Local Legion not just for veterans

Bingo night is Thursday; Chase the Ace runs Friday;

Meat Draw is each Saturday – and all are welcome!


The local Legion is striking off in a new direction.

A new Royal Canadian Legion #25 Killarney executive, sworn in this fall, has swept in with a vigour and determination to move forward with the times.

“The Legion has a motto: to serve veterans past and present, the serving military, including the RCMP, and to remember the sacrifices of all the vets,” said new president Evelyn Dickson-Park. “And for the Legion here to serve the community and the country. That’s kind of why I got involved in it. I hope a lot of other people become involved too.”

The Legion premises was once a bustling and exclusive part of most Canadian communities, with only the war vets able to claim membership. To be invited in to the hallowed premises by a member (signing in under a careful watchman) was an honour.

But these days all that has changed.

The local Legion members now welcome all to their clubroom (downstairs), and to the large hall upstairs, complete with its authentic wood dance floor.

Legion manager Dana Stimpson wants to see more visitors cross over the thresholds of both rooms, and to help bring energy back into the Canadian institution.

“We want to get the Legion more active,” said Stimpson. “I want to see it more lively again. It’s not just for old guys anymore. It’s an every person’s place. We’d like to revive the Legion, and have it used more.”

The clubroom, downstairs from the parking lot entrance on Mountain Avenue, is a cozy, comfortable, retro room.

Hundreds of evocative photos of vets, taken from days gone by, line the walls. Stimpson stocks the bar with beer, wine by the glass (red and white), spirits, coolers, and draft Bud Light.

“We are open daily from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Thursday to Saturday we stay open until 10 p.m.,” he said.

Craig Taylor, a long-time member who held the presidency for many of these past 15 years, said he would like to see today’s current members become more active in the Legion’s activities.

And apparently the local legion offers the only live bingo show in Killarney, he says.

“We have around 200 members in Killarney and Ninette, but a lot of them don’t come out,” he said. “Everybody’s too busy. But we have a number of regular events they could enjoy. We are the only bingo in town. It’s every Thursday night. The doors open at 6 p.m., and bingo goes until 9:30 or 9:45 p.m. You can play every game for $11, or you can come in and play for $2. Lots of people have fun. It’s a social event.”

On Friday afternoon/evenings they host the popular Chase the Ace, he said. A lucky draw for the Ace of Spades could mean thousands of dollars in winnings.

“We open the Chase the Ace at 4:30 p.m., which is when you can start buying tickets,” said Taylor. “You can buy tickets until 6 p.m., and the draw is at 6:15 p.m. Right now the pot is at $3,700, and we have around 30 cards left.”

On Saturday, near to suppertime, it’s time for the old-fashioned – and still popular – Meat Draw.

Legion member Marie Bruce organizes the cuts and packages of meat – 19 of them in total – and says in the summertime they can draw a whopping 70 to 80 people to the event, most of them from the Killarney campground sites.

Last week 40 folks came into the clubroom to have a stab at winning some delicious pork, beef or chicken, she said. Tickets go on sale at 5 p.m., and the draws begin shortly afterwards.

“It’s been going on for years,” said Paul Park, the new sergeant-at-arms. “You can buy three tickets for a dollar, plus we have a 50:50 going. We are trying to hold more events. Why? Because this is our community, and we honour the memory of our vets and members by serving our community and the country.”

The move towards inclusion didn’t just start this year, said Taylor.

“I became president in 2001,” he said. “And it’s been changing since then. The Legion has to adapt to the times. The World War II vets, the Korean vets – they are all passing on. We have three goals now: to increase our membership; to encourage current members to become more active; and to increase our rental revenue from the hall and the clubroom.”

Club members have recently been working hard to rejuvenate the hall, applying fresh paint and giving it a major sprucing up. The authentic kitchen, with intact cupboards from the 1960s, and stoves dating from the ‘70s, plus some new flooring, are still on their list for refurbishment.

“The hall rents from $150 to $500, and the capacity is for 300 people,” said Taylor. “People use it for birthdays, and all kinds of events.”

So why does the new executive want to fire things up in the Legion?

“We want to upgrade our facilities, and we also help with a number of donations to the community,” said Legion president Dickson-Park. “And there are a lot of them. They include one scholarship and one bursary to the graduating class; undergrad awards presented annually at KCI for deserving students; camp registration fees for International Music Camp and Legion Athletic Camp; a contribution towards attendance at Forum for Young Canadians in Ottawa; and a contribution to community projects, including the Killarney Splash Park, Habitat for Humanity, Killarney Playground Equipment, Bayside, and a Community Bench. We also support local sports, for both young and old. We donate to causes where community youth participate, such as the Legion Nationals Youth Track and Field Championships (RCL Sports Foundation); the Peace Gardens Camp, for repairs to camp facilities; and to Kidsport.”

And the members hope to achieve still more.

“Of course, our aim and efforts are to grow this list as we become more financially able to do so,” said Dickson-Park. “Increased attendance for various functions in the clubroom, such as events and music bands, and more rentals of our renovated hall will allow us to serve our community in a more grand scale. We have local talent jams in the Legion, including Boulet Ink, periodically throughout the year. And we would like to have more local talent in the clubroom too. This might interest a few others to signup for a gig, or just come and watch who’s performing.”

More recently, Canadian servicemen and women have deployed for missions in countries that include Afghanistan, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia, and Rwanda, said Paul Park.

“These are just some examples,” said Park, who served on tours in Cyprus and Bosnia, as a resource management services clerk. “The war vets are the ones who sacrificed, but it’s also about the serving military, and the RCMP. Canadians have served in World War I and II, in Korea, in peacekeeping, and in joint operations for peace. We have to remember our comrades, and we are here to remember the other ones too. But today we don’t want to focus only on the military – we are much more than that now. We welcome everyone, regardless of connections to the military. Come one, come all, and enjoy the clubroom!”

To inquire about rentals of the Royal Canadian Legion #25 Killarney hall and clubroom, located on Mountain Avenue (behind the Post Office), contact Dana Stimpson at 204-523-4950.

A DAY TO REMEMBER – This Saturday, November 11, is the local Legion’s Remembrance Day Service, to be held at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 25 Killarney, just after 10:30 a.m., upstairs in the Legion Hall (just behind the Post Office on Mountain Avenue). Pictured downstairs in the Legion Clubroom are (from left): past RLC#25 Killarney president Craig Taylor; new president Evelyn Dickson-Park, and new sergeant-at-arms Paul Park.