At Your Service: A History of Service Clubs in Swift Current
Fraternal societies were some of the earliest clubs in Swift Current. Early settlers were from a wide variety of backgrounds and brought many different affiliations with them to their new community. The camaraderie and mutual support that these organizations provided were especially import during Swift Current’s earliest years, when the population was small and few public services existed.
The Ancient Order of United Workmen Lodge No. 89 was likely the first fraternal society in Swift Current. It was established as early as 1904. The A.O.U.W. was formed in the United States after the Civil War. Like many fraternal organizations, it offered a sort of proto-insurance policy for members, which provided financial support during illnesses and deaths. The A.O.U.W. existed in Swift Current until at least 1907, by which time there were several more Fraternal Societies in the community.
ANCIENT, FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONSLODGE NO. 26
The first recorded meeting of new settlers interested in forming a Masonic Lodge in the village of Swift Current took place at the Imperial Hotel on January 31, 1905. In March, they petitioned the Grand Lodge of Manitoba to establish a Swift Current lodge. The Craft Lodge was officially formed on July 12 1906, a month before the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan. A chapter of Royal Arch Masons was established in 1912, which shared resources and meeting space with the Craft Lodge.
Above: Items on display included the apron and collar of the Grand Master, initiation goggles and the original ballot box for votes by members to determine admission of a candidate.
Lodge meetings were held in a variety of locations, including the Reliance Hotel and Doonan Hall until 1911, the Odd Fellows Hall until 1915, and the second floor of Washington’s Furniture Store until the Masons built their own temple in 1928. By 2006, 100 years after the formation of the lodge, the Masonic Temple was relocated to its current location on 1st Ave NE.The Masonic Temple of Freemasonry was officially dedicated on July 14 1930. The Temple cost around $10 000, $6500 of which was raised by selling bonds to lodge members. It served several other purposes in the community. The dining room was leased to the Christian Scientists for church services, it was used as a synagogue during WWII, presumably for the airmen training at the airbase, and several clubs and organizations in the city played in a Carpet Ball league in the Lodge Room.
The origins of the Freemasonry can be traced back to the stone masons of ancient Europe, but none of the early Swift Current Masons necessarily worked with stone. Freemasonry came to represent the values of tolerance, charity, truth and justice. Masonry emphasizes the betterment of society through the betterment of the individual.The lodge does make financial contributions to the community. Benevolent assistance is given as needed, and as approved by the lodge. Financial contributions that benefit members of the community are kept confidential as a matter of policy.
Left: These aprons were on loan from the Masonic Lodge in Swift Current and represent the hierarchy of degrees of membership in the Lodge.
First Degree – Entered Apprentice
Second Degree – Fellowcraft
Third Degree – Master Mason
Master of the Lodge
A blue mosaic rug was purchased by the Lodge in 1918. When the Prince of Wales stopped in Swift Current during the 1919 Royal Tour, Mayor J.A. Rollefson a was Lodge member. As the carpet was apparently the largest in the city, the Mayor gave instructions for a platform to be built at the train station that was the exact dimensions of the carpet. The Mason’s carpet was taken from the Temple and placed on the platform for the Royal Visit.
The Masonic organization for young women was called the International Order of Job’s Daughters. It was formed in Swift Current in 1956 by the Order of the Eastern Star. The Masonic organization for young men was called the Order of Demolay. Not as well-established as the Daughters of Job, a Demolay organization was founded here in 1968. Demolay promotes better citizenship, leadership, and deters juvenile delinquency.
Left: Three members of the Daughters of Job
ORDER OF THE EASTERN STAR STERLING CHAPTER NO. 40
The Order of the Eastern Star is an organization associated with Freemasonry that is open to both men and women. It was created so the wives and female relatives of Masons could benefit from Masonic principles.
The O.E.S. was formed in Swift Current in 1924. Genevieve Begg, who had been a member of the Order in Chicago, was largely the driving force behind the formation of the chapter. The chapter name “Sterling” is Genevieve’s maiden name, and was chosen by the group through secret ballot. $10 was donated by Genevieve’s Order in Chicago to purchase a gavel, jewels and regalia for the new Order.
The Order valued charity, truth, loving and kindness. They made many charitable contributions to Swift Current, supporting both the General and Union Hospitals, the relief committee, Meals on Wheels, St. John’s Ambulance and the Prairie Pioneer Lodge. In 1937 they bought a piano for the Masonic Temple, which they paid off four years later. During WWII the Order of the Eastern Star made 192 quilts.
Ceremony was an important part of the Order. A 1947 motion stated that all officers were to wear long white dresses. Social events were also very important, as many teas, bridge and whist parties, and other entertainments were enjoyed with the Masonic Lodge members.
Worthy Matron collar, worn during meetings. The pin belonged to Tillie Jaeger, who became Worthy Grand Matron of Saskatchewan in 1963. Genevieve Begg and Worthy Grand Matron of Saskatchewan in 1934, and most recently, Joyce Smith in 2007.
THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF ODD FELLOWS
“FRIENDSHIP, TRUTH AND LOVE”
The I.O.O.F. was formed in Swift Current in 1907. The Order was a benevolent fraternal organization based on the British Oddfellows of the 18th century, which helped widows, orphans and the aged.Membership requirements were focused on how individual members lived their lives. Core principles included treating all men as brothers, working to right injustice in the world, and believing in God and Christian teachings.
The Odd Fellows were the first local fraternal organization to build their own hall, as they had more members than any other in Swift Current. Their first hall, on the corner of Central and Chaplin, was finished in 1911. In 1926 the I.O.O.F. built a larger hall on the corner of 1st Ave NE and Cheadle, which later became the Swift Current Museum.
Left: I.O.O.F. Hall on Chaplin Street c.
The Odd Fellows hall on the northwest corner of Central and Cheadle has been used by many different clubs and organizations over the years. In addition to the Odd Fellows, the Masons, Eagles, Lions and Elks have all met here at one time or another. It was alternatively known as Grinder Hall, after the Odd Fellows moved into their new hall in 1926. Meetings took place on the second floor. The first floor has been a theatre, grocery store, funeral parlour and more over the years.
Right: Grinder Hall with Unique Theatre on the first floor c. 1913
Odd Fellows was the first fraternal organization to include women when they formed the Rebekah Degree in 1851. The Diamond Rebekah Lodge No. 25 was formed in Swift Current in 1913. The Rebekah’s early years involved knitting socks and sewing pajamas for the war effort, but their charitable work continued over many decades. In addition to providing a social network, the Rebekah’s furnished a hospital ward, contributed to the Civic Centre, held monthly birthday parties at the Palliser Care Centre, and awarded bursaries and scholarships.
FRATERNAL ORDER OF EAGLES AERIE NO. 1728
“PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE”
The Fraternal Order of Eagles was founded in Seattle in 1898, and was established in Swift Current in December of 1907 with 58 members. Like many early Fraternal Societies, the Eagles offered an insurance policy to members, including sick benefits and visits to the Aerie Physician.
Their early meetings took place in Doonan Hall, but when J.C. Bertin built a theatre in the zero block of Central Ave. in 1912, the Eagles used the upper floors as a lodge space. The Aerie likely invested in the new theatre, as it began to be called the Eagle Theatre shortly after it opened. Until the current Eagle Hall was built in the early 1960s, the Eagles had several meeting places after leaving the Eagle Theatre in 1920, including Railway St., the Odd Fellows Hall, the Caswell Block on 1st Ave NW, and the old Municipal Hall on 4th Ave NW.
The Eagles arranged a visit from Santa Claus in 1912 for local children, bought Victory Bonds, contributed to Christmas relief hampers, sent cigarettes to soldier overseas, and bought furniture for the Union Hospital, among other projects.
A Ladies Auxiliary was established in April of 1931. The Auxiliary organized several of their own events, and participated in many Eagle’s events as well. Both the men’s and women’s sides of the Aerie are still active today, and regularly donate to different community causes. An Eagle’s Aerie in Indiana was instrumental in implementing Mother’s Day as a national holiday. Their advocacy prompted Woodrow Wilson to sign a proclamation to that effect in 1914.
BENEVOLENT AND PROTECTIVE ORDER OF ELKS LODGE NO. 8
“CHARITY, JUSTICE, BROTHERLY LOVE AND FIDELITY”
The B.P.O.E. was so named thanks to the supposed desirable qualities of elks, as they were seen in Barnum’s Zoological Gardens in the 1860s. Apparently, Elks were not quick to fight, but would fight to the death to protect family and the weak.
The first Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was formed in Swift Current in August of 1913. There were 40 members, including Mayor Frank West as the Exalted Ruler. The lodge was discontinued during WWI as many of the members had enlisted.
The Elks reformed in November of 1924. The first meeting of the newly reorganized lodge was held in the basement of the Lyric Theatre. In 1928, the Elks bought the former Princess Royal Opera House and it became one of the most popular dance halls in town. This hall burned down in 1951. They rebuilt in the same location, but unfortunately their second hall also burned in 1960. Again, they rebuilt.
The Elks were the first service organization in Swift Current to acquire their own liquor licence. The hall was a popular evening social venue before golf clubs, curling rinks and other organizations also began to acquire liquor licences. As patrons declined, the Elks began to rent their top floor to other businesses.
The Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children support children in need, in Swift Current and across Canada. Locally, the Elks also sponsor free swimming and skating for kids under 12, and have donated money to local playgrounds and the Abilities Council.
The Elks Hall obtained a licence to serve alcohol, making it a popular evening social destination until curling rinks and golf courses also obtained liquor licences. After use declined, the first floor was rented out. The hall was sold in 2013 but the Lodge rooms remain in the basement.
ORDER OF ROYAL PURPLE LODGE NO. 93
“JUSTICE, CHARITY, SISTERLY LOVE, FIDELITY”
The Order of Royal Purple is the women’s auxiliary to the Elks Lodge. The Swift Current Royal Purple was formed in 1946, mostly from wives of Elks Lodge members. There were 36 charter members. The Royal Purple raises money for the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children. Locally they helped to hold an annual Walk-a-thon to raise money for the hearing impaired, and they held an annual birthday party at the Palliser Care Centre, among other small charitable projects.
For the first few decades, ceremony was an important of the Royal Purple meetings. Members received a booklet that outlined the different ceremonial formations that were used at the meetings, and wore ceremonial regalia. In recent years, much of the ceremony has fallen by the wayside. The Royal Purple membership has declined in recent years, but the remaining members still hold small fundraisers for the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children, and continue to enjoy the social aspect of belonging to the organization.
THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF FORESTERS Helium Court
The Independent Order of Foresters began in the United States in the 1870s. The first I.O.F. Court existed in Swift Current as early as 1909. The local newspaper remarked that many of the new settlers were I.O.F. members. Their meetings were advertised regularly in the weekly newspaper as being on the third Friday of each month, but the location is unknown. Like many fraternal societies, the Foresters began as a form of insurance and social security in case of illness or unexpected death of a husband. Unlike any other fraternal society, the Foresters admitted women as early as 1879.
Over the years, I.O.F. developed into the successful, international insurance company, Foresters. It is unclear when the early I.O.F. in Swift Current stopped existing, but a new Court was formed in Swift Current in 1975. Called Helium Court, after the local helium industry, it was the first modern-era Court to form in Saskatchewan outside of Regina or Saskatoon. Members received insurance policies through the company, and also participated in social and charitable pursuits, donating money to the Noble Irwin Healthcare Foundation, the Soccer Association, and the Canadian Diabetes Association.
WOMEN’S CLUB AND ORGANIZATIONS
Many fraternal organizations and service clubs had women’s auxiliaries, or partner organizations that allowed women to join. Typically, members were the spouses of the men in the organization. There were also several organizations in town that were comprised solely of women that made important contributions to the development of Swift Current.
WOMEN’S CHRISTIAN TEMPERANCE UNION
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was formed in Ohio in 1873 and it was devoted to social reform. The W.C.T.U. was active in Swift Current as early as 1909. In 1909 they sponsored a water fountain on the corner of Central Ave. (then called 11th) and Cheadle St. to provide refreshment for individuals who preferred to not have an alcoholic beverage at the local hotels. The W.C.T.U. hosted several parties and socials, and celebrated when prohibition closed Swift Current’s barrooms in 1916.
Left: Water fountain on Central Avenue c. 1909
The W.C.T.U. was not particularly active again in Swift Current until it made a reappearance in the late 1950s and 1960s. Instead of prohibition, the organization was concerned with the newer problems of illicit drugs, and drinking and driving.
IMPERIAL ORDER DAUGHTERS OF THE EMPIRE VICTORIA CHAPTER
This charitable organization was formed in Canada in 1900. The Victoria Chapter was organized in Swift Current in 1913. The Order encouraged patriotism, looked after veterans and their families, hosted teas for individuals who just received their citizenship papers, gave out scholarships and bursaries to the children of dead and disabled servicemen, and were generally prepared to help in the case of national emergencies.
The I.O.D.E. worked tirelessly during both World Wars, knitting socks for soldiers overseas, encouraging rationing, helping the children of fallen soldiers, sending comforts to prisoners of war, and helping War Brides get settled into their new homes. After WWII, the local Victory Service club donated the remainder of its money to the I.O.D.E. for its war memorial fund.
The strain of WWII caused the organization to dissolve for a short time, but it was active again by the 1950s. The I.O.D.E. gave out scholarships and bursaries to graduating students, supplied Dickson and Begg Schools with portraits of the Queen, and welcomed new Canadian citizens by hosting teas. Despite their support for new Canadians, speeches by I.O.D.E. members encouraged the government to restrict immigration, so most new immigrants were coming from Britain or “preferred countries.”
BROWNIES AND GIRL GUIDES THE 15TH GUIDING COMPANY
The first Brownie pack was formed in Swift Current in 1924 when three students at Central School asked their teacher to form one. Their teacher, Miss Johnstone (later Mrs. E.A.C. Hackman) became the first Brown Owl.
When the girls were old enough to enter Guides, the 15th Guiding Company was formed in Swift Current. The company was sponsored by the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire. Their earliest charitable work was to donate funds to the Swift Current Cenotaph. As their numbers grew, more packs were formed which met at different places throughout the city. By 1965 there were 150 Brownies and 75 Girl Guides in Swift Current.
LOCAL COUNCIL OF WOMEN
The Local Council of Women was organized in Swift Current in 1918 to help serve the needs of the community. Many communities were forming Local Councils, under the aegis of the Provincial Council of Women in Saskatoon and the National Council of Women based in Ottawa. By 1918 there were 50 L.C.W. groups across Canada.
The idea behind L.C.W. was to bind all women and women’s groups in Swift Current together as a confederation. The organization would discuss problems facing women in the community, and act as an advocacy group for all of the affiliated organizations. The L.C.W. became an umbrella organization for dozens of the women’s groups in the city, from church auxiliaries to professional organizations to the women’s auxiliaries of service clubs.
The L.C.W. also had their own projects. In 1923 they launched the Everywomen Fund, to help the victims of tuberculosis. During the 1930s, the L.C.W. operated a milk fund, to ensure the families on relief were supplied with milk for their children. They also researched and edited the book “Golden Furrows: A Historical Chronicle of Swift Current” in 1955, for Saskatchewan’s Diamond Jubilee.
UNIVERSITY WOMEN’S CLUB
The University Women’s Club was founded in Saskatoon in 1918, and the Swift Current chapter was formally established by university graduates in 1931. All women with a university degree were welcome to join, not just University of Saskatchewan alumnae. The U.W.C. was primarily a study group, so members could broaden their horizons and enjoy the fellowship of other graduates.
The U.W.C. does have charitable credentials as well, including hosting a formal tea for high school graduates, donating a painting to the new Civic Centre, and contributing to Kin School, among other projects. In 1946, the U.W.C. began awarding the Dorothy Goddard Scholarship to a local girl who planned to attend the University of Saskatchewan. Initially, the bursary was $150, and the funds were raised through magazine sales. The bursary was later was funded through membership subscriptions, and gradually increased to $600.
The Quota Club was founded in New York in 1919, and the Swift Current branch began in 1936. Quota is a service organization made up of professional women, and they have made many charitable contributions to the community over the years.
During WWII the Quota Club raised money to send cigarettes, irons and magazines to the crew of the minesweeper H.M.C.S. Swift Current. They also purchased a piano for the RAF airbase at the local airport. The Club has also donated money to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Cancer Society, and Easter Seal. Members helped canvas for the Local Council of Women’s milk fund. Locally, they have sponsored the Boy’s Band, the Diana’s softball team and the 1938 winter fair.
Aid to the hard of hearing was an international Quota Club project, so they purchased and audiometer and assisted local health staff to administer hearing tests in schools. Before Health Region No. 1 was established, the Quota Club helped pay for operations and medical equipment for individuals who needed financial aid. They donated money to the Union Hospital for a blood pressure testing machine, and distributed food and clothing to underprivileged families, among many other charitable projects in the community. The Quota Club disbanded in 1961, after 25 years of service. The balance of its holdings was divided between various charitable organizations.
BETA SIGMA PHI
Beta Sigma Phi is an international cultural and social sorority dedicated to giving young women an opportunity for personal development and life-long learning. Beta Sigma Phi was organized here in 1945, and the first chapter, Nu Chapter, was granted its Charter in 1947. Susie McKenzie, the wife of Edmund McKenzie, was the first director of the organization. Meetings were twice a month, and each meeting was followed by a cultural program. Fashion Shows and Tag Days were some of their early fundraisers, and early causes were the Boys Band and Christmas hampers for families in need.
The club grew rapidly and needed to expand. In 1953 the senior members formed a second chapter called Xi Epsilon. Phi Chapter was formed in 1962, Preceptor Gamma in 1965, and Laureate Gamma in 1984.
Each chapter runs both social and charitable activities. Some of the local organizations that B.S.P. have supported include the Union Hospital, the Canadian Arthritic and Rheumatism Society, the Allied Arts Council, the 911 hotline, the Comprehensive High School, Meals on Wheels, and the Swift Current Museum. Diverse fundraising activities over the years have included bake sales, craft sales, bingos and raffles. Beta Sigma Phi is still active in the community today.
HOME AND SCHOOL ASSOCIATIONS
Home and School Associations were the forerunners of Parent Teacher Associations. The first Home and School Association in Swift Current was organized in 1940 for the Swift Current Collegiate by two prominent members of the Local Council of Women. The parents of Elmwood School students organized the first public school H.S.A. in the fall of 1942. Central and Oman formed H.S.A.’s in 1944. Ashley Park opened in 1946, with a H.S.A. the following year. Both Dickson and St. Patrick’s opened with H.S.A.’s in 1954.
Home and School Associations were not limited to women, but women did tend to be dominant in these organizations in the early days, as they were the primary caregivers for school children. H.S.A.’s met at the schools, listened to guest speakers, organized graduation meals and events, and generally tried to make a positive contribution to the school for the students.
“FOR HOME AND COUNTRY”
The Swift Current Homemaker’s Club was founded in 1931, after the Victorian Order of Nurses disbanded. It was founded by former members of the V.O.N. who wanted to keep working together and maintain social relationships. Other Homemakers’ Clubs were organized provincially in 1911. The objective was to bring women together for mental and social stimulation and for community improvement. They were very common in smaller and more rural communities.
Left: Swift Current Homemakers Club c.
The Swift Current club had eight committees: agriculture, arts and literature, home economics, international relations, legislation, public health and welfare. These committees arranged stimulating programming throughout the year.The money that the Club earned through occasional bazaars, teas and rummage sales was put back into the community.
“SERVICE ABOVE SELF”
The Rotary Club in Swift Current began with a meeting in the lunch room at Cooper’s Store in January of 1920. W.W. Cooper was the Chairman of the organizing committee. The club was officially accredited as a unit of Rotary International at a banquet in the Empress Hotel later that month.
One of the earliest projects of the club was developing a public park on an unsightly empty lot north of Herbert St. in the mid-1920s. At the same time, the War Memorial Committee was looking for a place to build a WWI memorial. The Rotary Club’s new park was a perfect location, so the cenotaph was built in the new “Memorial Park” in 1927. The Rotary Club officially donated the park the City in 1931.
In addition to founding the Ice Carnival, one of Swift Current’s longest running events for children, Rotary also sponsored a park on 4th Ave NE, and the tennis courts and park on 3rd Ave NW. During WWII they raised $2000 for the Food for Britain and Milk for Britain funds. The Rotary Club also contributed $3000 to Prairie Pioneer Lodge, $5000 to the Civic Centre, and $15 000 to the Chinook Parkway Recreation Area in 1971.
In addition to having a local impact at home, works of the Rotary Club are also felt abroad. In the 1970s the Swift Current Rotary Club donated over $2000 to build schools in Kenya. Photo is Swift Current’s Dr. Cormack giving a check from the Swift Current Rotary Club to a headmaster in build a school in Njoro, Kenya in 1972
Inner Wheel of Swift Current
The Inner Wheel Club was a Ladies Auxiliary to the Rotary Club. It was formed in Swift Current in 1951. Their objectives were to promote friendship, improve social condition, andpromote good international relations through the exchange of idea. The organization was later renamed the Rotary Anns. If a Rotary Ann was widowed she could retain her membership, but not if her husband left the organization.
The Kiwanis Club of Swift Current was founded in 1921. Businessman Edmund McKenzie was the first president. The Kiwanis Club has supported many different causes in Swift Current over the years. In the 1920s they took responsibility for the community swimming hole at Elmwood Park. They operated this site for over 50 years, built change houses, maintained the beach, and employed a lifeguard for the safety of the children, all at no cost to the community.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the Kiwanis Club developed a large park just south of the old hospital, where the Col. Ivor Clifton Centre is located. The park contained flowers, shrubs and pathways, but the land was redeveloped in 1956 and the Kiwanis Park was moved north to its current location.
The Kiwanis Club’s primary focus is youth and children. They have supported the 4-H Club, sponsored a road race for boys, furnished a pediatric ward in the Union Hospital, sent high school students on cultural exchanges to Malta, Montana, and sponsored the Sk8 Park. These are just a few examples of their many contributions to Swift Current.
One of the Kiwanis Club’s fundraisers, Apple Week, a tradition that began in 1932, continues to this day. Other fundraisers include selling Christmas trees and running an annual golf tournament.
The Kiwanis Club did not have a formal Women’s Auxiliary, however the wives of Kiwanis Club members would attend Kiwanis ladies events, such as the costume party depicted in this photograph. In 1992 the first three women joined the Kiwanis Club. Even at this late date, the introduction of women into the club upset some members, many of whom left the Kiwanis Club to join the Kiwanis Club of Prairie Pioneers. The first female Kiwanis Club present was Joan Krochak in 1995.
In the 1970s, “Golden K” clubs started to form alongside active Kiwanis Clubs. These were clubs for retired or semi-retired Kiwanians that placed more emphasis on fellowship than on community service. A Swift Current club of this nature was formed in 1979, and they chose the name Kiwanis Club of Prairie Pioneers. This club did not admit women until 2001.
Image: Kiwanis Club of Prairie Pioneers members posing with Frontier Days parade float.
The first Lions Club in Swift Current was chartered in March of 1927, but it folded nine years later in December of 1936, during the difficult years of the depression. The Club was re-chartered by the Herbert Lions Club in December of 1946. Membership has varied from a high of 83 members in 1970-71, to the current low of 29 members at the present time.
The Lions have made many local contributions. They built and equipped the Scouts Hall, provided drapes for Beatty Collegiate theatre, sponsored the playground equipment in Riverside Park on the south side, contributed to the swimming pool fund, furnished a ward in the Union Hospital, and donated money to the Junior Band, the Prairie Pioneer Lodge and to the Noble Irwin Healthcare Foundation, among others projects. The Lions raised money by holding Poker Tournaments, and selling nuts, mints, and fertilizer. The Lions Club took over organizing the Frontier Days parade when the Kinetic Club folded in 1950, and held that job for many years.
The Women’s Auxiliary, known as Swift Current Lady Lions, began in 1947. In 1975 they were formally chartered as the Swift Current Lionesses. In 2002 the two chapters officially merged, and the Swift Current Lions Club has had four female presidents to date.
The Lion’s Ladies Club was originally organized by Jessie Stephens, who had been involved in a Lion’s Ladies Auxiliary in Vancouver. Swift Current had the second Lion’s Ladies Auxiliary in the country. Most the Charter members were the wives of Lions members. In addition to making thousands upon thousands of Kleenex flowers for the Frontier Days parade each year, the Ladies also became known for their annual musical revues, which were usually very well received. One year they were invited to perform at a Health Region No. 1 meeting in Saskatoon.
In the 1940s, the Lion’s Club put on an annual Minstrel Show. Intending to parody their husbands and partners, the Lion’s Ladies began performing their own minstrel show to great acclaim until it “became the height of bad taste and we graceful retired from the field.” At which point, the ladies began choosing less controversial material for their annual revue. This photo was taken in 1953.
“ENERGY IN MOTION”
In the fall of 1934 Swift Current had a population of about 5000 people and the city, like the rest of the province, was suffering from the drought and depression. A handful of ambitious young men wanted to create a young men’s club in Swift Current that presented opportunities for self-improvement to combat the problem of community decline.
They chose the name Kinetic Club because it was synonymous with energy. Some of the early projects involved organizing a blood donor clinic, furnishing a ward in the hospital, and hosting dances and sporting events. Their goal was to raise money for a swimming pool.
In 1937 they took over the City’s Dominion Day celebration and it was widely agreed to be the best and most well-attended Dominion Day that the city had ever had. The next year, they decided to hold a rodeo and employ an “old west” theme, and Frontier Days was born.
The Kinetic Club never sponsored a swimming pool because all of the money in the swimming pool fund went to war bonds. The Kinetic Club ran Frontier Days until 1950 when the club was getting too small members were getting too old to continue on their own. Frontier Days was taken over by an Agricultural and Exhibition Organization, and the Lions Club took responsibility for organizing the annual parade.
Prominent local businessman W.W. Cooper was the first Scoutmaster in Swift Current. The first troop was formed around 1913 or 1914. In 1918 the Soldiers of the Soil movement tried to enlist Boy Scouts to help on the farms of servicemen who were overseas.
Boy Scout membership declined after the First World War and did not flourish again until around 1928, when the Scouts fixed up the old Knox Presbyterian Church building to use as a hall. In 1930, a new Scout camp was opened by the “17 Mile Bridge.” The camp was 17 miles north of the city, near the current West Bank Bible Camp. The old Knox Presbyterian Church, which was built on Railway St. in 1889. It was fixed up and moved to 1st Ave NE to be used as a hall for the Boy Scouts in the late 1920s. This photo was taken during the Royal Visit of Princess Elizabeth and Phillip in 1951.
The Boy Scouts were sponsored by several different service clubs over the years, including the Elks and the Rotary Club. There were five Scout groups in Swift Current by 1976.
JAYCEES (Junior Chamber of Commerce)
The Junior Chamber of Commerce was re-organized in Swift Current in 1954, but it did exist in the city in some form before World War II. The young men in the newly reformed club were mentored by some members of the former Kinetic Club, as many Kinetic members had belonged to the earlier Junior Chamber organization.
In the 1950s the Jaycees were dedicated to the development and improvement of their members, and to civic projects that benefited the City of Swift Current. They began a safe driving “Road-eo” in 1956 to encourage safer driving. Their biggest project was the development of a campsite north of the city, which providing parking and tent sites for motorists, and encouraged tourism and economic development.
Jaycees were all men, but the female “Jaycettes” did elect an executive in 1957. However, the women’s branch of the Junior Chamber was not as active as the men’s branch during this time.
ANCIENT ARABIC ORDER OF THE NOBLES OF THE MYSTIC SHRINE
The Shriners are a service club sponsored by the Masonic Temple. The Swift Current Shriners were first organized in September of 1929. All of the money that they raised by hosting dances and other small fundraising projects went to support the Shrine Hospital in Winnipeg. Violet Lundholm, wife of theatre owner and Shriner Jack Lundholm, was especially active in helping children get to and from the Winnipeg hospital.
Membership in the Shriners increased throughout the 1950s. They held their first Shrine Parade in 1957. More than 350 Shriners came from all over Saskatchewan, and it was hoped that their colourful display would attract new members. Different Shrine bands played at locations around the city to attract the public’s attention. After the parade, the club was given its official Charter by the Illustrious Potentate of Saskatchewan. The first Shrine Circus was held in 1958, and all local children were given free tickets, subsidized by businesses.
In 1958 the club bought land from the City and erected the current Shrine Hut, using money borrowed from their members. The Swift Current Shrine Drum and Bugle band was formed in 1970 by Jim Culham, and it is still active today.
The Swift Current Shriners remain an active organization today, and the Shrine Hut is rented to other local organizations for meetings.
“SERVING THE COMMUNITY’S GREATEST NEED”
The Kinsmen Club is a Canadian organization that formed in 1926. A Charter was granted to the Swift Current Kinsmen Club on February 9th, 1955. Since that time, the Kinsmen have made a huge contribution to Swift Current. They donated $4000 to Prairie Pioneer Lodge and $3000 to the swimming pool, in addition to many other smaller projects around the city. In 1963 they sponsored the playground equipment in the new Hillcrest Subdivision, which became known as Kin Park.
Improving the situation of mentally challenged kids has been a Kinsmen priority for many years. In the 1970s, the club spearheaded the drive to build a school for mentally challenged children who could be taught to contribute to society. Until this point, children with intellectual disabilities were often kept out of public life altogether.
Two potential locations on the north side of town for this school were both petitioned against by neighbourhood residents. Eventually, the Kinsmen secured the property just south of Oman School. The Kinsmen received significant financial support for the project from local organizations and businesses, and Kin School officially opened in 1971.
The Swift Current Kinsmen have also been involved in Telemiracle since the first televised marathon in 1976.
KINETTES, K-40 & K-ETTES
The local branch of Kinettes was formed in 1956, but they were not officially chartered. Initially, the Kinettes were initially the wives and girlfriends of the Kinsmen. As the club grew, the Kinettes began to establish their own identity. One of their earliest projects was “Buckle Up Baby,” a program which subsidized car seats for parents who found not afford the high price of a new one, after car seat were mandated for children in the 1980s.
It was not until 1985 that Kinettes were treated as full voting members of the Kin family, as the recently written Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms precluded them from being treated otherwise. The Kinettes have since established several of their own projects, such as Ladies Night Out, which has been an annual tradition since the 1980s.
Kinsmen and Kinettes were initially intended to be between 20 and 40 year of age, in order to keep the club young and energetic. When the men “aged out”, they could join the K40 Club, and women could join the K-Ette Club. Both clubs are less active than the Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs, but are still supportive of all Kin endeavors and maintain members’ social network.
Many early settlers gravitated towards a certain club or organization because it celebrated their personal heritage. There has often been a tendency to associate with people who have similar roots and backgrounds, and to celebrate these traditions in a new homeland. One group, the Native Sons of Canada, was presumably a similar type of organization, even if it celebrated the culture of those born in this country.
In more recent years, the Swift Current Multicultural Council has provided an umbrella organization for different cultural and ethnic groups, as Swift Current grows more diverse.
There were at least two nationalistic clubs that celebrated Scottish heritage in early Swift Current. The Caledonian Society existed by around 1912 and up into the 1930s. They celebrated an annual Robbie Burns tribute night. It was the women of the Caledonian Ladies’ Sewing and Knitting League who initiated the formation of the Red Cross Society here in 1915, as they had sewn and knit so many garments to send to soldiers overseas.
In the 1920s a second Scottish group existed in Swift Current called the St. Andrew’s Society. They would host banquets in the Empress Hotel that were open to all citizens of Scottish descent.
The Sons of England and Daughters of England societies existed in Swift since at least 1915 and until the 1940s. Like the early Fraternal Societies, Sons of England offered insurance policies. The S.O.E. regularly competed against other local clubs and organizations in sporting events, and Carpet Ball in the Masonic Temple.
The St. George’s Society is much more recent than Sons of England, but it is a similar organization. St. George’s Society only existed in the 1980s and 1990s, but the group brought together people with a similar heritage. The Society sponsored a local soccer team and held an annual Guy Fawkes night.
The Sons of Norway Lodge was organized in Swift Current in 1935 and existed into the 1950s. Implement dealer J.A. Rollefson was elected the first president of the local Snorre Lodge. When the club was formed there were 17 applications for membership. In 1937 they hosted a Norsemen Convention in Swift Current.
Most local churches had several dedicated groups of volunteers to support them. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church established a Knights of Columbus organization in 1947. They raised $5000 to help repair fire damage at St. Patrick’s School in 1948, and contributed money towards the hospital’s first ambulance purchase. St. Stephen’s Anglican Church’s Brotherhood of St. Andrew is a similar organization.
In 2013, the local Knights of Columbus won fourth place in an international service competition for their potato patch project. The organization grows potatoes in the field across from the church, and donates the proceeds from the sale of the potatoes to school lunch programs.
Women’s Auxiliaries were always very important to the operations of a church. Women’s Auxiliaries prepared food for parishioners at church events, organized Fowl Suppers, and contributed financially with bake sales and rummage sales. The Sacred Heart Catholic Women’s League visited seniors, provided care for the sick, and ran Bingo games at the Palliser. Most the proceeds from Women’s Auxiliaries’ activities supported the church.
Left: St. Stephen's Anglican Church Women's Auxiliary preparing food for a Lenten Lunch in the church kitchen.
Canadian Girls in Training (C.G.I.T.) was a church-based organization for young women at the United and Presbyterian Churches. The young women would be trained to help the county by preparing for Christian living. In addition to bible study, the girls would learn about other parts of the world through presentations by missionaries.