lion graphicMacomb Lions Club History
1963-1993 Prepared by John Storey, Charter Member
1993-2010 Updated by Robert Collier, Historian

On April 14, 1963, three individuals met to consider the formation of a Lions Club in Macomb. These persons were Robert Coutts, Robert Cushing, Jr., and Darvis Overstreet. A few weeks later, on May 23, 1963, the Macomb Lions Club was formally organized, with the assistance of international representative Bud Campbell, with these temporary officers: President-William S. Gillidette; Secretary-Robert T. Cushing, Jr.; Treasurer-Harry E. McDaniel. Membership at this time consisted of 23 persons. Our Charter Night was held at the American Legion Post in Macomb on Sunday, September 23, 1963. By that time, the Club had grown to 50 members. The Canton Lions Club served as our sponsor. Subsequent Charter Night anniversaries were held on September 26, 1966; October 18, 1973; November 2, 1978; September 17, 1983; our twenty-fifth on May 5, 1988; our thirtieth on September 16, 1993 and our thirty-fifth on October 24, 1998. It is interesting to note that Past International Director William K. Richardson served as Master of Ceremonies on both our initial and 25th Charter Nights.

In an effort to make this history more meaningful, the authors decided to list the most significant events chronologically under the following headings: Mission; Fund Raising; Service Projects; Meeting Places and Times; and Other Events of Interest.

Mission

The primary mission of the Macomb Lions Club is service to humanity through a commitment of community service. The Lions motto, "We Serve" is reflected in every service project of the Macomb Lions Club. While our service projects encompass a wide range of activities, our primary focuses are on sight and hearing needs.

Fund Raising

As every Lions Club member knows, raising funds that make our service projects possible is one of our highest priorities. Over the years, a variety of fund raising projects have been undertaken with varying degrees of success. These projects with a brief description follow:

Our first fund raising project consisted of the sponsorship of a circus on August 19, 1963. The name of the circus is not mentioned anywhere in our records. Although our efforts to make a substantial number of advance sales proved largely unsuccessful, the club did net about $1,000 from this endeavor. Our second project was the sponsorship of the Good Tatum basketball game held at the (old) Macomb High School gym on January 21, 1964. Tatum, the star of the Harlem Globetrotters, broke away and formed his own team that employed many of the tactics that made the Globetrotters so interesting to watch. A good crowd attended the game and our club netted $579.99. Our third project was a broom sale (no light bulbs) held during the month of September, 1964, (exact date unknown). This raised a total of $85.00 in net profit. Broom sales continued on a yearly basis, in the fall, through 1973. Net incomes were not always reported, but were estimated to run between $100-$200 per year. Starting in 1974, light bulbs were added to our inventory and selling was done in the spring. These sales have been conducted yearly until the present and have constituted one of our best fund raising projects. Net income to the club during this period of time was in the $2,000-$3,000 range each year.

In 1964, the club made a second effort at sponsoring a circus, this time the King Bros. Circus. Our net income from this project was $360. After the difficulty we had in collecting the money due us, which involved telephone calls, correspondence, and the threat of legal action, the club decided to abandon this type of fund raising forevermore.

On October 9, 1964, we held our first Candy Day giveaway as part of a State of Illinois Lions project. This was held on the square in the evening and featured Lion Harry McDaniel in a lion costume. No report on income from this first candy day is available. On a yearly basis, Candy Days has been maintained from its inception to the present. In the early days, net income appeared to be in the $300-$500 range. In 1978, a procedure to solicit businesses in Macomb to underwrite the cost of the candy was started. This procedure significantly increased our net income from Candy Days. In that year, approximately 40 cases of candy were given away and a net income of $3,718 was realized, which included $1,000 in share underwriting. Today Candy Days remains one of the Macomb Lions Club's major fund raising projects.

train project photoOur sixth, and by far the most ambitious project undertaken in our first 30 years was the Kiddyland train. Equipment consisted of a genuine steam-driven locomotive, a tender, four passenger cars, and approximately one-quarter mile of track. Total cost of the equipment was $10,000. An additional $1,000 was required for gravel, etc. To enable us to make this purchase, members were asked to make loans to the club at 6% interest. A total of $4,000 was raised in this way, with $3,000 utilized as a down payment; a contract for $7,000 was executed with Henry J. McMillan, d/b/a/ International Commercial Sales, Galva, Illinois, with interest at the rate of 4% on the unpaid balance. Seventy percent of the operating revenue was to be paid on the principal each year until the loan was paid in full. The official train opening took place on May 30, 1965, with a number of city dignitaries and many townspeople, as well as a full complement of Lions Club members, on hand. All of our club members worked diligently for many evenings during the spring of 1965 laying track to ready our train for opening day.

The decision to purchase this train was not easily reached. Much discussion ensued, and many concerns were expressed, before the decision to purchase the train was made. An agreement with the Macomb Park Board to locate the train in Everly Park just north of the baseball diamond was reached. John Howard, a retired train engineer, was hired to operate the train. It was slated to operate from 6:00-9:30 PM Monday through Friday, 4:00-9:30 PM on Saturday, and 1:00-9:30 PM on Sunday. Club members sold tickets and informed the engineer when to start the ride. A train station was constructed under the direction of Lion John Sappington with the able assistance of some of his high school students. The station served as a place for ticket sales, as well as night-time storage for the train and supplies. It was soon determined that revenues were not sufficient to employ a paid engineer for this time span, so Lions Club volunteers were trained to operate the train and did so on week nights. Before the end of the first year, club members took over all train operations.
                     steamtrain photo on the Square

Early in its functioning, it was discovered that the train could not negotiate the 5% grade with a full load of passengers. Through the efforts of Lion Jim Distefano, dirt was secured at no cost from the Wal-Mart store excavation and hauled to the train site on a weekend by volunteer city truck drivers. A considerable portion of the track was re-laid to reduce the steepness of the grade. train project picture

The Lion Line operated during the summer months from 1965 until 1972. As time went by, hours of operation were gradually reduced, as it was discovered that revenues during certain time were not sufficient to meet operating expenses. Although net income approximated $1,500 per year for the first six years of operation, repayment of member loans and payment on the principal of the loan utilized all revenues obtained. As net income declined to $550 and $600 in 1971 and 1972, and as it became apparent to even the most optimistic that the train would never become an income-producing project, the decision was made to sell the train. Considerable effort to find a buyer was made with no success. Finally, in November of 1973, an agreement was reached with the Macomb Park Board for sale of the train and track for the balance owed to Henry J. McMillan, which totaled $4,374 plus accrued interest. Most club members agreed that the train, while not a financial success, did provide a service to the City of Macomb and surrounding areas by providing entertainment for countless numbers of youngsters. As a happy finale, the Park Board did find a buyer at a price considerably above the cost of the train to them and utilized the proceeds for a kiddyland play area in Glenwood Park that is still utilized and which is designated as the Macomb Lions playground.

Our next fund raising project was a relatively small, one-time affair. It consisted of selling tickets to the WIU Summer Music Theatre, which was in its initial season. This activity netted the club about $100.

In the fall of 1966, a determination was made that the club could make some money and have some family fun by hand-picking corn left in the field after the regular harvest was completed. So on two weekends, November 5-6 and 12-13, a number of Lions, spouses, and children gathered on a farm (owner unknown) to pick corn. Our endeavors produced some sore backs and a net profit of $122. At about the same time, we started the sale of American flags, which netted a total of $100 for our activities fund.

Our next major project was a basketball game between the American Redheads team (all red-haired girls, some natural) and a team of club members and other men on February 12, 1968. This attracted a good crowd and proved to be an enjoyable and profitable enterprise, although the exact amount realized was not stated in the records. Also that spring, we sponsored a Dale Carnegie course in Macomb. Again, the amount realized was not stated, but it probably was a modest amount.

On April 17, 1968, another major fundraiser was undertaken. We held our first Spaghetti Dinner at the McArthur school gym. Under the direction of chief chef Lion Jerry Quintiliani and his spouse, a delicious repast was prepared. However, all of our good efforts netted only $180. But we persisted in this endeavor and held five additional Spaghetti Dinners in succeeding years. Net incomes reported were $441 for the second dinner, $270 for the third. There was no report of income derived from dinners four, five, and six.

Probably our least productive fund raising endeavor was a concert, Rubinoff and his violin, held at the old high school gym on November 15, 1968. This activity resulted in a net loss to the club of about $100.

During the next several years, fund raising was limited to light bulb and broom sales and Candy Days, as far as can be determined from the records. But in November and December, 1979, raffle tickets were sold for eight prizes donated by local businesses. Lion Dee Kruzan was the brain and prize setter for this activity. Net income of $690.50 was realized from this project, one-half of which was donated to the C.P.R. telethon.

In the spring of 1980, the fund raising committee came up with another idea. This was a community clean-up sale, a rummage sale of donated items held on May 31, 1980. Income of over $1,000 was netted from this activity. A second clean-up sale was held on May 23, 1981, with proceeds of $650.

A project that turned out to be a good one (high income with a minimum of effort) was the sale of coloring books prior to Christmas, 1981. These large-sized books were displayed at various locations in Macomb and netted a profit of over $500. We sold coloring books one additional season and made over $1,000.

Our club did sponsor two musical (singing) groups, the New Christy Minstrels on December 3, 1982, and the Serendipity Singers on August 3, 1983. The first netted almost $1,000 and the second $682.50.
Heritage Days pictureOn July 2-4, 1983, Macomb celebrated its Heritage Days. Our club conducted an onion ring sale during these three days. Net income was about $450. The city decided to make this a yearly event, so or club prepared and sold onion rings along with soft drinks again in 1984. This time the club netted over $800. In 1985, the club switched to bratwurst, sauerkraut, and soft drinks (the decision was based on the difficulty involved with onion ring preparation), netting approximately $1,000. This project was conducted in 1986 and 1987 with even better results, netting almost $3,000 in 1987. In 1988, the extremely hot weather resulted in smaller crowds and decreased demand for hot items, with a net income of only $300. The club continued to have a tent at Heritage Days until 1992. It was decided that the monies earned were not worth the time and effort expended. However, the Lions resumed having a food tent in 1993 with the introduction of a BBQ beef sandwich. The first year for this product produced a profit of over $650. The project was repeated for the last time at the 1994 Heritage Days. In 2005 and 2006 the Lions Club assisted the Macomb Kiwanis Club with a pancake and sausage breakfast during Heritage Days. Lion John Beaver spearheaded this joint venture. Starting in 2008 the Macomb Lions and the Colchester Lions jointly sponsored this event, and it continues to this day. A second example of service groups working together began in 2005, when Macomb Lions assisted the Colchester Lions with their Labor Day food tent, a partnership that also continues today. Heritage Days picture

In 1986, the club decided to participate in the Lions of Illinois Sight and Sound Sweepstakes. The sweepstakes is part of the International Sight First which has as its goal the elimination of all preventable blindness by the year 2020. Tickets were sold for $1.00 each, or a book of 12 for $10.00, between February 6 and April 17. Our club netted between $300 and $400 from this activity, as the club retained one-half of the proceeds. This activity was continued in 1987 and 1988. Although the dollar results were not recorded, two plaques were received by the club from District I-H in 1987, one for the highest dollar sales of any club in the district and the other for the highest dollar sales per member. This activity continues to be supported by the Macomb Club today.

Another fund raising activity that was tried was the sale of trash bags in 1987. These were prepared in gold and blue colors with the Lions Club emblem emblazoned on the bags. Other clubs in District I-H were invited to participate and several did so. Although this project did not turn out as well as anticipated, it did net our club over $400 in revenue

In December of 1994, Macomb Lions Club members participated in a new fundraiser by wrapping gifts for the local Jacks store. This project was repeated one more time in 1995 before the Jacks store went out of business. The amount of income from this project was not significant.

In July of 1996 the St. Louis Rams football team commenced using Western Illinois University as the location of their summer training camp. The Macomb Lions raised funds by helping to sell Rams memorabilia at the training camp. The Lions Club continued this activity through the 1999 summer camp. During the 2005 Heritage Days celebration the Macomb Lions Club and the Macomb Kiwanis Club co-sponsored a pancake breakfast during the Sunday morning fly-in at the Macomb Airport. This joint effort, lead by Lion John Beaver, was a big success with over 1200 meals served by members of both clubs and their spouses. This fundraising project was successfully repeated in 2006, but cancelled for 2007 due to airport renovation restrictions. With the airport renovations completed for the 2008 Heritage Days celebration, the Macomb Lions Club co-sponsored this fundraiser with the Colchester Lions Club. The jointly sponsored fund raiser continues today.
Service Projects, Meeting Places, Other Events, Macomb Lions History cont'd
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