Man­i­toba’s le­gions and veter­ans clubs are lo­cal hotspots all year long

Winnipeg Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - JILL WIL­SON jill.wil­son@freep­ Twit­ter: @dedau­mier

Jill Wil­son raises her beer-filled glass to five Royal Cana­dian Le­gions and veter­ans clubs in Win­nipeg in hon­our of Re­mem­brance Day /

THIS Re­mem­brance Day marks the 100th an­niver­sary of ar­mistice in the First World War, which came into force at 11 a.m. Paris time on Nov. 11, 1918.

There will be ser­vices city-wide to mark the oc­ca­sion, a solemn re­mem­brance of the con­flict known as the Great War, which saw 619,636 Cana­di­ans en­list with the Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force, ap­prox­i­mately 424,000 of them serv­ing over­seas. Of these men and women, 59,544 mem­bers of the CEF died dur­ing the war, 51,748 of them as a re­sult of en­emy ac­tion.

No veter­ans from the Great War re­main, and only a hand­ful of Sec­ond World War com­bat­ants are still alive; their av­er­age age is 93.

This time of year, when pop­pies of re­mem­brance dot many lapels, Win­nipeg’s Royal Cana­dian Le­gions and ANAVETS (Army, Navy and Air Force Veter­ans of Canada) units are in the spot­light, but these groups would ap­pre­ci­ate the at­ten­tion all year long. As mem­ber­ship dwin­dles, these two non­profit veter­ans’ or­ga­ni­za­tions — which are dis­tinct from each other, though they have sim­i­lar man­dates — strive to ap­peal to a broader au­di­ence; the armed-ser­vices re­quire­ment for mem­ber­ship has long been dropped.

Of­fer­ing pool, snooker, darts, meat draws and the cheap­est drinks in town, le­gions and ANAF units are warm and wel­com­ing places to sip a beer and en­joy a con­ver­sa­tion, while most also fea­ture dis­plays of ar­ti­facts and mem­o­ra­bilia that pro­vide a valu­able glimpse into Canada’s wartime roles. Your pa­tron­age helps them ful­fil their man­dates to aid and sup­port veter­ans and pro­vide es­sen­tial ser­vices in the com­mu­nity.

Here are sug­ges­tions for five lo­cal le­gions and ANAVETS units to visit, not just for Re­mem­brance Day, but any day.

● St. James Le­gion Branch No. 4

(1966 Portage Ave.): This le­gion’s stucco ex­te­rior hides a gem of retro decor and a hot­bed of ac­tiv­i­ties. There’s an up­stairs ban­quet and bingo hall, and the ’60s-style base­ment feels like a gi­ant rec room.

It houses a huge lounge with friendly servers, cheap-as-borscht drinks and En­rique’s restau­rant, which opens at 9 a.m. to serve break­fast (both clas­sic Amer­i­can and Filipino), as well as a lunch and din­ner menu of sand­wiches, wraps and burg­ers, plus adobo pork, pancit and other Filipino spe­cial­ties. The back room has both bil­liard and snooker ta­bles, as well as dart­boards, all of which see plenty of ac­tion on Wed­nes­day league nights and even got a turn in the spot­light dur­ing

Amaz­ing Race Canada ear­lier this year. The lo­ca­tion hosts meat draws on Fri­day nights and Satur­day after­noons, and dur­ing the sum­mer months, you can en­joy a cold beer on the pa­tio.

Live bands play most Fri­days and Satur­days, and the le­gion of­fers ball­room and line-danc­ing lessons, Zumba gold classes, Chase the Ace events and Texas Hold ’Em poker tour­na­ments.

St. James Le­gion Branch No. 4 will host a Re­mem­brance Day ser­vice at Bruce Park. The pa­rade marches over from Lyle Street at 10:40 a.m. for an 11 a.m. ser­vice, then marches back to the le­gion down Portage Av­enue fol­low­ing the ser­vice. ● West Kil­do­nan Le­gion Branch No. 30 (1748 Main St.): This north Main le­gion has long had a rep­u­ta­tion as a wel­com­ing hang­out for folks in the neigh­bour­hood — a place to stop by for a game of pool or a team round of beers on the pa­tio af­ter a ball game,

without any pres­sure to be­come a mem­ber.

Like St. James, the West K branch is heavy on the ac­tiv­i­ties, with free pool on Wed­nes­days from 5 to 10 p.m., meat draws on Satur­day after­noons, crib­bage, darts and shuf­fle­board league play and live bands on week­ends.

Its short-or­der menu is avail­able when­ever the bar is open, of­fer­ing up such deep-fried fare as mozza sticks, chicken strips, egg rolls and onion rings, along with veg­gie plat­ters, per­o­gies and wings (on Wingy Wed­nes­day, wings are 55 cents each be­tween

5 and 10 p.m.). Mem­bers get dis­counted drink prices at cer­tain times.

On Re­mem­brance Day, doors open to the hall at 10:30 a.m. for a

10:55 ser­vice. ● ANAF Club 60 (3-433 River

Ave.): Lo­cated in Os­borne Vil­lage, Club

60 has the un­pre­ten­tious but cosy vibe of a neigh­bour­hood pub, with two small back rooms, one for VLTs and one for darts and shuf­fle­board. The wel­com­ing bar fea­tures a tap heavy on lo­cal beers and happy-hour prices are $3.75 for a bot­tle.

Bar man­ager David Swan clearly knows his reg­u­lars, pulling out a Coors Light be­fore the front door has even closed be­hind a fa­mil­iar cus­tomer. He es­ti­mates the club has around

70 dues-pay­ing mem­bers (mem­ber­ship costs $37); it re­lies mostly on walk-up traf­fic in the neigh­bour­hood or peo­ple pop­ping in for a late-night game of pool.

The clien­tele doesn’t in­clude many veter­ans, although Swan says ac­tive ser­vice­men, es­pe­cially those in the re­serves, are fre­quent vis­i­tors.

Happy hour, Thurs­day nights and week­ends are busiest, with the club host­ing DJs and a pop­u­lar Satur­day karaoke night. The kitchen is open Mon­day to Fri­day, and of­fers daily spe­cials.

ANAF Club 60 will be tak­ing part in Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­monies at the RBC Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, where at­ten­dees should be seated by 10:15 a.m. on Nov. 11. There is free park­ing at the Mil­len­nium Li­brary and a blood-donor clinic af­ter the cer­e­mony. ● The Duke of Kent Branch 119 (227

McDer­mot Ave.) — Set in the heart of the Ex­change Dis­trict on the corner of McDer­mot Av­enue and Al­bert Street, the Duke of Kent — fre­quently the site of Win­nipeg Fringe Theatre Fes­ti­val im­prov shows — is a step back in time. While the rest of the neigh­bour­hood is gen­tri­fy­ing, it’s a respite from the world of $14 cock­tails and dis­tressed wood, with its ve­neer-topped ta­bles and vinyl-cov­ered seats, the only real nods to decor be­ing a spring of plas­tic fall fo­liage on the ta­ble and three por­traits of the Queen at vary­ing ages.

At the bar serv­ing $4 shots and beers, a line of empty bot­tles — La­batt 50, Kokanee, Stan­dard Lager, Stella and the like — shows cus­tomers their op­tions.

On a re­cent Wed­nes­day, the bare­bones lo­ca­tion was in­hab­ited by three young guys shar­ing some chips ($1.25), a cou­ple of reg­u­lars seated at the bar, gen­tly razz­ing the bar­tender, a pair at a ta­ble talk­ing about Don­ald Trump and one man play­ing VLTs. The vibe is laid-back and su­per-friendly, with the corner lo­ca­tion’s huge win­dows al­low­ing a view of the buzzing neigh­bour­hood out­side.

The reg­u­lar hours are 2 to 7 p.m., but on First Fri­days, when Ex­change Dis­trict busi­nesses and gal­leries throw open their doors, stay open late and hold spe­cial events, the Duke of Kent is open un­til 2 a.m. and fea­tures drink spe­cials. ● ANAVETS Rock­wood Unit 303 (341 Wil­ton St.) — This unas­sum­ing build­ing at the corner of Wil­ton Street and Lorette Av­enue in the Rock­wood neigh­bour­hood near Grant Park hides an un­usu­ally sleek and mod­ern in­te­rior, ac­cented in muted tones of grey and rose, with a bright lounge area, sparkling bar, shuf­fle­board and well-lit pool ta­bles, and the de rigueur line of VLTs.

Hexag­o­nal ta­bles are set around a raised stage — the lo­ca­tion is renowned for its live mu­sic, host­ing a jam or open mic on Wed­nes­day and bands ev­ery Fri­day and Satur­day, which draw large danc­ing crowds. Ad­mis­sion to con­certs is $5 (free to mem­bers, of which there are about 360).

The Wil­ton Ban­quet Hall (ca­pac­ity 300) and Me­mo­rial Hall (ca­pac­ity 125) are li­censed venues avail­able for rental for so­cials, par­ties or meet­ings. Rock­wood also hosts darts and shuf­fle­board leagues.

It’s open from 11 a.m. un­til mid­night Mon­day to Thurs­day, and 1 a.m. on Fri­day and Satur­day, with Ro­mana’s restau­rant serv­ing food Thurs­days from 3 to 8 p.m. and Fri­day and Satur­day from 3 to 10 p.m. Bar prices are $4 for beer or mixed drinks, $19 for a bot­tle of wine.


Bryan Bark­well and his friends have been shoot­ing pool at le­gion halls and veter­ans clubs for decades. These days they tend to meet at the ANAVETS Rock­wood Unit 303 on Wil­ton Street.

Jim Collins (from left), Kent De-Laronde, Ron Ko­vacs, Tyler Pi­chor, and Dante Shaw are reg­u­lars at ANAF Club 60 on River Av­enue.


The St. James Le­gion is home to the Wed­nes­day Night Darts League where en­thu­si­asts like Jeff McDon­ald can get to­gether to so­cial­ize and take dead aim.

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