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Branch History
A Brief History
(Original research by Comrade Bill Doran)

In 1927, about twelve veterans attended a meeting at the Atlas Lumber Company in Lacombe, operated by veteran Thomas Wilkes. At this meeting, they formed the Lacombe Branch of the Canadian Legion British Empire Service League (B. E. S. L.).

The Branch was officially constituted on January 1, 1930 with fifteen veterans signing the Charter. The comrades were: A. Lundie, H.E. Heath, J. Russell, W. Jardine, W.R. Barker, A. Sage, F. Marquardt, J. MacDonald, Thomas Wilkes, F.D. Locke, Chas. Duthie, Wm. Anderson, A. MacDonald, W. Butlin and L. Green.
During this period and to the end of WW II, the 'Great War Veterans Association' (G.W.V.A.) always observed 'Armistice Day' on November 11 and enjoyed comradeship at the Empress Hotel. The proprietor, Claude Gillis and his wife, served the returned men with a much-appreciated buffet-lunch or dinner.

The Branch undertook various projects, such as furnishing a room in the old Lacombe General Hospital. They also undertook the challenge of assisting members in need.

Sponsoring the annual November 11th 'Talent Contest and Dance' at the Central Alberta Pavilion (Research Station area) was a major community service to raise funds for selected projects.
Perhaps the most significant role of the Branch during the 1939-45 World War was arranging sites for recruiting and assisting at recruiting drives, for the various military services. Another major project was to assist in promoting War Bond and Victory Bond Drives.

During the early 1950s, a great deal of the activities of the Branch was directed toward the promotion of youth sports, especially in baseball and track and field.

From 1945 onwards, Legion meetings were held in a variety of locations. For a number of years, they were held in the Lacombe Fire Hall, and then for a few years after that, upstairs over the 'pool hall' on 50th Street.

In 1950, the old Catholic Church was purchased, largely through the fund raising efforts of members Comrades Bev. Jones, Howard Armstrong, Ron Moore and many others. The Church was renovated throughout, and served as the Branch Building for about six years. Ron Moore took a major risk in the planning stage and was maligned by both veterans and non-veterans.
In 1958, the adjoining lot was purchased; the old building (the church) was razed and the new Legion building was constructed.

Chuck Morris was the President in 1958. He and his committees were on the go constantly with numerous fund raising activities. Lloyd Wallace, a veteran and carpenter, supervised construction of the new building. Volunteer workers put in hundreds of hours of labour.

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In 1959 the name, British Empire Service League (B. E. S. L.), was dropped and the organization became known simply as the Canadian Legion. In 1961 the name "The Royal Canadian Legion" became established.

As President during 1982 to 1984, Comrade Vernon Kamlah opened the first phase of the Legion Sunset Campground at Gull Lake. Comrade Martin Kaufmann was Branch President during 1985-86 and opened the second phase. .

Major renovations to the Branch building were undertaken during President Swen Odland’s term during the years 1990-91.

Unfortunately, a few years ago the Branch had a small but disastrous fire and most of the membership records and other documents were destroyed.

With the end of World War II in 1945, preliminary plans were drafted by a special committee of the Legion regarding construction of a Memorial Community Hall in Lacombe. A news item of that period stated:
"Plans were to be further discussed before seeking the cooperation of all the other service organizations in Lacombe".
It is not clear whether this preliminary planning had anything to do with the eventual construction of the Memorial Centre. It burned to the ground in the fall of 1953, on the site where the Lacombe Memorial Centre (L. M. C.) now stands. The new facility was built with funds from the fire insurance. It is not known if this insurance covered the total cost of construction.

There are plans to build a much larger building in about the year 2005. It will be located some distance from the main business area in Lacombe.

The future of the L. M. C. is unknown at this time.

Will the Lacombe Branch be in a position to influence the planners and recognize the Legion's contributions of the past?

Will this proposed complex be named The Lacombe Memorial Centre?

Will the ‘Lest We Forget Park’ be removed from its present location?
If this happens, 'will we forget'?

The memory must remain alive for future generations to understand the sacrifices made on their behalf.

For your information, a more comprehensive history is available in Lacombe Legion Branch #79.

Click here for the history and other information about the Lacombe Legion Branch #79 Ladies Auxiliary

We will remember them!

Lest We Forget

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