The Royal Canadian Legion is a member of the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League which was formed in 1921 by Field Marshal Earl Haig and Field Marshal Jan Smits, to link together ex-service organizations that had been formed by ex-service personnel in 46 organizations in over 40 countries. In Canada, between 1917 and 1925, fourteen national organizations and local groups had come into being. The largest group in Canada, the Great War Veterans Association of Canada, fostered a Salmon Arm Branch in 1918 with G.E. Ibbotson as President. It was officially chartered on July 4th, 1923, with A. B. Ritchie as President and C.M. “Pop” Kennedy as Secretary.
The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League, Salmon Arm (B.C. #62) was issued its Charter on March 21st, 1927. Charter members were: J. M. Green, H. Evans, S. Beech, E. B. Bivar, A. Ritchie, C. Usher, C. M. Kennedy, S. Nixon, Maj. Roberts, N. S. Richards, T. Walker, F. Smith, J.M. Jepson, W. Hughes, and J. Kelly.
In the early years, the Branch sponsored a New Year’s Eve dance, organized Armistice Day Ceremonies, and maintained comradeship with those who served during World War I. An annual Christmas party was held, with presents provided for all of the children in attendance and this continued into the 1960s. In the 1930s, the branch purchased the old Finn Hall on Front Street, and part-time Secretary Treasurers were hired. Revenue from the enlarged premises permitted the expansion of community services.
The 1940s revitalized the Legion with the influx of new veterans and demands made upon the services offered. Through this time and on into the 50s and 30s the branch produced funds to sponsor youth activities, provide educational assistance, maintenance of veterans cemetery plots, and more.
During the 1960s, the Junior Olympic Track and Field Training Program was in full swing, with Clancy Jamieson and
Honorary members Leo Goetting and Jim Smith helping hundreds of youngsters get a start in athletics. In addition, another sport activity started the famous Thunder Mug Bonspiel. The trophy fittingly enough was donated by local plumber Rolly Jamieson. The first winning skip was S. Svienson in 1959 and local jeweler John Paul was the winning skip in 1960. Comrades Roy Beech, and Honorary members Cliff Hobbs and Jim Green did most of the
organizing over the years.
In 1961 the Branch participated in the establishment of the Gardom Lake Veterans Camp and Recreation Area along with several other branches from the North Okanagan. The Branch still maintains a cabin there and participates in the operation of the site.
In the late 1960s, the crowded conditions and deteriorating clubhouse caused the membership to begin thinking about a new building. In 1971 a Building Committee was established, consisting of Chairman Jim Mellor, Don McTavish, Ernie Webber, Tom Kernaghan, and Gerry Winters. Through their efforts, a new Legion building was opened at 141 Hudson Street, NW, in 1973. General Contractor for the building was Gerald Winter. At this time Paul Holmes was hired as Secretary Manager. Due to larger facilities and revenue from bingo, the Branch was able to increase its Community Services including continued Cadet and Scout sponsorship and minor league sports such as hockey and baseball.
In 1976, Bill Eddles was hired as full-time Secretary Manager. Later Secretary Managers were Lawrence Williams (10
years), Denise Stanley (10 years), Esther Arrowsmith (1 year), and Diana Goodridge (10 years).
In 2000 it was decided that because the clubhouse was outdated, did not meet current fire codes, and had increasing
maintenance costs it was becoming too expensive for the decreasing membership to afford and that a new and smaller building was required. Due in a large measure to the local SALMAR ASSOCIATION, who own the land and lease the building to the Branch for as long as the Legion continues to operate, a new building was opened in 2003. Interest and support has renewed and operational losses have been turned around and the smaller membership again sees the light and is very encouraged for the future.
Many names appear throughout our Branch history. Some of these have been mentioned previously in this short piece. I will mention just a few more: Don McTavish was President of the Branch (1962-63) and did all of the legal work for the Branch for three decades. He continued his Legion service by holding several offices in the North Okanagan Zone and Pacific Command, as well as Vice President and Chairman in Dominion Command.
Comrade Vic Nancollas became known as “Mr. Canadian Legion” during his years as Secretary-Treasurer (1964-74). He was “Godfather” to First and Second World War vets alike and his expertise was called on for many years.
Comrade Art Richie, well known for his blunt speech and caustic wit was heavily involved in the Legion prior to WWII and upon his return from that campaign once again took over his position of Parade Marshal for the march to the Cenotaph on Nov.11th. He carried out this duty until he was well into his 80s when he handed the reins over to someone younger; after his 52nd parade.
Comrade Alf Ames was a leader in the procurement of the new building and the agreement with the Salmar Association. The present Branch President is Harley Belt, and since moving into the new premises in 2003, Matt Fowler, Henry Butters, Harry Welton, Sheila Bibby, and Jane Birnie have served as President; with Henry Butters serving for 15 years. Many other members have served on our Executive, and as volunteers, without whom the Branch would not survive.