FROM A DREAM TO THE INCEPTION OF BRANCH #191, CHEMAINUS 1945-1953 – Jim Reilly –
On November 15, 1945 a meeting chaired by Comrade W. Rice was held in the Parish Hall in Chemainus to discuss the possibility of forming a Legion Branch in Chemainus.
Twenty five members, all of the same mind, were in attendance. Comrade C. Savory was chosen “Pro Tem” to act as Secretary. A motion was adopted to contact returned veterans from the District to forward the idea of forming a Legion Branch. An eight person Membership Committee consisting of A. Crabbe, G. Pedersen, B. Pedersen, D.Waller, L. Tucker, L. Syme, L. Callender and W. Rice was formed to list all interested in this project.
A. Castle from Zone was to be contacted to address a future meeting at a date convenient to him. This meeting was held about a week later. After being introduced, Comrade Castle gave an outline of the proper procedure to follow. Comrade Groule, President of Ladysmith Branch 171, spoke offering his assistance on these initial steps. It was at this meeting that a vote was approved on forming a Legion Branch in Chemainus.
H. Olsen was elected as Treasurer. It was agreed that an initial charge of $2.00 would be assessed each member signing an application form. Meetings were being called on a weekly basis and at the November 30 meeting, a Building Committee was formed on a motion by D. Duncan. Comrades E Knight, W. Pedersen and C. McInnes, as members of this committee, were to forward any suitable prospects for a building.
The boundaries for the Branch were suggested to be as follows. Our Northern line to terminate at “Reids Corner”, the Southern line to include the village of Crofton and extend to “Loyds Hill” on the Island Highway.
An Entertainment Committee of Z. Jackson, A. Crabbe and L. Millware was formed along with a By-Laws Committee of R. Duncan, W. Rice and V. Adams.
At the first meeting in 1946 it was decided to abandon the idea of a Legion building for the present and concentrate on the process of forming the Legion Branch first. A new slate of officers were elected. President, H. Olsen; 181 Vice President, D. Duncan; 2nd Vice President, E. Knight; Secretary, C. Clarke; Treasurer, W. Clements; E. Petit, T. Kelly, N. dick and G. Pedersen to the Executive. At the February 20, 1946 meeting these Officers were sworn in by the Provincial Secretary. So it was on this date that Chemainus Branch 191 of the Royal Canadian Legion finally became a reality with it’s first sworn in slate of Officers. Ladysmith Branch 171 and Cowichan Branch were in attendance extending their good wishes. The Cowichan Branch 53 presented a cheque for $200.00 to Comrade Olsen. Comrade AJ. Castle from Zone outlined the suggested boundaries for the Branch and regular Branch meeting dates were set for the third Thursday of each month at 8:00 p.m.
Legion meetings were held in various locations. However, it was decided to contact the Recreation Committee for their approval in renting the Club Reading Room for future Legion meetings until such time when our own hall became available. Many may remember that the Legion Notice Board was adjacent to the old Post Office where ‘Billy’s Delight’ is now located.
The April, 1946 meeting was held in the Reading Room of the Recreation Centre. The Branches first completed set of Bylaws were presented and approved. A letter was forwarded to Provincial Command requesting the Charter for the Ladies Auxiliary.
Monies for the Cenotaph Fund were received from Cowichan Branch 53 who were holding it in trust. These funds were banked and to be used, in conjunction with other donations, towards the remodeling and moving of the Cenotaph.
In June, 1946 it was proposed at a meeting to inaugurate a Building Fund. R. Duncan moved that $20.00 be transferred to this fund to start it off Proceeds from dances would also be directed into this fund.
Much was accomplished in the year 1946. Besides the formation of Branch 191, bowling and cribbage was organized. The first Armistice Day Dance was held. Monthly Legion dances were in full swing and the Building Fund was set-up. It was a memorable year for the Veterans and Chemainus. Things were moving along, in an organized and prioritized manner, with much yet to be accomplished.
In 1947 plans were put forward by Comrade E. Simmonds for remodeling the Cenotaph and moving it to a better location. R. Duncan had the Art Monument Company clean the stone of the Cenotaph and engrave names of fallen Comrades for a cost of $240.00. A fee of $25.00 for a deposit on property adjacent to the ‘Horseshoe Hotel’ for a said building site. A motion was passed, at a later meeting, to purchase Lot 5 of the New Chemainus Subdivision for the erection of the Legion Hall. Letters were mailed to all organizations who donated so generously to the Cenotaph Fund. A Building Committee chaired by Comrade R. Andrews and consisting of A. Crabbe, D. Anthony and K. Eastman was elected.
The “Relief and Rehabilitation Fund” was renamed the Poppy fund in 1948. F. Bonde was elected as President. An “Idea Contest” for the new Legion Hall was presented. A set of regulations were set up for the competition and were available from the Building Committee Members. As the competition came to a close F. Bondes’ plan was chosen as the winner and shown at a General Meeting. They were approved and sent out for blueprinting.
At the March meeting in 1948 a letter was read from Mr. Johannsen of the Victoria Lumber Company offering Lot 5 of the New Chemainus Subdivision to the Chemainus Legion for building purposes. S. & R. Andrews were named as supervisors of the new Legion Hall. Many business people showed their willingness to donate materials when the building proceeds. C. Simmonds was elected as Treasurer in June 1948 due to C. Harwood’s resignation.
New plans were produced for the new Legion and an architect was summoned in 1949.
To finance the building Comrade H. Ewart was appointed Chairman to a committee assisted by S. Andrews, C. Ayling, R. Luck, F. Beauchamp and Comrade G. Saunders as financial advisors. Tenders were called for the erection of forms and to carry out the work to the completion of the basement for the hall. The Ways & Means Committee were empowered to continue with a Bond Drive and that a special meeting be called when sufficient funding was procured. They were to look into the possibility of a mortgage for lumber and materials or other means and report their findings. Dances and the “Gay Ninety’s” continued to be a good source of fund raising.
A financial agreement with Clarke & Sons to supply the required building materials on a mortgage’ bearing 4% interest per year, repayable at the rate of $50.00 per month.
Payments could be increased at any time. The membership adopted this proposal. Flater Construction was the successful bidder for labour only. The Bond Drive was doing poorly in 1950. Much progress was reported in clearing the new site for the Cenotaph.
The Building Fund stood at $2,735.50.
On April 20, 1950 the first General Meeting was held in the new Legion Hall. Comrade Rice was retained as Secretary Manager with 1. Morris as Steward. A new Bond issue was ready for sale as reported by H. Ewart. The official opening dates were set tentatively for June 3rd or June 101h, 1950. There was no mention in any of the minutes as to the actual official opening. One has to presume it was early June sometime. The Dedication Service for the new Cenotaph was held in later September 1950.
In 1951 Bond sales improved reaching $15,000.00 in the month of February. H. Ewart indicated that the goal for $34,000.00 should be a success, so the remainder of the building could be completed. Comrade Beasley expressed his willingness to bear the cost of a flagpole for the Branch.
Plans were completed to improve the ventilation systems in the lounge after numerous complaints.
In 1952 the “Traveling Gavel” was started by Branch 191. It was repor1ed that $7,000.00 would be the cost for a contractor to complete the building, whereas, the job could be done by volunteers for a cost of $1,500.00. Captains were appointed for each evening to oversee whatever volunteers showed up. The remainder of the construction was carried out in this manner. So in 1953, with the finishing touches completed, the Enter1ainment Committee was instructed to see about turning the finished hall into a profit making rental. The Treasurer repor1ed that the Branch owed $3,800.00 and there was $1,400.00 on hand. Plans were being formulated to hold Legion Bingo sessions. A protest letter was sent to North Cowichan Council protesting payment of Business Taxes. Seems no one listened or much cared! A letter was received from Pacific Command not to rent the hall to Communists. A motion was approved to use a Plaque (in lieu of pictures) for containing names of Branch 191 Presidents. Thanks were extended to Comrades Rowe and Otto for excellent work on the Cenotaph and to Comrade Beggs for supplying much needed top soil.
These are highlights, not professed to be done in a professional manner, taken from hand written minutes, outlining the events leading to the first eight years of this Legion’s Branch history. Also included is the history of our Cenotaph and its movement to its present location. It was my belief that this information not be lost and could be condensed into an ar1icle that future Executive members may find to be of interest.
Much good work continues to be done by Branch 191, as it has over the years, much credit is due in part to the excellent support from our Ladies Auxiliary over the many years.
HISTORY OF OUR WAR MEMORIAL CENOTAPH – 1939
Some may remember, some may not, however, these numbers and dates came up in the research of the Cenotaph.
Did you know that 1,500 enlisted voluntarily from the Cowichan District when pre-war 1914 population was approximately 6,500 – that’s 23% of the population!
After a meeting with some of the Council members by a Mr. Jarrett requesting a site for a Memorial in Chemainus for the Legion, the request being granted by Council on July 19, 1920. This was the beginning of the Memorial to the dead Comrades of the 1914 – 1918 war. The Memorial was erected on 616 square feet of land at the intersection of Mill Road and Albel1 Street with (as mentioned) the English Church on one corner and the Courthouse on the other.
On June 15, 1921 another request was made to Council asking for a donation of two German machine guns for placing near the Cenotaph. This request was made in writing by a Mr. Alfred Stubbs. A similar request followed a few days later on June 21, 1921 by Reverend R.D. Porter (any relation to Comrade Bob being coincidental). He felt that Chemainus should be entitled to some of the war trophies. Neither request was forthcoming as a Naval gun was received to place at the Cenotaph. I’m not sure whatever became of it, probably melted down to support the war effort in 1939. Reverend Porter was Honorable Secretary, Chemainus Committee of the Duncan B.c.
Board of Trade according to the letterhead. He resided in Chemainus at the time of writing.
With changes being made to the streets in Chemainus, the Memorial became part of those changes. As we all know it was moved to its present location, the problem became when? I have concluded that this took place in August 1950. In May of 1950 records show that its movement was delayed as the Municipal Public Works had to install a culvert at the new site. D. Greenhorn was elected to do the stone base. The Legion took over the care of the grounds after an agreement that the care of the grounds would be shared by the Community Committee failed as the Legion was doing all the work. This passed on August 20, 1950. Dedication Ceremonies were held at the Cenotaph in September the same year.
Comrade F. Bond was the Branch President in 1950. The Cenotaph Committee consisted of Comrades W. Rice, Deeble and Olson.
All pertinent information has been listed and forwarded to the Memorial University of Newfoundland. The collected information will be developed into an Internet Website and made available to all Canadians. Hopefully all Monuments in the Country will be on this Website.