The history of Unit #100 goes back to the grim days of the Depression in 1931. On March 31 of that year a group of World War I Veterans met at 4009 Kingsway, Burnaby, for the purpose of establishing a new unit of the Army & Navy Veterans in Canada. Some seventy-two members were signed up, dues were set at One Dollar per year and, with the help of a fifty dollar grant to them from the then British Columbia Command, the required twenty-five signatures were appended to the application and it was forwarded to Dominion Headquarters.
Sometime in May of 1931 a charter was issued to the Central Park Unit #100 of the Army & Navy Veterans in Canada.
Following its establishment, meetings were held in the homes of various members during the thirties. One of the locations was the home of G. R. Bell who lived on Smith Avenue in Burnaby. Sadly Comrade Bell suffered a house fire later in the decade, and the original charter was lost. (In those days no copies of the Charters were maintained at Dominion Headquarters.)
Nothing daunted, our intrepid group re-applied and a new charter was issued on 16th April, 1940 for the Kingsway Unit #100 of the Army & Navy Veterans, which charter still hangs in the clubrooms. One of the original movers and shakers of the Unit was Brian Garner, a charter member, who played a large part in the subsequent development of the club.
Progress in the Unit was relatively modest until the advent of World War II. As a result of this great conflict a new pool of veterans came into being, and the “Kingsway” Unit received its share in a burgeoning membership.
Early in 1944 the Unit purchased from Harry Atkins the old Gladstone Inn at 2211 Kingsway (at Gladstone Street) as its first permanent home. This building had a magnificent history of its own from being a sedate hostelry on the road from Vancouver to New Westminster, to being a roaring nightclub with services of “ladies of the evening”. The lower floor became the Canteen and the upper floor became a cocktail lounge known as the “1950 Club”. A large number of the local business and professional people adopted the 1950 Club as a regular luncheon and bridge meeting place until the building was destroyed by fire on the night of November 11, 1970.
As a term of the sale and purchase of the building, Harry Atkins became the first Secretary Manager, a position he occupied during the formative years. (It was also a means of monitoring his equity in the building and to ensure that payments on the mortgage were made as a first priority. In a few years the mortgage was paid off.)
The property, at time of purchase, consisted of a large tract on Kingsway covering to the comer of Gladstone Street. At a later period the immediate comer portion was leased to the “White Spot”, a drive-in restaurant. Both parties benefited from this arrangement. Following this enterprise the Unit established a registered Holding Company to safeguard its assets, the membership in the Holding Co. being derived from the senior Active members of the Unit. This move has served the Unit well.
In the post-war years control of the Unit came more and more into the hands of the veterans of World War II but the veterans of World War I gave in with good grace when they realized that WW II Veterans were responsible and capable.
As the years went by the biggest single annual commemorative event was Remembrance Day, November 11th, but the Unit continued to observe Vimy Day and then also D-Day as most important occasions. There was a special recognition each year of the veterans of World War I as their numbers dwindled.
A new cadre of membership, the Associates, made up of non veterans was created to satisfy a demand by younger members of the community. A very satisfactory arrangement and relationship ensued from this. In later years a further cadre of members, the Affiliates, would be created, mostly from the Associates, but they would now have a voice and vote, with certain limitations.
In 1967 (before the fire) Unit #100 celebrated Canada’s Centennial with a large menu of events dealing with Canada’s history and the history of the Unit in its community. The Unit was very much family oriented and thus children were included in this event and many others such as annual picnics and Xmas parties.
Following the great fire in 1970 a new building was constructed on the site of the old one and there are those who claim that the ghosts of former members percolate up through the foundation to make their presence felt and to see how their club is progressing. They are not forgotten.
The Unit has always involved itself in community affairs by sponsoring sports teams and community events. It grants bursaries to students (the children of members) to further their post-secondary education. (One such student became a Prime Minister). The Unit has also produced a number of Provincial Command Officers and Presidents, Dominion Directors and Officers and a Dominion President. It has also sponsored good feelings with American veterans through the exchange of flags ceremonies with the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
In 1942 a Charter was issued to the Ladies Auxiliary to Unit #100 and there are hardly words to express the contributions made by “our Ladies” to the welfare and progress of the Unit. They deserve a large measure of credit for the survival and flourishing of the Unit which is very much appreciated in the club. They have a revered history of their own.
Although the “Kingsway” Unit has suffered vicissitudes of various kinds (mainly economic) it has always come up with a functioning management which could bring it back from the brink when the future did not look too bright. It is to be hoped that the position and status of such veterans’ clubs will not be diminished in the future but will be sustained by a new membership which has not experienced the horrors of war but which has not forgotten the past.
These day’s Unit #100 is again showing the comradeship it is credited for by supporting East Vancouver Unit #68 in a time of need by graciously hosting the unit for the next few years awaiting re-development of a new facility.