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History of Royal Canadian Legion Prince Edward
Branch 91

In the mid-1920’s a small group of WW I veterans living in Colwood/Langford area of Greater Victoria on South Vancouver Island, applied for a Charter to form a Branch of the Canadian Legion, of the British Empire Service League. Sir Percy Lake, President of the Dominion Executive Council, signed the desired charter authorizing Messrs Alex G Mackie, Frank Smedley, George Cooney, and a host of other qualified persons, to Constitute Prince Edward Branch (British Columbia #91), effective on the 1st of September, 1927. The name “Prince Edward” was chosen to commemorate the visit by HRH Edward, Prince of Wales to the area that year. Edward, Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward VIII), and Prince George visited Canada for the Diamond Jubilee of the Confederation. Alex Mackie, the Langford Station postmaster and proprietor of Mackies General Store, appears to have been a leading spirit in the formation of the branch, as it was said, that he advanced the first rent money on a frame house on the northeast corner of Goldstream Avenue & Leigh Road, which served as the Branch clubhouse. Mackie became the first president of the fledgling branch and served on the Executive Committee for eight of the next 10 years. In 1933, a property was acquired at 735 Island Highway, purchased for a modest fee of $900.00, to be paid at $200 upon signing, then $100 a year for the remaining seven years. Many renovations that the membership saw as essential to better fulfill their purpose happened between 1933 and the paying off of the building in 1940. In 1934, following the opening of the new Legion club rooms, there was a birthday party with supper serviced by the Ladies Auxiliary followed by a musical program and a session of bridge-playing. Throughout the branch history, the Ladies Auxiliary has been ever present and provided significant financial and moral support going as far back as 1934. The 6th of November 1945 became a ‘red-letter’ day for the branch as Megan Williams became the first ‘Lady’ member. Following this meeting where 19 new members were initiated, the growth of the branch demanded a new space to accommodate its membership. In 1946, a vacant lot at 948 Dunford was purchased in anticipation of developing a new Legion Hall there and the Branch purchased a surplus Army Hut from War Assets Disposal Corporation and placed on the property (which is still in use to this day as part of the Beacon Hill Sea Cadets and Admiral Falls Navy League Cadets).Ownership of the Goldstream property was transferred for $1125 in December 1947 and was ultimately destroyed by fire in 1972. With the end of WW II, there was an expectation of a surge of new members, which did not materialize and with many Victoria Branches of the Legion in place, the lack of membership funding and money raising activities, caused the Executive Committee to consider surrendering the branch charter to Dominion Command in 1952. A lack of awareness, and a lack of a ‘pub’ like facilities, were catalysts of this possible surrender. However, with the tenacity of a friend, who knows someone, who knows someone, membership grew. The building required much work, and weekly work- parties took it among themselves to level, paint, fix whatever needed to be done. In the 1950’s, there were many issues that caused concern within Prince Edward Branch, some of which were internal to the organization and others a significant lack of membership, of which the branch and to competing with other Legion branches that offered more services. It took a while to sort through them, but personal resolve and community interest kept them afloat. In 1960, with a burgeoning membership of 178, a positive step was taken towards expansion, when a committee was struck to purchase land and construct a building on Station Ave, in order to operate a ‘liquor lounge’.The committee approved a 21-day option on the site and a special meeting approved the proposal to purchase 761 Station Avenue for $4800, with an option to purchase an adjoining property, with the total area being three acres. The committee recommended that the Dunford property be advertised for sale and a 5000 s/ft building be purchased for approx $30,000.00 to be financed through the sale of shares of $100 each. With a liquor licence in hand, RCL #91, Prince Edward Branch, was officially opened by the Lt-Gov of BC, General George R. Pearks on the 19th of February, 1964. The cenotaph on Dunford Rd was moved to Station Ave, with the parade starting at the Masonic Lodge, down Station Ave. In February 1974, with membership approaching 1000, the Executive sought and received membership approval of a mortgage for the construction of an auditorium at a cost of $250,000 and the basement being finished for an additional $35,000. Construction of the annex meant the movement of the cenotaph for the second time, which was moved to the Juan de Fuca Recreation Park, adjacent to the Centennial Swimming Pool, where it was dedicated in April 1975. This also provided opportunity of the renovation of the original building to provide the lounge, games room and improved kitchen facilities. In the late 2010’s a vision of a complete demolition and rebuild of Branch 91 with many expanded services, became a vision of renovation and renewal. In May 2022, the branch closed its doors and over almost 18 months, saw a revitalization of a community centre for veterans and the community. While there were trials and tribulations, arguments, disagreements, nods of approvals, ascension on some, not so much on others, a lack of people (trades and sub-trades) and sky-rocking costs of supplies and not to mention, asbestos, asbestos and more asbestos….. Cost increases, special meetings of the membership to approve those skyrocketing costs, as well as some pretty significant structural issues found along the way, here we sit, in a building that has found new life. Bravo Zulu to the Branch Executive, the Building Committee and all the volunteers who have made this possible. This is an exceptional building and organization who will do the Westshore and greater Victoria well, into the future.

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