‘Off the beaten track’: The Legion branch in Scarborough’s Oakridge opens doors to the community

Sandra Kennedy and Nelda Tanner, branch president, check photographs in the club room of the Royal Canadian Legion in Oakridge.  The club in southwest Scarborough wants people to know that everyone can become a member.

“Shoes must be worn when dancing,” says a club room sign at the Royal Canadian Legion in Oakridge.

The building a stone’s throw from Danforth Avenue has experienced lively times in the 95 years since Branch 73 opened to veterans in the southwest Scarborough neighborhood.

The sign is up because you never know when there may be glass on the floor, says Nelda Tanner, the current president of Section 73, adding, “You’re not supposed to have a drink when you dance either.”

These days, however, Scarborough Legion Halls, often the oldest community buildings in the area, are quieter places that are slowly reopening after pandemic closures that followed long-term declines in membership.

Oakridge is down to 88 members. “A lot of people have not paid because they could not get in,” Tanner said last week.

“Some are being obtained now, but next year’s dues must be paid.”

Tanner, whose black-and-white portrait is on a wall with former presidents dating back to Allan Bishop (1927-28), said she heard the building started as a small house.

Another image shows branch 73 ready for expansion in the 1950s, bricks stacked out front. “We were called the little club with a big heart,” said Sandy Kennedy, member secretary, who hosted an open house on Oct. 23 for the anniversary.

Many people came and it felt like the Oakridge Legion was back on the map, reinforcing the message that everyone was welcome.

Members and guests enjoy the club room at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 73 in Oakridge during a celebration marking the ward’s 95th anniversary on October 23, 2021. – Kathy Lee Photo

Brought in by his son, an avid darts player, Kennedy became involved in the branch and is passionate about keeping it alive.

It was local veterans who started it after they risked their lives, she said. “We have to keep it going. That’s the right thing to do.”

The problem is that people do not know that memberships are open to everyone and that they can come in – and support veterinarians, the Legion and the neighborhood – even if they are not members.

In the large hall that can be rented upstairs, a gold buyer from Quebec used a fraction of the space.

“We are off the beaten track here. A lot of people are not aware that we are here,” Kennedy said.

Regulars of course enjoy darts, snooker, television and Saturday afternoon meat spin – for $ 2 per ticket, people can win their choice of chicken, steak or other meat to take home.

Oakridge will host its own little Remembrance Day service at 13.00 after the traditional gathering at. 10.45 at the Scarborough Cenotaph. Other local legion departments will as well.

In Oakridge’s Club Room, a jug holds $ 5 banknotes that have fallen in to help with maintenance costs. A nearby wall shows a case of relics from veterinarians who are now long gone, donated.

“Many years ago it used to be busy, busy, busy. You could not get into this place,” said Rob Hindrichsen, a 30-year-old member who also works at the bar.

Once, he said, Scarborough’s police officers gathered there, and so many supervisors from the former town’s operations department were told that the Oakridge Legion was a good place to look for work.

A World War II veterinarian, Bill Whitworth, worked for 50 years in Section 73 designing a stained glass memorial for fallen comrades in that war, unveiled in 1983 and still in the clubhouse.

Membership Secretary Sandra Kennedy stands at a memorial to Oakridge residents who died during World War II at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 73. – Dan Pearce / Metroland

On Kingston Road in Birch Cliff, the local legion recently welcomed new members and community support.

“We are spreading the message that you do not have to be involved in the military to support the Legion,” said Dan Burri, President of Division 13.

Drives where volunteers collected and returned bottles of wine and beer to beer and liquor stores raised $ 10,000 during the pandemic, enough to pay utility bills when the branch had no other income.

The building at Kingston and Kildonan Drive began as a British Army League veterans’ hall in 1922 and became the Legion’s Scarboro Division in 1927.

HISTORY BAG HISTORY: Reporter Mike Adler wanted to see how a Scarborough Legion branch that celebrated 95 years in Oakridge coped with the pandemic and the need to attract new members.


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