New Alberni legion branch chooses building headquarters

The storied Legion Branch 55 on Fourth Avenue is closing its doors. It's amalgamating with Branch 169 and is moving in their digs on Kitsuksis Dike.

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 has a new home. And while selecting a new home is usually a happy occasion, for this particular branch, it is bittersweet.

Branch 293 is the new incarnation of amalgamated Legion branches 55 and 169 in Port Alberni. The process has taken more than a year to get to this point, and the biggest task this month was to choose a home, president Louise Soulliere said.

After a secret ballot, the majority has voted to close the old Branch 55 building on Fourth Avenue, and make Branch 169’s building along Kitsuksis Dike the new branch’s home.

“It’s been very hard,” Soulliere said. “It’s a very emotional decision. We have to keep in mind it’s the Royal Canadian Legion and not the building we have to represent.”

While the Fourth Avenue building is not the original venue for Branch 55, it still holds a lot of history. for the 86-year-old branch. The original Teen Town used to run out of the building, and every weekend there was a dance or a formal, Legion member Marg Groeneveld said.

Members will inventory all the memorabilia in the building, such as the solid wood and brass billiard table that came from Bamfield, artwork and plaques, and decide what needs to be kept to retain the former branch’s heritage.

The rest could be offered back to people who originally donated it, or perhaps passed on to the Alberni Valley Museum as part of the Valley’s history, Soulliere said.

The Legion will cease doing business in the Fourth Avenue building at the end of April. Members hope to have everything moved over to the second building by May 31.

They’ll hold a party at the old Branch 55 building on April 30, inviting members new and old to send the building off in style. Soulliere is hoping to have a flag lowering at dusk, complete with bagpipers.

She didn’t know whether the building will be sold or when a decision will be made on what to do with the building.

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