Who, in 1935, of the 20 charter members could have imagined that the Toronto Beaches Lions Club (TBLC) would have such a long and successful future.
A club whose zeal and vibrancy has enhanced the quality of life for many East Toronto residents. Many of the
good deeds performed by the Lions go almost totally unnoticed by the general public. Whether it be gifts of money, donations of food, heating fuel, clothing - the list is almost endless.
When it comes to serving the community nobody does it better.
Some of the activities of the TBLC, however, are very obvious to the public. Events such as the Easter Parade, Christmas Tree Lighting, Canada Day celebrations, just some of the many activities sponsored and staged by the TBLC.
The TBLC is a part of Lions Clubs International. Lions Clubs International is the largest service organization in the world with an excess of 1.5 million members.
Although its headquarters is in Oak Brook Illinois, it is a truly international body with clubs in over 180 countries and geographical areas.
The objective of Lionism is to serve the community - neighbour helping neighbour. It did not take long before this simple, yet broad ideal spread throughout the world.
On a global level Lions have for many years been associated with their work with the blind and the prevention of blindness. This relationship arose because of the efforts of a tireless defender of the physically disadvantaged - Helen Keller.
While at the 1925 International Convention, in a crowded room charged with emotion, Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness".
A challenge which the Lions all too eagerly accepted. To honour Helen Keller the Lions made her the first female member of their association.
Lions International was formed in Chicago in 1917.
Although it was called international, it did not truly become an international organization until a Lions club was formed in Windsor Ontario, in 1920.
That same year a club was chartered in Toronto, and still bears the name Lions Club of Toronto (Central). In 1931 a lions club was formed in East Toronto. It was only the second service club east of the Don River, and its service area included East Toronto and the then Township of East York.
Throughout its long and illustrious history the club has changed its name several times to reflect its primary area of
service. Initially called the Toronto East Lions Club its name was changed to the Danforth Lions Club and finally to the East York Danforth Lions Club.
The first President of the East York Danforth Lions was George Bosnell, an optometrist.
It was through Bosnell's guidance that the Club helped many people by supplying them with eye glasses. Other charter members included Ken Waters, whose family owned and operated a florist shop on Danforth Avenue.
Some of the activities that the club engaged in were the distribution of cod liver oil, food and eye glasses.
On several occasions the Lions held Midnight Frolics at the Prince of Wales theatre at Woodbine and Danforth and the Palace theatre at Pape and Danforth.
In 1935 the East York Danforth Lions sponsored the Toronto Beaches Lions Club. The Beaches Lions in turn sponsored the Scarborough Central Lions Club and several other Lions Clubs throughout the years.
The driving force in the establishment of the TBLC and its first president was an optometrist named John Dee, who had an office on Queen Street across from Kew Gardens.
Other charter members included local businessmen:
Dr. Walter H. Godsoe,
and Wyn Beckett.
In 1935 one of the first orders of business for the newly formed Beaches Lions was to secure a speed boat for patrolling the various beaches in East Toronto. The Club also organized food and skate drives.
The Movie theatres along Queen Street would cooperate by showing matinees at which people would gain admittance by donating food and or skates for the needy.
Very early in its history the TBLC held carnivals as their major fund raising project. Over the years the summer carnivals moved from the Balmy Beach Canoe Club to Pantry Park and finally to the Greenwood Race Track.
Before the area around the Race Track became fully developed the TBLC use to run a parking lot for the patrons of the races.
Operating in a dirt field, one day it rained so hard the Lions had to enlist the aid of tow trucks to help the patrons remove their cars.
The Ontario Jockey Club eventually consolidated the parking operations. The close relationship between the two Clubs enabled the TBLC to later organize Giant Bingos at the Race Track.
The long association that the TBLC has had with the Ontario Jockey Club is indicative of the connection it has with many local organizations.
The TBLC has been a regular supported of groups such as Senior Link, Applegrove Community Centre, Community Centre 55, Balmy Beach Canoe Club and more generally senior citizens organizations, schools, sport teams and learning centres. Senior Link, and Ward Nine (Beach Metro) News all received seed money from the TBLC to help start them off.
The TBLC financed and built 2 wading pools. While attending the International Convention in New York City, July, 1949, several members of the Club visited Central Park. As they admired the fountain, they noticed how much fun children were having running in and out of the water.
They immediately seized upon the idea of creating a wading pool with a fountain of water streaming up from the centre. In September 1949 the TBLC began fund-raising for the building of a childrens' wading pool in Kew Gardens.
The Club enlisted the talents of renown Canadian Architect, Bill Sheets, who designed the Canada Life Building at University and Queen, to create a blue print for the pool. Various locations for the pool were considered but it was not until the Spring of 1953 that Kew Gardens was chosen.
The ground turning ceremony, presided over by Mayor Allen Lamport, took place on July 6, 1953.
The wading pool was officially and appropriately opened on September 2, 1953, during a 100 degree heat wave. Subsequently the TBLC built the wading pool in Woodbine park closer to Coxwell Avenue.
The Lions are particularly proud of the building of a senior citizens' residence at 50 Norway Avenue, at a cost of over 1 million dollars. At its Regular Meeting of June 11, 1962 the Club decided to engage in a major project.
Soon after a committee was struck to investigate the possibility of acquiring land and building a seniors' home. The City eventually sold an old garbage dump it had operated over a swamp at 50 Norway Avenue to the TBLC for a term of 99 years at a cost of one dollar.
The swamp caused the ground to be so unstable that numerous piles had to be put into the ground just to support the foundation of the building.
The Apartment Building consists of 43 suites. Notwithstanding several set backs, involving funding and a bankrupt general contractor, the Beaches Lions Centennial Apartments were officially opened on June 1, 1966.
Initially it was the intention of the members of the TBLC to operate the Apartments themselves, however after one year it was decided to sell the operation to Metropolitan Toronto at a cost of one dollar. The TBLC maintained close ties with the residents of 50 Norway for many years to come.
As successful as the TBLC has been its not to say the Club has not run into its share of controversies. In 1948 the Club held a huge Christmas Carnival at the C.N.E. Coliseum.
The Carnival was so spectacular that revenue from patrons fell far short of operating expenses. As a result the Club when over $40,000.00 in debt.
Thanks to an outpouring of generosity from groups, business and individuals from all over Toronto the TBLC was able to pay off all its debts and loans within 3 years.
The Club was once again at the centre of controversy, as the Metro Police Morality Squad was called to investigate, what some irate citizens called, a "Girlie Show".
For many years the TBLC has operated their own summer carnivals. At a certain point in its history, however, the TBLC decided to let professional Carnival Companies organize and operate their carnivals. So ended the days of the street dances to the sound of live bands, and the infamous "Mutt Shows", where any old pooch could win a prize if his tail was long or short enough.
In 1963 the TBLC had sponsored a professionally run carnival at the Greenwood Race Track. One of the acts that was featured at the carnival was a groups of semi-clad women, each with an exotic name, who beckoned patrons to buy a ticket and come into the tent.
Although the show only took place at night, it was inevitable that some one would complain. The Toronto newspapers were quick to pick up on the story, with headlines such as "Green Light for Girlie Show" and "Police Look in on Juicy Lucy."
The carnival was allowed to continue when it became clear that the show exposed more hype than hip.