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November 23, 2010 > History: The Lions Club of Centerville

History: The Lions Club of Centerville

Melvin Jones founded the International Association of Lion's Clubs in Chicago in 1917. The organization grew rapidly throughout the United States and the Lions Club of Centerville was chartered October 9, 1931. Dr. George Holeman, one of Centerville's two doctors, was elected president; the other was Dr. W. L. McWhirter. The 22 men who signed the charter were prominent merchants and professional men of the area.

Members launched their organization by hosting 400 Bay Area Lions Club members for a Halloween party at the Washington High School gymnasium. Their first local project was to get the street by the school paved. In the spring of 1932, they began sponsoring a plan to get a public swimming pool for the township. Frank Madruga, as president in 1933, led a drive to get Centerville houses numbered.

The club put on their first Washington Township Fair July 4, 1934 featuring industrial displays and entertainment. The Fair was pronounced "a smashing success" and the Boy Scouts drew praise for directing traffic, selling programs, and running errands.

The club installed a town whistle that blew at 8 p.m. and noon. Some people said it was "so loud that mothers called their children in the house, and dogs crept into dark corners." Apparently it was discontinued.

The five-day fair and Fourth of July celebration in 1935 drew 25,000 people and featured the largest collection of industrial agricultural, poultry, and livestock products ever gathered here.

A pamphlet published in 1936 devotes a page to the activities of the Lions Club stressing the Parade, Liberty Bell, fire works, and contests of the fair. Community service of the club included the school milk program, sponsoring the Boy Scouts, Christmas parties, the outdoor Christmas tree, white canes for blind people, and a whist party to raise funds for suits for the high school baseball team. The organization was praised as one of the most effective groups in Southern Alameda County and was held up as "a model of how Lionism should function."

Current projects included erection of street signs, house numbering, and erection of a 90-foot steel flag pole. Members were also supervising street cleaning, planning the yearly whist party, and installing a time clock to regulate the town siren.

The 1937 fair was marked by one of the most colorful parades ever held in the area. Witnessed by 10,000 people, it was over a mile long and took an hour to pass. It displayed Washington Township products "from pretty girls and rosy cheeked children to fine houses, cattle, sheep, flowers, fruits, wines and manufactured products." Wilma Martin was crowned queen at the Coronation Ball attended by some 1,200 people. Maids of honor were robed in court dresses presented to them by the club.

In 1939, the club was a sponsor of the U.S.D. drive and was soliciting funds to help maintain the Newark air raid observation station. They did find time to select "Beautiful Women" as the title of their show given at the high school, and hired Don Bates as night patrolman for Centerville.

Activities in the 1940s were shaped by World War II. They led several drives to collect rubber, iron, and other items needed for the war effort. One major patriotic effort was the erection of a plaque on Main Street as an honor roll for servicemen and women. About 1,000 residents of Washington Township attended the dedication in April 1944 and their names were added later. The plaque had to make way for development and was moved to a spot by Cloverdale Creamery in 1945.

In 1946, the club resumed sponsoring the outdoor community Christmas tree, and in 1948 they hosted 120 Lions from eight clubs for a public speaking contest. The annual card party, usually the biggest benefit card party of the year, was held in 1948 to raise funds for continued welfare work of the club.

The club celebrated its 25th year of service in 1956 with an evening of dinner, dancing, and entertainment. Charter members Allen G. Norris and Chick Santos continued to be active workers. They were still active when the club celebrated its 35th anniversary in 1966. The biggest celebration was in 1981 when they were recognized for 50 years of service. By that time they had helped start five of the eight Lions Clubs in the area.

By the time Nat Lord came and joined the Centerville Club in 1995 membership was declining, even though women were finally allowed to join (The Dawn Breakers, Lions, Centerville Lions, and Union City Lions were the only ones listed for the Washington Township area in 2005). Membership in the Centerville Club continued to decline, and the group disbanded in about 2006.

The Lions Club was one of the three service clubs listed in the 1957 "Fremont Chamber of Commerce Shoppers Guide and Business Directory." All three met at the International Kitchen. In 1958 The Lions Club of Centerville and the Lions Club of South Fremont had separate listings.

In 1925, Helen Keller challenged the International Lions Club to "become knights of the blind in this crusade against darkness." They accepted the challenge and at the local level have sponsored campaigns to donate glasses, hold free vision screenings, and raise funds for vision programs.

The Fremont Asian Lions Club, established in 2006, adopted a traditional program "Lions in Sight" to promote recycling used glasses for developing countries. Other programs include the Youth Exchange opening options for visits to other countries. Ripple Leung was the president in 2008.

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