SAN ANGELO DOWNTOWN LIONS CLUB

"The Dynamic Downtown Lions Club"
San Angelo, Texas USA

Lions Clubs International District 2-A1

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History of the San Angelo Downtown Lions Club
Compiled by Past District Governor John Hancock, August 2004

This club was organized on September 11, 1923 as the Lions Club of San Angelo with 42 charter members. For most of our existence we were known as the San Angelo Lions Club, but with the advent of additional clubs in the city, the name was changed in 1984 to the San Angelo Downtown Lions Club. This club has grown to 120 members and we now have 7 clubs in our city with approximately 400 members. So, Lionism has prospered in this community over these past 80 years and this club has enjoyed growth and a productive existence throughout that time.

The history of an organization can be chronicled by what it does and who does it. For a Lions Club the Awhat@ is the Civic and Humanitarian service provided to our fellow man and the Awho@ is the membership of the organization. For this club, that history begins with the 42 men whose signatures are shown on our charter and continues through all of the members who have belonged to this club over these past 80 years. As you look at that charter, some of the names are blurred and unrecognizable, while others are more legible and are names that we recognize. But, all of our members throughout these years have made a contribution to the success of this club.

As you look at that charter, you can recognize the name Alex Collins and know that he was the first President of this club and that he was President of the old Central National Bank. H.A. Goodson= s name can be recognized. He was elected 3rd Vice President that first year and he was the local Ford dealer. Ed Blanton was in the printing business and was the club=s first Tail Twister. A few in this room knew Ed and remember that he was the personification of a Tail Twister. And, of course, Dean Chenoweth= s name is recognized as the Editor of the Standard Times; for many years as the editor of the Roar and was our annual speaker at the first meeting in January and our last surviving charter member. He passed away in 1991 after having been a member of the club for 67 years.

But, these 42 charter member, and the many that have followed since, shared a concern for their fellow man, a willingness to get involved and do something to help those less fortunate. That care and concern has been directed primarily toward children and toward sight conservation. In the early 1920s, we began an Easter Egg Hunt for all of the children in this community and that continued through the 1930s when, on one occasion, there were 10,000 children in attendance. That program was held at the old Central Fire Station just down the street. And, in later years was continued at Carlsbad for children in the State Hospital. For many years, we also gave a Christmas Party for needy children here in San Angelo with dinner and Christmas presents.

We are all familiar with the Texas Lions Camp at Kerrville and this club supports that program both financially and through sponsorship of children. But, our concern for these children goes back to 1930 when we began a Summer Camp program for children here in the San Angelo area. The club acquired property and built a facility at Lake Nasworthy that was used to provide camping experience and it continued in service until 1968 when we re-directed our support to the Texas Lions Camp.

In the early 1950s, we gave our Lake Nasworthy facility to what was then San Angelo Junior College and today you would recognize it as the Angelo State University Lake House. At one time that property belonged to this club.

Throughout all these years we have provided eyeglasses for children here in this city and more recently, our concern for eyesight has expanded to include participation in the Eyeglass Recycling Program that is located at the Lighthouse for the Blind. PDG Al Owen and others have been instrumental in working on that project as well as the Ciudad Acuņa Eye Clinic.

Our club supports the Western Texas Lions Club Eye Bank Alliance, located here in San Angelo and the Lions International Leader Dog program. Our own Lion Bob Porter has been active in that effort.  Participation in the SightFirst programs are other recent examples of our involvement in sight conservation. as our International Association proceeds to conquer curable and preventable blindness worldwide  Certainly I would be remiss if I did not mention San Angelo Lions Charities. This club has been a strong supporter of that citywide effort C Ron Beard is our representative and is very dedicated to that program C as are all of the Lions of San Angelo have been involved in providing Glaucoma medication to needy patients here locally C as well as supporting Unidad Park and other projects in the city. And so, we see what was begun by those 42 members has continued throughout our history. Even today we are still reaching out and touching lives of people, making a difference both here locally and around the world.

Throughout the years we have recognized the importance of club and membership growth in Lionism. This club has been the sponsor of over 20 other clubs in this general area of Texas. As I mentioned, San Angelo grew to 9 clubs over these 81 years. Of those, 7 clubs are still in existence of which we are either the parent or grandparent. Membership growth is important to all of us C certainly to this club.

In addition to humanitarian concerns, this club has also been civic-minded and enjoyed fun and fellowship. For those that can remember names like Horace Heidt and Spike JonesC we brought those internationally known entertainment groups to our city as a civic activity and as a fund raiser. In 1958 we sponsored the Passion Play C again as a civic program and to raise money. There are 2 or 3 in the club that were in the cast of that production. Sponsoring a carnival, July 4th Fireworks and participating in the Miss Wool Pageant are other examples of our civic activities and that type of activity continues today with the Pancake Breakfast and support of old Fort Concho, Habitat for Humanity, the Girls Club and the Food Bank. Fund raising activities today are focused on the concessions at the Pavilion and the Spur Arena in which Lion Arnold Schneemann and David Knight and others are very active.

The most significant contribution this club has made in the area of civic activity, one that provides entertainment and promoted Lionism, was the Cowboy Band. Most of you have heard of that group of seven string musicians that began in 1927 and were active until the late 1940s. They were excellent entertainers playing country and western music on one banjo, a violin and a guitar. Under the leadership of Frank Meadows and Louis Hall, they played before audiences here in San Angelo, throughout the state, the nation and even Canada and Mexico. In 1931, when Julian Hyer from Dallas was elected International President, they played at the Inaugural Ball. They were such a success that they were asked back the following year for the Los Angeles Convention and, the year after that, in Mexico City. One of the highlights of their career was when they played for the 1933 Inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. But, the Cowboy Band did more to make known the name of this club throughout our International Association and the world C more than anything else we have done.

Now, not everything this club has done has been successful! Back in 1958, we had a vision that San Angelo needed a zoo. It was primarily the vision of Otto Schertz, who many of you knew and who was our President that year. Over the next few years, we raised funds, built fences and cages in extremely hot July weather, purchased Buffalo and prairie dogs C and established the beginnings of a zoo.  Can you imagine spending money to buy Prairie dogs? A part of our vision was that the city was going to own and maintain this zoo. But, for those of you who were living here in the late 1960s and early 1970s C you know that the City Council did not share in this vision. The tax funds necessary to support the zoo were not forthcoming. What began as a vision turned into a nightmare and the demise of the zoo. If you were to drive out east of Bell Street along the river, you would find that the only thing left of that zoo are some Prairie dogs and they seem to thrive quite well. So everything we have done has not been all that successful.

Let me diverge for a moment and get into some areas that may be trivia, but hopefully will be of interest:

1. We were organized as a Thursday noon club and have remained so throughout our history.

2. For the first 41 years we met at the St. Angelus Hotel C that building is no longer there, its now the site of the Wells Fargo Bank. From there we moved to the Town House which originally was the Naylor Hotel.. In 1968, we moved to the Cactus Hotel, and stayed there until 1983 when we moved to our present location at Rio Concho Manor.

3. We began publishing a newsletter in 1951. Named The Roar, it is now in its 53rd year of publication.

4. We have had 5 International Presidents as speakers on our program. Everyone would recognize Ebb Grindstaff as one of those speaker.

5. We have also had two Presidents of the United States on our program. It was before they were elected President, but both Lyndon Johnson and George Herbert Bush have spoken to this club.

6. One last item of trivia C I mentioned that H. A. Goodson was charter member and had the Ford dealership. But, in 1932, the 20 millionth Ford automobile was manufactured, delivered to Goodson= s dealership and sold in San Angelo. Henry Ford came to our city to commemorate the event and Goodson invited him to the Lions meeting. Being gracious hosts and this being the wool capital of the world, this Lions club presented Mr. Ford with a live lamb. According to the newspaper article, Mr. Ford had the lamb shipped back to his farm in Michigan. I would strongly suspect that this is the only Lions Club in the world that ever gave Henry Ford a live lamb.

Whether you are talking about an Easter Egg Hunt, or sponsoring a child to the Texas Lions Camp, or providing eyeglasses, being involved in civic activities, or any of the many other Lions projects, as we look back at the 81 year history of this club, it demonstrates our commitment to the motto A We Serve.@ It shows that this club has a proud past, and present and former members have left a legacy for future generations to follow.

This is the year 2004 and as we look to the future, we still see children that need eye glasses or a camping experience, we see civic and humanitarian needs, both here at home and all over the world, continue to grow. In that environment, a club that has as its motto A We Serve,@ also has a bright future. And that would be the message I would leave with this club tonight C you have a proud past and a bright future.

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