The Costa Mesa-Newport Harbor Lions Club was given their charter on May 17, 1927, nine years after the international group began. 21 community leaders were its first members. From the beginning, the group worked to better the community, often working with other groups – the Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion and the Women’s Club for example – to accomplish their own goals. The Lions used various methods of fundraising before finally settling on the Fish Fry in 1946. Each year they have continued to use the proceeds of these events to support youth activities, sight and hearing conservation and other community needs.
A special edition of the Costa Mesa Herald newspaper for May 17, 1927 was used to announce the formation of the Lions Club. Lion’s members were businessmen and were often also members of other groups like the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce.
The Lions and the Chamber of Commerce often worked together as an unofficial “city hall” in this unincorporated town to beautify and improve it. Lions painted the town’s first parking lines at the corner of Newport Boulevard and 18th Street.
But it was not all work – for fun and relaxation the Lions played their own local baseball team around 1931, which included Charles Dunn, Emil Greener, Ross Hostetler, Judge Diehl, Ray Wallace, Alvin Block, George Gardner, Ed Chaplin, A.E. Spaulding, Earl Patterson, Fred Siefert and Charles W. Tewinkle.
One of the Lions’ early projects shared the expenses with the American Legion in sending a delegate to Boy’s State in 1937. Glenn Thompson (Newport Harbor High School) was the recipient of funds to attend this convention in Sacramento.
As a fundraiser in 1937, the group staged a play, “The Gay 90s” with members and some wives and other friends playing the parts. 900 people attended the performance. A newspaper account deemed it “one of Costa Mesa’s most successful shows.”
The Fish Fry
In the spring of 1946, when considering what to do for a fundraiser, Bob Skiles suggested a fish fry and carnival. The money was to be used to build a baseball field in what is now Lions Park. The Fish Fry was held on Newport Avenue at the corner of 18th Street. A stove and refrigerator were offered as prizes.
Dinners were served on regular dishes that were scraped and washed in the American Legion Hall kitchen.
Heinz Kaiser had the special “secret recipe for the fish batter which has changed very little over the years.
Paul Brecht is shown here with a Lions Club check for $47,000, the amount of 1979 Fish Fry proceeds that were presented to Harbor area agencies for that year. The children are from the Girl’s Club and the Harbor Area Boys Club, two of the agencies usually gifted with funds from the Lions.