Legion to look into relocating war memorial
Few gatherings in Rossland are as uplifting as our Remembrance Day parade and cenotaph ceremony. They are inspiring on the basis of demography alone.
“As our veterans pass away, we get thinner in numbers,” admitted Doug Halladay, president of Branch 14 (Rossland) of the Royal Canadian Legion. That said, “the last few years, it’s been getting more attendees all the time.”
And how. The annual ceremony at the Columbia Avenue cenotaph is incredibly well-attended, with an impressive showing of kids and young parents, particularly. It can also be a challenge to actually see, unless a given onlooker is very small, very tall, gifted with the ability to see around corners made of brick, or has a taste for puddle-sitting and/or the crushing of tiny, adorable children.
That’s because the cenotaph is located in a small alcove along Columbia Avenue, just to the left of the library.
“It’s sort of tucked away in there and I don’t think it has the space it should have,” said Halladay. “It’s fine, except for when we do Remembrance Day events and that kind of thing, because it’s on the main street and the main street is part of the highway… (and) it needs more space. It sort of makes sense that it move back to where it was.”
The cenotaph used to be on Spokane Street, roughly where Pioneer Park is now, but was moved back in the late 1990s, while Esling Lodge was being constructed, to avoid any potential damage to the monument. The park is off the highway, with plenty of gathering space, and the new/old location would lessen the hassle of parade planning (booking flaggers and the like) and improve visibility for the public.
“That’s our main purpose,” said Halladay.
However, as one councillor noted Monday when the idea was informally raised, the Pioneer Park site might make for an awfully short parade. The procession leaves from the Legion building on Washington, half a block away.
Not to worry, laughed Halladay. “If they really want us to, we’ll march back and forth.”
The proposed re-relocation is something the Legion has been keen on for a long time, but the recent appearance of a likely grant opportunity to assist with its moving has spurred the veterans’ group into action.
It’s early stages, though. The branch has formed a committee to discuss how exactly the stone cenotaph might be moved and the project funded. The grant, if successful, could cover 50 per cent of costs but an approach to city council before spring budget-setting begins is also likely required.
“Our committee will look at when, and how, and who’s going to pay,” said Halladay. “Time is of the essence at this point.”
Money is tight at the Rossland Legion. Though the community-based veterans’ group helps support other non-profits and agencies, and does have some savings, it’s also chronically short of operating funding. Royal Canadian Legions in general have strict rules regarding the expenditure of certain kinds of revenues. Of the $35 it receives for memberships, for example, the Legion can keep just $6 to pay staff and and heat its ageing building on Washington Avenue.
Beyond that, the group relies on the funds its bar brings in to keep going. Though Friday Jam Nights are packed in the winter (Lineups! Of 20-year-olds! It’s fantastic!), the bar was forced to shut down for three months last summer to save money and needs to lay in a reliable stock of warm weather drinkers.
“We need the beer money,” Halladay explained. “Our jam nights are excellent… we’ve kind of discovered it. Unfortunately, it only works during the ski season. I’d love to be able to keep these things going 52 weeks a year.”