A History of the Ontario Lion's Club
By Cleo Taylor, Charter Member, Ontario Lions Club
Presented at the Ontario Lion's Charter Night, May 2003
Early in 1953, five years before Ontario was officially incorporated as a village, members of the Crestline Lions Club met with Springfield Township resident Harold Marshall to discuss the possibility of organizing a Lions Club in what was commonly called Ontario. Harold took to the idea and agreed to see if others in the area would also be interested. Soon word got round and before too many weeks went by a few people attended meetings to learn more about Lion-ism. After three informal meetings, 28 people agreed that a Lions Club would be a great addition to a growing community. Over a period of several weeks, the help of the Crestline Lions invaluable guidance led to the issuance of a charter to the Ontario Lions Club on May 10, 1953, with 28 charter members. Club meetings were to be held the first and third Tuesday of each month.
The club's first fund raiser was a scrap drive which grossed $20. Later we sponsored an ice cream social which turned out to be a popular community event over a period of four or five years. When the Springfield Township Trustees decided to build a new fire station and office, an old church stood on the land on which it was to be built. It had to be removed to make room for the new structure. The Ontario Lions volunteered to take over the job of removing the building. As it turned out, it was quite a project. The old building was framed with heavy beams fastened with wooden pins which, needless to say, was anything but easy to tear down. When the job was finally finished, we all agreed it was an experience which we would never forget. As it turned out, we never have forgotten.
We tried several projects to make money to finance the club's community projects. One was staging old-time minstrel shows which soon took the community by storm and it wasn't long before we performed before sellout audiences. We had a ball staging those shows. In addition, members sold brooms, light bulbs, candy and Bowers to raise funds to finance club projects.
Before long, members began discussing the need for a community park. A search began to buy some land. In 1956, the Vance Clever family, thru their son Richard Clever who happened to be a Lion, offered nine acres on Snodgrass Road at a price we could afford. It was at this time the Ontario Lions Club joined the township's growing list of landowners as work began to develop the property into a park. The membership joined forces to help with grading, mowing and landscaping. Soon the vacant land began to look like a park. The first of three pavilions was erected with some professional advice and donations of material from Wickes Lumber Co. Once the pavilion was built the club held turkey shoots in early winter as a fund raiser. In addition, members sold apples from Apple Hill Orchards at the old Farm & Fleet store. Later on, two single-car garages were donated to the club, which were moved to the park to be used for storage purposes.
Thanks to our fund raisers, a second pavilion took shape on the northeast corner of the park. Gorman-Rupp donated a tandem-wheel trailer which gave us an additional way of raising funds. In addition, the members built a dunking machine which became one of the club's bigger attractions at public functions. Along with the tandem-wheel trailer, which became our supply storage unit and baseball shoot, we took the dunking machine to nearly all events in the area including the county fair each year. Members also parked cars for the fair board during the county fair for three years. As the club grew, a third pavilion was erected in the northwest section of the park. All pavilions were placed so they were an equal distance from the parking lot. We spent a great deal of time developing Clever park which is available on a first come basis regularly to the public for picnics, reunions and family gatherings. We are always working to improve facilities at the park, however, we found over time that park housing and maintenance of equipment became a problem. It was agreed to build a storage building adequate to solve the storage situation.
Later, we decided to sell the dunking machine and basketball shoot. Shortly after the sale of the equipment we bought a concession trailer which turned into a good fund raiser and also fits in well with the membership, It keeps us in nearly year-round touch with the people. Lion Red Kosht donated a pickup truck to pull the trailer. Another very successful fund raiser is our Pancake Day which is held in the fall and spring. These events are open to the public and are a great way for the community to gather and visit together.
When Ontario was incorporated in 1958, the Lions Club provided several of the elected officials. As the village grew, the need arose for a site and building designed-for the municipal government. In the first eight years of its existence, the municipal offices were housed in the trustees office on Shelby-Ontario Rd.; in a bowling alley building and later when a downtown store went out of business its owner sold the building and grounds to the village. Later, in 1986, the Ontario .Hellinger Municipal Building was built on Stumbo Rd., designed specifically to conduct affairs of government. Over the years, four Lions served as mayor and one former Lion served on municipal council.
The Ontario Lions was helpful when the OSU-Mansfield Branch chose our area for a campus. We also cosponsor an annual Safety Town for our children to prepare them for their first days in school. We participate in the annual Toys for Tots program during the Christmas holiday season.
The club's first few years were tough. We were determined to work hard to gain the respect of the community and convince them to count on us to help whenever and wherever we are needed.
As we pause to reflect and to celebrate our first 50 years, our thoughts naturally include those members who are no longer with us, whose loyalty and dedication to the high ideals promoted by Lionism, and their contributions to the club's development, were invaluable. Without the help of those early charter members, much of what we have today in material assets and the respect of the community would not have been realized. As Lions, we owe it to those early members to continually improve our service to the community. The younger members are not only following in the footsteps of those early members, but are also improving their service to the community by contributing their expertise gained them study and work experience in areas unheard of 50 years ago.
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