Abbotsford Legion celebrates 90th anniversary

Five Corners branch was the focal point of town in its day

(Left to right)MLA Simon Gibson

(Left to right)MLA Simon Gibson

Branch 15 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Abbotsford celebrated its 90th birthday on March 3.

The village of Abbotsford was incorporated in 1924 and the Abbotsford Legion, Abbotsford-Sumas-Matsqui Branch 15 to be exact, was given its charter on March 3, 1927. The Legion is probably the oldest continuous organization in Abbotsford.

At the celebration, Mayor Henry Braun gave the opening address, commenting on the presence of MLA Simon Gibson, Tricia Taylor, assistant to MLA Darryl Plecas, Councillor Sandy Blue, and welcomed the members of Legion branch 15 at the 90th birthday of the branch. He commended the Legion on being active in helping to build the community.

Mayor Braun stated that the Legion plays a vital role in helping people to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice when people gather at Thunderbird Square every Remembrance Day.

He praised the branch for its support of veterans, youth and those of low incomes.

“Enjoy this milestone and thank you for inviting me,” Braun said.

Gibson said that he was pleased to be present representing Premier Christy Clark, and commented on the “quality” of the members present. He mentioned that his father was in the Royal Navy during World War II and was in submarines. His father was once in a war situation in a squad of six submarines and only his father’s vessel returned to base, the others were lost. Otherwise he himself would not have been here today.

He referred to the book written by long-time Legion member, Cyril Holbrow, a decorated World War II veteran, which had discussed the time of 90 years ago, and encouraged those gathered to read the book.

Holbrow gave a very interesting account of the different early Legion buildings and an account of his life from enlistee to a serving Canadian Signals Officer in World War II. His account of sailing in the convoy to England and then his experience in going to Normandy soon after D-Day, and in the French towns of Caen and Falaise during the invasion were both humorous and gave an insight into some of the horrors of war.

Holbrow said that the original Abbotsford Legion building was just down the road from where the current building is. Then that building was moved to near Five Corners and raised up so that the fire department could use the space below the building to park their fire trucks. The raised building was used by the village of Abbotsford for its offices. Then the Legion eventually got their iconic building at Five Corners, the model of which was on the table and was referred to by Mayor Braun earlier. The branch at its Five Corners location was a very busy place.

“In those days there were lots of veterans and members,” Holbrow said. “There was a large hall at the branch which was always occupied and in operation with dances, socials and was often rented out. It was the focal point of the town.”

For more on the Legion’s 90th anniversary visit their website at abbylegion.ca.