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Beginnnings | Community Service | Early Fund-Raising | Minstrels |
The Clubhouse | Lioness Club | Lions Spirit

The Lions Club of DeLand was chartered by Lions International on May 2, 1939, sponsored by the Sanford Lions Club. New members were inducted and officers installed by Daytona's Millard B. Conklin, then a National Director of Lions International. Names of 14 members appear on the charter document in our possession, but 22 names are on the charter roster in the files of Lions International. Among this original group was James "Spec" Martin, Tail Twister, then coach and later athletic director at DeLand High School. (The city's Municipal Stadium was renamed Spec Martin Stadium in 1973.)

A Charter Night banquet was held at the DeLeon Springs Hotel on May 9. Toastmaster for the banquet was Millard Conklin. Dancing after the formal ceremonies was to music provided by the College Clubmen, a "big band" of 12 Stetson University students organized by Richard Feasel, earning his way through college in this manner. Feasel later became a faculty member in Stetson's School of Music and is now in his 43rd year of teaching there.

During its early years the club met in the Chamber of Commerce building; meals were provided by various caterers. With the problems of food-rationing due to World War II, it was difficult to arrange for satisfactory meals. Mrs. Mary Leary, owner of Hutchinson Hall on East Indiana Ave., came to our rescue. She provided meals for hungry Lions every Tuesday night for about five years.

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Community Service
Two important happenings provided opportunities for the club to show its importance to the DeLand community in those early years. The first came shortly after the end of World War II, when the high school had a chance to hire an outstanding musician to establish a band program there. John Heney, a member of Sousa's band with excellent credentials, had applied for the position, but the school had no money available in its budget for that first year. The Lions Club sponsored two minstrel shows by utilizing professional minstrel groups that roamed the South in those days, then used the profit from those shows as the kitty for a high-powered solicitation of the public. $5,000 was raised to pay Heney's salary for the first year. Area residents are well aware of the contributions to the musical life of this community made by John Heney over the ensuing twenty years or more.

The second opportunity for the Lions Club to flex its muscles on behalf of the community came when a hurricane knocked down the light stanchions at Municipal Stadium. Rodeos were a primary use for the stadium in the early days after its construction, and lighting was essential to their success. Unfortunately the lights were mounted on flimsy steel towers in their original installation, and these were no match for the fury of hurricane strength winds. With a rodeo doomed to be cancelled if something wasn't done fast, the Lions came to rescue and raised enough money to buy treated wooden poles, helped to install them, and got the lights back on with a minimum of down time.

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Early Fund-Raising
Although the club had provided some much needed leadership in getting the community to give money for projects such as those mentioned, most of the money needed by the club for charitable work in the early years was obtained by assessment of the members. The first major fun-raising project sponsored by the club was a rodeo in September, 1945. An interesting item in the program for that rodeo, just after the War, was Stetson University's advertisement announcing the reopening of its College of Law in September 1946. Two more rodeos sponsored by the club in the following years were at the county fair grounds.

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Our own minstrel shows became a yearly fund-raising for the club beginning in 1948. These popular shows provided good entertainment for the member-performers and audience alike. Chorus members (all Lions) in their formal white jackets backed up the Interlocutor, usually Clyde Lankford, who parried the jokes of six end-men in black-face who also sang songs, danced or played instruments. "Rasturs" Vince Gould, all 6 feet, 4 inches of him, doing a soft shoe dance to "Me and My Shadow" was always sure to bring the house down. One of the most hilarious skits was staged the year Cy Rintz, dressed as a hippie wearing a steel helmet, arrived in the middle of a performance riding a motorcycle down the center aisle in the high school auditorium. He discounted, came on stage, and carried on some lively banter with Interlocutor Clyde.

The Traditional minstrel show was an annual event for 21 years, and every one of these shows was organized and under the general direction of Walter Glatzau. Although the minstrel show was never intended to be derogatory toward the Black Community, there was a feeling that the use of black-face was inconsistent with the efforts at integration being made throughout the nation. Consequently the traditional show was modified in 1970, first to an Irish Minstrel and eventually to a general song and dance program. John Cornwell, for many years musical director and baritone soloist in the traditional minstrel, organized and directed the later shows. It soon became evident that the shows had lost their nostalgic appeal for the audience, and they were discontinued after three years.

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The Clubhouse
Lion Glen Martin, in his autobiographical recollections about the club, noted that they were meeting in the Chamber of Commerce building when he joined in 1952. He wrote that this was about the time the club considered the matter of building a clubhouse. The decision to do so was not unanimous and caused some members to drop out. There was only about $4,000 in the treasury, and they felt the club should not go into debt. However, land for the site was donated by Mrs. Gertrude Dunham(later Fountain), lumber and concrete blocks were either donated or obtained at very low prices, and members provided most of the labor. Lion Odell Dugger was a contractor, and he acted as foreman for the project. $8,000 was borrowed from the bank. In about three years the mortgage was paid off and the club's membership had grown to 70.

A major renovation of the clubhouse was undertaken in 1973-74 under the supervision of Lion Russ Gagnon, a transfer to our club from Maine, who later took a position in the vocational arts department at DeLand High School and subsequently organized the highly successful Bulldog Construction Company there. Improvements made under Lion Russ's guidance included wall paneling, an acoustical drop ceiling, updated restroom facilities, and an all-new kitchen. Utilizing Lion labor almost exclusively, our cost was approximately $10,000, but the money borrowed to do the work was repaid by 1979.

Besides being a meeting place for our club, the building has provided meeting space for a Girl Scout Troop and various community groups. It is available to individuals to nominal cost and can be rented for private parties, wedding receptions, etc. It has even served as temporary quarters for a small church during the construction of its sanctuary.

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Lioness Club
The DeLand Lioness Club was chartered November 25, 1983 with nine names on the charter document. Only one of the charter members, Myrtle Houser, is still a member of the club. Although it is a small group, they are very active and perform some ambitious community service. The Thanksgiving Day is a lot of work but rewarding because of the appreciation shown by the recipients.
This year the Lionesses took on the function of preparing food for the Lions Club's regular meetings. They are able to use the money we pay them in ways that are mutually beneficial. Not only that; the food is great!

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Lions Spirit
We talked to a number of individuals who are related to early members of the Lions Club, seeking any tidbit of information that might be of interest. No one was more eloquent than Richard Martin, who spoke of the great impact Lionism had on his father, Olin Martin, the club's seventh president. He described his father's Lions experience in terms of the "pleasure of membership" in this great organization...the satisfaction he derived from associating with his fellow Lions in performing service for others, having fun at the same time.

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