You cannot talk about the history of the Longview (Pioneer) Lions without also talking about the history of Longview. The history of the club and the city parallel each other because of the membership. Leadership in any community tends to concentrate in the service clubs where projects that don’t fit into any other category can be tackled and solved. When the city was new, many of its founders were Lions members, and they provided the cultural, scholastic, sporting and civic leadership necessary for development.
Take a look at the list of the 25 who were members of the Longview Lions on the night of the Charter presentation in 1923. The 17 charter members were Alex Hay, tax consultant for the Long-Bell Lumber Co.; George O’Brien, lawyer; S. M. “Mark” Morris, Long-Bell vice president; H. W. Jackson, Chief of Police; Dave Boice, manager of the Monticello Hotel; A. R. Gibbs, land manager for Long-Bell and the city’s first mayor (and club president in 1928); Leslie C. Stith, secretary of the Longview Co.; C. R. Hammond, jeweler; Ira Judd, book store owner; Roy F. Morse, manager of the Ryderwood operations (club president 1924 & part of 1923); Doctors J. L. Norris (club president 1934) and W. H. Sharp (charter president in 1923); Gus M. Hafenbrack, of the Longview Chamber of Commerce; Leith Abbott, advertising manager for Long-Bell; H. H. Rock, banker; H . H. Clarke, fire chief; and Wilbur Arnett, jeweler (club president 1931). The 8 other members who joined in the first month (before the charter was presented) were J. M. McClelland, publisher of the Longview Daily News; the Rev. E. H. Gebert, pastor of the Community Church; Wesley Vandercook, engineer of Long-Bell; T. N. Foster, manager of the industrial department for Long-Bell; I. W. Collins, loan company manager (club president 1925); Charles Nutter of the YMCA; C. C. Tibbetts, printer; and A. E. Paulson of the Long-Bell real estate department.
Chartered in November of 1923 and sponsored by the Tacoma Lions Club (now known as the Tacoma Downtown Lions), the Longview Lions received their Charter in a special ceremony on December 16, 1923. 100 Lions from Spokane, Bellingham, Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Wenatchee, Yakima, and Portland were on hand for the ceremony. A high honor to have these Lions travel that distance in the middle of December of 1923. Not exactly an easy trip in those days!
Working with R. A. Long and the new city’s officials, the Lions helped build the new road to Cathlamet and over KM Mountain, sponsored a baseball team, promoted the Columbia Theater, and helped develop the YMCA.
Members donated time, talent and money and became true pioneers of this planned city. In 1968, out of respect for those who led the way, the Longview Lions become known as the Longview Pioneer Lions Club. Today, members are continuing to meet the needs of our Community and society.
A list of club projects would take more time and space than this publication allows. A high priority has always been the Lions Sight Foundation and Eye Bank. The Pioneer Lions are one of the prime sponsors of the annual Walk ‘N Knock food drive, and cover a wider area than any other organization. Scholarships are awarded annually to students from the local high schools and Lower Columbia College, and we support numerous youth activities in the community. For the past several years we have been building wheelchair ramps for the elderly and handicapped. Club projects have been successful because the membership represents a cross section of the community.
With the blessings of the City Council, the members selected an underbrush‑and debris‑laden island in Lake Sacajawea as a community project. Enduring blackberry pricks and sore muscles, the Lions labored to remove the eyesore and rejuvenated the island with new shrubbery, footpaths and underground wiring. Later, club members built a new bridge to the island and erected a totem pole.
Thousands of our citizens and visitors have enjoyed the Christmas displays and year‑round beauty. There have been several weddings here, children fish from the bridge, and the annual Fourth of July fireworks display emanates on the Martin’s Dock side of the gazebo. In 1969, the city renamed the island Lions Island.
Other lakeside Lions contributions include a physical fitness trail around the lake and the first public restrooms near Martin’s Dock, donated by club member Morris Wasser. The Monticello Lions have built a picnic shelter and signs to guide visitors to points of interest.
The Pioneer Lions Club built two Girl Scout camps. The first, Camp Coweeman, was located along the Coweeman River. The larger Evergreen Camp was located on Mill Creek. Over the years, club members spent many days setting up tents, erecting buildings, creating swimming holes, and blazing hiking trails for the enjoyment of thousands of girls. Club members also were active in building Camp Fire’s Camp Singing Wind near Toledo, the Toutle River Boys Ranch, and the old Spirit Lake YMCA camp at Mount St. Helens. In recent years, club members have built dozens of wheelchair ramps for low income handicapped members of our community.
The projects are funded by operation of the Chuckwagon, the annual Go-4th Beergarden, radio days, recycling, special item sales and other methods. The Lions appreciate the community support in these fund‑raising efforts.
The Longview Pioneer Lions have supported district and Lions International programs. The club has provided numerous zone chairmen, seven district governors, a multiple district cabinet chairman, a sight foundation president and an international director. Members have served as project chairmen and forum leaders and the club has hosted several conventions.
The club has sponsored nine new Lions clubs, one Lioness club and a Leo club. Many honors and awards have been bestowed on the club and its individual members by all levels of Lions International and by an appreciative community.
With the encouragement and support of it’s members, other Lions clubs and our community, the Longview Pioneer Lions have raised and contributed over $2 million to serve the needs of our area. The Longview Pioneer Lions, upholding the motto of Lionism “WE SERVE”, are proud of their accomplishments of the past 90 years and look forward to the challenges ahead.