Cosmopolitan Club: Shaping Prince Albert for 75 years

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Published on April 15, 2014

Members of the Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Club are seen performing their first official act on March 31, 1939 -- the organization’s charter year -- as depicted in that day’s Prince Albert Daily Herald. With these “Think: Drive Safely” crosses, members hoped to remind motorists to play safe on local highways. 

Published on April 15, 2014

Two unnamed members of the Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Club are seen at their first children’s camp in 1939, nestled on the tree lined shore of Christopher Lake. Since that time, club members have shifted their focus onto Camp Tamarack -- a camp for children with learning disabilities.

Published on April 15, 2014

The Uncle Jim and His Cosmopolitan Old Timers band are seen in 1942. 

Published on April 15, 2014

Members of the Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Club are seen during the 1974 launch of the Cosmopolitan Bus. The bus was charged with transporting youngsters to events -- mainly sports-related. 

Published on April 15, 2014

Max Carment is seen accepting the Cosmopolitan of the Year award in 1975. The Carment Court affordable housing complex was named after Carment in 1982 in recognition of the club’s fundraising efforts to pay for the building. 

Published on April 15, 2014

The old Cosmopolitan Lodge is seen at Little Red River Park, prior to the 2005 grand opening of the new facility, which was funded in part by the local club. 

For Mervin Sutton, the story of a young and determined German immigrant summarizes the Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Club’s underlying spirit.

 

A self-proclaimed “member for life,” Sutton is the club’s longest-serving active member, having joined the club in 1977 at the urging of then-president Frank Zeller.

Sutton’s link with Zeller, and ultimate longtime membership with the Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Club, dates back to his childhood in Biggar, where his father would occasionally invite immigrants who were out building railroads to their house for dinner.

One of these immigrants was Zeller.

“He came several times,” Sutton recalled this week. “He really liked coming to our house for a meal -- it’s probably what’s better than what’s going on in the railroad car.”  

Zeller ended up staying at the family’s home for a short period of time -- an experience Sutton never forgot.

Years later, when Sutton was living in Prince Albert, he bumped into Zeller, who was by then president of the Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Club.

Sutton’s old friend invited him to a meeting, and he’s been a member ever since. 

Zeller’s immigrant story of working from the bottom up is one “typical of the stories of the men who have been members of the Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Club,” Sutton said.

Membership’s dedication to self-improvement and the improvement of their community holds strong to today, he said.

“First and foremost, it’s a service club for the community and I think that everyone in the club likes the idea of being able to contribute something to the community to make it better,” longtime member Claire Middleton said.

Middleton was one of the driving forces behind the construction of the new Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Lodge at Little Red River Park, which opened in 2005.

The previous building, built in 1970, “reached a point where it needed a huge amount of updating and renovations. All of the plumbing and wiring had to be re-done,” Middleton explained.

When the city asked if the club was interested in fundraising to help pay for a new building, they jumped at the chance.

Although this is by far the largest building project the club has been a part of, longtime member Norman Hill notes, “There are lots of buildings in town that have our stamp on them.”

In addition to fundraising to help pay for certain buildings, such as the Art Hauser Centre and Mont St. Joseph, the club is committed to physically building something every year.

“It’s always a good project to go out and work on there, building decks and cabins and playground equipment every year,” Hill said.

“We go out as a group, we work all day and we have one of our guys work on the barbecue out there at lunch time.”

First and foremost, it’s a service club for the community and I think that everyone in the club likes the idea of being able to contribute something to the community to make it better. Claire Middleton

Camp Tamarack is where most of the club’s building efforts are centred.  

A camp for children with learning disabilities, the camp is a continuation of their long-standing effort to help youngsters through camp programming.

“It’s good for children,” Hill said. “Our club was originally funded to start a boy’s camp out at Camp Christopher 75 years ago, so working with children has always been a theme of ours, so this is just a continuation of that.”

This continued effort is in keeping with the organization’s charter slogan -- “It is better to build boys than mend men.”

Camp Tamarack is a unique entity, Hill said, noting that from June through September, children with learning disabilities need extra stimulation. Teachers are on staff at the camp, as well as camp counsellors.

The last 75 years are punctuated with countless Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Club efforts, large and small, all mandated with improving the community in some capacity.

The club’s first official act, on March 31, 1939, was the installation of warning crosses along area highways that read “Think” horizontally, and “Drive safely” vertically.

This kind of positive effort continued over the next three-quarters of century, with various playgrounds and buildings built, community events held and causes taken on -- the most notable cause being the fight against diabetes.

“It’s an enjoyable and a satisfying experience, really, to be a part of it,” Middleton concluded.

A major challenge in bringing the 75-year-old club to the 100-year mark will be attracting new members, Hill said, noting that membership has halved to 30 since he joined in 1993.

“We don’t have younger members coming to join us,” he said. “They’re younger than us, but not as young when I joined.”

Things appear to have stabilized for the time being, with new members filling in for those who have retired.

“As far as the future’s concerned, the community certainly benefits from the existence of service clubs -- not just Cosmopolitan clubs, but all of them,” Middleton said.

“I think the community would have a more difficult time achieving things, like getting certain facilities and running certain activities and events without service clubs.”

See tomorrow’s edition of the Daily Herald for the second part of this story, and for more on the future of the Prince Albert Cosmopolitan Club.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Art Hauser Centre, Daily Herald

Geographic location: Biggar, Little Red River Park

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