I went to the Legion, you should too
More than just ‘old people, dart boards and draft beer’
By Kelsey Hipkin
Walking through the Legion’s Sandstone doors and into the wood panelled lobby with its vintage puffy blue chairs, war scene murals and a portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth is like walking into another time. Entering the main hall to watch My Gold Mask and The Dudes during Sled, one soon realizes that this isn’t your average Legion.
I had been told about the volunteers at the Legion but when I finally went and saw for myself the seventy-something year olds clearing away bottles, chatting with concert-goers and even doing a little dancing themselves. I was blown away.
“I can’t believe how much patience they have with the young crowd,” said Dan Vacon, lead singer of Calgary band, The Dudes.
“The legion could be actually my favourite place in town to play.”
The Legion is “not just about old people, dart boards and draft beer,” said Manager Susan MacAulay.
She explained that the Legion has been showcased as a musical venue for about the last seven years. When asked why, MacAulay replied with one word, “finances.”
“It’s a big boost in revenue,” she explained about having shows at one or both (as in the case of Sled Island) of the two stages in the building.
While MacAulay says that membership with the Legion is “holding its own”, she added that the musical shows played there have young people joining up as members because they’ve been to shows there.
When I enter the building to take some photos I am greeted by sign saying “public welcome” and listing the days lunch specials including a steak sandwich and beer stein for $9.75.
When I inquire to find out a little more about the history of the No.1 and Legions in general I am directed to Wayne Morin who is tending bar.
With white hair and a quick smile he calls the customers he serves by name. He says legions are necessary for the veterans and the veteran’s families, “they (the Legion) help out the veterans and the families a lot and also the communities.”
Community and a sense of “personal comradeship” is what the No.1 is all about says MacAuley. She recalls one member who had a stroke so she would take it upon herself to drive him in for his visits. When he hadn’t been heard from for a couple days and someone went to check on him, they discovered he had passed away. MacAulay posed the question how many other places would care enough to check on a regular that hadn’t showed up like the No.1 did.
Finishing my interview with Wayne I grab a beer and a seat with an old gentleman decked out in cowboy hat and bolo tie with his suit lapel covered in various legion and veteran pins.
Ron, 76, has been a member with the No.1 for ten years but was also in Legions in Saskatchewan and Manitoba where he grew up. He explains that he has volunteered at a couple of the music shows that have been held in the hall and that he understands the need for the kids to “howl”.
He talks about growing up in Manitoba, working up north in a camp kitchen and then tells me he’s been shot twice and stabbed five times (he still has the knife). He chuckles a bit when he says that cats have nine lives but he has eleven.
There are eight listed Legions in the city of Calgary. Anyone interested can join
if they are a relative of a member or have a family member that served in the military. For more information go to www.legion.ca.