By 1949, the veterans from Bezanson and the surrounding area decided that the formation of a Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion would be a worthwhile endeavor for the Community. They followed the model utilized by the East Smoky Legion Branch No. 89 from DeBolt and received a favorable response to their application for a Charter. Therefore, the West Smoky Legion Branch No. 244 came into existence on March 4, 1949. The Legion was formulated to include two primary goals; Promote Remembrance & Support for our troops and veterans and their families and to serve our Country & Community.
The original names on the Charter consisted of C. Stewart, J. Mitchell, T. Stark, J. Wales, P.J. Moon, B. Nellis, E. Peckham, R. Ames, R. Ford, V. Patterson, W. Patterson, Nels McLaughlin, G. Ames, Neil McLaughlin, R. Robideau and A. Delaney.
The first formal Legion meeting was held at the School with subsequent meetings being held at the Bezanson Log Hall until it burned down in 1949. Thereafter, P. G. Rooney allowed the Legion meetings to be held upstairs in his Store until the Legion Hut was built in 1952. The original executives consisted of Nels McLaughlin as President, Neil McLaughlin as Secretary/Treasurer and George Hanson and Jack Wales as Sergeants at Arms.
Although there were over 60 members when the Legion Branch was formed, memberships had dwindled to 36 by the early 1970’s. In 2019, there were 35 members; therefore, the memberships have remained consistent over the past 50 years. The Legion has always sponsored the children of the District in various sports; most notably being the swimming lessons and in later years, skiing lessons were sponsored as well. The Legion had originally facilitated a Christmas party with the first event being held in 1950. The evening would start with a family movie, followed by Christmas oranges, candy and ice cream for everyone including the adults. This wonderful community event occurred for 10 years; however, as the attendance had increased substantially with the influx of families from outside the District, the Legion no longer had the capacity to host such an event. Another highly anticipated event was the annual “Wild Game Supper” where you had to make sure that you had purchased your tickets as soon as they were available if you wanted to attend. And who could forget the annual “Turkey Shoot” that was held in the basement of Hut every fall – it was not uncommon for neighbors to become quite competitive with their shooting skills. The Legion continues to show a strong allegiance to the Community – an allegiance that will never change.
The little building, affectionately known as the “Legion Hut”, was used extensively by local groups for meetings, including the West Smoky Ladies’ Auxiliary. It was the venue for bridal showers, anniversary parties, tea parties, card games, banquets and bingos. For the 1956-57 school term, the “Hut” was used as the overflow classroom until the Bezanson Consolidated School was ready for occupancy in 1957.
Although events have curtailed in recent years, the “Hut” remains a symbol of the Royal Canadian Legion and all it stands for. There are over 260,000 members in 1400 branches across Canada.
The Legion connects us to our past, our present and our future.
“Ask not was your local Legion can do for you but what you can do for your Legion – join today”
Written by Wanda Zenner – January 2020