Old Minutes Document Decades of Fun, Friendship, Community Service

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A huge binder of Crozet Lions Club minutes over the years lends some insights into its history. John Mikalson summarized some of the highlights at a recent meeting. Photo: Theresa Curry.

There comes a time when every one of us has to face the old paperwork that accumulates in basements, attics, file cabinets and closets, and the Crozet Lions Club is no exception. A recent ambitious attempt to tidy up its storage closet at The Meadows found nearly 20 years of minutes, records that provide a glimpse of the club’s unique combination of playfulness and serious commitment to Crozet. 

Among those sifting through the mountains of paper was Jon Mikalson, the club’s secretary, and he took a special interest. Mikalson a retired classics professor, recognized the importance that scraps of conversations and everyday business can have in understanding history. Mikalson gave a talk about his finds at the Lion Club’s regular meeting in February. 

Any long-time Lion (or Crozetian) knows the importance of Ruth Chiles in the club’s history. The 1970 minutes document her role as a pianist for the yearly variety show, and she went on to become the director, a post she held for 35 years. Although long-associated with the club, she wasn’t actually a member until the club admitted women in 1989.

Also in 1970, the Salvation Army requested the club’s help in ringing bells at Christmas time, a role they reprised in 1974, 1977, 1978 and onward. After a short break, the Lions have gone back to bell-ringing in modern times.

The Crozet Lions Club has always managed to have fun while helping the Crozet Community. This undated flier advertises the annual talent show, a Lions traditin for decades. Photo: Theresa Curry.

In 1971, Alvin Toms, a prominent banker as well as a Lion, told the club that he owed a lot to the Lions of 1948 who had helped him when he lost an eye. Toms made a donation of $100 to show his gratitude. Toms was enlisted in 1977, along with Jack Pollack, to recruit a candidate for the Miss Crozet Beauty Pageant, an effort that met with no takers. The men claimed that “an enormous outpouring of personal charm,” was expended before their ultimate failure. However, by 1983, the Lion’s $15 sponsorship of a candidate in the “Miss Peach Tree Queen” contest was graciously accepted by Sheila Critzer. 

The U.Va fans in the audience groaned as they learned that in November, 1970, those long-ago Lions were offered season tickets for basketball at $20. Also of interest in 1980: an obituary for former Boston Braves pitcher Ernesto Foote, who was a Crozet Lion in his retirement, reminded club members that Foote had pitched to Babe Ruth and struck the Babe out.

In the early 70s, the Lions were convinced of the need for a sewer system, after a guest speaker highlighted the progress that might follow if one was installed. By 1974, they fell in behind the idea of bringing a sewer system to Crozet, and supported a petition circulating that year. Although the original idea was to support the Conagra manufacturing plant, Mikalson observed that progress on the sewer was one of the factors feeding subsequent Crozet-area growth.

The Lions were big supporters of the Crozet Park. With the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department, and the Crozet Woman’s Club, they founded the Park, and those bodies were jointly directed to either manage the park or sell all its assets if the governing body went under. This stipulation was amended in 1985 to appoint the County as the buyer (for $1) in case of failure. By December 1984, the club had taken over the park’s hot dog and hamburger stand, netting $975 during their first season operating it.

Other significant support was given: in 1972, to the Martha Jefferson Hospital building fund; to the newly constructed Western Albemarle High School in 1977; and to the newly organized rescue squad in 1978.

Mikalson’s light-hearted review of the old minutes is merely a glimpse into the huge array of community services the Crozet Lions Club has provided over its long history. Originally founded in 1938, the club included most of the town’s important business and professional men and those who, less well-known, also had a deep desire to be of service. Phil James wrote an exhaustive history of the Lions in the December 8, 2018 edition of the Gazette.

Mikalson said membership fell off during the pandemic, but is quickly growing back to its normal level. Like all Lions clubs, the Crozet chapter has devoted hundreds of hours of work to collecting and recycling eyeglasses as well as conducting vision screenings, most recently at Henley Middle School and Western Albemarle High School. In the minutes, there are at least 150 mentions of individual people helped by the Lions over the years, with the additional help of Crozet Eye Care. Lions also recycle scrap metal, and raise funds with their traditional high-quality Lions brooms. They’re marching with the brooms in the Batesville Parade, Saturday, May 4.

Of special interest is the upcoming Spring Fair, March 16. It’s an important fundraiser for the ongoing work in vision, hearing, diabetes and hunger. The Crozet Lions will present live music, face painting, animals of assorted sizes, food trucks, a live auction and craft sales, along with demonstrations by the Albemarle Police Department. The event, at Crozet Baptist Church on St. George Avenue, will be from 1 to 4 p.m. 

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