And the Lions Club Show
In 1967 Warren Biggs was the High School Senior Representative for the Carthage Noon Lions Club. He, along with fellow classmate Barbara Walker (Ballenger), attended the weekly meetings and learned the importance of being a part of a local service organization. During that time, John Cain was serving as president of the Lions Club and Warren recalls, “It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done because they really had a good time at those meetings.”
After graduating college, and working in Rusk for a savings and loan company, Warren decided to become a member of the Lions Club. “The chairman of the board asked me to join the Club and I thought it was a good thing for me to do.” In 1979, Biggs moved his family to Carthage along with his Lions Club membership, and he fell right into place with the men who were part of the club. “Bill Applegate was one of the men who welcomed me and made me feel right at home,” recalls Warren. “He was one of those people that was fun to be with--he was so quick witted and had such a dry sense of humor. He was just a nice, nice guy.”
Being a member of the Carthage Noon Lions Club also meant taking part in the annual variety show that had a reputation for producing sell-out crowds each year. Part of the success of the show was the walk-on ads. Show Director Jerry Hanszen, who had seen the results of the ads while living in Beaumont, added the feature to the Carthage production and they have been a mainstay ever since.
In Warren’s first show, Hanszen asked him to participate in a progressive walk-on ad in which he and his wife, Toni, would play a young married couple pushing a baby buggy across the floor. They fell right into the part and the next year, Warren was asked to work with Chet Stout to develop the ads. With eight ads being produced for each show, new ideas were sometimes hard to come by. “One year we were in Dallas for the weekend with another Lions couple and spent the entire trip home writing the script for that year’s ads.”
When Rob Trimble lived in Carthage, he provided some great ideas. According to Warren, “he had one of those really great creative minds.” In the initial stages of the ads, members built the props. The “Old Woman In the Shoe” was used one year and the “shoe” was made out of two large refrigerator boxes. “The logistics of building that thing and getting it on stage was a bit of a headache,” recalls Warren. “We try not to use as many props now and concentrate more on the characters and the costumes.”
Wives of the club members have worked closely with their husbands throughout the years helping with makeup, costumes and organization behind the stage. Toni says, “It always amazes me when everybody gets their first paper on Monday, we’re all saying, there’s no way we can pull this off. But by Friday night it all comes together somehow.”
One of the amazing parts of the show is the transformation of the characters throughout the week of practice. Don Griffith pulled off one such transformation. “He played a professional wrestler complete with shorts. As he walked across stage, he pulled up his shorts and his voice got really high. We didn’t tell him to do that, but it was something he improvised. It was so funny, even the chorus laughed out loud. He never did it like that in practice, so it surprised everybody.”
Warren’s “Pea Boy” character is another great moment in walk-on ads. “I was watching Johnny Carson one night when a famous person was playing a beautiful song on a grand piano, but he had changed the words and called it ‘Pea Boy.’ Another guy dressed in green from head to toe came down the aisle throwing peas at everybody. The skit was hilarious, so I decided to try the same routine for our show. I ran it by Chet Stout and he thought it was funny, but we decided to keep it a secret from everybody. I was dressed in green from top to bottom…the chorus had no idea what I was going to do. I came down the aisle throwing out peas (actually M&Ms). When I got to the stage, Chet asked who I was and I said Pea Boy. Don’t you remember Pea Boy was the guy that we studied in American history that went around the country giving out peas and people would plant them? Chet said, I think that was Johnny Appleseed. Mrs. Lela Belle LaGrone was sitting down front and I looked at her and said I remember you talking about it in class. She just shook her head and had a look like she did not want to be involved in this skit. Sonny Whitaker laughed so much he ended up buying a $100 paver at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame with just Pea Boy on it. People still talk about it and ask for it again, but it’s one of those things that wouldn’t be funny the second time.”
The Lions Club has played a huge part in Warren Biggs’ life. When Warren began with the club in Carthage, there were close to 150 members. But, like so many other civic organizations, membership has dwindled. It’s been a family affair for him. His father was a member, his son, Brett is a member, and wife, Toni, has been by his side every step of the way, from traveling to conventions to helping with the annual shows. He learned from men like Chet Stout who showed that Lions International is a bigger organization than just a small club in a small town in Carthage, Texas. It’s big and has big purposes worldwide and Biggs is proud to be a part of that. “Pretty much with me, it’s an every Thursday deal. I don’t miss many meetings and the only reason is because I enjoy it. It’s like anything else you do in life. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to do it. But, from the time I was 18 years old, Lions Club has always been a fun place to be.
The 70th Annual Lions Club Show will be held at the Q.M. Martin Auditorium on the Panola College campus on Friday, January 29, 2015. The show begins at 7:00pm with $10 admission. Tickets may be purchased at KGAS Radio, the Chamber of Commerce or from any Lions Club member. Children under 10 are admitted free.