was enacted. The
start of World War II changed everything.
"Everyone in the band got their notices and were called up
right after New Year's, except me," Henry recalled. He opted
for the Merchant Marines.
Henry was home on leave and once again dated Marjorie. He could
not forget her. They married on October 5, 1946.
The musician went to work on Wall Street, as an insurance adjuster
calculating losses for the ships, private and otherwise, that
sank during the war.
"You have to remember, going to war, your whole outlook changes,
your dreams," Henry reflected.
Henry later did a three-year stint in New York City's Hell's
Kitchen, as the personnel and labor relations director of the
world's largest kosher meat packing company. And, no, he's not
"My first love was being at sea," Henry admitted. He quickly
agreed to take a job on the Great Lakes, with a company whose
5,000 passenger boats had cruised the lakes since the turn of
"The job also brought me closer to home to my mother," Henry
Five children would bless the Rogers' home: Henry C. III ("Buck"),
the twins Paul and Nancy, Catherine, and Eric. Grandbabies followed
television was in its infancy. Few homes had the tiny-screen TVs.
All broadcasts were live. Video tape hadn't yet been invented.
National broadcasting was years away. Into this picture enters
Henry — as a horse's rear end.
"I called home and said, 'Marge, I won't be home for supper,
but go over to one of the neighbors who has a television. I'm
making my television debut as the rear end of a horse'," Henry
When his friend the head of production who had gotten
him into this in the first place told Henry the front
end of the talking horse was sick, Henry was promoted to the,
shall we say, head of the act. His lines were pasted to the inside
of the horse's muzzle.
"I started the show leaning up against the fence with no rear
end. During the show, I felt the rear end (of the costume) lift
up and a guy got into it," Henry chuckled. "I ran all summer
long as the talking horse."
During the next 20 years, Henry rose from those auspicious
beginnings to business manager for the broadcast stations of
the Detroit-based Evening News Association.
"Television was changing so rapidly. The changes in technology
were coming every week. We didn't even have networks across the
country back then. I can remember the celebration (in the mid-1950s)
when they got the signal across the country. Then, in the '60s,
came video," Henry recalled.
Henry was one of the founders and a president of the Institute
of Broadcast Financial Management, which is still going strong.
"In 1970, I left the Evening News Association to go to Los
Angeles, to Chris-Craft Television Broadcasting. Yes, the boat
guys," Henry confirmed. "We got there just in time for the big
Getting the company's house in order was the new financial
officer's first duties. Buying more properties to expand the
three-station (Los Angeles, Portland and Minneapolis) firm was
next. Henry successfully negotiated the purchase of Puget Sound's
KSTW Channel 11, but Chris-Craft's board of directors turned
"Television was going through a tremendous change and there
was no control of it because it was done manually. Keeping track
of commercials was impossible," Henry recalled. He began work
on a computer system to organize it all.
When Henry left the firm in 1974, he took his computer system
with him. "Compunet" would end up in 114 stations across the
"In 1978, it was bought out by Control Data and I retired," Henry
smiled. Retirement was short-lived. "People kept calling me for
advice so, like everyone, I hung out my shingle."
In 1980, Henry retired again and went to the Solomon Islands,
where Marjorie worked on her masters degree, producing educational
materials for the soon-to-be independent islands. While Marjorie
worked, her hubby played.
Lure of Hadlock
A peek at Marjorie's Solomon Islands' educational trunk of
historical items was requested by the organizers of a United
Nations seminar, held in the London Commonwealth Museum. It was
the perfect excuse for the Rogers to spend six months touring
the British Isles.
While on a ferry, they met Port Townsend's Kate Jenks and her
daughter. Conversation turned to the Rogers' quest for a new
home site. Kate suggested they visit Port Townsend. They did
and they loved it.
"When we came across the bridge in Portland, I said to Marge,
'We have to remember this date, July 1, 1985. We're entering
Washington and this is where we're hanging it up'," Henry recalled.
Day after day, the pair left their Port Hadlock rental to scour
the peninsula looking for a home to buy.
"One day at breakfast, I said to Marjorie, 'We're nuts. We're
looking for the grail everywhere and it's right here in Hadlock'," Henry
The duo bought a little cabin on the "Greenspot", just a stone's
throw from the Portage Canal Bridge. Eighteen years and 1,200
additional square feet later, they have the home of their dreams,
with a dynamite view.
"I always wanted to build and I think if I were to do my life
over again, I'd be a good carpenter," Henry decided, having done
his home's remodel himself. A regret? "Oh no, I don't have any
regrets. I don't look back. I look to the future and see what's
Citizen of the Year
was named the Port Hadlock Chamber of Commerce's 1996 Citizen of
the Year. He was nominated as a "living monument to
the meaning of active community service" and joined the ranks
of earlier winners, including the 1994 Citizen of the Year, his
very own Marjorie.
"Being named Citizen of the Year was a real surprise. It was
a real humbling experience. If not THE greatest, it was one of
the greatest things that ever happened to me," Henry admitted.
The year 1996 also marked the couple's 50th wedding anniversary.
Since moving to Port Hadlock, Henry's local activities have
included the Rotary Club of East Jefferson County, of which he
was president in 1990-91. He was a major organizer for many of
the Rotary's "Puttin' on the Ritz" annual fund raiser galas.
He is also, if you recall, the originator of our "Scam",
that creative little game that adds a few extra bucks to the
club's coffers each week.
Port Hadlock's Community United Methodist Church benefits from
Henry's untiring service, as does Chimacum Schools. In 1994,
Henry was the co-founder of the Friends of Chimacum Schools.
FOCS is an education foundation organized exclusively for charitable
and educational purposes; essentially founded to promote education
and to provide scholarships. Through it, funds may be solicited
and received; and gifts, endowments and bequests accepted for
the benefit of Chimacum Schools.
"If we, as a nation, are going to survive, we really have to
do something about our education system," Henry once declared. "That's
one of the reasons I got this Friends of Chimacum Schools started."
Busier yet in 1994, Henry spearheaded the first-ever "Jefferson
Days" — the popular old fashioned July 4th family celebration,
based on Indian Island.
In 1995-96 Henry was a director of the Jefferson County Historical
Society's board and a member of the Jefferson County Law and
Justice Advisory Council.
The rhody gardens at Fort Worden grew more beautiful over the
years, thanks to Roger's efforts, as well as the efforts of the
devoted members of the local chapter of the American Rhododendron
"I love the Hadlock area. It's a great place," Henry said. "I
realize I'm a Johnny-Come-Lately, but I feel like I was born
Henry's story first
appeared in the Port Townsend Jefferson County Leader in
A note: In the early 1990s,
I came to a crossroads. My freelance writing career had just
begun to take off, when I was offered a high-paying sales
job. Passionate about my writing, yet knowing a divorce and
motherhood was soon to come, I was confused. Should I grab
the gold ring of financial security, or follow my heart and
pray I'd be able to feed my children?
For advice I went to a man I didn't really know too well,
but one whom I admired and whose advice I respected, Henry
played the devil's advocate and we dissected all sides
of the question. I came away clearheaded
and positive about my
decision: I would write. Of that decision, I have no regrets.
And to Henry, I will always be grateful.