This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section of The Dallas Morning News on October 20, 1995.


By Michael R. Hayslip

Leadership of the Garland Host Lions Club, once a bulwark of boisterous backslapping camaraderie, has now been seized by a woman for the first time since the group’s founding in (1938). Connie Hawes, Program Director of the Transitional Care Unit at Garland Community Hospital, began her term as President of the club in July.

Authority for the Garland Club’s action originates from the first annual Lions’ convention, held in October, 1917, at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. In his book Texas Lions 1917 - 1967 Judge Julian C. Hyer recounts this initial convocation of various isolated service clubs located throughout the country. Each group, he observed, seemed determined to mirror the successes of the Rotary Clubs, dating from 1905, and the Kiwanis Clubs, beginning in 1915.

Rejecting the St. Louis group’s motion to name the new organization “Vortex,” which means bringing together, the delegates approved the name “International Association of Lions’ Clubs.” (apostrophe in Lions’ is copied from original resolution: it is no longer used.)

The Lions also became, according to Dallas Morning News accounts of the proceedings, “the first mutual benefit business organization to recognize women constitutionally as a business entity” and to offer them membership alongside the men. Membership for both genders was restricted by vote to “white persons.”

While few ever accused any of the Garland Lions of failing to recognize women, the membership was slow to embrace womens’ constitutionality as business entities, white or not. They did, however, attempt to be inclusive with their fund-raising activities. During the mid-’50s the club dazzled the town with public performances of womanless wedding ceremonies, replete with pompous circumstance. The Lions claimed that they were forced into this posture because they had no female members at the time to play the womanly roles in a wedding.

Nevertheless, the Lions Club nuptials always turned into society affairs of note. Staged by Wayde Cloud, a local newspaper woman whose sense of etiquette and style added a touch of burlesque to the festivities, the wedding parties included lumbering local luminaries such as Carl Axe, Glen Couch, Curtis Crossman Jr., Bill Ellington, Wallace Ethridge, R. K. Gardner, Laverne Goodwin, Jack Grissom, Pete Handley, Herschel Harper Jr., Dub Harrison, M. S. Hollenshead, Rene Lloyd, Jack McDaniel, R. J. McGinnis, Elmer Newman, Connie Oglesby and Pete Peters.

Walter Beach, temporary Secretary-Treasurer of the club since 1989, certified that since the first woman joined the group three years ago, as many as six have belonged at one time. The current female census, he added, is two (out of 80), which is inadequate to stage a manless wedding. Beach claims that the group would like to see more women join.

Apparently convinced that almost any fundraising project is acceptable for a worthy cause, the Garland Host Club’s members have sold brooms, mops, pecans, light bulbs and discount coupon books. Once they even sponsored a circus, which was replaced by the womanless weddings, which has been superseded by 37 tamer years of chicken barbecues.

Proceeds from the club’s fundraising activities benefit the Julian C. Hyer Lions Youth Camp, the Sight and Tissue Foundation and the Texas Lions Camp for Crippled Children with its associated diabetic camp. Local causes include providing eyeglasses, guide dogs and hearing decoders for children.