ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION BRANCH 57 Mission, BC
Mission City LA History
On the 1st of October 1929 in the Dewdney Memorial Hall, the provincial President of the Women’s Auxiliary, Canadian Legion (BESL) (Mrs. E. Barnard) attended and eleven ladies agreed to form the Auxiliary to branch #57. Mrs. B.L. Derbyshire became president at the first official meeting held on November 5, 1929. The first project the Women undertook was to support the Branch by handling the distribution of poppies to local school children as well as street sales for the November 11th campaign. The first Auxiliary committees included membership, ways and means, sick and visiting, and social. By the December 1929 meeting the membership had grown to 24 women.
Early in 1930, the Legion purchased property and moved the Acme House (a former boarding house) from the highway right of way onto the property. The top floor of the building was reserved for the use of the Women’s Auxiliary. On moving into their new home in early 1931 the Auxiliary purchased a second hand piano for $100.00. One of the ladies purchased a table and some chairs. There were others who donated more chairs and each member donated at least one cup and saucer, plate and spoon.
On the 7th day of September 1936, in the midst of the Great Depression, a new legion building was opened. Being the holder of a beer license the weekly dances, weddings, concerts and bingo drew the public and helped fill the service veteran’s fund. The Women’s Auxiliary membership increased as the group catered for not only Legion activities but for other community events held in the hall. The Women were very much involved in all aspects of running this new building as it was fundraising for their various projects that involved the men overseas, their families at home and those veterans returning home
The Poppy Campaign remained their real focus until 1968 when the branch took over the organizing of these duties. All monies earned from this campaign are given to local charities such as the hospital, service groups, and senior’s homes. The Ladies help today by counting the money and providing refreshment to the taggers and cadets who are selling the poppies.
There were gifts of fruit and flowers taken on visits to the veterans in hospitals all over the lower mainland. Hampers and donations were given to those who were shut in and home bound. Assistance went out in helping to educate the veteran’s children. Support was available to the widows with whom they had “worked, worried and grieved” while the men were overseas. Community activities had the Women helping with flood relief during 1948 and over many years with the Red Cross blood donor clinics.
During WW 2 the Women packed parcels for the troops overseas, knitted layettes and socks, and sent gifts to those in need in Britain as well as caring for the sick and needy at home. “C” Company of the Westminster Regiment was also a special beneficiary of the Mission City Women’s Auxiliary.
Membership over the first 15 years showed considerable growth. There were 75 to 80 women attending Auxiliary meetings on a regular basis. The change in name from “Women’s Auxiliary” to “Ladies Auxiliary” also took place. This new evolving attitude allowed the ladies to use their own first name rather than that of their husband. More ladies were now working out of the home and by 1958 the catering had slowed down. By 1979, three of the auxiliary ladies had been named as Mission’s “Citizen of the Year”. They were Annie Barnes, Olive Leaf and Phyllis Hickson.
Today, as well as supporting the branch in community events, the ladies still provide catering to funeral teas and veteran’s celebrations. A bursary is given each year to a qualified high school student. The “Annie Barnes” bursary is presented in memory of a long time and very active past president and member who had helped in the auxiliary from the time she had been a teen. It is still remembered that when Annie catered, her volunteers always got the first meals served.
The branch has moved twice in the past 10 years due to financial pressures. The Auxiliary is still active and wants to make sure that they are going ahead but also maintaining ties with the past. Today membership stands at 40 with 7 life members and is open to anyone in the community who wants to continue the efforts of supporting the veterans and memories of the past as well as being there for the veterans of the present and the future. Being related to a veteran is no longer a criteria of membership. We are all family.
March 31, 2007