History of the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton
A dedicated group of volunteers who serve their community’s greatest need through hosting and sponsoring events and community service projects. The Association was founded in 1920 and has a history dedicated to fostering lifelong friendships while ‘Serving the Community’s Greatest Need.’
It all began on a spring day in 1925 when an Edmonton Teacher, Clarence Richards met Manly Edwards, President of the Kinsmen Club of Calgary on a street in Calgary and a conversation was struck. A seed was planted.
On October 13, 1925 Clarence had gathered a number of men to meet at the Royal George Hotel in Edmonton and discuss the idea of forming a Kinsmen Club in Edmonton. Three days later they met again to select a temporary executive.
In January of 1926 discussions in the club turned to the topic of applying to be a chartered club. So on March 4, 1926 the official request was sent to the International Association of Kinsmen for the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton to join the association.
Clarence Richards was the first president and continued to be actively involved with the club until his dealt in 1963.
In March of 1927, the first service project was held. The Kinsmen charted a bus to take the disabled children out of the orthopaedics ward at the University Hospital on an outing. By early 1927 these outings for the disabled kids became a regular Saturday occurrence. The Kinsmen would take the kids to parks and other city attractions.
Right from the get go, Kinsmen Members were influential people in the community. 1927 Membership Director was Wop May – WWI flying ace!
The club was also contacted at this time to get involved with supporting Tuberculosis (TB) and on September 6, 1927 the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton took over the Christmas Seals campaign. The Club kept 90% for local TB work and sent the raining 10% to the National TB Society. The first sale in 1927 earned $2758.00. 1948 earned $51,000, 1975 seals sale a whopping $403,000 and the total the club raised from 1927 – 1976 was $3,085,885.
By 1928 the Club had raised enough money hire a TB nurse or the Kinsmen Nurse as she was commonly known. During the depression the Kinsmen supplied her with funds for food, clothing and medicine for TB Families as welfare was not the same back then as it is now.
During WWII from 1939 – 1945, Milk For Britain was a National Project and our club participated massively. By 1943 the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton had sent over 280,000 quarts of milk to Britain, 45,000 quarts compliments of the Kinette’s. In order to fund Milk For Britain and other Club projects the Club held Kin Carnivals for a week in July on Jasper Ave and 102 street. Usually the first week.
Early in the 1940’s through Christmas Seals, 2 mobile X-Ray machines were purchased.
It was in 1944 that Clarence Richards had brought up the idea of a civic centre that could be built in the city, thus another seed planted and in the late 40’s the dream of a Park was being tossed around.
In the 1944/1945 Kinsmen year, the club purchased a $12,000 bungalow and raffled it off to support Milk For Britain, it was said to be the first such raffle in the city, but this cannot be confirmed.
Kinsmen Car Awards began in 1948 with one car being raffled. By 1961 Kinsmen Car Awards at Klondike Days grew to a Car A Day. And in 1975, 12 vehicles were raffled during the 10 day fair. We also had the highest structure at the fair. By the 1990’s it had shrunk to 4 cars and the project, now known as Dream Wheels, wrapped in 2018 with only a Truck and Trailer.
The war had wrapped up so did Milk for Britain, TB work was still going strong but a new major project was needed. 1952 saw the club with full money coffers and lack of a major project. The club was split into 10 groups and told to come back with a project. Needless to say a centrally located park was selected.
The Club approached a good friend, Dr. Van Vliet, Director of Physical Education at the University of Alberta. He was told about the project and was sold on the idea. An area in Walterdale Flats was determined to be the best spot. The problem was this is where the city had intended to put the zoo.
Dr Van Vliet and members of the Club approached the City in early 1953 to further discuss the project and the site to be used. On June 7, 1953 the city granted a 10 year lease of 58 acres of Walterdale Flats at a price of $1 per year. The only condition was at the end of the lease the land, facilities and equipment be returned to the city.
Phase I to level and seed soccer and football fields which was done right away. Due to disagreements on the size and scope of a grandstand phase II was delayed until the spring of 1954, at which point a $34,000 grandstand was built. That fall the Kinsmen themselves built the 1st fully lit hockey rink.
Peanut night was also introduced in 1953. This is when Kinsmen, friends, students, Kin kids all got on teams and blitzed the city to sell boxes of peanuts. This was a major fundraiser and was held until 1974. Developments in Kinsmen Park continued:
1955 – $10,000 was spent on 3 hard surfaced tennis courts.
1958 – a 9 hole Pitch and Putt golf course was opened. (Kinsmen Pitch and Putt)
1959 – a toboggan run east of the high level bridge and a year round concession was opened.
1959 – The City recognized the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton for its contribution to city recreation.
TB was still an important project and the Club donated 61 radios, 2 TVs and 2 typewriters to the Charles Camsell Hospital over the decade.
In 1959, 26 TB Families received all inclusive hampers from the Kinsmen TB Nurse and another 26 families got 1-4 quarts of milk per day. And $13,000 was donated to the University Hospital for a clinical research project. A bed was endowed and 134 patients went through the project.
The 1960’s was a massive decade for the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton. Starting with the Kinsmen Pitch and Putt expanding to 19 holes.
In 1961 Kinsmen Park was complete and another major project was needed. So the club once again split into 10 committees to come up with major project ideas, The following proposals came in:
Children’s Hospital for the Crippled
Disneyland Type Park
After great debate, the Fieldhouse, Theatre and Pool were to be known as Kinsmen Village and that was the new major project.
Land became a stumbling block in 1963, as the Club wanted 17 acres east of Kinsmen Park but the City had planned to put the museum there. Negotiations with the City and within the club began. It was land discussions with the city and within the Club it was ‘should the Fieldhouse or Theatre be Phase I of Kinsmen Village?’. By 1964 the Club had decided on a Fieldhouse and in September of that year the city agreed to give the land to the Club and it would buy out all of the landowners.
1965 saw President Greg Greenough fly off to Ottawa to secure money for the project. Unfortunately he returned unsuccessful.
Tenders for the Fieldhouse went out in December of 1966 and a contract was offered in early 1967. The project would cost $1,300,000. The club had $300,000, they figured they could earn another $300,000 fairly quick and ATB gave them a mortgage of $300,000. The province agreed to pay approx $200,000 if the city would match them and the city did. DONE!
Everything was set. NOT? There was one lone house whose owner would not sell. The landowner and the city were deadlocked due to the price each had thought the land was worth. The Club stepped up and a few days and $800 later, construction began. Greg Greenough, who worked for MacLab, was to be the project manager and MacLab donated his time.
January 3, 1968 the Kinsmen Fieldhouse officially opened. It was the largest venue of its type to every be built by a service club in Canada. January 4 – 6 the Royal Canadian Legion held their track and field competition there.
From 1969-1983 the Fieldhouse was home to some if the largest concerts in the city. KISS opened their first world tour at the Fieldhouse!
As the floor was dirt there was many a time a kinsmen would be working equipment to level the floor.
The first Sports Celebrity Dinner with Jackie Robinson was held in 1968 and by 1969 the Club was back to having no major project yet again. This Time President Fred Windwick created a committee to come up with Phase II of Kinsmen Village, Some members wanted a theatre, others more park development and yet some an Olympic size pool.
In 1969, Fred Windwick was flown out to Moncton NB to receive a merit award for Kinsmen Park.
Kinsmen Skate-A-Thon began in 1969 with Boys of Mite aged hockey (Atom today). Players would skate around Mayfair (Hawrelak) Park and collect pledges for the half mile laps they would complete. Girls were added in 1972 as was full community league participation. In fact 72 of the 100 community leagues participated. The club gave 40% of the profits back to the community leagues, prizes were also give. Skate-A-Thon was eventually turned over to the Kinsmen Club of Fort Edmonton.
The Kinsmen Club of Edmonton was now even more respected and well known in the community. In fact, in 1969 the City came to the Club for help. Dale Partridge from the city came to a general meeting and presented how the Club could help get landing rights for Northwest Orient Airlines in Edmonton. At the time Edmonton was the only major Canadian city without direct access to the United States. Fred Windwick embraced and passionately shared the fact that the Club could not pass up or afford to miss this opportunity. A committee called Flight Fight was formed. The committee went to work and when it came back to put its plan in motion, it only took 10 days to collect 130,000 signatures on a petition. The petition was then delivered to Ottawa by mayor Ivor Dent, Chamber of Commerce President Jack Campbell and Kinsmen Club of Edmonton President Fred Windwick. As a result NWO got landing rights in Edmonton a couple years later – Ottawa does not work as fast as Kinsmen!
The Club has always maintained high standards when it came to business and professional ethics. Club meetings by now were held at the MacDonald hotel on Friday nights. Knife and forkers, the members that just came out for meals and a bit of fellowship, were quickly weeded out. Getting involved made Kinsmen gratifying to its members, as Kinsmen is about: Fellowship, Service and Education. Being a Kinsmen Club of Edmonton member would teach young men how to chair a meeting, understand Roberts Rules of Order and network, among other things. The Kinsmen Club of Edmonton was a well known and powerful organization in the city. The President Elect would always have their picture in the newspaper and for years each incoming President would have lunch with the mayor. Membership was as high as 130, but eventually got capped at 104 with a wait list. Only transfers could get in.
Fellowship was huge. All committee meetings were held in members homes and all committees had 8-10 members.
In 1971 Artificial Tartan Turf was installed in the field house at a cost of $163,950.
On May 16, 1971 the Fieldhouse Mortgage was burned and a huge celebration with fireworks was held.
In 1972, Edmonton Kinsmen Al Park was contacted by District 4 to create a project for Cystic Fibrosis (CF). This was before CF was a national project. To start, Al figured since many members were young fathers a simple fee of $7.00 could be assessed to all district members. Presentations were made and a goal of $15,000 was set. When $50,000 was raised a CF project on carrier detection was funded at the U of A. Since 1975 Kinsmen Funds have supported detection of CF in newborns. In 1976 all newborns in Edmonton were tested for CF, Edmonton was the first city to do this.
The 1971 Sports Celebrity dinner had a million dollar head table with Jim Fanning and Rich Robertson. The Dinner was always held in the fall so no hockey players were involved. That changed in 1972 when the dinner moved to May and 5 of the 7 at the head table were hockey players. Salute to Youth winners were also paid tribute to at the Dinner.
Before a decision regarding Phase II of Kinsmen Village could be made, the City had approached the club to spearhead a bid for the 1978 Commonwealth Games.
A motion in Principle was passed in 1972 to build an Olympic size pool subject to the city getting the 1978 Commonwealth Games. In 1973 an Olympic Pool Committee was formed.
A brief was prepared by the Club to be used by the Commonwealth Games Committee to get Federal and Provincial funding at a cost of $5000. Unfortunately, there were many disagreements between the Commonwealth Games committee and the club. The Club at wits end decided to step away from the Commonwealth Games committee but would continue with the planning and construction of the pool.
In 1976 the Kinsmen Aquatic Centre was initiated by the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton as Phase II of Kinsmen Village, it would house 4 pools, locker rooms, stands, racquet courts, a fitness centre and a multipurpose room that could be divided up. It opened in the fall of 1977 at a cost of $8.4 million all funded and secured by the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton. Garnet McKee was the Chair of the Aquatic Centre Committee. It has been a host venue for the 1978 Commonwealth Games, 1983 Universitiade and the 2005 World master Games. The Kinsmen Village is know known as the Kinsmen Sports Centre.
In 1972, $25,000 in rebate grants were returned to the Club from the building of the Fieldhouse. This money was used on Kinsmen Park West, 48 acres west of the high level bridge. Kinsmen Park West was coming in over budget and the city and the Club had differing visions of the park, so, at 40% complete the park opened on October 11, 1974.
1975 – River City Casino was held at the Kinsmen Fieldhouse during Klondike Days. It was an overwhelming success.
1976 – TV and Newspaper Bingo was launched. TV Bingo was 30 minutes but due to popularity grew to 1 hour on ITV (Global) Saturdays from 5:30-6:30.
Pranks and fun were being had between members and Clubs alike:
Late 1960’s early 1970’s the Edmonton Club went and crashed a Calgary meeting in cowboy hats, water pistols and noisemakers. Of Course they made off with the Calgary Banner and gavel.
In retaliation, Calgary bought a car in the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton’s name parked it in from of the Edmonton Journal Building and filled it with cement – it took two tow trucks to move it.
Not to be out done, Edmonton Chartered a DC3, Flew to Calgary, picked up a horse, dropped it at the Calgary meeting – Calgary then came back to Edmonton on a bus with chickens they were feeding alcohol to!
Phase III of Kinsmen Village was a twin ice arena. It had been approved by the Club and City. As well the Provincial Government had approved 3 grants over 3 years for $775,000 each. The first instalment was already paid to the club when at the very last minute the City backed out and did not allow the project. When the Club reported to the province on the city’s change and asking how we return the grant, the province replied ‘we have no mechanism for grants to be returned, so keep the money, we trust you will spend it wisely, just let us know what you spent it on’.
The money was given equally to the Boyle MacCauley Health Centre which was on the brink of folding, the Alberta Asthma Centre in the Aberhart Hospital which was brand new and our donation kick started other large donations from other business and charities so the Centre could be built. The third recipient was the Youth Emergency Shelter Society. All three facilities have Kinsmen Plaques in the building.
With TB now in the past with the arrival of a vaccine, Christmas Seals had switched from funding TB to the Lung Association. Kinsmen was instrumental in the formation of the Alberta Lung Association.
The very late 1970’s and throughout 1980’s there were at least 4 more house lotteries.
In the later part off the 1980’s through the 90’s a semi truck lottery.The Kinsmen Club of Edmonton held 16 truck lotteries during that time.
Some of the best Kinsmen parties were at the Truck Lottery kick off party with the semi down at the Clubhouse. Freightliner was so impressed with us they paid for one of the parties!
We were a founding member of WEMBA and our bingos were held at Caesars Palace in West Edmonton Mall. It was not uncommon for the Club to earn $30,000 on a good night.
Casinos were a regular fundraiser held through AGCL.
The Kinsmen Club of Edmonton was instrumental in supporting the Rick Hansen, Man in Motion Tour through Edmonton on March 6, 1987.
Other fundraisers through the 80’s and 90’s included Advertisers Night and Silent Auctions.
In the 1990’s Car Awards was rebranded to Dream Wheels and was down to 4 cars for the entire fair. It ended in 2018.
The 1992/93 Kinsmen year saw the Club move from the Kinsmen Sports Centre to River Valley Place.
With money in the bank and no major project in the fall of 1994 the Club split into three groups to find a new major project. In the Spring of 1995 the city had expressed a need for more ice surfaces and fortunately that was one of the three projects and was ultimately selected as the next major project. Garnet McKee came back from the K40’s to be the chair of the build design committee. The city wanted the project in the Kaskitayo site in which it is currently located and a 25 year lease was signed with extensions available for $1 per year.
The was an exciting project as the Kinsmen also had ideas on how the arena could be run. The city would book the ice while we took care of the operations of Kinsmen Arenas. The Kinsmen Twin Arenas opened in the fall of 1997 – we just had our 25th anniversary!
Profits from the arena are split 50% to the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton and 50% for joint use. Joint use is for community project in which the City and the Club agree to undertake.
1994 we donated 4 blood warmers to Canada Blood Services for donor comfort. They benefited our own Darrin Park – you never know when your volunteer work with be repaid.
1997 – 1999 were extremely tough financial years as we had a 10 year mortgage on the rink and monthly payments of $17,500 plus in October of 1997, 1998 and 1999 a lump sum payment of $125,000 to pay back a line of credit from ATB which was needed on our part for the arenas. Dream Wheels was only making $80,000/year and the rink was not returning any funds yet.
Family Day weekend 1999 was the 1st Corporate Cup Hockey tournament for CF and Oilers Pat Falloon was our honorary chairman. This is now the Ben Stelter Memorial Tournament. Video
On November 1, 2006 a cheque was written to the city of Edmonton for $193,164 to pay off the Arena mortgage a year and a bit early. A great party at the MacDonald hotel was held!
Looking for service projects and ways to use our now constant flow of funds, from the Arenas and Pitch and Putt, president Gord Enders asked Darrin Park in 2005 to bring back the Community Services Committee. Darrin, along with a committee of 5, came to the General membership 4 times with suggestions for the policies and guidelines of the committee. It is still used today.
Out of the Community Service Committee came the Toy Blitz. From December of 2007 and for 10 years thereafter, we helped the community give back to the community.
In 2008, the Jerry Forbes Centre for Community Service came to us and we made their first large donation, $125,000.00
Teens at the Stollery were finding their stays there hard as there was nothing to do with their time. The Club purchased DVD Players, DVD’s and books for teens – the teenage patients love them and this lead to more equipment being donated to the Stollery many times over the next decade.
During the time frame of 2006 – 2011 we donated three vans to the Winnifred Stewart Society for Empties to Winn.
The Legends Experience resurrected a new form of Celebrity Sports night with Gretzky in 2011, and Messier in 2012.
2015 was our first sold out concert at Servus place in St Albert, Dallas Smith was the artist. 2016 we held “I Love the 90’s” at the convention centre and Soundtrack Music Festival began in 2018 with Soundtrack Volume 2 in 2019 – and then again in 2023.
To Be Continued…
In thanks to Darrin Park for the historical data compilation to date.
The Kinsmen Club of Edmonton performs a wide variety of local fundraising and service projects. By assessing our community’s greatest needs, we determine what projects to undertake and how to distribute funds raised within our local community.