90 years of service, something to roar about
By Wayne E. Rivet
Al Glover vividly remembers how he was lured to be a Lion.
“I caught a girl cheating my first year teaching here (Bridgton High School), and I was told the principal wanted to see me. I thought, ‘Gee, word travels fast in this place.’ So, I went down to see him and his opening comment was, ‘Would you like to be my guest Monday night at the Lions Club meeting?’ I went and I’ve been a part of the club ever since,” Al said.
Al has been somewhat of a cornerstone for the Bridgton club, which is the third oldest in Maine — behind Portland and Bangor. He is presently the oldest member of the local service organization at 58 years of service.
“We are within three years of each other (the three original clubs),” Al said. “I think there was some type of connection between someone in Portland who knew someone in Bridgton. I knew Ed Corliss, who was Pat Rafferty’s father-in-law (and was the first Bridgton King Lion). That’s why some accuse me of being a charter member (there were 20).”
“When I first joined, it was about being a business professional — shirt and tie. That’s gone. Now, if you are interested, want to help somebody and the community, a little bit of dedication and time, we want you. You’ll have fun doing it,” Al said.
The Bridgton Lions Club celebrated their 90th anniversary on Monday, Nov. 21 at Bridgton Academy.
After dinner, a Proclamation from Governor LePage, congratulating the Club on their 90 years of continuous service to the community, was presented by State Representative Phyllis Ginzler.
A synopsis of the Club’s history was presented by Lion Bob Pelletier, who also recognized the 25 past recipients of the “Melvin Jones Fellow” award. Current members who are Fellows include Glover, along with Dean Brown, Steve Collins, Bob Hatch, Al Hayes Jr., Bruce Jones, Richard Lewis, Bob McHatton, Pat McHatton, Jim Quinn, Dan Macdonald, Bob Pelletier, Carl Talbot and Brian Thomas.
Ron Johnson, Past International Lions Director, gave the keynote speech. Ron described many of his traveling adventures as an International Director and praised the Club for their selfless service to the community for the past 90 years.
Current Club President Al Glover was honored for 58 years of continuous service as a Lions member.
A “Special Achievement Award” from the Lions District 41 was presented by Norman Hart, 1st Vice District 41 Governor.
The Bridgton Lions Club formed on Nov. 4, 1926, and chartered on June 28, 1927. It has a rich and varied history and is always there to help those who need it the most.
People come and go, so did Al expect to be a Bridgton Lion for 58 years?
“I enjoy the involvement. I’ve moved up the ladders, having been president (four times), zone chairman (seven times) and governorships. It’s been quite a run,” he said. “When you look at the activities we do, certain guys have dedicated years to that service. That’s their ball game. Some do a little of everything. You saw a lot of effort back in the day, like when we held the Bean Hole Bean supper. Some guys would work the beans throughout the night. Today, you don’t see that kind of effort because people have so many things going on.”
Allen Hayes became a Lion in 1982, and has served as King Lion twice (1984 and 2012).
“I wasn’t active in any organizations in town and my father was in the Lions Club. I knew most of the members so it seemed a natural fit even though I was, by far, the youngest Lion when I joined,” Allen said. “I’ve stayed for so long because I knew that our club was and is a group that could get things done and I felt connected to that.”
Steve Collins has been a Lion for 33 years. “All the people I hung out with were Lions and I kept getting swept up into working on Lions things, so I said what the hell, I might as well join,” he said.
Bridgton Lions tackle an array of activities from organizing the town’s Fourth of July parade (since 1964), to offering an eyeglasses and hearing aids program, to raising funds to send children to camps or fund groups such as Girl Scouts to sponsoring the Student of the Month at Lake Region High School. That effort was jumpstarted by the late Harry Anschutz. He learned of the program while attending a Windham Lions meeting, and liked the idea, so he brought it to his group.
Good ideas have turned into longstanding service projects. Projects cost money, and Lions roll up their sleeves yearly holding raffles, selling food items out of their Chuck Wagon at special events, conduct a golf ball drop, to name a few.
“I enjoy being the Sight Chairman and being able to have such an effective part of the group even though some of the fundraising projects I can’t totally participate in as much because I’m so involved in our hardware store. I had the honor of following in my father’s footsteps as chair of this committee,” Al Hayes said. “I work with a Sight Committee that allows needy Bridgton residents to receive eyeglasses through the Lions Club. This is the mission of the Lions Club as ‘Knights of the Blind,’ which is what they were called by Helen Keller.”
They do it because they care about people and their community. Membership has been rather steady at 40-plus. The look of the club changed somewhat when women joined the ranks.
“It has gone quite well,” Al said. “We lost two guys because of it, but our first woman, who was the vocational director at the high school (Carolyn Chaplin) was outstanding. We have three female members right now. A lot of the wives of Lions are very supportive in our efforts, but they don’t want to be part of the club. That’s okay.”
Longstanding friendships and bonds also form, along with some great memories.
“I enjoyed walking in the Fred Dodge Journey for Sight for many years with Jack Horn. Jack is now a Lion in Naples. Sometimes, he would push me in a wheelbarrow or I would push him. Sometimes, we use a sulky. And many times we just walked. But it was a lot of fun raising money to support the Sight Program,” Hayes said.
Collins says the most rewarding aspect of Lions Club is “when a whole bunch of people come together and do something generous for the community. It’s never been a ‘moment,’ it’s been an experience.”
One experience Bob Pelletier will always remember is driving his farm tractor in a Fourth of July parade in the middle of a cloudburst.
“It seemed that all my friends and co-managers in the Green Mountain Shopping Center in Rutland, Vt. were members. After saying ‘No’ a hundred times, I caved in (1963),” Pelletier said. “All Lions are my friends and all my friends are Lions. ‘We Serve’ is the club’s motto, and there is great satisfaction in helping others who need support.”
The most rewarding aspect of being a Lion is service to others.
“We help the less fortunate, we help our community and we recognize students who excel,” Al said. “I’ve also enjoyed meeting a lot of people, both locally, across the state, and the country. I remember being at a convention in Atlanta and a woman saw my Bridgton Lions pin. She told me she had been to Bridgton, and had gone to Camp Millbrook (located down Route 93).”
He even visited the most expensive Lions Club in the world, Tokyo, which occupies an entire city block.
“I’d like to see my 60th year in Lions,” said Al, who will be 85 years old then. “If you want to help your community, being a Lion is the way to go.”
Bob Pelletier concurs. “A favorite comment is that in any community, Kiwanians run the town, Rotarians own the town, and Lions have all the fun.”
That fun has been going on in Bridgton for 90 years…and counting.