The Kiwanis Club of Ottawa has a very rich history and I will attempt to outline just a few of the many projects undertaken over the years.
The Kiwanis Club of Ottawa was formed in 1917 In late 1916 Kiwanis became International when the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton was formed, followed by the Kiwanis Club of Toronto in March, 1917 and the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa on Dec. 22nd, 1917. That's when a group of Ottawa business leaders met at the home of furniture dealer Alex Thurston to organize a local chapter of Kiwanis International.
The first official Friday luncheon meeting was held on Dec. 7th at the Chateau Laurier with 62 members in attendance. The club's initiation fee to International in the amount of $10 was paid to George Atkinson who had come to Ottawa from Detroit as the Kiwanis representative to induct the first Board of Directors and Committee Chairmen. The Charter President was W.G. Keddie, Vice President, Dr. W.C. McCartney, Secretary H.T. Bates and the Treasurer D.D. Blackburn.
In 1918 the club received its Charter from Kiwanis International, the annual club dues were established at $5.00, membership had grown to 150 members and the cost of Chateau Laurier meals was .50. That year the club received a request from the Salvation Army for assistance and pledged itself to raise the $40,000 required towards the construction of the Grace Hospital on Wellington Street.The Grace Hospital campaign was planned and carried out so well that the amount requested, $40,000 was oversubscribed! In 1967 our club contributed another $25,000 to help build a new addition to the Grace Hospital.
In 1919 the club membership grew to 153 members and the fees were set at $10 but could be paid in 2 installments. In Civic Affairs our Kiwanis Club went on record as favouring securing of legislation to make a new alignment of Bank Street for future buildings; the proposition to widen Bank Street from Laurier to Wellington had been a bone of contention in City Council for some time.
In 1920 the fees were raised to $20 and the membership stood at 167. During this year our club organized Ottawa's first 'Safety First Campaign' Ð for the first time Ottawa streets were zoned with white lined crossings. The cost of this campaign was $5000 - $2000 of which was promised by the City Council. This grant was afterwards the subject of litigation when its legality was successfully challenged. An aftermath of the Safety First Campaign was a court decision that the City Council had no power to make this grant of $2000 to assist the Kiwanis Club; further the contestant was awarded costs amounting to $804 which the Aldermen had to pay. The club went on record as being morally obligated to pay these expenses so our Directors were presented with the bill a settlement was finally agreed upon.
In 1924 the Boys Club Federation of New York approached the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa with a proposal for a Boy's Club in Ottawa. The members immediately went to work and, through the kindness of the city fathers, were granted the use of the old No. 7 Fire Station at 721 Somerset St. West. The members donned their overalls, took saws, hammers, paint pots and brushes and with the material donated, put the building in first-class condition for a clubhouse. Tables, games, gymnasium equipment, a victrola, piano and suitable literature were donated and on April 29th, 1924 the club was formally opened 24 members were enrolled the first day- the first to enroll was little Gordon Henderson, who later became our club President in 1952.
In 1976 our club donated $100,000 to assist with the building of the Britannia Unit of the Boys Club.The Kiwanis Club of Ottawa operated the Kiwanis Boys Club until 1935; with in excess of 600 boys, it became impossible for the club to raise sufficient funds to keep the Boys Club in full operation and it got beyond the ability of individual members of Kiwanis to direct the activities. The Kiwanis Boys Club then became the Ottawa Boys Club on Jan. l, 1936 and the Community Chest (now the United Way) provided the necessary funds and staff to keep the club going. Total attendance in the Boys Club that year was 44,535.
The Business Standards Committee of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa made a recommendation to the City that a Better Business Bureau be formed in the City of Ottawa ; although the Club did not feel this was a movement which the Club should sponsor, it is one which they certainly would well endorse if it was formed Ð the rest is history.
In 1936, $232 was approved to purchase lumber to help in the construction of a dining hall at Christie Lake Camp for the Boy Scouts. Kiwanians helped in this building and President Chummy Watt was present at the sod turning ceremony on the opening of this fine building. The hall was named Kiwanis Hall. In 1942, the Air Cadet League of Canada approached our club to see if we would sponsor an Air Cadet Squadron in Ottawa. After much planning, the 211 Air Cadet Squadron was up and running with Vic Castledine as its first Chairman and his son, our own Past President Allan Castledine was inducted as the first Air Cadet.
In 1946 the club donated $5000 to the YMCA Camp Fund to establish the first girls camp at Camp Davern. We purchased the property and retained ownership giving them a lease for 25 years with the privilege of extending the lease at its expiration. In the late '70s this property was turned over to the YMCA by the club.
Dr. Ray Linnen, President of the Can. Council of Service Clubs asked our club to provide 2 road signs one for Aylmer Road and one for Montreal Road the club gladly agreed and they were erected at a total cost of $220.
When a Kiwanis club was formed, only 2 members from any one classification were allowed to hold membership there could only be two lawyers, two accountants, etc. However, there are always ways around such rules and some club rosters showed the Insurance Classification, for instance, had the classifications of Insurance burglary, Insurance - fire, Insurance - General, Insurance - Life, etc. In 1948, the Membership report shows that 42 new members were proposed but only 25 could be accepted because of the classification restrictions! Eventually in the '80s, Kiwanis International finally removed this regulation and allowed any number of members from one classification.
In 1947 the club looked at forming one or more Key Clubs in the city working with the school principals, teachers, school boards, etc. took two years and in 1949 a Key Club was formed at Ottawa Technical High School and the High School of Commerce we must say, this probably would not have happened without the help of Dr. Harry Pullen (Tom's father) who was then Superintendent of the Ottawa Board of Education. Of course, at that time, only boys were allowed to become Keyclubbers! Fisher Park Key club was formed in 1952 and many of our members, such as Mark Max, Tom Beveridge, Rick Barrigar and many others were Fisher Park Keyclubbers.
In 1948, John Wilkinson (Kent's father) invited the Boston Bruins Hockey Team to come to Ottawa and play a benefit game against the Ottawa Senators. The game was held at the old Auditorium with a full house and $964 was raised for the club's Welfare Account; of this amount, $250 was donated that night to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The club paid the Boston Bruins $1019. to come to Ottawa, wonder what they would charge us today?
In 1949 one of our members, Cammie Howard, who was a band leader, wrote our chub's Welcome Song Come Round Any Old Time which is still used today.
In 1950 the Music Committee presented 19 special song arrangements for birthdays, 1 marriage, holiday events, sing songs and 17 club commercials Ð all in all - 61 individually written numbers who was chair of the Music Committee that year? You're right none other than our own dear Sol Max who had joined the club 2 years before.
In 1953, one of our members, Gordon Currie, who was a diabetic, talked the club into operating a camp for young people with diabetes. These youngsters could never attend a summer camp as other kids did because of their special dietary and insulin needs. He approached one of our members, Dr. Ralph McKendry, who was then Head of the Endicrinology Department at the Civic Hospital, and Ralph agreed to organize the first camp for diabetic children in Canada which we called Camp Banting. Dr. McKendry organized the camp, 'volunteered' the doctors, the nurses, dieticians, etc. and Kiwanis rented Camp Y at Shirley's Bay for two weeks. Counselors , a Program Director as well as all the cooks, etc. were hired by Kiwanis. Kiwanians helped set up the camp and made regular visits there during the two week period. 18 youngsters were registered the first year and the two week camp was a great success.
When CHEO was built (with our own Sid Lithwick as the Architect by the way) the staff there then took over the medical part of the camp and operated it until it was finally turned over to the Canadian Diabetes Association in 1987. Our club operated Camp Banting for 34 years; there were over 100 young people attending the camp then and 13 Diabetic Camps were operating in Canada at that time. One of our club's greatest projects!
In 1960, our club instituted a fund for drugs to help relieve distress and financial burdens for sufferers of cystic fibrosis. Club members became involved and helped establish the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
In 1980 one of our members who was an accountant, Chuck Anderson, was approached by a client of his, Dr Lorne McLauchlin, a local dentist, with a very exciting offer. Dr. McLauchlin's wife had died of Parkinson's disease and since there was no Parkinson's Lab in Ottawa at that time, he asked if the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa would take on a challenge he would match us $4.00 for every dollar raised, up to $100,000, if we would support a Parkinson's Clinic in our city. The Kiwanis Medical Foundation was formed and the $100,000 was raised in 6 months! A young Ottawa Neurologist, Dr. Mohamed Hassan, was sent to the Columbia Medical Research Centre in New York for 2 years to study research in Parkinson's (paid for by our Kiwanis Medical Foundation) and returned to open the first Parkinson's Lab in Ottawa in 1983 the first of its kind in Canada, the Ottawa Clinic is now the second largest in Canada and the Kiwanis Medical Foundation was set up to advance medical treatment and research and to assist other organizations with the same objectives. The aim of this committee is to raise $1 million and we are now at over $700,000.
The club's largest fund raising project was the Kiwanis TV Auction which ran each year for a whole day at TV station CJOH for over 30 years. Items were solicited for an entire year from local businesses and these items were sold on Auction day with as many as 150 members and their families helping out; the largest amount netted with this project was $220,000 with over $400,000 worth of product but, unfortunately, when CJOH downsized and closed down their large studio we had to end this great project.
For 30 years, another fund raiser was the $150 a plate dinner with 150 attendees, held at a local hotel or hall, complete with a fabulous dinner, cigars, refreshments and entertainment; the highlight of the evening was a reverse draw where all the names of the attendees were attached to a large board on the stage throughout the evening one name after another was removed until there were five remaining and they were the winners of the $5000 prize! But it did not start out that way. Because, in 1960, the club could not obtain a license to operate such a draw, the dinner was held at the Laurentian Club, the draw was done at the office of Past President Mac McLean of the Architect firm of McLean and McPhadyen, and the numbers were phoned over to the Laurentian Club for distribution of prizes; to my knowledge, no Kiwanis member ever landed in jail because of this event!
There are many more interesting stories I could tell about this wonderful club but I know that my time has more than run out. As you may know, I have undertaken the job of writing the history of the club it means a lot of reading and research (and so far, I have completed from 1917 to 1941) but someday I hope to complete it and it will be available for all to read. This is a great club with a wonderful history, there have been many changes over the years but I am pleased to say that (except for a few times such as today) we are still meeting at the grand old Chateau Laurier as we have for the past 88 years, if those walls could talk, what stories they could tell!
Thank you. Shirley Tomblin, Retired after 21 years as Administrative Secretary of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa, first female member of the club sponsored by Past President Brian Reinke in 1990, and LIFE Member as of her retirement in 1994.