Celebrating 95 Years!
In April 1928, The Carlsbad Lions Club was chartered with 21 members, through the assistance of Lions from Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Lions “colonizing” motor trips were no easy matters. Most of the road was not even gravel-paved; it was little more than a trail. A far cry from today’s four-lane divided highway! The wise motorist carried 2 or more spare tires, jack, shovel, food and water, oh, and don’t forget the bedroll.
Carlsbad was then a farm and ranch community. The first potash mine in the basin had yet to sink its initial shaft. The Carlsbad Caverns were a year away from being named a national park. Access from White’s Camp was via a hazardous road up the face of the escarpment.
Thanks to extensive research efforts of ex-Lion Arnult Mitchell, much light has been shed upon early Club activities. The Club’s service projects recognized the needs of the young but growing community. True to the Lion’s Motto “We Serve”; the Club installed much-needed street signs and numbered all the houses. Trees were planted on both sides of Church Street from the railroad track to the beach. For years this was known as “Lion’s Lane”. With cooperation of the Post Office, the Club supervised installation of residential mailboxes, enabling door-to-door mail delivery.
In addition to a well-earned reputation for community service, our Club is known for its ability to laugh and have fun – witness our continued enthusiastic “singing” at every meeting. A glance at the charter banquet menu, held at the Crawford Hotel, confirms an early sense of humor: “Roaring Cub Cocktail”, “Fried Jungle Flapper”, etc. Early fundraisers often had an element of fun, including conducting a charity ball and a bathing beauty contest. A minstrel show entitled “Bubbling Over”, featured heavily endowed, hairy-legged female impersonators from the Club.
Biff Basham threatens and then puts pie in the face of Lions New Members Carl Sirles and Buddy Hand.
Carlsbad Lions Club member Jim Bowen applies cream pie to Tailtwisters Carl Sirles and Buddy Hand.
Service to the community continued with the installation of a steam whistle at the La Caverna Laundry. This was used to summon the volunteer fire department as well as to announce high noon. Our Club was big on City beautification, planting over 3,500 trees and 2,300 rose bushes in our first decade, as well as paying for tree spraying and providing Christmas street decorations.
By the 1930’s the Great Depression hit. As a service – and probably for the fun of it – the Club conducted weekly rabbit hunts to secure meat for needy families. We helped the Fish & Game Department to rid Willow Lake of carp – again food for the needy. The Club provided large quantities of pinto beans and made available garden plots for raising food.
Support for the schools included purchasing book covers with a safety theme, and belts for student school crossing guards. Ours has been a long history of encouraging school athletics, presenting awards, and entertaining coaches and players at noonday luncheons. An early effort was providing a football field at the then high school (now Eisenhower School). We installed bleachers and built a rock fence around the field, and then collected 10 cents admission at the gate. Later lighting was installed and the field became known as “Lion’s Field”. With the school board’s blessing the Club helped recruit a “professional” football coach, Bob Cox in 1937, followed by our own long-time member Lion Ralph Boyer who developed a number of state championship teams in the 40’s, 50’s and into the ‘60’s. We co-sponsored building the stadium for the then new high school, which is now P. R. Leyva Middle School. We also sponsored a Downtown Booster’s Club, known later as the Downtown Cavemen.
During the war years, the Club supported saving bond and scrap iron drives, entertained soldiers from the Air Base, worked with the USO and helped the Red Cross. Scrap paper was gathered by the truckload and taken to the cotton gins south of town for baling. The Club helped coordinate the first statewide black out.
Sight conservation has long been an important service project. The Club has funded hundreds of eye examinations and eyeglasses for needy children. An early project was sponsoring a newsstand, attended by a blind person. It was located first at the old Post Office and later in the lobby of the Courthouse. Thousands of pairs of used eyeglasses have been collected for shipment and distribution to the poor in old Mexico. Several Lions have been trained and participated in removing corneas for delivery to the Eye Bank. Raffle tickets are sold and contributions made annually supporting the Eye Bank. The Leader Dog program has also received continuing support.
In the photo above, The Downtown Lion members and Winnie Van Cleve are pictured with an unknown girl recipient of glasses.
The first Glaucoma-Diabetes Clinic was held in October 1976. Lions Dr. Earl Flanagan, Dr. Ted Hauser and Keith Lewis aided by Dr. Brian Taylor coordinated screening 295 people, identifying 45 needing follow-up treatment. The twelfth clinic in 1989 served 427 people. The Carlsbad Medical Center became interested in providing a community service health fair briefly in the late 80’s, but now more regularly, replacing Lion’s efforts. In 1996, 2000 and 2006, the New Mexico Lions State Eye Van was brought to Carlsbad for eye screenings.
The Club assists a number of youth programs including Boy and Girl Scouts, Boy’s and Girl’s State and camperships.
Twelve members of Boy Scout Troop #242 with Scout Master and Lions Sponsor, present foodstuffs to Mayor Bob Forrest for the needy.
A Boy Scout Troop was sponsored for a number of years with five boys earning the Eagle Scout badge in the mid-fifties. Babe Ruth and other baseball leagues were also supported as well as other youth programs.
Downtown Lions Broom Sale promo: Joe Lee, Bill Wright, and Dick Tottenhoff pose with brooms crouching behind a van.
A variety of fund raising projects under-write our service activities. For two decades brooms purchased from the Alamogordo School for the Blind were sold door to door. Annual sales reached five to six thousand dollars. However with the growing popularity of carpet, our sales calls were answered too often with “No thanks, I haven’t worn out the broom you sold to me last year”. Hence, this project was phased out.
Starting in 1970, the Club has sold and serviced flag display contracts. For $40 a year we display “Old Glory” at many places of business and some residences on eight national holidays. As the number of flag contracts grew into the hundreds, the need for a permanent storage facility became apparent. In 1979, Lion Horace Wilder led volunteer Lions in adding an extension to the Campfire Girls building on Church Street. In exchange for building a restroom for their exclusive use and providing lawn and yard care, we enjoyed rent-free use of the storeroom. The number of flag contracts peaked at 450 and has since held at the mid-three hundreds. Net proceeds have reached $180,000, funding many service projects. These encourage the efforts of the 20 or so Lions who regularly put out flags “at dawn’s early light” and gather them in oft-hot afternoons. But perhaps a greater reward is our sense of pride in the sight of several hundred flags gracing Carlsbad’s streets.
The Lions movement began in 1917. Insurance man Melvin Jones suggested to his own group, the Business Circle of Chicago, that such clubs should expand their horizons from purely business concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large. A dozen men, overcoming their natural sense of loyalty to their parent clubs, voted the “Association of Lions Clubs” into existence. That fall, representatives of 22 Clubs met to adopt a Constitution and By-laws. A main tenant was that “no Club shall hold out the financial betterment of its members as its object”. Expanding to Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe and Asia, the Association became International. In recent years, the Asian clubs have spearheaded growth. Today there are more than 1.4 million Lions in 46,000 clubs in more than 200 countries around the world.
Our Club has helped extend the reach of Lionism. In 1938-39 we sponsored an Artesia Club, the Carlsbad Heights Club in 1955, and the Carlsbad Evening Club in 1966. Sixteen of our Club members attended the charter night for the Lovington Club. Efforts to start a club in Loving were short-lived. Also, the Carlsbad Evening Club disbanded in 1995 with several members transferring to our Club.
Cooperation between Lions Clubs, mutual support and sharing ideas has always been strong. In the 70’s and 80’s we visited other clubs 20-22 times a year. There has been a long tradition of an annual get-together or convention. In 1929 seven of the seventeen Lion Clubs of New Mexico met in Carlsbad. Our Lion Roy Carey’s father served as chairman of the convention. A highlight of the convention was the installation of officers conducted in the Carlsbad Caverns. Twenty years later a thousand Lions registered at convention headquarters at the Crawford Hotel. Late Lion Sid Bernard was our Club President. In 1964, Lion Ted Hauser chaired a state convention at the La Caverna with over 600 registered. In 1979 Lion Arnult Mitchell chaired the convention based at the Quality Inn. In 1985, the Motel Stevens served as headquarters with Lion Tom Martin in charge. Carlsbad was again the site of the State convention in June 2002 with Heights Lion Jim Jones as chairman. The three Eddy County Lions Clubs pitched in to make this the most successful state convention in recent years.
Service to the community has taken many forms. Our Club provided playground equipment for small children in the beach area between Blodgett and Glendale Streets. In 2002 we contributed $2,000 in support of the very successful Project Playground. In 1982, with Lion Gene Fooks as chairman, the Club converted the rock and weed patch in front of the Lakeview Nursing Home Northgate Unit into an attractive park. In 1993, we marked our 65th anniversary with a $1,000 contribution to the Lake Carlsbad walkway project. Our bench is on the East side of the river, 200 yards south of Tansil Dam.
The Lions Club International Foundation has received our consistent support. This vast program has major worldwide impact. Projects include treating 40 million people for river blindness, performing 3.2 million cataract surgeries, building or expanding 136 eye hospitals, upgrading equipment in 273 eye centers, training 12,789 opthamalic workers and 53,537 village health workers.
In the photo above, a Carlsbad Lions Club member and four unknown clients of CARC Farm examine the new Green House given to CARC by the Lions.
Closer to home LCIF contributed $50,000 toward construction of the first dormitory at CARC’s Washington Ranch. The Carlsbad and other area Lions Clubs raised over $5,000 in seed money. Recently, LCIF has contributed funds in very timely emergency aid to the victims of the Scott Able and Los Alamos forest fires and Hatch floods.
Fund raising projects, in addition to broom and flag contract sales have included collecting aluminum cans and putting on gun shows. Gumball machines, serviced by a contractor, continue to yield proceeds. In 1987, Lion Gene Kelley visited Clubs in Hobbs and Odessa bringing back the idea of an annual Rose Day. This was discontinued in 2006, but may be brought back again. Some of our newest fund raising projects are the annual Haunted House, football tail gate party, a riffle raffle for the administrative account, tree sales, football raffle cards, and our newest fundraisers, our Texas Hold “Em Poker tournaments and golf tournaments.
Under Lion Frank Bertagnolli’s enthusiastic leadership in 1980-81, our Club membership grew 50%, receiving Lions International recognition. Club Strength ran 90 or more for a five-year period. In 1966, sponsored by fellow educator Lion Ralph Boyer, our Club was enriched by the membership of Dr. Emmitt Smith. In 1992 Lions Michael Hickey and Tony Pasterello doubled our membership potential by enlisting our first female members. There have been seven women club Presidents. These women have all continued their service by supporting Lions on a Zone, Regional, District or Multiple District levels. Lion Melissa Washburn and Lion Veta London are Past District Governors. In fact we have ten Past District Governors from our club, five Past Council Chairmen and one Past International Director. In the past 7 years, there have been six Lions symposiums planned by Lions Melissa Washburn and Gemma Ferguson. New, enthusiastic Lions must be recruited and retained to offset losses due to aging or moves out of town if we are to maintain a high level of service to the community.
Our greatest service projects are related to sight conservation. Operation Kid Sight has had wide spread impact. Encouraged by the work of Ruidoso Valley Lions and spearheaded by Lions Stan Bode and Myrl Moore our Club purchased a $3,500 MTI camera. This is a specialized Polaroid-type camera printing two views of the subject’s eyes, one image above the other. The photos can be interpreted by an optometrist as to the possible existence of conditions threatening life-long damage to eyesight. We usually screen over 1,000 children in Carlsbad and Loving schools annually. If needed, the parents are advised that a professional eye examination should be conducted, which our club pays for if needed. In 2007, a new and vastly improved camera system was purchased. The new equipment was tied to a laptop computer and was much quicker for Lions and the children. In 2011, the United Way provided us funding for a new camera system since our previous one was being phased out. Our new PediaVision camera system gives us an instant pass/fail result. The second project assists the relatively few students afflicted with the Irlen syndrome in obtaining the very special glasses they sorely need.
On a lighter side, our club entered floats in a number of parades over the years. Many floats were prizewinners. A particularly memorable float featured a 6-foot diameter eyeball and king size glasses frame. A full–sized Lion and numerous American flags graced later floats. After 20 years of service our trailer needed major repairs. This along with declining member interest caused us to opt out of participating in local parades.
During the hey-days of the Elk’s Rodeos we regularly entered the wild-cow milking contest. Club records indicate several high finishes but one entry simple states “Entered cow milking contest – cow ran away”. There were several head-to-head match ups with the JC’s in bathtub and raft races on Lake Carlsbad with our club making a clean sweep.
“Tail Twisters” have always enlivened our meetings and continue, or a fortunately somewhat subdued basis, to extract fines for various violations of Club procedure or simply the offense of growing a year older.
Community support has included purchase of an iron lung machine and provision of a hospital isolation ward during the “polio years” of the 40’s and 50’s, fund raising for the new Memorial Hospital in the 60’s as well as purchase of EKG machines for both local hospitals. We continue to support Christmas Anonymous, Class Act, 4th of July fireworks, Special Olympics, Falcon Fest, Riverblitz, Landsun Homes, Lakeview, Relay for Life, Wounded Warriors, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, South Eddy County Buyers Pool, Community Concerts, with the tickets being donated to the retirement homes, United Way and other local programs.
School support includes scholarships at NMSU-C and the Martin Luther King Foundation. In 1986 we contributed $5,000 to fund launching the Lions Quest Program in the public schools to bring drug awareness and character concerns to the students. However, difficult to understand parental objections blunted this effort. Fortunately these great needs are now being addressed by DARE, Character Counts and the Renaissance programs. These programs are receiving wide support by the schools, community and government funding.
Eating has always been an important aspect of our club. Improving meal quality for most members was the adoption of a “no smoking” policy in 1984. Three members are reported to have quit in protest. Not only do we enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow Lions and good programs, but also we like to eat. However satisfying both our palates and pocketbooks has been challenging with many “flip-flops” of eatery loyalty. The records show two extended runs at Mrs. Burn’s restaurant, three at the Crawford Hotel, two at the La Caverna, and two at the Stevens. The latest stay at the Stevens had been since the ‘70’s. In March 2003 moved to the Golden Corral to obtain a $2.50 meal savings permitting a dues decrease. When the Golden Corral closed in 2005, we moved to the hospital cafeteria. It has been a great place to eat and meet.
The success of any service club is dependent upon the dedication of its leaders and the active support of all of its members. The Carlsbad Downtown Lions Club has been fortunate in having 85 plus effective presidents, plus the dozens of other Lions who have participated in the various programs. Since 1980, the Club has named a Lion of the Year for outstanding participation. Club success is also dependent upon behind the scene work performed by the treasurer and the secretary. Our Club has benefited greatly from three Lions who served faithfully in these roles for many years: Lion R. H. Westaway, Secretary 1933-58 (25 years!); Lion Lyle Blohm, Secretary 1964 – 85 (21 years) and Lion Wilburn Cunningham, Treasurer for many, many years.
A number of our Club members have volunteered to serve beyond our Club’s bounds. Acting as zone chairman, the efforts of the several area clubs are encouraged. The District Governor promotes Lionism in several dozen clubs. Carlsbad Downtown Lions who have served as district governors are Lions Roy Carey, Sr. ‘41-‘42, Art Green ‘56-57, Sid Bernard ‘68-’69, Wilburn Cunningham ‘74-‘75, Melissa Washburn '13-'14, and Gemma Ferguson '17-'18. Evening Club Lions serving as District Governor and later joining our club are Lions Stan Bode ‘84-’85 and Jake Smith ‘78-’79. Lion Melissa Washburn has also served as the Multiple District Council Chairperson in '17-'18. The highest office that was held by a club member was International Director. Lion Sid Bernard was elected to this position and served from 1972-74, becoming one of the few New Mexico Lions to ever be so recognized. The highest honor our Club confers is naming a member as a Melvin Jones Fellow. These members have served the Club and Lionism faithfully for many years and deserve the honor.
Over the 93 years, hundreds of Carlsbad Downtown Lions have been faithful to the Association’s motto: We Serve. Looking back, they can take a great deal of pride in the Club’s contributions to the community. As current members, and sponsors of members yet to join, we must keep faith with this fine tradition.
Throughout the world, Lions are recognized by the emblem they wear on their lapels. It consists of a gold letter "L" on a circular purple field. Bordering this is a circular gold area with two lion profiles at either side facing away from the center. The word "Lions" appears at the top, and "International" at the bottom. Symbolically, the lions face both past and future -- proud of the past and confident of the future. Lions wear their emblem with pride.
The motto of every Lion is simply "We Serve". What better way to express the true mission of Lionism?
The royal colors of purple and gold were selected as the official colors when the association was organized in 1917. Purple stands for loyalty to friends and to one's self, and for integrity of mind and heart. Gold symbolizes sincerity of purpose, liberality in judgement, purity in life and generosity in mind, heart and purpose toward humanity.
Miscellaneous Pictures From The Past
In the photo above, five Lions leaders stand before the club including Bob Nymeyer, 2nd from right.
In the photo above, seven local Lions leaders stand before the club including Bob Nymeyer.
In the photo above, Downtown Lions Club President Dr. Ted Hauser and Past International Director Sid Bernard greet Carlsbad High School student Terry Cammon, their February "Cub" Lion.
In the photo above, The Lions welcome in a new unknown member nicknamed "D" by serving him in a high chair.
In the photo above, Lions Club Tail Twister Ralph Bowyer salutes the new members with a pie. Dr. Ted Hauser is at far left.
In the photo above, Outstanding Patrol Boy Adan Acosta is honored by Principal Merl Anderson and Dr. Ted Hauser, President of the Carlsbad Lions Club.
In the photo above, a Carlsbad Lions member Don Stuart congratulates Terry Cammon as the Lions Student of the Month in 1966.
In the photo above, Carlsbad Lions leaders Mayor Bob Boyd and Dr. Ted Hauser congratulate A.J. Crawford on his 100th birthday.
In the photo above, three Lions Club Presidents: Harry Zaffer, Jake Smith Jr, and Clarke Mitcham.
In the photo above, Lion Wilburn Cunningham in portrait in suit and tie with Lions lapel pin.
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