New Hope Lions Club Cleanup Day Organizers and Crew.
New Hope Lions Club
Charted October 22, 1948 with 32 Members
Twenty Years of Lions Projects
1. New Hope Telephone Cooperative, 1953
2. Reincorporation of New Hope, 1956
3. Volunteer Fire Department, 1960
4. Branch Bank of State National Bank, 1965
5. Y. M. C. A. Branch, 1968
The New Hope Lions are very proud of their club and what it has been able to accomplish over its neary 62 years of existence. The article below that appeared in the THE LION, Nov. 1969 Edition describes their accomplishments.
IN THREE MAJOR PROJECTS, A SINGLE LIONS CLUB HAS TRANSFORMED THIS SMALL ALABAMA COMMUNITY
by Sarah M. Coggans
"YOU'D BETTER GET A MOVE ON; the bank closes in 25 minutes," the New Hope, Alabama grocer reminded his wife. She was about to .make her weekly drive to the nearest bank. Cash was low . . ..a steady stream of paychecks to be cashed would begin in a couple of hours—and she faced a round trip of, 40 miles.
For more than 30 years, the grocer's Butler Brothers General Merchandise had acted, as a bank-of-sorts for the people of New Hope. Some of them found it difficult to get to a bank regularly while; others, who still painfully remembered the downfall of the Bank of New Hope during the Great Depression, kept their money at Butlers.
Being without a bank was bad enough. But this small town (population 953) has also done without a telephone system and police and, fire departments. In less than ten years; it would have all four facilities not through some happy trick of fate but through the persistence of a 22-member Lions club. The efforts which produced these improvements occurred some time ago, but the story is still worth telling, if only because it dramatically demonstrates how a small town club can work wonders.
Plans for once again having a bank in town had never gone beyond wishful thinking until 1957 when the New Hope Lions club appointed a five-man committee to investigate.
The committee very soon reported that the only three banks then in nearby Huntsville would give them no encouragement. Letters and petitions availed nothing, and years of alternating hope, work and disappointment followed. Yet if the Lions had once thought of giving up, committee member Gus McGee would surely have prevented it with his perennial "Now might be a good time to get a bank."
They decided to concentrate their efforts on the State National Bank of Alabama--the only one that had never said "No." The chairman of State National's board was favorably inclined, its president had as a member of the State Banking Commission helped with the liquidation of the old Bank of New Hope, and a vice-president had been cashier there. All of them were aware of the areas stable economy and potential.
Originally the Lions had thought in terms of a chartered bank because state legislation required that a parent office and its branches must be contained within the same city limits. But in 1964 legislation was passed which expanded these city limits to county limits.
With this encouragement, the Lions began a survey to determine if $1--million in potential deposits were available. In keeping with the new look in banking, business and individual accounts were solicited equally, rather than placing primary emphasis upon commercial accounts as in days past. The New Hope Telephone Cooperative (an old Lions project) conducted the survey and bore the $400 cost.
Officers of State National met with Lions and businessmen to discuss the branch bank, and two weeks later the Bank's board of directors voted to establish a branch in New Hope.
The site selected for the bank was the old New Hope feed store. Soon several coats of soft, sand colored paint covered the aged brick exterior, gleaming white tile replaced the gritty, soiled concrete floor, and the rough pine wall receded behind warm walnut paneling.
In July, 1965, eight years and three months after New Hope Lions voted to secure a bank, the Job was done. Appropriately enough, the first account opened was the Lions.
When the Bank opened, it was the capping achievement to ten long years of Lion work which (1) incorporated New Hope as a city and (2) transformed its communication system from a three-party line into the New Hope Telephone Cooperative, now serving nearly 2,200 customers.
It took only a state legislative act to get a bank, but it actually took an Act of Congress before New Hope got telephones.
A serviceable telephone system for the times had once served the area, but it grew feeble with the years and finally expired during World War II. The only wire connection to the outside world was one line to Huntsville with three phones on it-one each at New Hope Drug Co., Butler Brothers and the home of A H Butler, Sr. All calls came to one of these, and if luck were good, it was "Hey, Joe! Are you going by Bill White’s? Well, please tell him. .. .." Otherwise somebody got into a car and carried tidings first hand..
Efforts by businessmen to persuade a commercial telephone company to install a system had come to naught. Shortly after the club was chartered in November, 1948, Lions decided to undertake the task of creating a community-owned telephone system. "
Several times it seemed that the sensible thing to do would be to give up. Once when telephones seemed an impossibility, committee member Bob Moon arose and recklessly stated: 'We will have telephones!" And over the next few years he backed up his words with countless hours of work and more than a thousand dollars. Another time when the outlook appeared only dismal, the Lions pondered settling for a makeshift, 100-phone system, locally financed even though they were fully aware of its deficiencies.
An alternate financing method would be a loan from the federal government's Rural Electrification Administration and, in fact, Congress had amended the REA Act to include telephones. The Lions first attempts failed because New Hope was unable to meet the requirements.
Suddenly seesawing prospects shot upward again. REA was talking favorably. Lions sent resolutions to Congressmen. Pairs of Lions scoured the countryside pinpointing and classifying every house, with. Lion (postmaster) George B, Butler helping identify each resident. Letters were mailed to potential subscribers urging them to cooperate.
To raise support, public meetings were held in surrounding Bugg's Chapel, Owens Cross Roads, Cave Spring, Poplar Ridge, Cedar Point and Hebron. True, the Lions had a hard time arousing interest among many who remembered the old manual switchboard and were pessimistic about any improvement over it.
However, response was usually good at the meetings, as evidenced by a lone dissenter's grumble that "every fool there except one voted for it."
When the first of a series of loans was granted in December 1951, the Co-op began to take shape. Officers were elected, engineers selected and rates were set by the state.
Lions scouted around and found lots for the telephone exchanges in New Hope and adjacent Owens Cross Roads. Lion Charles V. Lee was hired as Co-op manager.
On August 14, 1953, the Lions proudly toured the 800-square foot brick building of the New Hope Telephone Cooperative which housed three employees, one truck and dial equipment for New Hope.
The system began operation on August 21, 1953, with 357 customers. For days the lines buzzed. Everybody was calling everybody else simply for the sheer joy of being able to sit at home and talk with a friend also sitting at home.
Two neighboring towns have since been included in the Co-op, and it now serves three times the total predicted in 1953—2,170 customers. Two especially appreciated features of the modern system are full selective ringing (only the number called rings) and automatic number identification on direct distance dialing (you don't tell the operator your number; you just listen to a series of musical tones like notes from a carousel while it is being automatically identified).
The original 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-party lines have been upgraded to 1- and 2-party lines inside the city and 5-party in rural areas. Service is available anywhere in the area; in fact, nine out of ten rural dwellings already have telephones.
With such phenomenal growth, it was inevitable that the original building would become too small. A couple of years ago the Co-op moved into its modern tan brick building with a convenient drive-in window. The new building's 2,800 square feet provide room for the dial equipment and eight employees, with separate garages for the four trucks.
The present investment is §1,103,000, as compared with the initial loan of $115,000. Though the membership fee has been reduced from $28 to $5, Co-op members have accrued profits of $120,000 on the books (non-- distributable because of mortgage requirements).
All the while that New Hope's Lions were struggling to establish the Co-op, they were also hard at work seeking to make New Hope, the town, into New Hope the city. It was the problem of local law enforcement as an unincorporated town, New Hope had none which set off this second major club project.
Our town had the standard assortment of police problems that is found in any small community. I remember awaking one morning at 2:30 and discovering that my husband was missing. I found him on the front porch glowering at a station wagon careening up and down Main Street. The next day we learned that the driver had been trying to win a bet that he could turn the car over.
Various solutions had been tried with less than satisfactory results. Only one more remained; if New Hope was a corporation, it could levy taxes to maintain a police force. The club was willing enough, but lacked legal counsel, and once again lawyer Douglas C. Martinson of the Huntsville Lions club volunteered his services. Martinson is a past district governor of 34-B and it is he who has led New Hope's Lions through the legal mazes which have been connected with the club's main contributions over the past decade.
In August 1955, the club voted unanimously to guarantee payment of all expenses connected with incorporation. By the following January, work had progressed enough to make a community meeting advisable. With the assistance of Doug Martinson and Lion wife Edith H. Johnson, the paper work was submitted to the Probate Office in February. April, alas, brought a crushing blow--all the work must be done over. The Lions started all over again.
The Probate Office finally accepted all maps and petitions. The night before election day of September 4,1956, telephone lines hummed as Lions urged all voters to exercise their rights.
Since launching the city government the Lions have surrendered some jobs to it. As early as 1951, they had brought an engineer to a meeting to discuss a water system. When the city began considering a city water system in 1957, Lions voted unanimously to endorse it. Although never an official club project, individual Lions did much work on the water system which today serves 255 customers.
Beginning in 1949 the club had helped clear brush and weeds from the New Hope Cemetery. The city has now assumed this responsibility.
Lions pioneered in fire protection. In 1960 they rallied support and sponsored the formation of a Volunteer Fire Department. They also passed the hat among themselves and bought an Army-surplus water truck with the $200 collected. Although the truck broke down on the drive home, it was repaired, was converted into a fire truck by county employees, and served heroically, if not exactly adequately, until the city purchased a new $11.000, 500-gallon fire truck.
The volunteer firemen studied fire fighting and life saving techniques, and they still meet regularly. When a fire breaks out they are summoned by a fire alarm hook-up furnished by the New Hope Telephone Co-operative. (The Co-op also installed this hook-up in each of the other two towns it serves. Total cost to the Co-op was $3,000 and it maintains them free of charge.)
When the fire number is dialed, the phones of six volunteer firemen begin ringing continuously. If any phone is busy, it receives an overtone which means "fire, hang up." This saves much valuable time as firemen can begin immediate preparations to leave while someone else answers the phone. A siren atop the new city hall alerts the other firemen.
Currently, the New Hope Lions club is working with the Civitan Club and Junior Chamber of Commerce to raise $12,000 for a 17-acre park. The Y.M.C.A. plans to develop and light the acreage and build a swimming pool. Because of this hardy band of Lions, New Hope, apparently, has good reason to hope for much more to come.
Mrs. Sarah M. Coggans is the wife of New Hope Lion, B.C., a charter member and former secretary of the club.
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