Building a Better Community: Calling the Barker Lions | Community

As the Barker Lions Club prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary, members reflected on the history of the club. During the 50th anniversary celebration, former President Len Carpenter reflected on the history at that time. Although he was not a founding member, he was inducted less than a year after this event. Here are some of his remarks.

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I can’t believe that was 50 years ago. April 15 marks the 50th anniversary of the presentation of the Barker Lions Club charter. Club members should be very proud of their accomplishments over the years: a tribute to the hundreds of past and present members who have generously given their time and effort for the betterment and betterment of their community.

Stories from the past:

— It was in early 1947 when a group of worried men met to discuss the problems of a sleepy town and decide what could be done to improve the situation. After much discussion, it was decided that a “Lions Club” with the motto “We Serve” might be a solution. The first official meeting was held and a charter from Lions International was requested with Newfane Lions Club as the sponsor. From there, things moved quickly.

– Charter Night, April 15, 1947: Like most early club activities, due to the lack of other facilities available in the city, the Charter Night Banquet was held in the Cafeteria of the school, all preparations and service being carried out by the home economics department. Dinner included a fruit bowl, turkey and dressing, potatoes, peas, salad, relishes, rolls, ice cream, chocolate cake, and coffee. The dinner price, $2.00, was considered a bit expensive.

In attendance were 33 members of the Barker Club and: from Lockport, 36; Niagara Falls, 10; Newfane, 24; Wilson, 11; Albion, 5; with brides and guests.

The charter was presented by District Governor Albert Syrcher and was accepted by Lion President Glenn Nellist. The Lions banner was presented by Lion Ron Hall of the Newfane club.

There were 33 founding members of the Barker club consisting of two ministers, three doctors, three educators, an undertaker, eight manufacturers, three related to agriculture, six merchants, two salesmen and five tradesmen.

— It didn’t take long for the club to get involved in projects. Some have been discussed. Some have been completed. A few of the first included:

1. Contact state and county highway departments regarding the erection of identification signs on city and town roads.

2. Agree to try to raise $200 to provide a scholarship to a deserving BCS student

3. Resume sponsorship of Barker Boy Scout Troop #26 and Barker Citizens Committee Charter.

4. After setting dues at $10, discontinue summer meetings.

5. Try to ensure better milk delivery in the region.

6. Contact the electric company (Niagara-Hudson) in order to improve the electric service in the community and also to find out why the rates were so high. There have been complaints that some users are paying up to $15 per month. In addition, since the service at that time was 25 cycles, none of the new 60-cycle devices could be used.

— May 17, 1948 was the date of the first Lions Ladies Night. It was agreed that it would be a great gesture and might also smooth things over a bit to go out with her two nights a month. It took place at Petri’s restaurant in Lockport. It was a Dutch treat and tickets sold for $5 per couple.

— October 1947 marked the Lions’ first Halloween party. It took place at school and the attendance was well above expectations. It included a parade with live music, horror movies in the auditorium, refreshments in the upstairs cafeteria, and dancing in the gym. This event was felt to have helped deter some of the pranks of overturned outbuildings and the piling of rubbish in front of the pharmacy.

— At the December meeting (1947), donations were taken for the purchase of meat to help fill the Christmas baskets which were to be delivered in conjunction with the school faculty. $23.75 was raised, which was more than enough for eight baskets.

— At one of the first meetings, the club discussed the possibility of establishing a government post office in the community to improve mail processing. The existing postal service was in a small room in the Masonic building behind the pharmacy.

— Funding for projects was just as much of a problem then as it is now. Fundraising was accomplished through the use of the school auditorium. Professional acts and entertainers were first used. But it was quickly discovered that there was a lot more community interest generated by pursuing local (and less talented) talent. Variety and minstrel productions required a lot of practice. Lots of performers (?) and lots of time spent, but it was worth it as there was always a full house.

– The project that nearly caused the Barker Lions Club’s untimely demise dates back to 1952 when McAdam and Son offered to donate a parcel of land on the corner of Main and East Avenue to the Lions Club on the condition that it be used for the benefit young people from the community. He was accepted and it was decided to erect a building and call it “The Youth Community Center”. Due to limited funds, it was agreed that it be built as much as possible with labor and voluntary contributions. Various committees have been formed to accelerate the project. One of these committee tasks was to collect funds and contributions. They were a great group that did not limit their efforts to the area alone, but reached into adjacent counties with their appeals. The problem was that some of the donors offered materials and services rather than financial support. Some members felt that all contributions should be in cash and that everything related to the project should be purchased locally.

— The Lions Club held its meetings at the school for the first three years. At the time, Tie Cutting was a revenue producer. They took place in the school cafeteria with school staff preparing meals and students serving. It was discovered that a drop in attendance was the result of the town being the only dry town in the area. It seems that some members found it very difficult to pass a tavern located just south of the town limit. It was then agreed to alternate meetings on a trial basis between this school and the Bernicker restaurant in Johnson’s Creek.

Records do not indicate which location attracted the most members, but it was decided that next year all meetings would be held at Johnson’s Creek. Meetings took place here for a few years until complaints began to surface about the quality of the Manhattans. Outside of the club, he moved to Olcott at the Village Tavern, then back to Johnson’s Creek at the Town and Country Restaurant. Here we stayed until a hangout opened in Barker and went to Barker’s restaurant.

— Reviewing the club’s projects, it becomes clear that some never end. Yet those that were completed in a short time proved to be just as important. Another cross-sectional review of club activities includes:

1. Provision of glasses and operations for the visually impaired.

2. Build handicapped ramps.

3. Sponsorship of foreign students, little league teams, sports team honor parties.

4. Construction and landscaping of the gazebo in the park.

5. Elevators built for the disabled.

6. Organized and conducted the annual corn party to raise funds to support charities.

7. Run the annual Blind Seal campaign.

8. Assistance in the construction of the “Golden Trail” and the playground.

9. Make an annual donation to the Blind Leader Dog Program, Sightless Bowlers, Radio Readers, Handicap Helpers, Wyndham Lawn, CIHM

10. Annual pancake breakfasts for good causes.

11. Co-sponsored student photo identification program.

And the list goes on and on with each project just as important and worthy as the next.

After reviewing the activities and records of the Lions Club over the years, it becomes apparent that the club is not too different from any other voluntary organization, with its ups and downs, its good times and its bad times, its harmony and its disagreements.

The success of the club appears to be the result of the willingness and pride of all members to practice the Lions motto, “we serve”.

In honoring all of our members on our 50th anniversary, it is good that we all keep in mind that the club is just a hub; each member a spoke radiating equally around the hub and extending to the best of their ability to support their portion of the rim so that the wheel runs smoothly when completing each project.

Join all of you in celebrating and honoring our club members. Your historian would like to thank each of you for the opportunity and privilege to work with you in service to our community.

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In the club’s 75th year, the Barker Lions meet on the first Wednesday of the month. For more information about his service projects, birthday celebration or chicken barbecues, or to participate in one of his events, email or call 716-778 -7001.

Charles P. Patton