Morden Legion Branch #11 has been in the community for 50 years now, and Legion President Bob Frost said the Legion is in great shape moving into the future.
“If you look across the province and across Canada in general, a lot of branches are struggling and a lot of them have closed,” Frost said. “I think this is a testament to our executive over the years, our membership and our volunteer groups.”
Frost said the Legion hasn’t been without its own struggles, but through a lot of hard work the executive has turned things around.
“We’re starting to get more and more members,” he said. “We’re probably averaging about three new members a month, which is good because some of our older membership have passed on or moved out of province and aren’t renewing.”
Frost said the Legion’s volunteer base has also grown from about 20 to close to 75. “That all adds up to having a healthy branch,” he said. “With any luck we’ll continue to do so for another 50 years.”
The Legion held their 50th anniversary ceremony on June 23, and Frost said he was pleasantly surprised with the turnout.
A past president came from Brandon for the ceremony, and two members of the Ladies Auxiliary (the group that helped fundraise for the construction of the Legion) were in attendance.
Frost said the Legion also asked Commanding Officer Chris Flook of the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron 179 for cadets to help serve food and tea. 11 cadets showed up to help.
“Every time we ask for assistance in something, there’s always some cadets that step forward,” he said. “We’re very thankful for that.”
The Legion started out as a meeting place for returning veterans and has evolved over the years. “At the time most of them probably wouldn’t talk about what they had done in the war and the only place they really could feel comfortable talking about it was with other veterans that had been there,” Frost said.
Morden was the 11th Legion to open in Canada in 1969. Comrade Jim Hartry was President of the Morden Chamber of Commerce at the time.
“Where the old hall had been was sold and the town did not have a hall of any kind for any gatherings or banquets,” he said.
Hartry helped lobby City Hall for some funding for a Hall, and he was at the official grand opening of the Legion on January 17 1969.
The Legion was a place for people to gather.
“Legion members refer to each other as ‘comrades’… there was a kinship or a brotherhood between all the veterans,” Hartry said. “This was one of the ways for them to be together and serve the community together.”
Morden has changed a lot in 50 years, but Hartry said the Legion has remained a constant. “The building is still one of the feature buildings in our downtown area,” he said. “It is very successful and well maintained and just as active now as it was 50 years ago.”
Hartry said the Legion is at the point that they don’t have many veteran members left, but as membership has opened up from veterans to family members to whoever would like to join, they remain active in the area.
“The Legion has been very active in our community with supporting minor hall and minor hockey and different programs over the last number of years,” Hartry said.