I am Ted Eason and my talk tonight will be on the history of the Keene Lions Club.  I have been a member since 1982 but my connection with the club goes back much further than that.  My father, Alan, was a charter member of the club and as I was born in the same year as the club, I grew up attending most of the fundraisers and being involved in many of the projects before I joined.  But before we talk about the Keene Lions Club, I feel it would be useful to give you some background on Lions International the organization we are a part of.

In 1917, Melvin Jones was a Chicago businessman and a member of the Business Circle - a group devoted solely to promoting the financial interest of their members.  He suggested that the members of his club should reach beyond business issues and address the betterment of their communities and the world.  He contacted similar groups around the United States and at a national convention in Dallas that year the organization was formed.  In 1920, the organization became international by chartering a club in Windsor, Ontario.  In 1925, Helen Keller charged Lions to "become Knights of the Blind to crusade against darkness.  Ever since then, one of the main focuses has been to aid the blind and to try and eradicate preventable blindness. There are now 46,000 clubs and more than 1.4 million members and as such it is the largest organization of service clubs in the world.  All of these members are dedicated to raising money to give back to their communities.  Members are responsible for all administration costs of the club and receive no financial gain. So with that background on Lions International, let's talk about Keene.

In the beginning, Lester Pearson was our Minister for External Affairs attending the United Nations General Assembly Meeting in Paris.  JK Hughes Motors was selling a new Chevrolet DeLuxe sedan with radio and air conditioning for $2,400 while a solid brick house with 4 bedrooms in Central Peterborough was listed for $7,800.  The Petes and Eagles were getting set for another season of Senior B hockey play.  Meanwhile, that night in the town hall in Keene, 21 community minded men under the leadership of President Dave McNevan got together for the first meeting of the Keene Lions Club.  The date was November 8, 1951.  I plan to outline the history of the club by noting the important events of each decade.

THE 50'S

In December of 1951, the club purchased an electric blanket with a Lions crest to be used by handicapped persons attending functions at the Arena.  The Arena had just opened in January, 1950.  This was the first act of community service done by the Club and although it seems to be dwarfed by service projects carried out in future years, it turned out to be quite appropriate as it benefitted both the Arena and the handicapped which continue to receive our support.

Our first Charter Night was held January 15, 1952 in the basement of the United Church with a dance afterward at the Town Hall.  The Club received various gifts of Lions regalia from surrounding clubs including a picture of the King.  In January 1954, this was replaced by a picture of the Queen.

The Club's first fundraiser was the St.Patrick's Dance which netted $111 from admission charges of $.75 but bigger things were to come.  In December, 1952 the club held a dance at the Club Aragon (now Trentwinds) charging $10.00 per couple and gave away a new car.  This was a very ambitious project for a new club but with hard work a profit of nearly $1,000 was realized.

Speaking of fundraisers, November 23, 1954 was the date the club decided to tender for the operation of the Arena booth.  The Club operated the concession booth from the 1954-55 season until 1999-2000 when the Arena took it over.  In the first year, hot dogs sold for $.15 and our profit was $700 in a 2 1/2 month season.  Artificial ice was installed in the Arena in 1967 which extended the season from October to March and significantly increased our profit.

Sunday June 2, 1957 was another big day in the history of the club.  The 37th Annual District A Convention for clubs from Ontario and Quebec was being held in Peterborough and the club entered a float in the parade.  Our float was titled Gateway to Serpent Mounds and depicted an old Indian in front of a teepee with a young brave beside a canoe followed by a giant serpent filled with members of the club walking the route which went from Nicholls Oval over to George Street and all the way down to Morrow Park.  That was a long way to be inside a serpent.  Our float won third prize but more importantly, the attendance by our members at the convention set the stage for participation at future conventions and other inter club activities.

The social side of the club did not go wanting in the 50's.  The club held several dances each year and even purchased a piano to accompany the sing songs held before and after meetings.

THE 60's

The 60's marked the beginning of both a major public service project and a major fundraiser that became annual events.

On August 27, 1960, the Club held its first regatta at Hiawatha which included events such as boat, canoe and swimming races and other water events.  Although it later evolved into Pioneer Day at Lang Mill and Craft Day in the streets of Keene, it was certainly the first major fundraiser undertaken by the club.  The very first regatta included a special added attraction - kite flyer Rollie Bonneau.  The next year the club decided it could save money by bringing in our very own Lion Art Howson as the kite flyer.  Lion Art using a homemade kite actually made it about 3 feet above the water before belly flopping into Rice Lake.  Another year, Lion Art and Lion Roy McFarlane rigged up a cedar raft with a pipe welded on a plate to make it look like a cannon. 

Unfortunately, when they fired the cannon, it blew a hole in the raft and they were lucky to make it back to shore.  The first regatta was not much of a financial success as it raised just $69.26 but it set the stage for bigger and better events to come.  In 1962, a new attraction was added - the giant chicken barbecue - and our summer fundraisers centred around it until the 2000's when barbecuing chicken was no longer a novelty.

The public service project which began in the 60's was the Kid's Cordwood Bonspiel.  It began in 1968 and has been held every year since except for 1976 when the arena was condemned.  Lion Percy Elmhirst was the driving force behind the Cordwood which has had as many as 360 children participating.  We now attract around 200 kids each year and for $1.00 per child they curl 3 games, are fed lunch and receive a gift card for a prize.  The most remarkable thing about the Cordwood is that so much money is donated by businesses and community residents towards our costs of the day that the event breaks even.  The competition each year can be intense as witnessed by the time when one youngster apparently upset over a judge's decision, kicked Lion Harold Hope in the shins.  Nevertheless, it's a satisfying day for the members because we are treating area children to a good time.

Our major donations in the 60's focused on the Community Centre.  In 1962, the Club paid for the installation of an asphalt floor to allow for summer activities on the ice floor.  In 1967, when the artificial ice was installed, the Club donated $10,000 towards the cause.  This led to a longer booth season and larger profits for the club - in 1968, profit was $1,400 even though hot dogs sold for just $.25.

Lion Alan Eason was the first member of the Club to hold a district office as Zone Chairman in 1962-63 and Deputy District Governor the following year.  In later years, Lion Bill Braden and Lion Peter Armour were Zone Chairman while Lion Doug Harris and Lion Bill James were Deputy District Governors as well.  Lion Dave Bolton has been the club's only District Governor in the year 2008-09.

THE 70's

The decade of the 70's was certainly a boom period for our Club.  Not only were the large fund raisers continuing but several large projects were tackled with enthusiasm.  The joint effort by the members toward the completion of these projects served to make the Club strong and membership peaked near the end of the decade.  As a matter of fact, the Club made a motion in 1977 to never have more than 60 members.  Currently, we have 32 members and membership  has varied from 25 to 35 since about 1990.

The decade of the 70's was certainly a boom period for our Club.  Not only were the large fund raisers continuing but several large projects were tackled with enthusiasm.  The joint effort by the members toward the completion of these projects served to make the Club strong and membership peaked near the end of the decade.  As a matter of fact, the Club made a motion in 1977 to never have more than 60 members.  Currently, we have 32 members and membership  has varied from 25 to 35 since about 1990.

But that was only the beginning of the major projects in the 70's.  In February 1976, the Arena was condemned largely as a result of the collapse of the roof of the Lakefield Arena earlier that year.  Since the heart of small rural communities in Canada is their Community Centre / Arena, the situation was critical.  Members and residents grumbled about the closing of the old Arena and mourned its loss but not for long.  In March 1976, the Township Council voted in favour of building a new Community Centre on the present site at a cost of $400,000.  The Lions spearheaded the drive for funds by pledging $50,000 towards the project.  The new Arena opened in March 1977 and because of the government funding available at the time, it turned out that the closure of the old building was a blessing in disguise.

Back in 1977, the idea of a park for the handicapped was almost considered radical but the Club donated $9,000 of the total cost of $37,000 of the David McIntyre Handicapped Park.  When one considers that it's only in the last 20 years or so that handicapped rights have become an issue, the development of this park in 1977 seems to have been an early step in the right direction.

Just as the projects were many in the 70's so were the fundraisers  The Arena booth continued to be a consistent money maker but in 1971 the regatta gave way to Pioneer Days in Lang.  One of the more exciting Pioneer Days involved Elwood Cranston from Cordova Mines.  Elwood was a frequent guest on the Sunshine Sean Eyre Wired Woodshed radio show on CHEX which was quite popular at the time.  Elwood had promoted on the show that he would be attending Pioneer Day that year and Lion Percy Elmhirst volunteered to fly him to Lang.  Unfortunately, Percy and Elwood got into a dispute while flying over the mill pond in Lang and Percy pushed Elwood out of the plane.  Everybody attending the event were visibly shocked and upset until it was revealed that it was just a dummy thrown out of the plane and Elwood was fine.  Pioneer Day gave way to Craft Day in the mid 70's which was a consistent money maker for the Club until 2008.  Interest was waning in the event partially because of the unpredictability of the weather in August.  In the last 3 years that we ran the event, 2 of them had high temperatures greater than 30 celsius while the third had heavy rain all day.  Our most versatile fundraiser came of age at the Kawartha International Snowmobile Races in the 70's.  The club built a giant fry pan and raised $1,000 from the sale of back bacon on a bun cooked in the pan but we also entered it in the parade where it won 1st prize.  It took a hardy member to operate the fry pan however as it was generally used in sub-zero Fahrenheit weather  At times, the combination of the cold weather and the frying of the back bacon created a cloud of steam, which made it impossible to actually see the meat.  Members had to feel for the bacon with snowmobile mitts so apparently the Health Inspector must have been otherwise occupied at the time.

THE 80's

Fund raising was not a problem in the 80's.  The Arena Booth, Craft Day and the Food Trailer earned even more than they had in the past.  Meanwhile, the Club was asked to run the 1986 Rice Lake Bass Tournament which was the first bass tournament of its kind on Rice Lake.  Because of good organization and solid support by the membership, it became our biggest money maker for several years.  We ran it until 1998 but by then, we could not compete with the proliferation of professional tournaments.

Other than for the purchase of a new Olympia ice resurfacer for the Arena in 1989 at a cost of $37,000, there were no other major projects in the 80's.  The Club was able, however, to support other community needs generously.  The local volunteer fire department found it was unable to receive the funding necessary to equip it at the level their members desired.  During this decade, we donated $11,500 to purchase pagers for all members and $5,000 towards their purchase of the Jaws of Life used to extricate victims from vehicle crashes.  Other donations centred around the community as well.  The soccer field at Lang, the curling arena and both the Stewart Hall Library and the Keene Library received our financial support.

Another project of the 80's proved that money isn't always what's needed.  It was obvious to the membership of the club that with the aging population of the Township, a Senior Citizens Complex would be well used.  Full funding was available from the government so it wasn't a matter of finances.  The problem was that before the government would fund such a project, the need had to be proven.  The Club undertook an intensive survey of the community and individual members interviewed all seniors to determine how many would be interested in living in the proposed residence.  This whole process was painstakingly slow.  The idea of a Seniors Residence first surfaced in 1981, 2 feasibility studies were carried out by the club with the second one in 1985.  Funding was finally approved and Otonabee Court opened in January 1988.

In May, 1980, the Club decided to sponsor a Lioness Club which was quite successful and active for many years.  When Lions Clubs began to welcome female members in the 90's, this caused Lioness membership to dwindle.  In addition, in the early 2000's, Lions International withdrew their support of Lioness Clubs and demanded that they become Lions Clubs.  This proved to be the death knell of most Lioness Clubs and ours folded in about 2011.  Lydia Doornbos who had been president of the Lioness, joined the Lions Club in 1998 as our first female member.  Our current president, Yara Worral, was also a former Lioness member.  We currently have 7 female members and 25 males.

THE 90's

The 90's dawned with a new fundraiser familiar to many service clubs - bingo.  The Legion had operated a bingo on Wednesday nights during the summer but as their membership dwindled, the bingo was cancelled.  The recreation committee of the township recognized the void and asked the Lions Club and Lioness Club to help run a Wednesday night bingo throughout the year.  For the first few years, the recreation committee, the Lions and Lioness Clubs took turns each week running the bingo and each organization received 1/3 of the profits.  After several years, the recreation committee and the Lioness Club handed the operation of the bingo over to the Lions.  We have operated it ever since.  It raises $15,000 to $20,000 each year and provides an interesting pastime to the 80 to 90 players who attend each week.

In the early 90's, we refurbished our mobile food trailer.  The trailer had been bought used and remodelled by Will Howson and other volunteer Lions members and we used it at Craft Day, the Stirling Flea Market in May and various auction sales and other events.  The Stirling event was a good fundraiser for the club - we consistently netted between $3,000 and $4,000 at each show.

Our major donations during this decade were $18,750 to Otonabee Court Seniors Residence, $5,000 to the Villiers Community Centre and the installation of the elevator at the Medical Centre costing about $17,000.

THE 2000's

The 2000's brought about 2 community service projects which are still ongoing.  The County of Peterborough introduced the "Adopt A Road" campaign and our club was eager to take part.  Every year, on the first Tuesday of May and the first Tuesday of October, our members fan out on Heritage Line from Keene to Highway 7 and on Serpent Mounds Road from Serpent Mounds to Keene to pick up garbage on the side of the road.  The other project was introduced by our District and began as Vision Screening in about 2003.  Each year, a team of volunteers descend upon North Shore School and check the vision of Kindergarten and Grade 1 students.  We don't pretend to be optometrists but the tests we give to the kids can alert parents to the fact that the child may have a vision problem and should see a professional.  On a personal note, I recall testing a student and when I next saw her a few months later, she was wearing glasses.  About 5 years ago, this program was expanded to include testing for hearing disability.

In 2008, Lions International instituted a program called Sight First II.  They wanted clubs to raise $200 million US to eradicate preventable blindness.  In many third world countries, residents suffered from river blindness caused by drinking water from polluted waters and Lions International felt that these funds could go a long way to combating this.  Our club endorsed this project wholeheartedly but felt that rather than just donating a sum of money, we should hold a fundraiser.  We came up with the idea of selling raffle tickets on a "Dinner for Two Anywhere in the World".  It was a bold initiative considering that our club was not much for selling raffle tickets.  We decided that we needed to sell 2,000 tickets at $50.00 per ticket with 1st prize being airfare, accommodation and dinner for 2 anywhere in the world, 2nd prize was dinner for 2 anywhere in Canada and 3rd prize anywhere in Ontario.  The committee realized that we could not sell the 2,000 tickets by ourselves so the committee visited just about every club in the district and convinced them to help.  The fundraiser was a tremendous success with all 2,000 tickets sold and after expenses were paid, $75,000 was donated to the Sight First II campaign.

In 2011, it was determined that our home made mobile food trailer that had served us well for the past 20 years or so was no longer road worthy.  In a move that was somewhat controversial at the time, we decided to spend over $35,000 to purchase and equip a new trailer.  Having made this large investment, we found new more lucrative events at which we could sell our fries and burgers.  By 2015, our profits from the trailer had more than covered our original cost.  We now net $10,000 to $15,000 annually from the trailer mostly from our attendance at the Peterborough Exhibition, Norwood Fair and Pumpkinfest.

A new fundraiser began in 2001.  Other Lions Clubs in the area had been successful soliciting donations from the community by organizing a Toll Road on the Friday of the May 24th weekend.  This event continues and thanks to the generosity of the community and visitors, we raise over $3,000 per year.

And I must not forget the Santa Claus Parade.  We have organized the parade every year since 1973.  For many years, it was unique in that the route began at Fred Nelson's garage and went down Heritage Line and turned west onto County Road 2.  It then turned around at the Catholic church and returned along County Road 2 and back up Heritage Line to the Lions Den.  This allowed spectators to see both sides of the parade.  However, in the early 90's, North Shore school was opened and with it Pinecrest Avenue, allowing the parade to follow a direct route with no turnaround.  This year's parade will take place December 8th at 10 am.


A review of our financial statements shows that we have made donations well in excess of $1 million over the years - most of which has gone to local organizations.  I think it's safe to say that we adhere to the Lions International motto - WE SERVE.

Thank you

Lions Clubs International News
Connect with Us Online