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Looking back with pride on Walsenburg’s Lions Club

by Carolyn Newman

WALSENBURG — The Lions Clubs nationally is now 100 years old. But Walsenburg’s Lions Club is no more; as the county population declined so so did membership in service clubs.

Service clubs have often afforded creative and social-minded community members an outlet for good works as well as for fun. When the local Lions Club was organized in 1939, it gave local businessmen an opportunity to help children. Some 180 Lions and guests celebrated the awarding of the Walsenburg’s Lions charter Aug. 8, 1939, with a banquet, speeches, and a dance at St. Mary’ s school. Sixteen charter members, notably Sumner W. Jellison (the first president) along with Harry Haines, Oscar Santi, Dr. Walter Chapman, and Joe Zgut,.

Sadly Jellison, 35, died from the complications from a ruptured appendix just two years later.

The good works began as soon as the charter was received.. Badges and presents went to the junior traffic patrols at the schools.

Lions helped fund the school hot lunch program – in 1940 1,100 students were fed daily free. In fact, the Lions here sponsored a benefit movie for that purpose. They showed Shirley Temple in “The Little Princess.” Admission was 5 cents for kids and 25 cents for adults, and a total of $57.96 was raised. Of course it cost 4 cents per lunch serving.

Lions Club programs were usually aimed at children: kite-flying contests, speech contests, sponsoring sports teams and Boy Scouts.

Two years later, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into World War II, the Lions sold flags to support the Red Cross, collected metal and rubber scrap, gave blood, and kept in touch with local boys in service.

The club toured the excelsior mill in La Veta, vital in the war effort as excelsior provided packing materials for the war supplies. After the war, 55 eighth graders from the county’s rural schools where honored at a luncheon in 1945. Then the well-known minstrel shows began as Lions took to the stage.

One hundredth anniversaries will be celebrated across the world in some 200 countries this year, but not in Walsenburg.

The program cover in the illustration is from a Lions scrapbook in the Huerfano Heritage Center, originally presented to the first local Lions president, Sumner Jellison, at Christmas 1939. In 2017 the scrapbook was donated to the Center by Gordon Kelley.

Information is from the internet and from clippings in the scrapbook.

The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society 719-738-2346

The Heritage Center thanks 13 AmeriCorps volunteers for their cleaning the granary, raking leaves, and updating the obituary index.

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