Carbonear Lions Club celebrating 45th anniversary
ince the old Carbonear Lions Den was demolished earlier this year to make way for a new school on Valley Road, some people assumed the club itself would be defunct. But nothing could be further from the truth. The club is still alive and well and active in the community it has been serving for the past 45 years.
Club members have been holding their regular meetings at the homes of members. Periodically, Lions can also be seen at the TC Square mall raising funds for the VOCM Cares Foundation, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Red Cross and other worthy causes. They will be holding their annual Christmas Sweep at the mall again this year. They continue to support district programs and the Lion Max Simms Memorial Camp near Bishop’s Falls.
This Friday, November 4, they will be at Harbour Grace Primary as part of a program called Lions Quest.
Les Caines, a 13-year-veteran of the club has been serving as its president since July 1.
Bruce Foote serves as treasurer; George Butt, secretary and Bill Oates, immediate past president. Directors include: Hayward Peddle, Fred Power, Chris Lahey, Sharon Peddle, Jack Hiscock and Tom Reynolds.
Les Caines also chairs an international relations committee, which sees the Carbonear Club twinning with 10 other Lions Clubs around the world.
Caines said one of his objectives during his term of office is to see an increase in membership.
“We expect to grow our numbers - that’s what we’re hoping for, Caines said.
“Everybody assumes because the building is gone, we are no longer around, but we are still here.”
Past, present, future
Earlier this year two veteran members, sat down with The Compass to reminisce, talk about the future and dispel a few myths about the club’s current status.
Bruce Foote joined the club in 1967, the year after it was chartered. And Bill Oates became a member in 1968. Both have been loyal and active members ever since.
As they observe their 45th anniversary as a club this year, the veteran members vow the loss of their building does not necessarily spell the end for their club.
“We are not finished as a Lions Club. We are not going to be in the public eye, but neither are we going to loose touch with the public we serve,” said Oates.
Club remains viable
Some have speculated the club might crumble, just like the building. Not so, said Oates.
“The ( building) is gone, but the Lions Club is still active here. We operate strictly as a service club. So whether we build a new building or buy a building has yet to be determined.”
That will depend on a number of factors, not the least of which will be the final financial settlement with the provincial government for their building and land.
Almost a year later, they have still not ruled out the possibility of acquiring another building, pending the outcome of the settlement.
Except for catering to various functions, Oates explained the club doesn’t really need a building to continue operating. He said finding alternate accommodations to hold functions “is not a major concern for us.”
Over the years the Lions have enjoyed a good working relationship with other service organizations, including the Royal Canadian Legion and Knights of Columbus. Referring to those groups, Oates said, “I’m sure if we need anything, they would be only too happy to help us out.”
A bigger challenge facing the Lions is one that all service clubs have to contend with these days - a declining and aging membership. From a peak of 48 members in its heyday, membership has declined to 10, and membership recruitment will be a major focus for the club during their 45th year of operation.
When it was built in 1972 and opened in 1973, the Lions Den was the only building west of the Columbus Drive overpass on Valley Road. In fact, neither the Carbonear bypass road nor the overpass that takes it over Valley Road, existed at that time. They would come along towards the end of the decade.
The Lions Den also predates the Carbonear Swimming Pool by a couple of years.
At the time it was built there were no houses on Line Road, which has since grown into a suburb of the town.
And who would have dreamed 40 years ago the area, which was then wilderness, would one day have not one, but two major schools?
Veteran club members recall when the site for the den was first being considered, one of the biggest concerns among the membership was that “nobody would go there because it was so far out of the way and off the beaten path.”
Over the past four and a half decades, those walls have echoed the voices of most of Newfoundland and Labrador’s premiers from Joe Smallwood, Frank Moores and Brian Peckford to Tom Rideout, Clyde Wells and Brian Tobin.
But political rallies were only one of the plethora of social and cultural events that have taken place under its rafters.
The den had been the setting for just about every manner of public event, from rallies to roasts, folk festivals to fashion shows and breakfasts and bingos to firemen’s and New Year’s Eve balls.
Initial discussions to form a Lions Club in the town took place at the old town hall on Bannerman Street. The Carbonear Lions Club was sponsored by the Bay Roberts Lions Club, which is still going strong.
The club’s first charter night was held May 3, 1966 at the Masonic Hall, with Fraser Morgan of the Bay Roberts club acting as program chairman. Morgan was serving as zone chairman at the time.
Subsequent meetings were held at the old Fong’s Restaurant on Water Street, before the club moved into its first den in an old house they bought on Pike’s Lane. But concerns among area residents about the operation of a service club in a residential area prompted members to look for a new site for a new den. And the rest is history. Of all the memories Bill Oates has of his time in the Lions Den, one sticks out. The year was 1992 and the event was the Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games, co-hosted by Carbonear and Harbour Grace.
The service club was a major sponsor of the games, and served as the athletes’ village.
“We did a lot of the catering, and to see so many young athletes from all over the province go through there, that was really something,” Oates recalled. “I was really proud to have been a part of it.
A framed souvenir set of the gold, silver and bronze medals awarded at the games and given to the Lions by the organizing committee are among the most precious mementos the Lions had to take from the old building.
The club has raised millions of dollars for numerous causes on the local, provincial, national and international scene. Even before they had their own building, members would go door-to-door collecting and selling tickets.
If someone in the area needed a wheelchair or transportation for medical treatment, the Lions Club would help out.
Tangible evidence of the Lions’ contribution to Carbonear can be seen at the Carbonear Recreation Complex and Swimming Pool, to which they provided financial support.
From donating ambulances to the old Carbonear Hospital to helping raise funds for the town’s first aerial ladder truck and other fire-fighting equipment, the Lions have left their mark on the town.
Helping people with diabetes and the visually impaired through the Sight First campaign and Seeing Eye Dogs have been “major, major fundraisers,” for the Lions, Oates said.
From their humble beginnings in the 1960s without a building, the Carbonear Lions say they “have come full circle.”
LIONS MEETING - Members of the Carbonear Lions Club meet twice a month at the home of one of the members. Here they gather at the home of President Les Caines in Bristol’s Hope. Seated from left: Les Caines, president; Bruce Foote, treasurer and George Butt secretary. Standing, from left: Bill Oates, past president; and directors, Hayward Peddle, and Fred Power.