The war had ended and life was steadily returning to normal in Qualicum Beach when 13 former First World War servicemen got together and decided to organize a branch of the British Empire Servicemen’s League, Canadian Division.
It was 85 years ago Wednesday when the organization that would later transform itself into the Qualicum Beach Legion Branch 76 got its certification, said branch member Wilma Stevens.
For that reason, Legion members packed into the facility on Veterans Way in Qualicum Beach to celebrate.
“When the veterans came back it took them a number of years to get settled,” Stevens said. “There was a feeling there should be some kind of organization where veterans could get together and meet.”
She said the organization has come a long, long way since that day, so long ago.
“When I got involved in 1987, we had approximately 300 members,” she said. “In 1988 they built the extension and the lounge moved from the basement to where it is now and it generated more interest in the branch, because it was seen as more of a social place. The membership doubled in two years.”
Now, she said, the Qualicum Beach Legion has more than 900 members, one of the few in the country that is actually thriving at a time when veterans from the Second World War are fading away and younger veterans are showing less interest in joining the organization.
“This is a very progressive branch,” Stevens said. “We are very fortunate to have younger members in their 50s coming in. We are getting the kind of people we can call on to take over the running of the branch.”
Not only the number of members has grown over the years, she noted, with this year’s poppy campaign total of over $17,000, contrasting to the 1990 total of $2,200.
Branch president John Humphrey said this year’s celebration saw the cementing of the cenotaph area and a new mural solicited from Kwalikum Secondary School students.
Humphrey agreed the branch is healthy, but that doesn’t entirely staunch his concern about the organization as a whole.
“This branch is doing quite well, but unfortunately, you are always hearing of other branches closing,” he said.