As many branches of the Royal Canadian Legion face financial difficulties, with some forced to close their doors, Terrace’s Branch 13 is celebrating their 100-year milestone early next month.
The Terrace branch was awarded its Great War Veterans Association Charter on Oct. 20 1919, joining the first and largest national organization for veterans in Canada. Then in 1927, the branch was awarded its British Empire Service League Charter, which unified veterans groups across the country. Though the organization wouldn’t be known as the Terrace Royal Canadian Legion until it received its Branch 13 charter in April 1961.
“In most communities, the legion is where everybody went. It’s also where people did a lot of volunteering, so it was a family,” says Cde. Brian Kirkaldy.
On April 19, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross joined Cdes. Kirkaldy, Agnes Taylor, Mary-Ann and Doug Misfeldt at the Legion to present a certificate recognizing their centennial anniversary.
“I don’t think we should ever forget the sacrifices [the Canadian soldiers] made, the suffering they went through,” Ross says. “[The Legion] could probably tell the best stories of why we should always strive for peace.”
Terrace was a training area during the Great War for the 102nd Battalion for northern B.C. Soldiers would come into the town for six weeks to prepare for combat, and then leave on trains to go east to Montreal or Halifax for overseas deployment. Hundreds then thousands of soldiers were also stationed in Terrace during the Second World War.
Four generations of Brian’s family have been involved in the Terrace Legion since it first opened. Brian’s great grandfather, John (Jock) Kirkaldy, was the Legion’s first charter president in 1919 and his grandfather Sam was the branch’s first secretary. Brian’s father Lawrence also joined after spending time in the Navy.
Brian reflected on the Legion’s anniversary and his family’s service as he looked at their portraits hanging on the wall.
“Very proud of the fact that 100 years later, we still have Kirkaldy’s active [in the Royal Canadian Legion],” Brian says, who is the Legion’s current treasurer. His wife, Agnes Taylor, is the branch’s president.
Brian says he’s happy they are still going strong but recognizes more consistent volunteers are needed.
“That’s what kept the Legions together, that sense of comradeship. Nowadays, it’s a little different,” he says.
Last year the Terrace Legion amended their liquor license to remove the ‘club’ designation, allowing the branch to advertise events and open up their bar to the public.
“When you think of the Royal Canadian Legion, what do you think of? A bunch of veterans sitting around drinking beer and telling war stories. That’s where we’re trying to get a new brand, or a new face. It’s open to the community, it’s not just for veterans.”
Because the Legion can’t use Gaming funds or donations from the annual Poppy Campaign towards operational costs, the amended license also creates a new source of revenue for the 60-year old building.
The events and community involvement help the Legion stay afloat, but there is still a need for people to volunteer and help run their weekly meat draws, cook steal dinners, work on committees to come up with new ideas for fundraising.
The Legion also gives back thousands of dollars in donations to youth, seniors, hospitals and other organizations in Terrace.
Celebrate the Legion’s 100 Year Gala dinner and dance on May 4 at the Legion (4425 Legion Ave.). Bar opens at 6:30 p.m. with dinner at 7:30 p.m., then dance the night away with live music from the Whiskey Jacks. Their 100-year calendars detailing the history of the Terrace’s Royal Canadian Legion are available at the branch.
People can sign up for a membership at the Legion branch in Terrace or online. Anyone interested in helping support the Legion can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.