Although the earliest recorded information pertaining to the sponsorship of swimming lessons in the Legion Meeting Minutes was in 1966, the lessons certainly occurred much earlier. There are those who remember attending the old pool in 1959 – 1961. The pool was built in 1948 and was situated on 99th avenue where the Grande Prairie Curling Rink is now located. At that time, parents car-pooled or should I say, “truck-pooled” as kids actually rode in the truck box to make the trip to Grande Prairie.
The new pool, located in Bear Creek Park (now known as the Muskoseepi Park) opened in June of 1962; therefore any lessons after that date would have occurred at the new pool. Transportation was organized by 1962 as there are those who only recall riding the bus. The outdoor pool closed in 2013.
Eventually a large recreation centre known as the “RecPlex” was built in the early 1970’s and housed an arena and an indoor pool. As the City’s population continued to grow substantially, a new 450,000 sq. ft. multiplex recreation centre known as “Eastlink” was built on the south side of Grande Prairie and opened in December 2011.
The West Smoky Legion has gone above and beyond over the years to ensure that all the children in the area had the opportunity to learn how to swim. Various fundraising events were held specifically to be in a position to sponsor the swimming lessons. Even during the early 1980’s when the Legion was experiencing a slow financial period, the sponsorship never waivered. The earliest information in the Meeting Minutes of 1966 had 83 participants recorded. The number of registrants has varied over the years from a high in 1983 of 122 to 60 in 2019. Although the original lessons were for ten days, they have been reduced significantly over the years.
It is interesting to note that during the Legion’s sponsorship of swimming lessons, there has been three generations of students. Donna & Don McNally, Grant Bulford, Lynne Oe, Wanda Zenner, Duane LaValley, Arne LaValley, Grant LaValley, Maxine Robertson and Tom Laverick are some of those who were among the original participants who subsequently ensured that their own children learned to swim and now have the pleasure of watching their grandchildren learn a very important life-skill – all sponsored by the Legion.
Written by Wanda Zenner
West Smoky Legion No. 244 Meeting Minutes
Donna McNally, Danny Diederich, Grant Bulford, Melvin Bulford, Lynne Oe, Christine Thorpe, Cherry Dionne, Carol Sorensen, Maxine Robertson, Duane LaValley, Arne LaValley