Shawville Lions Turn 65

What does a goat have to do with the Shawville Lions Club?

With the Shawville Lions celebrating 65 years, Dale Thomson, 87, has been a source of stories for a few of my articles, some featured in the Pontiac Journal while other tales have been expanded just as he told them.

Chartered in 1949 with 50 members, Dale Thomson is one who has been given life-member status. When discussing with Thomson about the Lions, it was suggested he be asked about the goat.

“When we first started, we exchanged ideas with other clubs called interclub visiting,” he said. “We tried to keep people coming from other clubs and we would go to their clubs. This was because our clubs were new and we exchanged a lot of ideas about fundraising and different things. It started then, that people weren’t going as much as before.”

To drum up more interest in the interclub visiting, the Beachburg Lions decided on a project. They came to visit Shawville and they brought a goat. “For us to get rid of the goat, we had to visit another club and take the goat. It happened that Darwin Elliott was joining the club that night and he said, ‘What the hell is going on with this goat business? Do I have to ride the goat?’ I said yes. Holy geez, he was going to go home,” chuckled Dale, who calmed Elliott’s fears.

A member took the goat down to a farm, and it became pregnant. The Lions kept the goat long enough, until the next visit to Beachburg, where the club met in the basement of a church, according to Dale it wasn’t the easiest trip down the stairs.

“There was a member there named Ed Foster, he said, ‘Might have expected you guys, to bring the damn goat back here…. and pregnant!”

Goats weren’t showing up to meetings after that.

When the Lions Club started, there wasn’t as much government assistance as there is now for people who needed eyeglasses, hearing aids, or had health and transportation challenges. “We grew up poor and we were given help from people, so you feel a responsibility to pay back to the community and help others,” said Dale, revealing the reason he joined in 1949, as he would have been 21 years old at the time.

Thomson was among the first directors in the 1949-50 Lions Club, including Lloyd Mitchem, Lennis Dean and John Richardson. Harwood Argue was President; James Gordon – First Vice President; Bill Anderson – Second Vice President; John Hitz – Third Vice President; Ernest Dean – Secretary; Clifton Dale – Treasurer; Hewitt McCredie – Lion Tamer; Buster McDowell – Tail Twister.

Some of the Lions’ goodwill projects through the years include: a foundation built for a lady’s house; a wharf built at Green Lake; Christmas hampers with turkey and trimmings; installation of civic numbers on houses; and Lions sponsored Red Cross swimming lessons.

Other efforts were in the early 1950s when the Lions raffled off two cars. They also built and sold a cottage and hosted big pork suppers, where the food was cooked in a trench.

“We had the supper on a Sunday, which was unheard of in those days. You never had anything on a Sunday,” recalled Dale.

Another aspect from ‘those days’ was no Lions Hall. Meetings were held at places like Pine Lodge, Pontiac House, the Clarendon Hotel and the fairgrounds. (See story, Dale’s Fair Memories). But, if there was any big event like New Year’s Eve dances, or charter nights with bus loads coming in from Ottawa, everything would be at Pine Lodge.

A particular Chinese auction, which took place at Pine Lodge, remained memorable for Dale.

“The auction is when you have a hidden prize, and you set the price and whenever the bid gets to that certain number, the person gets the prize. It’s not the highest bid,” explained Dale.  “I was in charge of the Chinese auction and I was heading down and thought, ‘Geez, I never got a prize.’ I went to Drummonds’ farm and there I was dressed up in a suit, asking do you have a rooster or hen, something I can auction off and put it in a box?”

Dale settled on a turkey. “I went up the ladder, grabbed a turkey by the leg and by the time I got down, you didn’t know what my suit was like. When the time came for the auction, we were raising money and it was a lady from Ottawa who came on the bus, who won the prize. There was a cord sticking out the box. I said, pull the cord and she did and the turkey came out. The lady said, ‘What am I’m going to with this damn thing?” laughed Dale. “We had to put it back in the box and put it on the bus.”

Good humour aside, the project that Dale feels the most pride is the ‘old age home,’ built in the 1970s. “The home-on-the-hill meant our elderly could remain here instead of having to go to Hull. The Lions started the ball rolling and were quite involved until the Pontiac Reception Centre Foundation was formed,” Dale noted, that Lions’ funds had built the sunroom as well as purchase special chairs, beds etc.

The Lions Hall finally gave a place for meetings, after the arena was opened in 1967 and is frequented by many of the public. It holds everything from wedding receptions, stags, birthday parties, meetings, hockey activities and the Corriveau School of Dance.

“At the end of the road, you feel like you made it a better place,” said Dale. “You get just as much or even more out of it than the person you did it for.”

By: Scott Campbell – November, 2014

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