High River Legion History
Summarized by Comrade Barbara Andersen.
An interesting article was found on Tommy Logan, who was in the 50th and 31st Battalion form 1915 to 1919. He was wounded in Somme, and was the first veteran to return to High River from WW1, on 05 June, 1917. He first joined a Veterans organization Calgary in 1917, called The European War Veterans Association (E.W.V.A.). Later the name was changed to The Great War Veterans Association (G.W.V.A.)
Tommy Logan , along with Major Scott, and other WW1 veterans worked on forming the High River Legion.
15 Nov. 1928: There were invitations sent out to ex-servicemen from the surrounding communities to attend a meeting in the I.O.O.F.hall on 15 Nov, with a very gratifying response. Approximately 80 men gathered with the view to organize a legion in High River. Rev. George Biddle was the chairman and on his right sat Senator D.E. Riley.
Also, Art Wakelyn and Major Westmore of Calgary were there.
Mr. Wakelyn, Provincial Command Secretary, outlined the manner of procedure, and explained the necessity for all servicemen to join the Legion as they would get their just rights from out government more readily than remaining as individuals.
Officers elected were as follows:
Honorary President – Senator D.E. Riley
President – Major C.D. Scott
1st Vice – Tommy Logan
2nd Vice – Warren Kennedy
Sec.Tres – H. Wright
Chaplin – Rev. George Biddle
Executive – J.T. Brown – Aldersyde
K. Bateman – Blackie
N. Stephenson – Cayley
J.S. Stephenson – Loch Sloy
S. Thompson – Longview
J.M.Blair – High River
Dr. York Blayney – High River
At the first meeting, President Scott told of the town having slotted a portion of the town cemetery as a Field of Honour for burial of returned soldiers. There is a custom observed throughout Canada of placing an everlasting poppy wreaths on the graves of all soldiers. It was resolved that this custom will be observed here and that during the Summer a Sunday Memorial Day will be observed to place wreaths on the graves.
In the 1930’s and 40’s, the Branch was in the capable hands of the WWI Veterans. These veterans were a little reluctant to turn the running of the Branch over to WWII vets, however, it gradually happened and it was a smooth transition.
Due to lack of attendance at meetings, land was purchased on MacLeod Trail where the former Pioneer Cafe and Bargain Store were located, with the intention of building a professional building with Branch rooms in the basement. The Branch’s application for a liquor licence was turned down due to a campaign against the location, which eliminated the building of the Legion at that time.
To the best of out knowledge, the Cenotaph that stands in front of the Highwood Memorial Centre was built in 1934, to commemorate those Veterans lost in WWI. The names of those who fell in WWII were added later.
In 1947, the Branch and the community were asked for their support in the building of a Memorial Centre as a lasting Memorial. In 1948, the Memorial Centre was built (using the recreation hall that was moved over from #5 EFTS Air Base as the core of the building), the Centre allotted a room solely for the Branch. The room was to be used for Branch meetings and functions.
In 1989, land was purchased on 8th Ave. SE. Comrade Bill Rogers backed a loan at the Pioneer Credit Union and a building was started. The Province provided a grant of $30,000.00 and the building was completed in January 1991.
The Mortgage for the building was burned in 2003.
In 2006, an Archives Committee was established, which gathered Veteran’s histories from WWI, WWII, and the Korean Conflict, and continued up through the years to the present time. This committee is still active.
In 2009, the Memories Recovered Project was initiated, where the histories of 55 Veterans from High River and surrounding area were assimilated and each Veteran and the Legion received a CD of the interviews. Unfortunately, all of the histories and CDs were lost in the flood of 2013.
In the fall of 2011, Branch 71 was presented with a Notice of Motion to close the Branch on January 01, 2012. Two General Meetings were called, the first to explain the reasons for the Notice of Motion, and the second one, held a week later, so that Members could vote on the Motion. The vote was 86 to 22 in favour of keeping the Branch open. At that time, the Branch was under Trusteeship of the AB/NWT command pending presentation of a budget and business plan for 2012.
The budget and business plan were presented to and accepted by Command in the Spring of 2012. Elections for a new executive were held in May and the Branch Charter was returned at that time.
On June 20, 2013, the Highwood River flooded the Town of High River. This was a terrible and devastating disaster which affected about 95% of the town, including our Branch. Almost everything was lost. The Branch had to be stripped out completely, with just the roof and the outside walls remaining. The Executive and Volunteers worked tirelessly to keep the Branch alive while the building was being redone. We now have an entirely rebuilt building with many improvements.
The newly renovated Branch opened it’s doors on April 08, 2014, with the official opening celebration being held on April 20. It was a joyous occasion, the Branch having been closed for almost 10 1/2 months. Though a full recovery will take time and money, the Branch has been progressing in all areas. Volunteers have been exceptional during this recovery period and the Branch continues to rely heavily on them.
The Branch is also very appreciative of the many donations from Members, friends, other Legions and service Clubs, the Province, and the Town of High River. The High River legion history will grow as the Branch continues to provide a service to High River and area Veterans and our community.