PoMo Legion turns 80, looks to future
The Royal Canadian Legion in Port Moody turns 80 today and celebrations are being held at the Clarke Street address that Branch 119 has called home since New Year’s Eve 1955.
On that night, according to the Canadian Legion’s official history of the B.C.-Yukon Command, “There was a roof on the building, but no floor. All had a great time.”
Today, along with a roof and a polished dance floor, there’s a festively decorated wall where the branch’s original charter hangs, torn and yellowed with time, naming the Legion’s nine founding members and signed “on this date of April twenty-second, 1931.”
But while it’s a time for celebration (from 1 to 4:30 p.m. today), Branch 119’s 80th birthday is also a time to reflect on diminishing memberships and the changing roles of legions across the country.
Once something strictly reserved for Canadian veterans of war and their families, today, Royal Canadian Legion membership is open to any Canadian willing to swear a quick oath to Canada, to the Queen and to the Legion.
Yet despite that, last year across Canada, 57,000 former Legion members didn’t renew their membership, some due to death, some due to disinterest, according to Port Moody Legion president Faye Johnson.
Branch 119 still has nine veterans of the Second World War in its membership.
And while it would be folly to think that Canada hasn’t been producing veterans of war in the time since WWII, the interest among younger veterans and active soldiers is something Legions are having to work to attract.
“A lot of the veterans coming back from Afghanistan, they sign right back up and go again,” Johnson said, noting that Branch 119 proudly counts four veterans of combat in Afghanistan among its members “but all four are now back over there.”
And while appealing to the families of younger veterans and the public at large is a priority of legions across the country, Port Moody’s Branch 119 is also adapting to accommodate — literally — its older members and their families.
By late 2013, Johnson said the PoMo Legion membership plans to undertake a complete overhaul of its property at 2513 Clarke St., knocking down the current hall to build a five-storey seniors’ housing complex, with meeting rooms and seniors’ centre kitchen on the ground floor.
The plan has been in the works for some time and has evolved from plans for a smaller assisted-living centre on one half of the 0.8-acre property to, now, a larger independent-living complex covering the entire property.
One thing that won’t change, according to Branch 119 manager Peter Woods, is the legion’s mandate of giving back to local charities and community organizations, including Share, SUCCESS, Scouts Canada, and local food banks and hospices.