By Dave Hext
As published in the Independant
Harding’s Livery Stable upon first glance, doesn’t seem to suit the picture above, but it does. This stable was behind the Canton Inn (Squire Tavern). As World War I came to an end,
horse transportation declined and the stable became inactive. So this bare bones brick building was the ideal place for the “Petrolia Returned Soldiers Association” to meet. The price was right, and with help from the members, this would be good
therapy for the veterans to renovate and have a meeting place of their own.
In 1931 Reverend Andrew Lane realized a need, as the returning veterans were dispersed back into society with little or no mental rehabilitation. So in February 1932 Branch
“216” received its charter. The economy was very depressed, so they were forced rotate their meetings from the Orange Hall, Masonic Hall, and later shared the Town Hall basement with the Volunteer Fire Department. The first meeting was held in
the Orange Hall. The Ladies Auxiliary met May 6 and the men May 7 of 1932.
After World War II declined, it really amplified the need for a permanent home for the returning soldiers to meet and share their problems and anxieties of the War. The mental
fatigue and many changes had taken place in our society. The veterans just couldn’t step back into their old jobs, they had been filled by others. Women in the work force was the new deal, for somebody had to do the work when the men left to fight.
In Feb. 1946 the building was purchased on King Street and the members bought subscriptions to help pay for the building. They didn’t waste time, because the first meeting was held as soon as the stable had been swept out. It was a bare bones brick
shell, and the members had to sit on stacked up lumber, but they didn’t care, for this was their building now. The members supplied the labour and over the course of three or four years they had a building to be proud of. The grand building was officially
dedicated Feb.24, 1950, but sadly was only used for fifteen months before disaster struck and the building was lost to fire.
Within a month, a new lot was purchased from the J&J Kerr estate. This was to be their home up to this present date. The
“Grand Opening” ceremony was held January 9, 1953. In 1960 Queen Elizabeth II granted the Legion royal patronage and it became the Royal Canadian Legion.
On June 21& 22 as you stroll through this hallowed building, you will
be visiting a site that celebrates tours of many famous celebrities. The likes of Honourable Pauline McGibbon, Premier William Davis, and Governor General William Alexander to name a few. In the lounge make sure you see all the pictures from the two “Great
Wars”, and in the yard is the famous field gun that was so graciously restored by local craftsmen. Upon entering the Legion, please remove your hat in honour of our fallen soldiers. It is because of their sacrifice that we can roam freely for Doors Open