Royal Canadian Legion
# 26 Colonel Moore Branch
Our Proud History
Banff the Beautiful
Although united in a common cause, no two Legion Branches are identically the same. Each has a special characteristic that makes it uniquely different from other branches. One such branch may be found in Banff, the Col. Moore branch No. 26. This branch in unique in that, being in a famous tourist resort, it plays host to thousand of visitors each year. During one period in 1978, visitors signed the guest-book from every province in Canada, every state in the U.S.A. as well as from 18 other countries. Over the years, many dignitaries have visited the club including 8 Dominion Presidents.
This branch, like many others, has successfully kept going through a depression, a war and, a disasterous fire. It was organized by a few veterans, who for various reasons, returned to Banff before the end of World War I. It was called “The Rocky Mountain Park Branch”, and the G.W.V.A. charter was dated March 30, 1918. The first president was W. Noble and among the 18 charter members was Colonel Phillip Moore, after who the branch was renamed after 1968.
The first meetings were held in the old Banff Fire Hall. Then a month later, the organization secured a three-year lease on a large unfinished room over Dave White’s store. Members worked hard painting and plastering and finally turned the premises into an attractive clubroom. It was officially opened with a whist drive and dance in May 1918.
Plans got underway at once, to raise funds to build a hall. To do this, card parties, dances, bazaars, auction sales, raffles, concerts, etc. were held. Each member made a donation of not less than $10 to purchase a lot and in February 1920, the property where the present hall stands, was bought (on a re-issuable 42 year lease.) Today this is one of the choice sights in Banff, with a beautiful view of the Bow river.
Finally enough money was raised to start building. Members did a lot of the building themselves and the organization moved in, in 1923. At first G.W.V.A. occupied only the basement and then money was borrowed to finish the upstairs. In 1927 this mortgage was paid off and another was taken out in 1928, to build a small addition to the rear of the building.
The cenotaph, that stands in front of the Legion Hall, was built in 1923 by the I.O.D.E. When the new addition was started in 1957, the cenotaph, unable to be moved, was taken apart piece by piece, stored and then rebuilt, exactly as it was before, in its present location.
The Legion charter was issued on October 27, 1926, with W. Potts as the first legion president. The 20’s and 30’s were lean years for the club. Christmas parties were held each year for the children, made possible by donations from the members. There were smokers, whist drives and dances, held in the Brewster Hall and then later in the Cascade Hall. There were also sleigh rides to Lake Minnewanka, picnics and free movies for the children, and the branch sponsored “Girls’ Sunshine Flower Club”. So, the money was scarce, morale remained high and goods times were plentiful!
During World War II, Banff had quite a record of enlistments per capita. From a town with a population of about 2,000, there 411 enlistments and 25 of these were women.
G. Pierce, H. Fuller and F. Wells raised over $10,000 for the war effort with a victory wheel set-up in the club. Tickets were sold for 25 cents and each week there were draws for War Certificates. The members of the branch also worked very hard pushing the sale of war bonds. Banff received very little recognition, in Canada, for its success in the Third Victory Loan but got quite a bit of publicity in England! Banff went many times over its quota and flew seven pennants from the Victory flag-staff, topping all of Canada in percentage. At Christmas in 1944, the Legion looked after the billeting in private homes, of 150 visiting service men and women.
The Ladies’ Auxiliary was formed in 1947 with an ex-service women, Betty Purcell as the first president. The 50’s and 60’s were active and productive ones for both the branch and the Auxiliary in many successful projects that were combined efforts of the two. Two of these joint projects, still going strong, are the Bingo Committee formed in 1957, and the Christmas Tree Committee formed in 1962. Also patients from the Col. Belcher Hospital have been entertained jointly since 1948.
Plans for a new hall, to be built on the riverside of the old, and the two to be joined, got under way in the spring of 1957. A mortgage was taken out and with most of the work done by volunteers; the building was officially opened in June 1958. The basement was finished one year later, also by volunteer labour.
Membership increased and interest was high. The mortgage was burned at a special ceremony in November 1960. Two months later, fire of unknown origin, destroyed the old hall and gutted the new structure. This was a terrible blow to the Legion, but members went to work and 10 weeks later, the Legion again opened its doors.
Another mortgage was obtained and a new building was built on the site of the old hall, which was opened in January 1962. This final mortgage was burned in October 1976. Membership today (1980) stands at 280, with 63 Fraternal Affiliates while the Ladies’ Auxiliary has 83 members.
Youth has received much attention from the Banff Branch. The very successful “Youth Athletic Club” was sponsored by the branch for over a decade.
During that time it received recognition with a featured article in the Legion Magazine and appeared in the Legion movie “A Long Way From Tipperary”. For its efforts with this club, the branch received “Albertan Sportsmanship Award” in 1966.
For several years, a bus was owned and operated by the branch. It was used to take skiers up Norquay, skaters to lessons, school classes to picnics and Boy Scouts to camp, etc.
Donations were given to help skiers compete in distance ski meets, to send Cubs to the Ice Stampedes, to purchase uniforms for hockey teams, etc. Last summer the branch purchased trophies, which were presented to Army Cadets attending the Banff National Army Cadet Camp.
Senior Citizens have not been forgotten, they have been entertained regularly and each year donations are sent to the Senior Citizens’ Home in Canmore and to help operate the Senior Citizens’ Shopping Bus. Each year the branch donates to the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital, from the Legion Poppy Fund, to help purchase needed equipment.
Over the years members of the branch have taken an active part in all community programs. Members have served on Community Committees such as: the Banff Winter Carnival, Banff Indian Days, Welfare, Sports, Coronation Jubilee and Centennial Committees. For a Centennial project, the branch donated the playground equipment to a local recreation area.
The Col. Moore branch has successfully hosted three Provincial Conventions; 1949, 1959, and 1967, also hosted the National Curling Championships in 1974. In 1976 Banff was one of the sites for the passing of the torch in the Torch Cavalcade which was held as part of the Legions’ Golden Anniversary Celebrations. So today in 1980, the Banff Branch, after 62 years, still concerns itself with the youth, the aged, the veteran and the community as well as playing host to visiting members who holiday each year in Banff National Park.
Compiled from an article by Iris Chapelhow from the June 1980 edition of the
Legion Magazine about #26 Col. Moore Branch Banff.
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