Friday, November 30, 2012

The End of (Another) Era

Royal Canadian Legion, Branch No. 1
When the City of Regina Pipe Band started out in 1992, we contacted the Legion to ask if they would let us practice there, and they happily agreed. Later that fall, I was approached by the Legion President, Murray Carpenter, and asked if we would consider acting as the Legion Pipe Band in return for use of the hall whenever we needed it, and maybe even some initial help with uniforms. So, we signed an agreement with the Legion, and for many years the fine old building was home for the band. Years of the Mid-Winter Ceilidh were in the the hall there, and Sunday band practice year-round, and later when we started a grade 4 teaching program, it was in the Legion on Wednesday nights. The Legion gave us a large storeroom at the side of it's large stage, and we kept drums, uniforms, CDs, banners, trophies and other things there. In the main hall downstairs, we had a glass display case where we kept trophies, certificates, photos, patches and hat badges we'd been given, and other band keepsakes.

For many years, the Legion was home for the band. We practiced there, socialized there, had fundraisers and ceilidhs, and also played a role in many Legion functions, being the primary band at their Remembrance Day Ceremonies, Decoration Day in June, Annual Dinners, fundraisers, Poppy Day, and so on.

The CRPB bar in the Legion. Master brewer Trewin partially covered.
Our P-Sgt for many years, Trewin Somers, was perhaps the most capable bartender ever in the Legion, and we made huge profits running events there during the "Celtic wave" after Riverdance. In those days, the Legion executive was always very open to the pipe band's use of the hall, and many people ended up inside the venerable old building for the MWCF, the Regina Highland Games—especially one memorable year when in snowed on Games day and we moved it all inside. It was the Legion's best day that year in the kitchen. We also had "knockout competitions" there, and mini gatherings, recitals, started an adult piping class, ran piping and dancing workshops, and more.

So, I was a bit sad this morning, going down to the Legion to collect that last of the band's stuff. The inside of the Legion is turned upside down, and everything is being marked and photographed as lots for auction. The Legion as we've know in closes it's doors at midnight tonight, and the Atlantic Auditorium had its last pipe tunes on November 11 this year.

CRPB performing on the Legion stage, 2001 MWCF.
Greeting me at the door was Invan (spelling likely phonetic) , the caretaker. He has been there for all these years, and always a great friend to the band. He smiled and looked the other way when we would lock the doors after the MWCF and stay until 3 and 4 am to finish the Guinness keg. Trewin would say, "It won't keep. We better empty it." Invan would laugh at the antics, and sometimes just go home and ask us to lock it ourselves.

As the Legion fell on hard times and was unable to sustain its building, the pipe band gradually found itself practicing other places, while still supplying the bands and pipers for Legion events.

Anyway, this is a bit of a muddy ramble about the Legion, but I did think of a lot of great times and people while I was in there this morning. Hard to think that it was 20 years ago, and the number of beers that have spilled on the floor since then. Not sure what the Legion will look like when half of it is torn away and the big halls are gone, but hopefully it will retain some of the character that has made it such a great first home for the band these past 20 years.

1 comment:

Gregor Burton said...

Interesting that the photo of the bar includes the oh-so-rare occurence of me standing in front of it!