The Royal Canadian Legion has been serving Port Alberni for more than 95 years.
Branch 293 of the Royal Canadian Legion, which is located on Victoria Quay in Port Alberni, celebrated its 95th anniversary last year. According to past branch president Tim Murphy, the branch was one of many that received a certificate in recognition of 95 years of “dedicated service” to the country.
But the branch hasn’t always been known as Branch 293. It originally started out as two branches—Branch 55, which served Port Alberni, and Branch 169, which served Alberni, back in the days before amalgamation.
The Port Alberni branch of the Great War Veterans Association, a precursor to the Royal Canadian Legion, was formed at the end of the First World War. According to historian Jan Peterson in her book Twin Cities, the veterans hall was located on First Avenue, beside the Port Theatre, but was condemned by the fire marshal in 1926.
The loss of this hall led to a change in name to the Royal Canadian Legion. Although the branch was formed in 1926, it was not granted the branch number 55 until 1931. Construction began on a new hall for the branch in 1946, and the hall on Fourth Avenue was officially opened in 1948.
The Alberni District Veterans’ Association, which later became the Canadian Legion Somass Branch 169, was formed in 1939. Branch 169 first met in the old Alberni Fire Hall, then later in a schoolhouse at Johnston and Leslie in Alberni. When they outgrew the small schoolhouse they looked to a new site on the banks of Kitsuksis Creek. Their new hall on Victoria Quay was first opened to the public in 1946, and featured in the West Coast Advocate newspaper.
Although the two towns of Alberni and Port Alberni were amalgamated in 1967, the two branches of the Legion didn’t amalgamate until 2011—and that was only after months of negotiations. Members of the newly-formed Branch 293 voted in 2011 to close the old Branch 55 building on Fourth Avenue, and make Branch 169’s building along Victoria Quay the new home.
The Fourth Avenue building was sold to the Little Bavaria Restaurant, which still occupies the same location. The proceeds from the sale were split among a few different local charities.
Legion Branch 293 continues to reopen services and fundraising events following two difficult years of closure in 2020-21 due to the coronavirus pandemic.