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White Cane Days

White Cane

District Governor Larry Discus and Monterey Park Charter Member of the Lions Club Phil Browning joined with their fellow Lions at a reception held in their honor on October 11 in the Richard Garvey Room to celebrate White Cane Days.

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Vice President of the Monterey Park Historical Society Jim Iwaki was the Master of Ceremonies.  He introduced City Council Members Anthony Wong and David Lau and City Treasurer Joseph Leon who are members of the Lions Club. He introduced the guest speakers: Paul Young, Russell Haas, Anthony Wong and Sheldon Hess who are past presidents of the club. He also introduced Andy Islas who is the President of White Cane Days, Inc. and Dr. Warren Green, who schedules all the eye examinations at the local grammar schools.

Mr. Iwaki reminded everyone that the Lions Club installed a flagpole in Garvey Ranch Park and installed bright yellow lion drinking fountains in all the parks. They raise funds with their annual Ham and Eggs breakfast and White Cane Days.

The White Canes are manufactured in a room at the Barnes Park Service Club House with an old motor from Laura Scudder and garage door parts.

Mr. Young spoke about a journey to Japan he took with his wife Betty to attend a Lions Club International Convention. He said they had made White Canes printed in both English and Japanese that were handed out during the convention. He joked that a 20-foot balloon in the shape of a White Cane had to be filled at a local gas station Inflatable Water Slide because it was too large for them to blow up themselves.  Several Lions proudly carried the balloon in a parade. He recalled that Emperor Hirohito was the keynote speaker at the event. They enjoyed their tour of Japan.

Mr. Haas gave a history of the club’s contributions to the city that included building the Service Club House in Barnes Park in 1957 for all the service clubs to use. The club deeded it back to the city in 1985. In 1963 they installed a roof on the Barnes Park Picnic Pavilion. They also did work in the Barnes Park Amphitheater (the old Memorial Bowl).  They built all the lion drinking fountains in the parks.  He said the original White Canes were made from white pipe cleaners dipped in red ink. Phil Browning’s mother first called it “White Cane Days”. Their eye clinics help over 5,000 children a year with eye exams. They built the Lions Manor for low-income seniors at the cost of $5 million. They have a corporation who manages the project.  In 1954 Kenny Gribble and Johnny Johns built the famous White Cane machine that manufactures 5,000 canes an hour.

Mr. Wong thanked the Historical Society for recognizing the Lions Club. It is the oldest service club in Monterey Park. The club was founded in 1937.  In 1963 he manufactured hair wigs in Hong Kong and he explained the lengthy process from start to finish. He traveled back and forth from Hong Kong to America on business. He said when he first joined the club they asked him to help manufacture the White Canes. He was surprised to see the machine that makes 500 to 1,000 canes at a time. He called the machine a great invention. It’s amazing.  He is proud of the Lions Club. He called them silent heroes who serve the community. Dale Butler now runs the White Cane machine. In 1954 the club started to make the White Canes for all the clubs in the United States. White Cane Days are to raise funds for eye exams. In 1956 El Monte was the first club to purchase the White Canes from them. Dr. Warren Green hires the eye doctors and nurses who with volunteers screen the eyes of 57,000 students a year. He enjoys working with his fellow Lions. They help to improve life in Monterey Park.

Rev. Hess spoke about the recent conference held in Minneapolis, MN, his hometown. He enjoyed his visit with his brother and sister. He saw many of the clubhouses and parks built by the local Lions Clubs. He stopped in several small towns and passed out his extra White Canes for the clubs to use in the next fundraiser.  White Cane Days tells the public that the Lions are here in the community. He joked that this year he personally raised $43, which is about minimum wage for four hours.  He doesn’t like to ask for money but as the day wore on he found out he enjoyed asking for donations. He spoke about one father who has a baby daughter with eye problems. He gave a $5 donation. The father knows now that the Lions Club will be there to support his daughter in her future. It’s a good club and he enjoys it.

Mr. Islas said his family moved to Monterey Park in 1973 and they always attended the Lions Club Breakfasts. He won a scholarship from the club while he was in high school. He stated Maynard Horst, a Lion and coach from Mark Keppel told him that some day he would be a corporate president. He recalled former Police Chief Dan Cross introduced him to the Lions Club and invited him to become a Lion. Old members who have moved away always travel back to town to help out with their famous breakfasts. He was welcomed into the club. He joked that in the old days the new members were the coffee makers who had to report to the park around 3:30 AM to start the coffee. Now days the coffee makers start their day a bit later. He has served on the Lions Manor Board. He has enjoyed serving the club. He is the current President of White Cane Days, Inc.  Maynard Horst was right that he would be a corporate president. He thanked CEO Agnes Douglas who really runs the corporation. He enjoys raising funds for all the different corporations of the Lions Club. He thanked the Historical Society for this reception.

Dr. Green said it was an honor to be here at this event. The Historical Society preserves the history of the community. The Lions Club helps make the city a better place with many events for the residents. He praised Eve Gribble, who was a member of the Historical Society.

Donations for White Cane Days can be mailed to Monterey Park Lions Club, P O Box 1, Monterey Park CA 91754.

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An exhibit of artifacts from the Lions Club will be on display until the end of the year.  Visit the Museum at Garvey Ranch Park to see the exhibit and two DVDs on the history of the Lions Club.   A wife of an active Lion after seeing the DVDs stated that the wives worked along side their husbands at all of the events.

The Monterey Park Historical Museum is opened free to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 4 PM at the Garvey Ranch Park located on Orange Avenue in Monterey Park.

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