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50 years of service

What a "History".

Club History Recap 

by Lion Dave Bolster

Good evening,

I was asked to recall some of our club's history as I am one of the oldest members of the Central Saanich Lions. Well, maybe not the oldest, but one of the longest serving Lions of this club. Both Lion Ed Gait and myself are in our 49th year as a Central Saanich Lions member.

In the late 1960's a group of men got together with the idea of starting a Central Saanich LIons Club. After many meetings and prospecting for interested members the Club was formally chartered on March 20th, 1969. Irv Armstrong was our first president, Walter Nelson was secretary, and Paddy McGaughey was treasurer. There were 34 original charter members and I believe there are at least seven of those still surviving. I would like to recognize some that are with us tonight. Charter member Dick Gibson was a Lion up until a few years ago and he still volunteers with our firewood crew, which is one of our major fund raisers. At this time, I would like Dick and his wife Dale, who not only supported our club but was very involved with the Central Saanich Lionettes, to stand and be acknowledged. Charter member Ron Tidman and his wife Judy are here tonight. Charter member Ed Bohnet and his wife Judy are also with us. Charter member Neil Scott and, yes his wife Judy are here. Also with us are charter member Gary Rogers and his wife, --  no not Judy -- Jessie.

Our first meeting place was the Echo Inn which was located high on the hill in the north east corner of Wallace and Benvenuto. There are now many single family homes on this site. Another meeting place was the Brenta Lodge which was on the Brentwood waterfront in the location now occupied by the Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa. For awhile we had meetings at the Horsemens Club House which was in the original fairgrounds, now the Polo Park subdivision. After that we met at the corner of Keating Cross Road and Veyaness. Now the parking lot for the Co-Op store. The building, built in the early 1900's, was originally the Butler General Store. In the early 1970's it was being used as a coffee shop by Lion member Ron Stead and he suggested we could use it on Thursday nights for our meetings. This worked well for awhile, but was quite small and we were still looking for a more permanent place and something we could call our own.

Our club learned that the old Temperance Hall/Womens Institute building on East Saanich Road, which had been turned over to the Municipality after the death of the last surviving member, had not been used since 1970 and was deemed unfit for occupancy and most likely would be demolished. This building was built in 1894, but several club members felt it could be saved.

Lions Ed Gait, Dick Gibson, and Ron Tidman were instramental in convincing the council of the day that they should lease the building to the LIons Club and the club would bring the building back to the necessary standards to obtain an occupancy permit. I think it was a big help that both Dick and Ron were in the construction business and Ed's rental company had all the necessary equipment available.

By the end of the first year, $5000 worth of materials (a lot of it donated) and 600 man hours of labour had already taken place. Foundations were rebuilt, heating system replaced, wiring and plumbing redone, and washrooms renovated etc. Official opening of the new Central Saanich Lions Den took place on April 5th, 1975. We have now been occupying and improving this building for almost 45 years. Over the years we have rebuilt the stage area, insulated the crawl space, insulated the walls, had a work party to remove and cleanup the old roof material, but paid to replace the roof, installed new floors, redid the kitchen, replaced windows, etc. and recently another new heating system. This time using up to date heat pump technology. Over the years, the Lions Den has been used by many local groups and has seen many dances, birthday parties, wedding receptions, and anniversary celebrations. Many interesting stories came from these hall rentals, but one of the funniest was when Lion Warren Gordon received a phone call to see if the hall was available for Saturday night. Upon confirming it was available a taxi company employee came by Warren's house to drop off payment and pick up a key. When Warren and his cleanup crew arrived at the hall Sunday morning it was obvious no one had been there the night before. Upon further investigation it was determined the group had indeed proceeded with their party and dance. When the key didn't work they had jimmied the lock until it opened and used the Royal Oak Lion's Hall. It was moved, seconded, and passed at our next meeting to forward the rental fee to the Royal Oak Lions.

Besides our own club meetings and hosting Lions zone meetings, we have used the hall for many social gatherings. Many whist nights, box socials, and pot luck dinners have been enjoyed by club members. Other social gatherings of club members included family picnics, skating and bowling parties, an annual fishing derby, curling and golf tournaments. Christmas time we hosted a party for the children of members. There were games and singing of christmas carols followed by a visit from Santa with gifts for all. As the years progressed, grandchildren of our members were included in this party. Our club had many dances each year. The Halloween dance saw almost 100% of a full capacity in costume. Although you may not recognize them, everyone in these photos is here with us tonight. A New Years Eve dance was complete with Father Time and Baby New Year in a diaper chasing him around the hall at midnight. We also had a Valentine's Day dance and a Ladies Night. Ladies Night  was a dinner out at a restaurant for all Lions and their partners as a thank you to our partners for being so understanding of the amount of time we were away at Lion's work parties. Our Charter Night Celebration at year end was always a highlight with all members in suit and ties and ladies in their fancy dresses. Charter night included a catered dinner, Presidents appreciation awards and announcement of Lion of the Year. One of our members, Martyn Sharp, worked for a printing company and produced a booklet for everyone which contained the evenings program and the accomplishments of the past year. After the formalities it was party time. End time for dances was at 1:00 A.M., but usually Lion Warren would start taking up a collection and then persuade the band or D.J. to continue till 2:00. Lots of times the final group would carry on at someone's house and finish with breakfast! Of course, we were a lot younger then!

Today our hall is still used by community groups but one of the main uses of our building is by the Keating Out of School Care. They use it in the morning before school and after school until 6:00 P.M. and will use it daily through the summer.

For many years our club was very involved with zone and district activities and several of our members were voted into positions to manage zone and district affairs. Past lions Irv Armstrong, Bunny Wilson, Bill Kendall, Ron Drayton, Gus Gustafson, and our present members Lorne Jones and Terry Bain have all been Zone Chairmen. Ron Drayton and Gus Gustafson also went on to be District Govenors. This year Terry Bain has been elected as our district 2nd Vice Govenor. A large group from our club always went to conventions and the first trip to Penticton set the tone for many to follow. Usually 30 or more attended functions on the Island. One time the whole group travelled by train from Victoria to a Spring Conference in Courtenay. Many times 20 or more would go to the U.S. areas of our district. In 1983 a group from our club even attended an International Conference in Hawaii. Our ladies group who were referred to as Lionettes,  raised their own funds in various ways and had their own charities, including several thousand dollars they donated to the Peninsula Hospital and Mt. Newton Centre. The Lionette group were also very skilled at making costumes for conventions and since our club's first convention in Penticton, Central Saanich had the reputation of best costumes and was hard to beat. Our "Three Legged Cossacks" participated in five convention parades in B.C. and Washington and brought home many awards for best group in the parade. The Penquins, The Swarm of Bees, and the Upside Down People who gave the impression that they travelled the length of the parade on their hands also won awards. Our club had a lot of fun at conventions and soon earned the distinction of having others say "Here Come The Shit Disturbers". Maybe some reasons for this designation were the use of the large room armchairs on rollers being used for "Chariot Races" up and down the hallways of a Port Angeles hotel. Ladies riding, men pushing. Or the time two members decided to go swimming. Neither had a bathing suit, but a lady said she had brought a bikini, so the debate was on and a coin toss decided who had which piece. They ran out and through the courtyard to the pool, one in a bikini bottom and the other with a bikini top tied to try and cover the necessary parts. Another time one of our members who had a moustache he was very proud of --- I won't say he passed out, but he did fall into a very deep sleep. Thanks to a couple of mischievous Lion's wives, when he looked in the mirror the next morning he had exactly one half of his moustache.

One way to  meet new friends at conventions was to trade club pins. We had been using our original "Dogwood" pin for several years and decided it was time for a new pin. Several ideas were discussed, but the winner was to stick with our reputation and go with a manure spreader. Might as well stay with our convention nickname and besides we were in a farming area. We now had a second club pin that was well received as a trader by the other clubs!

Once again, Lion Ed Gait came forward and said he could get us a real manure spreader. After many evenings and weekends the workings were removed and seats installed. A new paint job and signage added and our club now had a float to take in the local parades. The July 1st parade in Sidney would have us giving out candy to the kids, but most importantly handing out hundreds of flyers that advertised the upcoming Central Saanich Days In Centenial Park on the August Holiday weekend. Several years Lion Terry even had a grill in the manure spreader and enticed the crowd with the smell of grilling onions.

Prior to Central Saanich Days, one of our main sources of income was from our Dairy Bar at the Saanichton fair. Many Labour Day weekends were spent selling dairy treats from our concession stand. The records from one year show we sold 1240 1/2 pints of milk, 135 dozen fudgicals and revellos, and used 113 gallons of milk and 83 gallons of ice cream to make 2,650 milkshakes! Those of you who have seen a milkshake cup come off the mixer while it is still running can imagine how much fun it was to work at this event.

Central Saanich Days started when our Lions club heard the likelihood that a new holiday was to come into effect in August. The first year our event was Saturday and Sunday, but increased to a three day affair once the new holiday was established. Originally centered around a slow pitch ball tournament, it quickly grew to include games for kids, hay rides, a 4H petting zoo, a fish pond, games of chance, a dunk tank, and a flea market with many local venders renting tables from us. Over the years our crowds grew and our pancake breakfast became a meeting place for many of the original Peninsula families. Some mornings we served close to 500 breakfasts! This was largely due to a group of Lions who presold breakfast tickets. We would approach local businesses with an offer of discounted prices if they would buy a quantity of tickets to give out as gifts to their customers. The bonus to our club was that a large percentage of these tickets were never used. I myself still have many of them in a drawer at home! Over the years our lunch and dinner menu expanded to include hamburgers, hotdogs, corn on the cob, french fries, deep fried chicken, and baron of beef. We also had a variety of entertainment to supplement the ball games. Skydiving parachuters landing in the ball field, a Sea King helicopter landing in the park, race and collector car displays, mini race cars in the lacrosse box, a wrestling display by one of our members, and live bands in the evenings and of course a beer garden! For many years this was our main fundraiser and lots of Lion's children spent their August holiday weekend at the park from when they were very young until well in their teens. A lot of the teenage  boys helped with the set up and dismantle at the park as we used to use tables and chairs from our own hall, Brentwood Community Hall, Sancha Hall, and Royal Oak Lions Hall. They were a great help loading and unloading the 5 ton moving van at all locations. A big job was installing the steel cable from a tree to the roof of the old wooden field house that we used as our cooking facility. This steel cable then supported a huge tarp that made almost like a circus tent covering the eating area. In our best years we had a gross income from the weekend in excess of $30,000 and managed a profit over $20,000.

In the early years of the club we did not have a lot of money to spend, but we did lots of service work. Ironically one of our early community service projects was to help with the firewood for the furnace at the Brentwood Community Hall. One project included cutting, splitting and stacking 5 cords of wood in the basement. Today, lead by Lion Lorne Jones, one of our main fundraisers is the cutting, splitting, and sale of firewood. Our club has repaired sidewalks and built ramps for wheelchair access to homes, and even installed elevators for those in need. We have repaired fences, built storage sheds, and done yard work at the Mt. Newton Centre including the ground preparation and installation of the original lawns. One year a major labour project was the complete interior paint job at Mt. Newton Centre. We had many car washes and volunteered during Timmy's Telethon to raise money for camperships at Shawnigan Lake. We supplied all the labour to construct a playground in Centenial Park. During the snow storm of 1996 the roof of the Brentwood Community Hall leaked enough that the hardwood floor was badly damaged. With the help and expertise of LIon member Mike Mezger, who was in the flooring business, our club removed and dried the wood, reinstalled what we could and replaced the rest. Then sanded and refinished the complete floor. In a letter of thanks from the community club we were informed that our labour had saved them over $9000.00! These are just a few examples of the many labour projects our club has performed.

As a result of our ability to serve so many pancake breakfasts and our wonderful lunch and dinner at Central Saanich Days our club received more and more requests for our cooking services. We do many pancake breakfasts at various schools and sporting events. We do many lunches at fundraising events such as Walk for ALS and Ride to Live which raises money for prostate cancer. We do meals at Brentwood Bay Days, many car club meets, and have a concession at the finish of the christmas truck light parade. The list of events includes many more. We have supplied hot dogs, hot chocolate, and popcorn at the Central Saanich Halloween Fireworks for the last forty-eight years. We have been doing an Easter Egg Hunt for fifty years. From 1998 to 2005 our club supplied approximately 650 hours of labour each year to help Le Coteau Farms with their pumpkin festival. We worked at the gate, ran children's rides, sold pumpkins, and of course ran the food concession. This project became one of our main fundraisers in those years.

Over the years our club has sponsored many sports teams and organizations. Also blind golfers, blind bowling, and even blind sking. We sponsored and volunteered at Operation Trackshoes for many years. We have done fund raisers and donated labour for repairs at the Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association which is located on Veyaness Road. We have supplied a scooter to a person in need, supplied a stair glide to another, and supplied eye glasses to school age children. We also present two $1200.00 scholarships through Stelly's High school annually. In the early years our club was quite involved with Lion's International Youth Exchange and helped sponsor several young Japanese to spend six weeks with a Lion family or Lion's friends in our community. After this some of our Lion members visited their Japanese exchange students in Japan and some Japanese parents came to visit our hosts after hearing from their children how well they had been treated.

To sum up, I would like to list a small portion of our projects.

1971 Lions and community members donated 1200 hours to completely refurbish and paint the interior of Brentwood Community Hall.

1972 Supplied labour to build a lacrosse box in Centennial Park.

1978  We donated $8500 to buy the Jaws of Life for Central Saanich fire department.

1980 We built concrete dugouts and a concession building for Little League in Centennial Park.

1982 We erected eight bus shelters in Central Saanich.

1984 Donated 720 hours to build Greens for Lawn Bowling in Centennial Park. In later years we built an addition to their building.

1985 We built the second storey for the score booth and concession building in Rom Knott park. We also supplied labour for their park fencing.

1987 Our club supplied all labour to install new plywood and floor coverings at Brentwood Scout Hall. In later years we also painted the complete interior of the Scout Hall and installed five new doors.

1988 We built a post and rail fence at Centennial Park along Wallace Drive treed area and installed chain link fence along the other borders.

1990 We supplied labour to help build the concession and dugouts for Babe Ruth.

1991 We built an addition to Central Saanich Seniors Center in Brentwood Bay.

1994 We donated $100,000 towards the building of a new field house in Centennial Park.

1995 We rebuilt the Lacrosse Box in Centennial Park and helped build the BMX riding circuit at the park.

1995 We did a complete interior paint job for Mt. Newton Center. We have since repainted two more times over the years.

1997 Replacement of hardwood floor in Brentwood Community Hall.

1997 As well as our regular christmas tree recycling program we collected trees from the CRD housing projects and made an extra $1000.

1999 Raised funds to help the Mount Newton Center purchase their new bus. We helped purchase the replacement bus in later years.

2000 Our club helped financially to build a sleigh so a physically challenged student could take part in the annual Stelly's hiking club trip up Mount Albert Edward.

2000 $50,000 cash and "in kind" donations plus 732 hours to help build Central Saanich Fire Museum.

2002 $5,000 plus labour to Habitat for Humanity.

2005 $10,000 to Fire Department for thermal imaging camera.

2007 We purchased and outfitted a trailer that can be used at our cooking events, but also serves as part of the disaster response program.

2008 $10,000 to Mt. Newton Center for a security system.

2008 $1,535 for treatment of a Brentwood child with a serious blood disorder.

2012 $10,000 to Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation.

2012 155 hours labour for repairs of lawn bowling green.

2014 $50,000 to Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation towards purchase of new CT Scanner.

2015 $46,000 was raised for the Green Light Laser program for prostate cancer. This money came from our metal recycling project. In 2017 an additional $7500 was donated for Green Light Laser supplies. This money was raised by stripping and salvaging metal from old water meters donated by Central Saanich Works Department and radiators donated by P & R Western Star.

2016 $20,000 towards new Peninsula Soccer Field.

2017 $20,000 towards building a performance stage in Brentwood Pioneer Park.

2017 $5,000 plus 1000 hours to Peninsula Lions Food Bank. Lately our club has become even more involved with several members now on the board of directors.

2018 $10,000 towards new batting cage in Centennial Park.

2019 $11,000 for our own Spot Vision Scanner. In 2018 the Spot Scanner Program became a major project with our club. Members in our club were trained and scanned the eyes of approximately 3500 elementary and middle school students last year and with our own machine will continue the program in the years to come. The scanner checks for far sightedness, near sightedness, blurred vision, unequal pupil size, eye alignment, and unequal refractive power. Approximately 4% of children are found to have a problem. They are sent home with a letter recommending further testing and outlining the Lion's eye glass program.

In fifty years the Central Saanich Lions Club has donated over 1.2 million dollars and countless thousands of hours to our community!




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