History - Kinsmen Club of Calgary

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(Excerpt from Galaxy of Gold (1979))

One day in last November, 1924, two friends met on a busy street in Calgary. Jack Gifford, who was visiting from Vancouver, began to tell John Ross about a new service club for young men. So enthusiastic was the young Vancouverite about this new organization, the aims of which were to promote fellowship among young businessmen between the ages of 21 and 40, that John Ross began to investigate the feasibility of a similar club in Calgary.

The following excerpt written in the language of Manley Edwards is taken from The March of Kin, published by Frank Allison in 1930:

“Say Manley, would you be interested in forming a service club? It was these words that John Howard Ross accosted me with. As a young, recently married lawyer, to whom street car tickets were a luxury, I lost no time in telling John that I was in no position to entertain any thought of joining any such club, embellished I fear by some small epithets re the modus operandi of those so called community benefactors. A few weeks later John Ross introduced myself and Jerry Ferguson to Herman MacWhinney, who explained the origin, development and operation of the Kinsmen Clubs. I remember well the meeting in Marsh Porter’s office one night when Harold Millican, Tommy Collinge, Marsh Porter, Jerry Ferguson, John Ross and I met and discussed the prospects of forming a club. And so, on the 18 day of December, 1924, at the Tea Kettle Inn, thirteen fellows met under the chairmanship of John Ross and inaugurated the KINSMEN CLUB OF CALGARY.”

The charter members were: Manley Edwards, President; John Ross, Vice-President; Tommy Collinge, Secretary; Jim Nicoll, Assistant Secretary; C. Halliday, Treasurer; Harold Millican, Director; Marsh Porter, Director; Jerry Ferguson, Director; Bryan Hammond, Charlie Matthews, Ed Reid, Alex Ross and Tom Skinner.

Monetarily the club had humble beginnings. One of the first fund raisers was running a food concession at the stampede grounds. With this began the spectacle and annual tradition of stampede visitors being hustled by the Kinsmen. Other early projects were relatively successful and the funds were channeled into a hospital project as the main service function. The financial report of 1925 shows a balance of only $174, but the early years cannot be measured in dollars. Fellowship among young men of common interests was the mortar that held the club together and service work was encouraged primarily because it fostered fellowship. At this point the Kinsmen personality was still predominantly isolationist but the changing world situation of the 1930s would propel the club beyond its narrow confines.

It was during that decade that the Kinsmen Club became vitally involved in the national organization. Manley Edwards was the first Calgarian to become national president and in his year, 1931, Calgary hosted its first national convention attended by 66 delegates from across Canada.

Changes were made within the confines of the club also. The ten charter members who remained in Calgary in 1938 met and decided to sponsor the Kinsmen Merit Trophy to recognize and honor an individual member for outstanding service to the Calgary club. On January 12, 1939 the first trophy was awarded to Ian MacDonald for outstanding services rendered the previous year.

Organization was tightened in the club. An inter-service club committee was formed during 1939 to co-ordinate relations with a view to avoiding overlapping or duplicating efforts. In the latter forties, re-organization continued. With the return of veterans, Kin energies were directed to internal operations. Under President Harry Young, innovations in direction and organization were instituted and the club constitution was substantially revised. Due to the high influx of transferees and returning serviced men at the end of the war the membership limit had to be increased from 60 to 75 men.

The executive was given greater decision making power, bringing to the general membership only those matters requiring discussion and voting. Committee chairmen began to report to specific directors rather than the executive as a whole and separate accounts were established. Attendance was excellent during these years. Shenanigans were par for the course and the St. Patrick’s Day Caper was a not unfamiliar kind of tomfoolery. On one particular St. Pat’s day during the forties, the members of Scottish decent spent hours reconstructing the Blarney Castle complete with Blarney Stone. As each member knelt to kiss the scared stone, he found both his posterior and face were unexpectedly assaulted.

The first service work done during this period was the establishment of the Boys Club and the development of the Community Chest Drive, and early version of the United Appeal. For many years the Kinsmen distinguished themselves in these campaigns often exceeding the financial objectives.

In 1939 the membership became involved with the Tuberculosis Association. At this time the club became official board of directors of the association and re-organized it completely.

The most important work during the war was the club’s commitment to the war effort. The royal visit to Calgary by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth had set the scene for the publication and sale of a souvenir program extolling the virtues of Calgary. These funds, plus others garnered from two dances, were directed to the war fund. Co-operation with the National Kinsmen organization was at once an established fact and the quota for the Lick Hitler campaign was easily met. Magazines were collected and bundled for shipment by rail. With the help of wives and friends the club sent a total of 80,000 magazines by the end of the war.

On January 9, 1941, a motion was passed: “That the Kinsmen Club of Calgary shall, while maintaining a high standard, its present service work, give full and complete support to the War Services Program of the National War Services Committee in preference before all other war work.

With 1942 came the inception of the Mile of Dime, a concerted effort by local Kinsmen to raise10 cents per Calgarian per year for the war effort. Radio station CFCN donated air time for a Kinsmen program and listeners were requested to mail in donations which were subsequently announced over the air. In July the club entered a milk wagon in the stampede parade where spectators along the route were requested (almost to the point of harassment) to throw dimes at the float. The total raised in the first Mile of Dimes, $1,600, was directed to the Milk for Britain fund. By the end of the war the Kinsmen Club of Calgary has donated $100,000, an accomplishment which made them well known in the community.

Other war work included working diligently for the Victory Bond Drive. The campaign of 1942 which cajoled citizens “Think . . . a dollar might lesson the war by a minute . . . a hundred dollars might cut one hour . . . a million dollars might save months of war and months of suffering for millions: raised a total of $80,000.

The club supplied both manpower and funds for several blood donor clinics and servicemen’s entertainment nights. RAF Night saw members of the Royal Air Force able to put aside their responsibilities for a few hours and be entertained in true Kinsmen fashion.

In spite of their heavy commitment to the war effort, Kinsmen continued the annual Christmas Seal Drive which consisted of stuffing, sealing and mailing stamps to thousands of Calgary homes. The monies raised provided the personnel, equipment and supplies for the tuberculosis testing centres, the institution and continuation of which meant early diagnosis and control of the dreaded disease. Work at the Junior Red Cross Hospital continued and even through gasoline was rationed the Saturday outings for the children instituted in pre-war years were maintained. As more specialized pieces of hospital equipment became available, they were purchased and donated.

During stampede week, Kin were busy treating the children and the elderly to the stampede parade, organizing and supervising a street dance and held a chesterfield raffle which netted the club sufficient funds to continue its community service work.

The lack of facilities and special requirements for hearing handicapped children were brought to the attention of the membership. For the next few years service funds were directed to the purchasing of audio equipment and supplies, as well as hearing aids for children whose families found the cost prohibitive. Kinsmen participated in the establishment of special classes at the James Short School and gave their whole-hearted co-operation to this venture.

In 1946 the city acquired the Maude Riley Home and in 1961 the present shelter was constructed with an adjacent detention facility. The centre now has its own nursery school and kindergarten and the older children attended local schools. The necessary material things – well equipped rooms, clothes and playground facilities are provided. In this regard, every attempt is made to make the children’s lives as normal as possible. However as the children do lack family attention, the Kinsmen have tried, since 1950, to supply the much needed personal element. Every weekend, the members take the younger children for a drive and show them films. Throughout the year various outings such as hockey games, Ice Capades and World Adventure Tours are arranged with the Kinsmen presence adding the personal touch.

During the forties the K-40 Club had been started and was taking an active role organizing the club’s silver anniversary.

The fifties marked the beginning of an era which placed the Kinsmen Club of Calgary on a solid foundation. Financial success and the aura of big business resulted in the club’s incorporation under the Registrar of Companies and Societies Act. After this milestone, the club embarked upon a road which led to a multitude of major contributions to the community, but first a serious problem had to be resolved. Just after purchasing another vehicle for the hospital, the club found itself in serious financial condition. Morale was at its lowest ebb with no project in sight to motivate and unify the membership.

The club then became aware of the successful car raffles held in Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon and they cautiously approached the Stampede Board to determine the feasibility of a similar project. Negotiations determine that the costs and net proceeds would be split equally, with the Stampede Board profits directed to 4-H and other youth-oriented groups. The first booth resembled a hamburger stand with the car occupying the middle ground. Kin, Kinettes, K-40 and all the friends that could be mustered manned the little booth. However by Friday morning of stampede week receipts were insufficient to pay for the car. Desperate situations require desperate measures. Kin took to the midway to gab, convince and cajole people to buy a ticket for a dollar. The public was sceptical but by Friday night expenses were covered and the next day a profit of $5,800 for the club and the board was realized. From that point on the Kinsmen Club of Calgary never looked back. While it may be true that the incentive to win is sufficient inducement to buy a ticket, the Kinsmen have always kept the public aware that the profits would be earmarked for certain project within the community.

In 1952, Mewata Pool, Which was built by proceeds from the combined efforts of Calgary’s major service clubs, was soon to be dismantled to make way for the 14th Street Bridge. Stu Barker and Bill Webb undertook an exhaustive study to determine the feasibility of a Kinsmen funded pool. They met with Mayor Don MacKay, learned that city council had budgeted $45,000 for the pool replacement, then proposed that the Kinsmen match the budgeted amount thereby allowing two pools to be constructed. City council readily agreed.

The location of this type of facility is always a concern to a service club. When it was announced that two pools were to be constructed, one in the north and the other in the southwest sector, the ratepayers became very vocal in their disapproval.

At the time, another service club representing North Calgary had approached Council to discuss the proposed north pool. They had raised a small amount of money for the same purpose and the city gave them the $45,000 leaving the Kinsmen to pay totally for the other pool. In 1955 – some three years later – the pool was completed at a cost of $80,000.

During the 50’s the club participated in four other swimming pool projects. The second pool was located near Queen Elizabeth School and the third found its place in Bridgeland, just south of the General Hospital. The fourth and fifth pools were financed on a cost-sharing basis; the Killarney Pool and the downtown YMCA received donations of $60,000 and $75,000 respectively.

The fifties must be reviewed as an era of change. The members were more exposed to the public. They had begun to build a reputation as money-raisers responsible for the funding of numerous community facilities.

During the sixties, the Calgary club set high goals and exceeded them. Financial contributions to the community during this decade reached unprecedented levels and if one word could be used to summarize the decade, it would be “success”.

Among the wide range of activities undertaken was the massive injection of participatory sports which would tax even the most avid fan.

Hockey teams, keglers, curling teams and golf enthusiasts chartered buses and trains to transport families and teams to other in Clubs in Alberta for friendly but inspired competition.

In 1963, expansions and inter-club participation was being stressed on local, national and international levels and on April 12, a motion was passed to form a second Calgary club. Under chairman Ron Nicholls, the Jolly Fellows developed into the Stampede City Club, chartered April 12, 1964. Charter Night, 250 Kinsmen and their wives joined Calgary’s National President Keith Adams in welcoming the Kinsmen Club of Stampede City to the National Association. The nucleus of 27 charter members became club number 402 in Canada.

In order to further the inter-club relations and as a final fling, the 1962-63 executive took the old fresh air car – a worthless wreck which had over 125,000 miles logged – painted it with slogans, placed behind the wheel a dummy dressed as a conservative eastern banker, sat beside him a female mannequin dressed in western attire, then shipped the whole mess to the national convention in Hamilton. Late the first evening in the convention city, the wives of Calgary members, perched on top of the car singing western ballads as a transit mix truck pulled alongside and proceeded to fill the car with concrete. Radio, television and newspapers got wind of the unique endeavour and within 48 hours all of Canada and a major portion of the United States had been informed of this, to say the least, strange behavior.

With this Calgary’s reputation for unusual antics was assured and the publicity which resulted proves invaluable in promoting the 1964 National Convention to be held in Banff. As in 1948, Calgary Kin, under Chairman Ken Manning, provided the organization. All social functions were held in the curling arena and when the decorating committee completed its preparations, the building bore no resemblance to its original state. The event was the first prefabricated convention in Calgary’s Kin history. All decorations and props – including the world’s longest Kinsmen bar some 60 feet in length – were built in Calgary and transported to the convention site. Even the food was prepared in Calgary by caterers who brought the meals in cooking trailers, as the arena was not designed to carry the electrical load required by the cooking equipment. It was not unusual for sudden darkness to descend more frequently than the 1,200 Kinventioneers would normally expect. In typical western fashion, visiting Kin were treated to a rodeo and outdoor barbecue and Edmonton and Calgary Kinettes provided kick-line entertainment reminiscent of an earlier era.

The fun and fellowship of this period did not supersede the community service for which the club had become known. Realizing the importance of instilling good safety habits in the minds of city preschoolers, the Kinsmen had worked to that end with the Safety Council since 1940. In 1963 the club increased its input to the safety program and designed and developed a program geared to Calgary’s kindergarten children. Members painted large posters with a safety theme ad distributed them to the kindergartens. In 1967, the Jasper the Bear Safety Program was instigated consisting of an attraction safety education kit designed around a four foot cut-out of Alberta’s own Jasper the Bear.

A major project was started in the sixties for the betterment of the handicapped. The need for a camp for the handicapped in southern Alberta had become apparent to the Kinsmen in the early fifties when the club began supplying manpower and funds for the diabetic summer recreation camp. The members drove the children to a Bragg Creek site, transported provisions and dismantled the temporary quarters upon completion of the camp. This continued for many years and was an unqualified success.

In November, 1964, the idea of making the camp as a Kinsmen project was presented to the general membership. Plans included a main lodge, dormitories, kitchen, medical centre, staff quarters, craft studio and a swimming pool.

It was suggested that the club commit $70,000 with the Alberta Rehabilitation Council for the Disabled supplying the remaining $30,000.

Kinsmen began scouting the Bragg Creek area for a suitable site. They had made several trips into the area when finally, and quite by accident, they came upon a site that had level ground, good access, power lines and a magnificent view of the Rockies. This 34 acre site was leased from the government for a token $1 per year.

Architects, under the direction of Kin Ken Bond and Chuck Zickefoose developed the plans according to the club’s specifications. Then in the spring of 1965 the club received disastrous news. The contracting bids ranged from $251,000 to $424,000, much higher than the original $100,000 anticipated figure. After frantic meetings with the selected contractor the cost was reduced to $170,000, after the pool and several other buildings were eliminated, a grant for an additional $30,000 was obtained and the Hospital Aid Society donated the $10,000 required for the swimming pool.

Construction began in the fall of 1965 and was completed the following spring. The camp now included the facilities for horseback riding, hiking, swimming, campouts, crafts, rifle shooting and canoeing. Indeed the stereotype image of the abilities of the handicapped are dashed at Camp Horizon.

During the first year 220 campers enjoyed the facilities. The camp has since continued to develop with the Kiwanis donating equipment, the Lions making funds available for the Art Centre and the Kinettes supplying and astonishing variety of items ranging from lounge furniture to a tractor. Funds for the directors’ and caretakers’ quarters were supplied by the Active 20/30 Club. Replacement costs for the camp would be over one million dollars. It carters to those afflicted with mental retardation, diabetes and cerebral palsy as well as other physical impairments. The original philosophy, which denies no one the recreational experience for lack of finances, is maintained through campership funds supplied by many service and business organizations.

Club participation does not end with financial contributions. Members serve on the camp board and manpower is supplied at various work parties to maintain the buildings and the grounds. Early in February, Kinsmen and their families have an opportunity to enjoy a weekend outing at the camp. Typical of Kinsmen participation is this mixture of work, fun and relaxation.

For some Calgary Kinsmen, the first forty-five years almost appear as the stepping stones to the pinnacle reached during the dynamic seventies. During this decade the club became involved in a weekly TV Kingo Bingo, which by 1979 had evolved into its most successful fund raising project. The club hosted major telethons with the Stampede City and Foothills Clubs, co-hosted the World Council Convention of 1977, maintained a strong role in District and National affairs with representation by two governors and three deputy governors, increased the number of major fun evenings such as action night, advertiser’s night and family activities in keeping with a greater emphasis on Kinsmen as a family club.

The Club’s first Kingo Bingo was held on February 7, 1970 under the chairmanship of Bob Sawka, and beginning in early 1971 this evolved into a weekly bingo. Not only did this project provide substantial sums of money for the Calgary club’s service work, but it also provided a major source of revenue to approximately thirty participating Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs in Southern Alberta. However, fund raising is not Kingo Bingo’s only attribute. Fellowship is found in abundance as Kinsmen and Kinettes run the program each Saturday evening. Interclub visiting is also stimulated as Calgary’s Kingo Bingo committee travels to other clubs promoting the project.

Kingo, combined with the car award funds, enabled the club to institute a series of projects. Early in 1970, the club embarked on the largest undertaking of its history with the approval of the half million dollar Kinsmen Centre on the stampede grounds. This followed by the upgrading Kinsmen Camp Horizon with the construction of an additional dormitory, constructing a wing of a day training centre at the Providence Child Development Centre for use by over 100 multi-handicapped children, construction of the Kinsmen Children’s Zoo and establishing a school for children with learning disabilities, constructing Kinsmen Elbow River Park on the stampede grounds, and providing funds and aid to Kinsmen Camp Enviros, which endeavours to rehabilitate hard core delinquent youths.

The most significant of the smaller project carries on during the seventies included donations to the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary, Cystic Fibrosis Research Fund, the Children’s Hospital, The Service Centre, St. John’s Ambulance, Theatre Calgary, The Calgary Philharmonic, Cerebral Palsy and the handicapped Boy Scouts. The club purchased optacons to provide blind children with a new reading medium, a Fresh Air bus, and handi busses. Funds provided annual camping trips for needy children and bowling sessions for the mentally retarded.

Conventions during the decade played a large role in the club’s history, and its expertise at holding conventions was displayed at the National Convention of 1972. Aptly named Funtier Daze, the event gave Calgary, according to Calgary Kin, the opportunity to show the rest of the Kin family how to host a convention. Over twenty-two hundreds Kinsmen, Kinettes and Kin wives registered to make it the largest convention in Kin history. Highlights of the convention were the Calgarama production, which was the culmination of eight months of planning and rehearsals, a similar show stopper put on by the Kinsmen and Kinettes of the Edmonton club, and a mini rodeo where the action was fast, furious and often hilarious. The success of this convention prompted the club to bid for the World Council Convention of 1977 in conjunction with the two other Calgary clubs. This co-operative effort by the three clubs in hosting World Council not only enhanced their reputation throughout the Kinsmen organization and the World Council organization, but also fostered a great feeling of togetherness among them. Those who attended will long remember Canarama, the western adventure tour, rodeo and all those house parties. The club was also front and centre in promoting the World Councils in Hamburg, Germany in 1976 and in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1979.

This enthusiasm for conventions provided stimulus for club members to become more involved with the governments at the zone, district, national and international level. Deputy Governors from the club including Jim Duggan in 1974-’75, Bill Miller in 1977-’78, and Clay Harmon in 1979-’80. Zone activities did not end at this point as the club chartered or co-chartered the Kinsmen Club of Foothills City, High River and Cochran. District involvement was attained through Governors Eldon Loucks in 1970-’71 and Ross Allison during 1975-’76. Few in the club and district will soon forget the fabulous campaign for “Hoss Ross for Big Boss” at the National Convention in Vancouver in 1976. Another feather in the hat for the Calgary club was when World Council Chairman of 1977, Gary Lee, was chosen as the World Council representative in America for the 1978-’79 term.

In spite of the shenanigans, the Al San Club management continued to allow the Kinsmen Club to hold their meetings on their premise. Although all meetings are lively, a few deserve special recognition. Campaign nights and old timers’ nights are exceptional. The joint executive installation and Kin Kar Kickoff are mixed meetings where business, fellowship and socializing are blended.

Social events flourished during this decade. In 1979, approximately fifteen to twenty Kin still meet for Kin hockey every Sunday evening. This, combined with zone and district hockey tournaments, has provided for great club and inter-club fellowship. Bowling and bridge are hosted by the Kinette Club and held at intervals during the winter months. The long standing fall barbecue was changed to a Halloween night function and the costumes and scavenger hunt make this an evening not to be missed. Ladies’ Night is the social function of the year and provides Kin with the opportunity to thank the girls for their support. Southern Comfort is held at the Calgary Zoo Aviary with Hawaiian dress being the order of the evening. The annual Kinette spring dance which features an imaginative theme each year, the Kin golf tournament and barbecue, the Stampede wind up party and the Christmas decorating party are other social functions which should not be missed.

Family activities form an integral part of any club and the Calgary club has carried on the successful activities of the past and initiated numerous others during the seventies. The Christmas season forms the nucleus for these activities with a party for Kin children, a children’s hospital party, Cerebral Palsy party and a service centre party where on Christmas morning all members of the club are encouraged to take a few hours from their schedule and bring their families to the centre. Sno Bash compliments the Christmas season activities for the hardy families include sleighing, enjoying hay rides, snowmobiling and fortifying against the elements with one’s choice of wine or hot drinks and ample food for all.  The highlight of family activities is the Kinsmen Camp Horizon cleanup held on the May long weekend.  HORDE OF Kinsmen and their families converge on the camp on a Friday night and give it a first rate cleaning, and although the work is hard, it is carries out in an enjoyable atmosphere. The children are kept busy by a games committee and there is more than enough for them to do during their eighteen hour day.

Although it is the Kinsmen Club that is in the limelight, the majority of its achievements could not have been attained without the full support of the Kinettes and Kin wives. Apart from their understanding, their projects and support of Kin projects have proven vital to the success of the Calgary club. Kingo, Car Awards, Kinventions and volunteer work at the Calgary Lung Association office would not have enjoyed such great success without the participation of the Kinettes and Kin wives. The planning, organization and delivery of the Kinettes during the National Convention in 1972 and the World Council Convention in 1977 frequently outclassed Kin in the same area. Telethons co-hosted by the three Calgary clubs were heavily dependent on Kinette and Kin wife support and innovation.

The Calgary Kinettes were chartered in 1947 with thirty charter members, with Kay Pearpoint as the charter president. Even after the city gained two more Kinsmen Clubs, the Kinettes remained strong with a large membership.

Even before their formation, the Kinettes were aiding the Kinsmen with the Alberta Crippled Children’s Hospital. Christmas trees were decorated each year for the children, and an annual Christmas party is held. Halloween parties are also staged for the children. Kinettes have provided other services for the hospitals such as mending clothes and donating books. Since 1948 the girls have raised money for patients at the Baker Memorial Sanitarium for arts and crafts expenses. Teas to raise the needed funds were held at the Hudson’s Bay store until one day the Kinettes spilled some sugar in the escalator causing it to jam. The Bay didn’t ask them back but the girls continued to raise money.

Each February a party is held at the Calgary Rehabilitation Society, and the girls also visit the patients at the local nursing home once a week, the Kinettes have sponsored children through the Canadian Save the Children Fund and have aided welfare families with Christmas and Easter hampers.

The club provides an annual $850 bursary to further the education of a person working in the field of mental retardation.

For the past few years the Kinettes have been contributing to the Calgary
Women’s Emergency Shelter. In 1979 the Kinettes budgeted $1,500 to the shelter. In addition the Kinettes give clothes, toys and household items to assist women in setting up new homes.

The Kinettes have been collecting articles for the Unitarian Service Committee, have helped with the blood blitz, canvassed for the Cerebral Palsy Association and donated to the District Cystic Fibrosis Project.

Fund raisers have included the Kinsmen Car Awards, Kingo Bingo, Dessert Bridge, mini auctions, Santa suit rental, an innovative Bikeathon and catering at Kinsmen functions.

As an auxiliary to Kin, the Kinettes have little exposure to the public eye, yet the value of the Kinette Club must not be underestimated. The club’s contribution, whether alone or combined with that of Kin, has been felt by the community it serves.

The Kinsmen Club members feel that action, dedication and innovation are the keys to the success of the Kinsmen Club of Calgary, and a dedicated group of Kin have always comprised the club’s membership to supply the spark to turn the key. Calgary Kin so not swell on past glories, but seek out more challenging projects. The challenge has always been met in the past and the Kinsmen Club of Calgary does not doubt the challenge will be met in the future.