By DAMON WOODS
Special To The Leader
(Editor’s Note: The Oakdale Lions Club is marking its 75 anniversary this year and, as part of the celebration, Lion Damon Woods is compiling a history of the organization. Look for his articles the first Wednesday of each month in The Leader, as the actual anniversary date approaches.)
The Oakdale Lions were chartered by Lions International on Oct. 21, 1943. Oakdale was the eighth club chartered in this district (District 4 A-1). There are presently 58 clubs. The first club in the District chartered in 1920. Lions Clubs International celebrated its 100th birthday in 2017.
In 1925, Helen Keller challenged the Lions to “commit to ending preventable blindness and serving the visually impaired.” Thus, the primary reason for a Lions Club to exist is to serve the community and to help with vision/blindness. Consequently, the primary focus of the Oakdale Lions is improving the vision of Oakdale and surrounding cities.
One of our more veteran members stated, “The best kept secret of Oakdale is what do the Lions do.” The primary purpose of this historical series is to let the community know all the man-hours of service the Oakdale Lions have given to Oakdale. A secondary purpose is to recruit new members to help in the Lions Club’s efforts for the future of Oakdale.
Major events of 1943: The Japanese withdrew their troops from Guadalcanal. British forces defeat the Germans at Tripoli. The average cost of a home was $3,600.
The Oakdale Lions was chartered on Oct. 21, 1943. The sponsoring club was the Stockton Lions Club (the first club in this district, chartered in 1920). The Oakdale Lions Club was chartered with 31 members with such names as: Gilbert, Royce, Smith, Kelsey and a host of others. To see if your family member was part of this startup, check out the new exhibit at the Oakdale Museum. Most of these 31 members belonged to the Oakdale 20-30 Club, which was disbanded before World War II. The Oakdale Lions club began regular meetings in the fall of 1943.
In early 1944, more members joined including names like: Long, Scheer, Griffin, Ott and others. Some members were inducted into the service during 1944 (as they prepared for D-Day). No major projects occurred during war time. Clarence Royce was the first President of the Oakdale Lions; Jack Meyers was the first Secretary. In July 1944, a new President: William Gilbert, Secretary: Lyle Jameson. Somewhere during 1944, the Oakdale Lions Club began sponsoring Boy Scouts Troop #43.
During the fall of 1944, a turtle derby was held in Oakdale by an ‘outside group’ that allowed a profit for this event. This brought inspiration to the Lions, to hold their own ‘fundraising event’ but to keep the money in the community through projects and donations.
In late May 1945, the Lions organized and began building booths for a July 4th Carnival for the community of Oakdale. The Lions decided not to charge for admission. Games of chance and food would be offered at a small price (nickels and dimes back then) to provide the needed revenue to keep the Lion’s service projects going.
For the years of 1946 to 1948, the Oakdale Lions grew to a peak of 102 members, then membership declined. Over that two-year period, the July 4th celebrations continued. With these Lion efforts, more funds from the Lions were returned to the community.
In late 1946, an Oakdale Leader article provided one of the big headlines of the year: Bing Crosby joins the Chamber of Commerce. Singer Bing Crosby owned over 2000 acres of farm land in this area.
The 4th of July Carnival continued in 1946 and 1947, each year raising nearly $3,000.
In early 1948, the Women’s Club of Oakdale hosted a fundraiser. The Oakdale Lions participated by having the Board of the Lions Club put on a ballet dance. These old men were decked in complete costumes of a ballet troupe
The Oakdale Lions also hosted a Christmas party for kids that year (a precursor of the present day Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour). With this Christmas party, the Lions Club served a meal.
In December of 1949, a Toys For Tots program is started by the Lions to give toys to needy kids.
These are just a few highlights of the early years of the Oakdale Lions – a second installment with more history will be featured in the May 2 issue.