Our Lions Club History

The community of Cucamonga was a small rural agricultural area. There were some citrus groves and many acres of dry land vineyards. Cucamonga was bordered on the north by Alta Loma, which had more citrus than vineyards and Etiwanda on the east that was mostly vineyards.

Each community had its citrus packing houses and wineries. The largest wineries in 1947 were the holdings of the Garrett Company, (a.k.a. Mission Winery) and Virginia Dare Winery. Garrett also had all of the Guasti facilities in the community of Guasti. The Virginia Dare winery, on the corner of Foothill and Haven, to this day still displays portions of its tower and the gold lettered sign at the top. The community of Cucamonga also still retains portions of California’s oldest winery. The winery dating back to Jose Maria Valdez, who was in charge of Don Tiburcio Tapia’s land grant where the “Mother Vineyard” was planted in 1840. The vines from the “Mother Vineyard” were secured from the San Gabriel Mission.

This planting of the “Mother Vineyard” and the establishment of a winery allowed Cucamonga to take its place in history as the location of the oldest winery in California. The establishment of a large scale vineyard didn’t occur until the ranch was purchased by John and Dona Merced Rains in 1856. By the nineteen hundreds grape acreage in the community grew to be recognized as the largest vineyard in the world.

During these near 60 years the Lions have given in time, funds and services to help those less fortunate and the many organizations that make up the back bone of these three communities. These efforts still continue today. The Charter Members of the Cucamonga District Lions were proud of their club and they wanted the community to know that there are Lions in Cucamonga ready to serve. Today you can see their sign. Take notice as you drive west on Foothill. (route 66) west of Ramona, you will see a Lions International sign. It is the survivor of the original two signs. The other sign was located just east of Hellman Avenue and disappeared as the area developed.

It is with lasting pride that the club also has had two of its former members achieve the office of International District Governor. Many of its members have and continue to participate in district matters and aspire for the higher offices. The probability that yet another member will achieve the governorship is always present.

Cucamonga District Host Lions Club – The Story:

November 19, 1947 The Cucamonga District Lions Club was chartered with 35 members “District” in the name being the inclusion of Alta Loma, and Etiwanda communities with Cucamonga, from which it drew its membership. The Club was sponsored by the Ontario Host Lions Club. The District club still serves these three areas. Its membership still reflects representation of the Rancho Cucamonga community.

The Cucamonga Lions drew their membership from the district citizens and businesses. They made their logo, two green grape leaves and a bunch of ripe purple grapes. This logo is proudly displayed, to this day, on their Lion apparel and club pins.

The District Lions became the Host Lions with their sponsorship of two additional Lions Clubs for the community. A breakfast club and an evening Lioness club were chartered in July and August 1984. The Lioness Club evolved into the Rancho Cucamonga Community Lions in 1994. The Cucamonga District Host Lions Club and the Rancho Cucamonga Community Lion Club now have a combined membership of over 65 men and women.

The Cucamonga Lions first effort, the need to raise funds, was to last 30 years. The Lions started an annual “Pit Cooked Beef BBQ” that was a success from the beginning. It was discontinued in 1977 because the high cost of beef reduced profits and APA rules forbid the use open fires, a requirement for pit cooking. The gradual decline of agriculture also brought on the demise of the Growers Service and Supply Co. The BBQ was always prepared on the NE corner of Hellman and Baseline, which was a large barren field with some warehouse sheds and an office of the Orchard Supply and Service Co. Orchard Co. catered to the growers supply needs including pest control. The manager, Lion Louie Vincent as a member allowed the use of the open field for the beef cooking spot. The work parties detailed to this yearly project using equipment on site or furnished by members to dig a large pit somewhere on the five plus acres and a large fire burned in that pit all day while other workers prepared the beef. The beef was wrapped in clean white cloths and that in turn was wrapped in wet burlap and tied. Toward evening the neatly wrapped bundles (several hundred pounds of beef shoulder) were placed in the pit and buried. This was a lot of hard work. But Lions have a way of making all work efforts fun. On one occasion, the work party that had buried the beef wasn’t sure where they had put it, requiring several holes to be dug before they found the hot earth. That also proved to be one of the more successful events of its time. These events were always held in the local area parks and community centers. The last one was held at what is now Red Hill Park across the street from Alta Loma High School.

The Lions immediately involved themselves with the local service club in yearly displays at the National Orange Show, in San Bernardino and the Los Angeles County Fair, in Pomona. As a result, the Cucamonga Service Club turned these two events over to the Lions and for 50 years the lions participated in these two fund raisers.

These two events were generally the largest part of the Lions budget income. The Orange Show was first in early spring and the fair in mid fall. The Orange Show required a presentation of citrus products. Specifically forty cartons of oranges, grapefruit and. Charter member Arthur Allen and his wife Mildred were the art directors of all these events. They were well versed in the judge’s requirements and over the years had acquired great expertise in coming up with just the right refinements that consistently won top money.

The LA County Fair was always a community display, featuring the areas changing features or history. The chairman of these two events and his committee had a year around job. Much of the design and orientation of these exhibits was planned so that the first display could with very little changes be adapted to the second effort. Club participation was generally one hundred percent. Again the Lions work and fun combination was the envy of all the exhibitors. From the donations received from local merchants, wineries and group pot luck dinners, the final night of completing the exhibits resulted in a merry time for all.

The club has several albums of pictures and newspaper clippings of their prize winning exhibits. The club earned two silver plaques from the LA County Fair, a first place award for community exhibit and a president’s award for overall display in the community category.

Many of the clubs awards are on display in the main entrance of Lions Center West on Baseline Road just west of Hellman Avenue a short distance from where the lions prepared their BBQ for so many years.

Unfortunately after fifty years of these efforts both the Orange Show and the LA Fair no longer invited exhibitors to compete for money prizes. At the time that the projects ended in 1997 & 1998 it was calculated that in those years the Club had channeled the best part of one hundred thousand dollars into the community from these two projects alone.

The origin of Lions Center on Baseline, just two blocks from the old Growers Service and Supply Company, had its beginning in 1950, when the Lions, looking to the future, purchased the five acre lot. The property needed water rights in order to make improvements. With diligent effort of the club’s first president, Carl Massingale (1947-1949), Arthur Allen, the club’s second president (1949-1950), and a very inspired membership the land was cleared and water rights were obtained. The lions also dedicated a street on the west property line, which to this day is known as Lions Street.

The first order of business was San Bernardino Counties’ request for a library in Cucamonga, The club and a bank employed member [name] took this in stride and in due time financed a building, negotiated an agreement with the county and in 1964 the San Bernardino County Library opened on the lion’s property. As the community grew, the county asked for a larger building in 1974. The Lions opted to transfer the property and building to the county, with stipulations that it always must remain a community service facility.

Lion George Parker a 40 year plus member, was instrumental in entering this requirement into the transfer and paved the way for the eventual transfer from the county to the city. In 1977 with the incorporation of the city of Rancho Cucamonga, the county was forced to transfer the buildings and property to the newly incorporated city. Along with the counties’ improvements and the cities’ two remodeled facilities, the community now has Lion Center East dedicated in January of 1998 and Lions Center West dedicated in October of the same year. The main entrance to Lions Center West displays a plaque dedicated to the Host Lions and in the main hall the display case contains many of the club’s trophies and miscellaneous Lions memorabilia collected over the last 58 years. The Filippi room, on the northeast comer of Lions West is the original county library.