At the local level, The Merced Breakfast Lions Club
is a group of individuals who come together in the spirit of community
service, or giving back to the community, and along the way, develop a
camaraderie and lasting friendships within the club and Lions as a whole. Why are we Lions? Because we enjoy it!
The Club News, Sports Report and Community Guest Speakers are among the highlights of the weekly meetings, and are detailed in
BREAKFAST LIONS CLUB
Club History: The Early Years
The year is 1958. A group of business and professional men begin meeting and
planning for the second Lions Club in Merced. The Merced Host Lions Club had
been in existence for 36 years and graciously agreed to sponsor this
fledgling new Lions Club. Lion Bill Petzold, from the Merced Lions Club, was
the Guiding Lion. His son Guy, became our 27th club president in 1985. The
Charter was granted by Lions International on June 30, 1959. Our Club was
the first breakfast club chartered in Multiple District Four and was not
given much of a chance for success because “it was something different”.
There were 30 Breakfast Lions by charter presentation night on September 12,
1959. The Charter presentation night was attended by 185 persons and was
held at the Itlo-American Hall. Dignitaries included the District Governor
(Mel Kasak), Deputy District Governor (George Miyake), 6 International
Counselors, 4 Zone Chairmen, the Mayor of Merced (L. Earl Selter) and
representatives from 23 other Lions clubs. Jack Rowe was our charter
president and Frank Granada was the charter secretary. There was
considerable coverage of the event in the Merced Sun Star. Our meetings, for
many years, were held here at the Branding Iron.
By October 1960, we had 34 members. Frank Granata was our president and Les
Yoshida the secretary.
On October 1, 1963 we had 49 members. At charter night on October 30th of
that year, we inducted 13 new members for a total of 62. We had 78 members
in 1971 and 84 in 1984. Our high membership peaked at 92. We now have 47
One of the first projects was to plant a grove of trees at the new El
Capitan High School, which was located out in the country at Olive and G
Sts. We continued this and similar projects for several years at different
schools and parks on Arbor Day. Another early project was the purchase of
pheasants for the zoo at Applegate Park. We also began to provide
subscriptions to the Lions Magazine to the Merced County Library and to the
libraries at the local high schools. We continue to do this each year. Sight
conservation also became one of our important projects. Our first eye
examination and glasses cost $10.
Club visitations became an early priority. One of our first visitations was
to the Merced Lions Club. Jack Rowe recalls how we left that meeting with
their bell, podium, gavel and badge case. We became quite proficient in
borrowing other club’s equipment; but somewhere along the line, Jack became
confused in this concept. In 1960, he was visiting president Frank Granata
and noticed the club’s gavel and bell. Jack picked up those items and went
out the back door and placed them into his car. He then returned inside as
if nothing had happened. Jack, you are supposed to take other club’s
paraphernalia, not your own.
Jack’s other favorite story happened in the early 1960’s at the District
4-A1 convention in Yosemite. Jim Lowe was a salesman for the Volkswagen
dealership and had loaned his demonstrator to Jack who had to go to Fresno
to attend a meeting that was held during the same time as the convention.
Jack returned to Yosemite later that evening but had difficulty in finding a
place to park. Since the VW was a small vehicle, Jack decided to drive it up
the ramp to the porch at the Ahwahnee Hotel and park it. Needless to say,
the park rangers were not amused and Jack had to pay a $10 fine and never
got to drive one of Jim’s cars again.
In the 1960’s we sponsored Bike Rodeos at the elementary schools; judo
tournaments; Merced Skimmer’s Swim Tournaments; Senior Citizen parties with
Lion Vern Taylor and his musical group. We donated $1,200 to Camp Green
Meadows to help pay for materials to build a dormitory which we also helped
to construct. In 1963, we held our first pancake breakfast, sold bike wands
and started the Bear of the Week program. Other projects were broom sales,
birthday calendar sales, and house to house collection for the Cancer
Society. We also had a family picnic and collected toys for the Salvation
Army Christmas Toy Project. In 1960, we held our first White Cane days drive
with the Merced Lions Club. We netted $153.47. For several years, we also
applied reflectorized tape to bicycles as they were being licensed by the
Merced Police Department. Our first student speakers contest was held on
February 25, 1960. It was held in the evening and was a ladies night. It was
won by Danny Morris.
1971 was a busy year. In July, we sponsored a band concert in Courthouse
Park. We sold refreshments. 10 Lions put in 30 man hours and we earned $23.
Also, we started our pancake breakfasts. We served over 600 persons and made
$1,750. We awarded our first scholarships (2 at $200 each). In 2004, we
awarded 10 scholarships totaling $3,500. We participated in Lions Flag Day
and also started our blood bank account. We now average 7 blood donors every
8 weeks. November 1971 saw our first scholarship dinner. 200 tickets were
sold at $25 each. A color TV and a brand new 1972 automobile were the top
prizes. We netted $1,100.
In 1975, we became involved in the drive to raise money for Stadium 76 at
Merced College. We were one of the first groups to donate $1,000
In Feb 1976, we held our first annual cioppino dinner to raise funds for the
Lions Youth Exchange program. 26 Lions put in 108 man hours and $963.50 was
netted. In Sept 1976, we held our first annual Luau and raised $500 to
purchase sight screening material for the Lions Eye mobile. In Dec 1976, we
operated a store to car delivery service at the Merced Mall. 30 Lions
operated the golf cart delivery service during the two weeks before
Christmas. 106 man hours were put in and we earned $300 to purchase a
wheelchair for a handicapped child. In 1979, we initiated “Project Call a
Day” in which a Lion telephoned selected live alones to make sure that they
were all right. If there was no answer, we would make a personal visit. We
also ran a flea market at the Merced Fair Grounds.
We established our camperships at Camp Pacifica in 1982. This year we
awarded 5 camperships totaling $1,500. We started our fire works sales in
1987. 45 Lions put in 256 man hours and earned $2,500
We became involved in the Merced County Fair. We didn’t stop at just one
activity, but we sold store front banners; sold string ties; participated in
Mercy Gulch Days; sponsored dress-up contests and merchant window display
contests. We provided man power in organizing and conducting the Merced
County Fair parade—all of which occurred for several weeks prior to the
fair. Once the fair started, we entered the agriculture display booth
contest and participated in the 4H livestock auction. Our buyers Craig Smith
and Don St Louis sometimes got carried away in the bidding process. We ended
up with two live pigs and we weren’t really sure what to do with them. We
finally decided on a luau and held it at the Harris Acres Community Pool.
Everyone enjoyed themselves and made so much noise that a neighbor called
the sheriff’s department.
We also operated the food concession stand from a small building that we had
built with the help of Lion Bob Howerton and right next to it was our Lions
dunk tank. The tank was ridden by Lions, their wives and local dignitaries.
Our many community activities earned us Top Club Awards in the District.
Read newspaper article from April 21, 1966.
Today we have only two charter members remaining in the Club—Lions Jack Rowe
and Les Yoshida.
We have had six District Governors and one International Director.
I would like to close with a quote from the Charter Night Program of our
30th anniversary celebration in Oct 1989. “We take pride in our
accomplishments because we can truly say that we make the Merced community a
better place in which to live. This would not have been possible without the
foresight of our Charter Members who, 30 years ago, banded together in
service to our community and have handed down the tradition of the motto of
our association, “We Serve””.
Prepared by Bob Faretta,
For the 45th Charter Night celebration October 2004