Marion Lions Club was organized on April 24, 1923 by Warren A. Chilcote, who got a $500.00 commission for organizing the club. There were 40 charter members and the first president was John M. Reid, a lawyer who later became a city judge. We were incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation on 9-6-83 under the name of Lions Club of Marion, Illinois. Melvin Jones was credited as the founder of International Association of Lions Clubs, the world's largest service club organization with more than 1.3 million members in about 45,000 clubs in more than 200 countries around the world.
LIONS STAND FOR LIBERTY-INTELLIGENCE-OUR NATIONS SAFETY
World War I had ended in 1918 and women had gotten the right to vote. The 20's were marked with violence and tragedy. The Lester Mine Riots, commonly referred to as the Herrin Massacre which took place on June 21, 1922 and June 22, 1922 when 26 miners were killed; most of whom were killed were called "scabs" - workers imported to work while the mine was on strike.
The first mine riot trial was against five men who were found not guilty by a jury on January 19, 1923, and the second trial was against six men and started on February 12, 1923, and the jury verdict was also not guilty on April 6, 1923. It was 18 days later that the club was organized in Marion, Illinois in Hayton Garage, a car dealership. Also, on or about May 20, 1923, the Ku Klux Klan first made their appearance with S. Glen Young. The 20's were days of Model T and Model A Fords and the market crash of 1929. Then we had the depression of the 30's. The repeal of prohibition, the days of WPA and CCC Camp. One highlight of the club was the sponsoring of the Lions State Convention on May 23 and 24, 1927 at White City Park in Herrin, Illinois, which was the only state convention of the International ever held in Southern Illinois. In order to accommodate those who attended the convention from distant cities, the railroad company located Pullman cars at Herrin, IL for use at hotels. The 20's were also the days of Charlie Birger and the Sheltons engaging in illicit liquor trade, and history seems to indicate that S. Glen Young and Ku Klux Klan entered their appearance to help stop that activity in and around Williamson County. Then there was another event - the hanging of Charlie Birger in Benton, IL on April 19, 1928.
By the 30's the membership got down to 10 to 13 and the club was inactive from 1931 to 1934 when times were tough during the depression. Melvin Jones, the founder of Lions International, visited the Marion Lions Club on March 23, 1937, at the Christian Church in Marion, Illinois, where the Lions Club held their meetings every Wednesday noon and were served lunch by the goods ladies of the Christian Church.
Then came the 40's when some of our members and many others were drafted and marched off to service in 1940 and to war after December 7, 1941, which continued until 1945. After that there was a retooling period and in the 50's we had the Korean War and in the late 60's and 70's we had the Vietnam War and protestors, which even closed SIU for a short period. We did have a member or two who served during the 1990 Desert Storm also.
Our club has been actively engaged in work and projects on behalf of the blind and prevention thereof, on behalf of those suffering with diabetes and also for the hearing impaired.
The Club has:
·Supported youth baseball and softball teams
·Supported Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America
·Helped provide funds for the Boy Scout Cabin
·Provide equipment for school safety patrols
·Provided Christmas parties and Christmas treats and toys for needy children
·Furnished white canes for the blind provided money for an eye bank fund and otherwise cooperated in the eye bank program
·Aided in the flood relief during the disastrous flood of 1937
·Held and sponsored model airplane contests
·Sponsored stock car races
·Maintained a concession stand at the county fair- had a popcorn and hot dog machine which was used there and other places to raise funds
·Contributed to leader dog and Hadley School for the Blind
·Raised funds held collections for Candy Day
·Bought and supplied talking book machines
·Conducted horse shows
·Had a dunking machine at the fair grounds
·Sold brooms and household numbers for lawns, which proceeds were used for the mobile glaucoma screening unit
·Held our annual Lions Club awards at the high school
·Donated to United Fund and Camp Lions
·Raised funds by assisting a carnival yearly
·Conducted golf tournaments yearly
·Sold barbecued pork butts twice a year
·Held Showcase Theater Circus
·Raising funds for many other projects and activities has been Lionism in action.
The depot on West Mains Street in Marin, IL was built in 1908 only a few years after construction crews brought the railroad as far south as Marion in the general development of that era which was witnessing the first rapid growth of the coal industry in Southern Illinois. The long, one-story structure has 14 inch walls that make it a durable monument to the community's industrial development. It is 106 feet long and 26 feet wide.
With the expenditure of approximately $13,000 in money, some donated and some borrowed, and thousands of hours of labor on the part of volunteers, the building was rewired, insulation and paneling installed, new lower ceiling built in, plumbing replaced and carpet laid. The completed project provided the club with a meeting place, including a kitchen and equipment, and office rooms occupying half the floor space and yielding income from rental.
We bought the old C&EI Railroad Depot, remodeled it and moved into the building in 1976, paying $750.00 for the building and leased the land upon which the depot was standing from the railroad company who presently owns the land and right of way. At some time years ago, the C&EI Railroad provided passenger service to Chicago on the "Meadow Lark" from Chicago to Southern Illinois.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the ladies who played the piano over the years at our weekly meetings, namely Mrs. Ray Carroll and Donna Sims.
Ladies were admitted into the club in about 1990 as members, although we have had Lady Lioness Club as a separate group prior to that, and they have contributed greatly to our Club.
Lionism practiced by this Club has touched almost every facet of life in Marion, IL for these many years, and we owe a debt of gratitude to those who served for us.