A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KINSMEN CLUB OF VICTORIA
Kinsmen was founded February 26, 1920 by Hal Rogers. He wished to retain the fellowship of his comrades of his Army days and felt they should meet regularly. To this end the group almost joined the Rotary, but Hal's father stated that they were young men and possibly should form their own group. This they did in Hamilton Ontario.
Amongst this group of early members was an enthusiastic member by the name of Stewart E. Davidson. Stewart Davidson was in Law and his ambition was to practise in the West. While travelling west he had a layover in Winnipeg, where he talked with another former member from Hamilton who was trying to consolidate the Electie Clubs. Stewart suggested they all become Kinsmen, which they did in 1924. Stewart continued on to Vancouver, where after getting settled he tried to form a Kinsmen Club amongst fellows his own age. Vancouver was chartered in 1924 with Jack Gifford as President. At the same time Stewart was commuting back and forth to Victoria where he hoped to establish his own practice. Stewart worked hard in Victoria to get a Kinsmen Club started and in 1925 Jack Gifford of Vancouver and subsequently National President, called a luncheon meeting of three Victorians: Dr. Stanley Miles, a dentist; Ainslie J. Helmcken, Barrister; and Les Colpman, radio dealer. Victoria Kinsmen was then chartered on February 20, 1926, with Ainslie Helmcken as Charter President. This was the 5th Kinsmen Club in Canada. Stewart left Victoria and moved to Chilliwack where he became Charter President of the Chilliwack Kinsmen in 1928.
Ainslie Helmcken became the first District Governor of Western Canada in 1927-1928.
Victoria Kinsmen chartered Kinsmen Clubs in Duncan and Port Alberni in 1936, Vic-Van-Isle (Saanich) in 1953, and Juan de Fuca (Western Communities) in 1972.
At one time the Kinsmen Club of Victoria was the strongest service club in Victoria and membership was restricted. The meetings were held in the Empress Hotel. The early pioneers of the Club were honoured by the K-40 Club of Victoria by placing plaques on seats in the McPherson Theatre - which were purchased to honour their memory.
During WW II Victoria Kinsmen supported Milk for Brittan, Bundles for Brittan and the Merchant Marine. Victoria Kinsmen sponsored and sparked the drive for the Memorial Arena and raised the first $65.000. Over the years other projects have included sports facilities for the Protestants Orphans Home; tennis courts at Cook and Queens; four Little League Parks; three wading pools; Kinsmen Gorge Park; sponsored Little League Baseball teams, soccer teams and 89 Kinsmen Air Cadet Squadron; raised $76,000 for the Polio Campaign; sponsored Saanich Health Centre; aided Queen Alexandra Solarium League, Gorge Road Hospital, Garth Homer Centre; and provided equipment to Jubilee and Victoria General Hospitals. Victoria Kinsmen also helped raise up to $250,000 per year for many years through the Kinsmen Mothers March Campaign for the Kinsmen Rehabilitation Foundation of BC.
Above from bulletin 1976 celebrating "50 Years of Service".
Since then Victoria Kinsmen did extensive renovations to the Kinsmen Gorge Park Concession and bathrooms in the mid 1970's. In the 1980's we held the "Great Inner Tube Races" on the Gorge Waterway where paddlers on inner tubes raced from the Admiral's Bridge and finished on the beach in front of the Kinsmen Gorge Park Concession. Victoria Kinsmen also built sand volley ball courts built to world class standards in the Kinsmen Gorge Park beside the existing salt water pool. An "Open Invitational Tournament" which attracted players on a world tour from Canada, USA and Australia who played in Vancouver, the week before coming to Victoria. In 1997 we started the "Kinsmen Kidfest Canada Day in the Park" which continued until 2006. This event provided jumping castles, petting zoo, face painting, magicians, jugglers, clowns and music all at no charge for the community. The Victoria Kinsmen ran the concession providing food, drinks, candy and ice cream novelties at a nominal price to cover the costs.
More recently, we continue to raise funds through service projects and provide help in the community, the province and across Canada. Our area of expertise is in bartending and have done bars for groups as large as 2200 people. We have volunteered for the National Little League on Cook Street and the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign. We were instrumental in providing BC Guide Dogs to local sight impaired teenagers. We have provided an "Angel Lift" and a hospital bed to people who could not get help from any other source. We donate to the Kinsmen Foundation of BC (who supply help and equipment to those with physical challenges). Nationally we donate to Cystic Fibrosis Research, provide scholarships and helped bring "Portraits of Honour" to Victoria. We have also helped Cystic Fibrosis Victoria Chapter and a variety of local needs.