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Branch 197 - New Beginnings
The New Branch 197 Legion Hall Opening - September 1974
After much planning, permission was granted to build the new 17,000 square foot, single storey Legion hall on 10 acres of land purchased from the Nelles farm. The first sod was ceremoniously turned in 1973 and construction started immediately.
The Legion hall opened in September 1974, amidst much fanfare and celebration. The Legion colours were marched in as 300 people watched on with pride. The Acton Citizens' band played, and the Choraliers sang and a great celebration was had as Branch 197's new Legion Hall was opened with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by President Bob Angell and Provincial President B. Jeffries.
The Acton Legion Branch has grown considerably from its humble beginnings in the "bunkhouse", to the former telephone exchange on Main St., to the new spacious building on Wright Ave. which provides much greater space to service the Acton community. Today there are over 600 Legion members from Acton and the surrounding area. The Branch serves as home for Sea Cadets, and Air Cadets, provides a delicious turkey Christmas dinner for seniors in the community and looks after the need of veterans and their families.
A bronze plaque commemorating the original hard working members of the building committee was mounted in the foyer. The committee members were Chairman - Gord McCutcheon, Bob Angell, Fred Allen, Ed Footitt, John Goy Sr., and Gord James.
Acton's Branch 197 Today
(circa September 2010)
Today the branch has a large 600 square foot hall, named in honour of Gord McCutcheon, for weddings, receptions, dinners and meetings. The Gord McCutcheon hall can be divided into two smaller 300 square foot areas, for more intimate gatherings. A spacious " games room " houses dart boards, snooker or billiard tables, and provides space for euchre nights, cribbage nights and mens, ladies and mixed darts. Additionally, the games room is often rented for birthday parties, Stag and Doe parties and various other parties and entertainment for Legion members and the community members.
Last, but not least, the Ladies Lounge is available for funeral receptions, small gatherings, and meetings and is home to our hosting of the veterans visiting from Sunnybrook who enjoy a delicious dinner served by our Ladies' Auxilliary.
The Acton Branch 197 today provides social services to the community, its members and especially to the Veterans who have served our country. The Legion Branch and its members are dedicated to serving the community through fund raising, various charity functions and providing a place where one can come and spend a pleasant afternoon or evening on our " patio by the lake."
The T - 33 Jet Trainer Arrives at the Branch
Following the branch opening much was done to finish the interior and make the Branch home to a growing membership. In 1975 an RCAF T-33 pilot trainer was located, and on November 9, 1975 helicopter pilot Capt. Pat Moran carefully flew the plane suspended under the helicopter body. Capt. Moran had to fly very carefully and keep the speed under 50 miles an hour to keep the plane from lifting off while suspended. The plane was gently wrapped in heavy mattresses to protect the canopy and undercarriage.
The T-33 trainer proudly sits on the Branch propery as a majestic reminder to the members of the Acton community who purchased a Spitfire aircraft for the RCAF during the days of World War II.
The plane was carefully landed near its permanent pedestal home, and was then carefully hoisted onto the pedestal under the watchful supervison of comrade J. Goy and his "crew" who had worked diligently to get the plane to the branch.
The plane's original call numbers were replaced by Br. 197.
The plane today September 2010
Here you see a colour picture of the plane as it proudly overlooks the lake and Branch.
The plane has been lovingly, proudly maintained and looked after by Legion Branch members since its installation in 1975 and looks as good today as it did when it first went into service.
The Cenotaph Project
A legion branch is about Remembrance and service to our veterans and their families. In most cities and towns the Cenotaph is the central focus for ceremonies honouring our Veterans, and especially for Remembrance Day services.
In mid 2010, a project began development to improve the grounds area surrounding the Cenotaph in front of Trinity United Church, and the grounds around the Cenotaph. Wes Kutasienski, Past President of Branch 197, undertook the task to manage and spearhead the project, and began negotiating with many local Acton businesses for the materials, labour, machinery and work that would be needed to give the Cenotaph and grounds a much needed facelift.
By mid summer, Wes Kutasienski, assisted by Les Bentley, began the final planning and layout of the new cement pad and 'keyhole' design that would provide better footing for colour parties and honour guards, and add some cosmetic improvements to the Cenotaph perimiter. Both comrades worked diligently throughout the summer and early fall lining up the various materials suppliers, needed machinery and labour needed to get this done in time for Remebrance Day services November 5, 2011.
As luck would have it, the weather just did not co-operate. Constant rain throughout the later summer and fall months prevented ground breaking and digging, until finally in early October, we got a few days of dry weather and the promise of a week's worth of dry weather so the project could begin. Wes and Les broke ground in mid-October, with Les operating the bobcat to dig our around the Cenotaph foundation and Wes digging what seemed like tons of dirt and topsoil from around the immediate base. These two comarades worked long and hard in the cool fall weather digging, grading and doing what was necessary to allow for the forming and gravel, then cement pouring.
Again the weather didn't co-operate, with more rain and wet weather delaying the forming and gravel and cement pouring, until finally, the end of October we had a few dry days and were able to get the forming done, the gravel base dumped in and the cement poured.
With less than two weeks to go to our Remembrance Day parade and service, we had two huge mounds of dirt in from of the church and mud surrounding the Cenotaph base. Les Bentley and Wes Kutasienski prayed for dry weather, and God must have been listening. They put in many long hours grading, shoveling and raking tons of dirt in preparation for laying new sod and making the area around the newly poured pad and keyhole and grounds safe and presentable for the Remembrance Day service. Helped by volunteers from the branch, the dirt mounds were whittled down, the debris, roots and stones were raked out and finally the area was ready for sodding and cleanup.
Finally, November 2nd the sod was laid and things really began to take shape. Thursday, November 3rd, Wes and Les finished sprucing up the gardens in front of the church, cleaning up the grounds surrounding the Cenotaph, and lastly on Friday, November 4th, Wes pressure washed the new cement and the Cenotaph base, and all was ready for the Remebrance Day service, on Saturday November 5th.
Wes and Les both commented many times 'This was a labour of Love' and an 'Honour to serve the Veterans and the community'.
Below is a picture of the Cenotaph, with its new concrete pad and keyhole walkway as it was for our service November 5, 2011.
Congratulations, and Thanks:
Many companies, businesses and people were instrumental in getting this project done, and gave time, material, and much labour to make sure the Cenotaph Project came to fruition. We, the members of Branch 197 would especially like to thank the following people, companies and businesses for their efforts in seeing this project completed to honour our Veterans.
Project Leaders: Wes Kutasienski and Les Bentley
Businesses who donated and supplied material and labour: Dufferin Aggregates, Gilluco Construction, Miller Concrete, Les Bentley, Future Developments, Leroy Watson, Acton Pre-Cast Concrete, and Robson Sod.
In the true spirit of “Remembrance” the following citizens of Acton donated their efforts in completing the facelift to our Cenotaph and the Trinity United Church Grounds: Wes Kutasienski, Les Bentley, Kati & Doug Nuttall, Mike Hedley, Terry Curlew, Tim Archer, Floyd Hillier, Art Hyland, Dave Andrews, Paul Forbes, Neil Raycraft, Josie Bonnette, Brian MacDonald, and Trinity United Church.
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