The two problems are closely intertwined, since a declining membership means less revenue for the branch, which makes it more difficult to maintain the premises and fund activities.
“With our diminishing members, (it) becomes a challenge … to pay the bills and keep everything floating and going,” the branch’s first vice-president Marcie McKinnon said. “We are in desperate need of some repairs.”
Replenishing the ranks has become a greater priority in recent years due to the advancing age and attrition of many Legion members. Branch leaders offered a variety of other explanations for the declining membership, ranging from the shrinking of the military since the Second World War to the lack of a nearby base.
Another possible factor is the club’s relaxed atmosphere, which isn’t quite as flashy as some of the competition.
“We’re not a bar like Belly Up,” McKinnon said. “We don’t have rockin’ bands, we don’t stay open ’til 2 o’clock in the morning, so people pick where they want to go … is my belief for the younger generation.”
However, the leadership believed there were also many misconceptions in the community about the criteria for Legion membership.
Contrary to popular belief, one need not be a veteran or member of the military to join the Royal Canadian Legion. Anyone can become an affiliate member and gain full voting rights after a year, while anyone with family members who have served can become an associate member.
Aside from veterans and current soldiers, police officers and merchant marines are also eligible to become full members right away.
Membership carries an obligation to help out with the annual poppy campaign, but all other duties are strictly voluntary. Becoming a member allows one to attend the general meetings that fall on the second Wednesday of every month.
With our diminishing members, (it) becomes a challenge … to pay the bills and keep everything floating and going. - Marcie McKinnon
“Anyone that is a member can come,” McKinnon said. “We do our swearing-in and our initiations tonight of any members that we’ve passed in the prior meetings … and then we deal with business of the club.”
The standard agenda includes monthly reports from the various committees that co-ordinate and organize branch activities. Among them are House, Finance, Bingo, Sports, Entertainment and a liaison with the local army cadets which the branch sponsors.
The new executive is hoping that the democratic input of members at general meetings will help them achieve their stated goals this year.
“We have to listen to the members’ ideas and our ideas, and try and come up with some new plans to draw the crowd in,” branch president Gary Renaud said.
In the meantime, they are hoping that the Legion will speak for itself by continuing to provide a local hangout with abundant food, drink, entertainment and good company.
The Prince Albert Legion Club has happy hour and snacks after work every Friday night, as well as a special supper on Saturday nights.
“Everyone’s welcome to come on down and check out our club,” McKinnon said. “We’d love to see them … Coffee’s always on (and) there’s the bar that’s open as well if they want to have a bevvy after work.”
“We’re got a good club here,” Renaud said. “It’s quiet, you can come and enjoy your refreshments and not be bothered. Bring your friends … you’re not going to be hassled.”