Meetings

Art Gallagher's History
of The Ann Arbor Host Lions Club

I am going to summarize a brief history of our Club that Art Gallagher put together in 1993.  Art joined the club in 1952, so he knew many of the members who had joined in the initial years of the Club.  Many of you read in the recently demised Ann Arbor News that Art was the longest serving editor of the News, and in my recent conversations with him he was very unhappy that our City is the only town served by the Newhouse family’s Booth Newspapers to loose its town-named newspaper.

As you can see in your program, the Ann Arbor Lions Club was formed in 1929 just before the stock market crash in the Fall of 1929 and the resulting great depression. The original members were representatives of a wide variety of occupations, and some of the member’s last names are still familiar landmarks in Ann Arbor. such as Fingerle and Allmendinger.

Art reported that at the first real meeting of the Club at the old Chamber of Commerce building on June 29, 1929;  only 9 of these members showed up.  But soon the Club was meeting at the old Huron Hills Country Club that existed where the Huron Golf Course is now.  Art reported that many of the minutes during the first years of the Club in the 30’s had discussion and motions about what to do about delinquent dues.  The concern about the expense of the lunch meals cause a committed to be formed every so often to look into a meeting place that had cheaper meals.  (I guess history has a way of repeating itself, since we have had a committee working on this very same issue for the last several months!)

A month after the Club was charted in April, the women alumni and students at the University of Michigan managed to get their new building opened—the Michigan League.  They worked many years to raise the money for this women’s student union since the University’s Michigan Union did not allow women inside, except on very special occasions and then they could only enter through a side door.  These women did not discriminate against the then all-male Lions Club, for they allowed the Lions to start meeting there in 1931—and they had to pay only 75 cents for lunch!  But after two years they asked the Lions to leave and find a meeting place that could more easily tolerate their boisterous meetings.  In 1933 they migrated to the Michigan Union where the manager was one of their own—a Lion himself.  But evidently he had his hands full also—the minutes of the May 7, 1934, contained a motion that any member who threw a sugar cube would be fined one dollar.  Incidentally, who among us remembers sugar cubes at restaurants?

Art also said that this manager of the Union, Frank Kuenzel, was the bravest Lion he ever knew.  He remembers attending meetings there after he joined with the late Dr. Carl Frye would periodically stand up and demand, Lion Frank, just what is this slop we are eating today?  Everyone so often Frank would have to raise the price of the lunch, once again causing a committee to be formed to explore other venues.  Eventually the Club did leave the UM grounds and began meeting at Weber’s—the place where yesterday we had our last meal, at least for a while, as we explore other venues!

I wish I could read many more excerpts from minutes that Art had gleaned for his history, but here is a representative:  July, 1965--Attendance awards were announced for the members, many of whom were not present to receive them.

But on to reporting better things.  In 1968 the Club had 110 members, including the mayor of Ann Arbor, Cecil Creal, a state senator, the superintendent of schools, and a dozen members serving in higher offices of Lionism.  Since the time of WWII, the Club has furnished eye exams and glasses for those Ann Arborites who could not afford them.  The members jumped in to many service projects, such as building Boy Scout Cabins, delivering food baskets at holidays to blind citizens all over Washtenaw County.  For a fundraiser, they used to have a hot dog stand on football Saturdays, just north of the stadium.  But eventually the City closed it down, claiming they did not keep the hot dogs warm enough. But Lions suspected the University’s Athletic Department resented profits going outside their domain and so persuaded the city to shut down the Lions stand.

Certainly the proudest achievement of this Club was its role in the founding of the Michigan Eye-Bank.  At a Club meeting on Sept. 6, 1956, Club President Bob Tilford expressed concern about there being no such facility in Michigan and suggested his Club start investigating how to get one going.  The following January the Club wrote its first check to get an eye bank going under the leadership of Dr. John Henderson of the University Hospital’s Ophthalmology Department.  Dr. Henderson served as its first medical director, and quickly realized he needed Lions all over the state of Michigan if this organization was going to thrive.  He became a member of our Club a year later—and remains a member today.  He wanted to be here, but in August he drove his car into a concrete wall, suffering a concussion.  He is recovering at the Glacier Hills rehab center and sends his greetings to all of you!

Shortly after the eye bank was started another Lion, Allen Smith, then a UM vice president, sent a letter to all faculty members asking for pledges of their eyes after death.

In this paper Art wrote in 1993, he said that our Club had already contributed approximately a quarter million dollars to the Eye-Bank for its operation and for its research grant program.  We had just now a year away from completing our second $50,000 capital campaign pledge in addition to our large annual contribution to its operating budget.

In conclusion, though our Club is a lot smaller in active members, many of us are still committed to the vision that those original Ann Arbor Lions had in creating a service Club that would leave its mark in service to those fellow citizens with vision difficulties, not only in our own community, but throughout the state of Michigan and even our nation, as the Eye-Bank we helped found is recognized as a world-leader in eye-banking.

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