The history of Branch #54
Legion #54 received her charter in 1927 and like many other Branches, Grande Prairie Br, #54, has a proud history of growth and Community 1982 Service. Our Ladies Auxiliary having a proud history of service of their own, they have served Branch #54 with tireless support since 1950.
The Grande Prairie Branch #54 had it's first lot and building donated by a Bear Lake farmer, Mr. Henry Roberts and son (grandfather of Veteran Billy Bessent). It was located on 101 Ave, about where the Catholic Church now stands.
Some other venues Veterans had used for gathering were the old Immigration Hall, now occupied by the Co-Op Gas Bar, as well as th Army Barracks. Parts of these Barracks were later moved to the present site of the Legion.
The first big venture for Branch #54 was the first phase of our current building. We know it as the Lancaster Room, which was dedicated on September 17th, 1966. Further expansion was required in 1973, which resulted in the Lounge and the lower Corvette Room. In 1982, the north wall was extended, enlarging the kitchen and the storage area in the North West corner. In April of 1994 renovations were done again to accommodate bigger crowds in the Lancaster Room. The bandstand was moved from the North West corner to the centre of the North wall. At this time the floor was all redone with tile for the dance floor and the rest carpeted.
Branch #54 has been active in the community, starting with a $10,000 donation to the Old Memorial Arena. In 1966, the Legionformed their own Track and Field Club with Jerry Tanner and Doug Saunders acting as Directors. Bill Turnbull, a teacher, was the Meet Director and Coach of the Legion Track and Field Club. Branch #54 sponsored these annual meets with pretty much the same people for about 16 years.
The old Grande Prairie fairgrounds were located on 116 Ave in the Mountview area and for many year the Legion, Branch #54, owned and operated a food booth there. It used to be a lot of fun and comradeship working this booth, which was operated by Legion volunteers. When the fairgrounds were moved to Evergreen Park in 1982, the booth was taken out to the Legion Campground. This campground used to be the Hermit Lake schoolyard, obtained by Branch #54 from the county. It is currently occupied by tenants for security and maintenance of the property. During seasonal months it is open to campers.
There are two bursaries administered through the Grande Prairie Regional College. One is for student nurses and is for the amount generated from an account of $15,000 each year. This bursary is a memorial to the late Veteran, Edgar Jebb. The second bursary is for a Branch #54 Veterans child or grandchild, and is for the amount of profit from a $5000 account. A new bursary was started in 1999, called "We Will Remember Them". The goal is to allocate $3000 annually to assist 4 students who are grandchildren of War Veterans. This amount could change depending on finance.