Then and Now

By Ted Ross

Then

In the early 1930s, many of the people working in the Provincial Government Public Service were veterans of the 1914-18 Great War.

Following those hostilities, a number of veterans groups and regimental associations had been formed in Canada, but in 1925 they were unified with the formation of the Dominion Veterans Alliance. That same year The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League (BESL) was founded in November, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In July, 1926, a special Act of Parliament incorporated The Legion and allowed the issuance of its charter. The Legion expanded steadily through the 1930s, new branches forming in many regions.

Headed by Frederick Mulholland, of the B.C. Forest Service, a group of Public Service

Image I-68758 of F.D. Mulholland coutesy of the Royal BC Museum-BC Archives

workers in Victoria decided to pursue a Legion charter. On August 5, 1933, the Dominion Headquarters of the Legion issued a Charter for Branch #127 (Public Service) of the Legion. Membership eligibility would be as for any other branch, with the additional stipulation that the member be an employee of the Dominion or Provincial Government Service.

The names of fifteen Charter Members appear on the Branch Charter. In researching on-line, information was found on seven:

In 1934 forester F.D. Mullholland, from the Department of Forestry, published a report titled The Forest Resources of B.C., the first attempt to inventory the forests of the province. He was later on the first council of the Association of British Columbia Foresters named in the Foresters Act. In the late 1930s and early 1940s he lobbied for a major forest policy overhaul in the province.

J.T. Clark was Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs.

J.L. Colbert was Secretary of Victoria Branch Provincial Civil Service Association of British Columbia.

W.R. Tait was Property Clerk, Department of Lands, in Victoria.

W.H. Hutchison  worked in the British Columbia Lands Service Geographic Division for thirty-five years, retiring as Chief in 1955.

J.C. MacDonald was Public Utilities Commissioner, Victoria, B.C.

Newman Taylor was Superintendent of Lands for the Department of Lands.

For the other eight, their records, other than the appearance of their names on the Charter of Branch #127, are lost in the dusts of time. But it can be said, with certainty,that they were all public servants.

The Charter was presented by Comrade W.G. Stone, representing the Zone in which the branch fell, in October, 1933. Dues cost members $1.00 to join and 25 cents per month, payable quarterly.

Now that they had their Charter, the Branch needed a home. It was a problem which continued until, on May 9, 1934, they were able to enter into an arrangement with the Civil Service Association for accommodation at 539 Superior Street. A letter from B.C.'s Premier, in November, 1934, assured, "undisturbed occupation." Their house was in place.

The branch became a member of the Civil Service Council at a general meeting April 30, 1937. In October 1938 they purchased a wreath for the Civil Service Memorial Ceremony or Rotunda Ceremony.

By 1941 there were 64 members. In 1948 the branch moved to quarters at 521 Superior Street, where it remained for many years.

128 youngsters attended the first Christmas party in 1952 for members and their children. 157 girls and boys were at the party in 1953. The festive parties continued until 1982, some three decades later. By that time it was for members and  their grandchildren.

Nearly three dozen Public Servants were killed in WW2. Branch #127 was instrumental in having a  Book of Remembrance established for the 33 souls who gave their lives.

A short-lived Ladies Auxiliary ran from 1954 to 1959.

Beginning in February 1957, Br. #127 sponsored a team in the Fairfield Little League. The Legion still sponsors the Beacon Hill Little League team. In recent years the group has had much success and has competed in the Little League World Series in the United States.

The branch has offered a scholarship for many years. In March of 1968 a general

   Current President - Rudy Vermaning

meeting chose to name it 'Donald Kiers Memorial' in memory of a Branch Service Officer who had helped so many veterans and their families get the help from the government which they deserved.

A November 1975 fire in their building forced the Legion to temporarily move to the Douglas Building cafeteria. The branch held its meetings and functions there until their building was restored. They got back to Superior Street just after the new year in 1977.

In 1985 Branch #127 was given responsibilty for year round maintenance of the wreaths at the Cenotaph. The service continues today.

From the beginning, the Legion has contributed the funds it has made to charities

in the neighbourhood and beyond. The annual list of donations shows them going to cadets, Legion Foundation, food banks, sports teams and  many other community groups. Branch #127 distributes Gaming Fund grants to 16 charities annually. While the Legion's first purpose is Remembrance, a second important duty is Service.

Now

Quoting from A Brief History of Public Service Branch 127, we read, "A couple of interesting developments took place since 2013. Due to development plans for the block, the Province offered the Branch a new home, one equipped with a ramp for wheelchair access. As with all previous moves, this took longer than expected. The move took place in March 2014. For the first time, this move came with an official, 5-year lease. The irony of the move is this was the building the Branch was supposed to move to in the 80s but the plans fell through for technical reasons." The Legion's new home is immediately south of the Queen's Printer on Government Street.

In 2015 the branch was closed for most of March because the main hall was being used to film a kitchen scene in a Lakeshore Entertainment movie to be released in 2016.

The Legion opens every Friday from 4 to 7pm for a social. Monthly dinners are also popular with members. Theme dinners are held for the Queen's birthday, Burns night, St. Patrick's Day, Remembrance Day, Thanksgiving, Easter, and there are summer BBQs.

Membership today stands at 108. Membership is now available to all with or without a military or Public Service history, and new members are always welcome. Your local membership gives you access to all branches of the Legion across the country. Just look for the flags!

Bibliography

www.br127.ca/Branch127/History, Mel Smith, 1956; British Columbia/Yukon Command The Royal Canadian Legion, South Vancouver Island Zone, Public Service Branch 127, 1969; Truck Loggers Association History, by G. Vern Ellburn, P.Eng. RPF, 1959; bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/taxation-britishcolumbia; Forest Service Newsletter, 'A History of Men and Outmoded Methods and Procedures,' September 1943; Department of Lands, Statement of Revenue, Year Ended December 31st, 1939; Water Legislation in British Columbia, by J.C. MacDonald, May 16, 1947; Department of Lands and Forests, Annual Report, 1955; A Brief History of Public Service Branch 127, 2015; Interview with Bal Sekha, Secretary, Br. #127, April, 2016.