Branch 055 History

Brief History of the Legion

The Port Morien Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion will be 71 years old this year. It was formed in September, 1937 by the following veterans of the First World War, whose vision deserves our gratitude: Thomas H. Wadden, the first president; Peter Giovannetti, Robert Peach, David Cathcart (click here to read the text of a letter David sent home to his family in 1918), John Wilson, Robert Smith, John Morrison, William MacPhee, Michael Lahey, Michael MacEachern, Robert Orr, Charles Shepard, Duncan Curry, John MacLean, Daniel MacKinnon. The charter was granted September 27, 1937.

Prior to 1945, meetings were held in the old Masonic Hall. Around 1945, the first legion hall was a renovated house transported from the Backpit Road. Hopkins’ truck hauled the house to its present location. All labour was voluntary. It was later extended at one end to make a bar. A little room was constructed off the bar area for the ladies’ auxiliary to prepare sandwiches. Old logs from the wooden wharf were placed under the building. At first the washrooms were outside, but indoor washrooms were added in the late ‘40s and a liquor license obtained.

Hal Cochrane was a volunteer bartender. Tom Cochrane was one of the earliest paid bartenders. Bernie Cochrane also served on the bar. Later, Kay MacIntyre was a bartender.

In 1972, Ken Andrews, a Legion member, saw an opportunity to obtain a grant from the government to extend the legion to its present size. The grant was given with the idea that the renovated Legion Hall would double as a Community Centre. An extended upstairs portion and a basement were added. In all, the renovations cost the Legion $150,000. It was necessary to obtain a loan of $97,000. This mortgage was paid off by Legion members in five years, thanks to the excellent dances held in the facility Friday and Saturday nights. One had to come early and line up to get into the hall. Musicians such as Pat Moore, the Acadians and Everett Cann played the Legion often. From the ‘70s to the mid ‘80s, the over- forty dances were very popular.

In time, through competition, crowds dwindled.

In recent years, the Legion has struggled. A renovation necessitated by a change in the fire code cost $160,000. However, through the introduction of merchandise bingo and the through the various venues such as dances, dinner theatres, pool tournaments, dart tournaments, hall rentals and others, the Legion is once more becoming a vibrant place. Thanks to the level of volunteerism in Port Morien and the support of our community, the Legion will survive for many years to come.

The current membership stands at about 60.

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