Branch No. 644 - Ambassador and Walkerville
1570 Marentette Ave, Windsor, ON N8X 4E3
The mission of the Royal Canadian Legion, Ambassador & Walkerville Branch 644, is to serve and advocate for all Veterans and their dependents; to promote remembrance; and to act in the service of Canada and its communities. Through our mandate, we promote, support, and participate in all forms of municipal, community, and national service, in order to accomplish our mission.
In 2022 Ambassador & Walkerville Branch 644 came about as an amalgamation of two branches; Walkerville Branch 12 and Ambassador Branch 143.
Initially Branch 12 was under the auspices of the Great War Veterans Association (GWVA) and the first meetings were held in 1919 in the basement of store in the Holland Block at the corner of Lincoln Road and Assumption Street. The name of the store was probably Premiere Confectionary.
In 1920, due to a rapidly growing membership, the GWVA sought to establish a permanent location. They were able to lease a piece of Crown property on Brant Street, behind the Walkerville Post Office. Also, they acquired a surplus army barracks and erected it on the foundation they built on the new property. Given its previous life as an army hut, the building quickly acquired the nickname "The Hut".
In 1925, there was a proliferation of different Veteran Clubs. When General Douglas Haig encouraged Canadian Veterans to join the British Empire Service league, the GWVA was one of the first to join up. In the fall of 1925 the Windsor GWVA officially became the Walkerville and Ford Branch 12.
As the membership grew over the years between 1920 and 1977 the Hut evolved to the structure that it now is. 1938 saw an addition to the rear of the hut for executive offices and games room. A major overhaul in 1947 saw relocation of the hut to the north end of the property and construction of a new auditorium complete with balcony and stage. A major renovation of the auditorium occurred in 1963/64 with interior upgrades and a stone/siding exterior. In 1965 the original army hut was replaced with a block building. It's rumoured that the original hut is still used as a cottage somewhere near Lake Erie. The final piece of the Hut's evolution was in 1977 after a truck smashed through the kitchen wall. At that time, the kitchen was totally renovated and a storage room was added onto the north end of the building.
In 1959 a new Branch for the Legion was formed. The newly-formed Lt.-Col. D.C. Warnica Branch 578, Canadian Legion, came into being when it succeeded the Essex Regiment (R.C.A.C.) Association. The meeting, which was held in the Branch clubrooms at 562 Mercer St., saw the official presentation of the Legion Branch and the election of officers and the naming of 50 charter members. In February 2010 Branch 578 amalgamated with Branch 12 and became one Branch.
On October 22, 2015 the Hut hosted an Open House to celebrate its 90th year as a Legion Branch.
The founder and first president of Ambassador Branch 143 held his first meeting in a room near the Essex County Court House, Brock and Sandwich Streets, in the Town of Sandwich, Ontario. A Charter had been issued on May 21, 1929, at Sandwich, Ontario, to Ambassador (Ont. #143) Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion Meetings were held in the room for a short period of time until they were able to rent quarters on Sandwich Street across from the Dominion House where they remained for the next two years.
At the height of the depression, Branch 143 was given free quarters in a vacant school bungalow at Prince Road and Huron Line. Two years elapsed and the Branch had to move again. This time to the upper floor of a red square bricked building just west of the Brock Street School at Brock and Sandwich Streets. This building is still standing.
The depression had caused hard times for all. The determination and the domination of true Legion spirit enabled the Branch to survive. The members borrowed a truck, formed a task force, and set out to collect unsaleable farm produce which they distributed to needy ex-servicemen and their families in any area of the country. This project took hold and developed to the extent that within a short period of time nearly 100 workers were operating with drivers, trucks and gasoline provided by the local motor industries. Branch 143 was somewhat relieved of these excessive duties with the increase in welfare organizations at Municipal, Provincial and Federal levels.
In 1941, due to the ever-growing membership, another move was made to the south-west corner of Randolph and Wyandotte Streets. Through the kind effort of the late Mayor Arthur (Art) Reaume, a flag pole was raised on the opposite side of the street.
In 1944, the school building at Bridge Avenue and Wyandotte Streets West was purchased. Members poured their own funds into the purchase and moved in after alterations were completed.
At the end of World War Two, the membership increased to new heights with the return of the World War Two veterans. It then became evident that the Branch had to expand. In 1953, a building committee was formed to extend the north room 90 feet. This was completed in time for the Branch’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary in May 1954.
With the increase of younger members it became possible for the Branch to embark on an extensive program in community activities. A Boy Scout group was sponsored. Countless thousands of dollars was spent on sports for the younger set. As many as sixteen softball teams operated in a single year, which meant participation by 288 players and 48 managers and coaches. The Branch also innovated the Junior Dart League for boys and girls 10 to 12 years of age. This League was conducted on Saturday mornings in club rooms.
In 1958, the Windsor Olympic Club approached Zone A1 for financial assistance to keep the Club afloat. A special meeting was called with the Club officials and the Zone Executive. Branch 143 had two representatives at this meeting and it was their strong opinion that the Royal Canadian Legion should have a community project that would enhance the Legion’s image in the City of Windsor. It was agreed the Legion branches in Zone A1 would underwrite the full funding of the Olympic Club. It was also agreed to change the name to the Windsor Legion Olympic Club. The first chairman of the Club was Cecil Tucker with Archie green as the coach. The Zone then set their goal to raising the necessary funds for such a large undertaking. Raffles, Bingos and other methods were used. During this period, the O’Keefe Brewing Company had a travelling all-professional variety show and they offered the Windsor Legion Olympic Club the privilege of sponsoring with all profits to the Club. Three of these events were sponsored over a period of two years at the Windsor Armouries, which greatly improved the Club’s treasury. Our athletes’ first out-of-town meet was to St. Lambert, Quebec, which was followed by numerous other meets throughout Canada. The Club was such a success that Ontario Provincial Command asked for guidance in setting up a program for all of Ontario and, eventually, Dominion Command set up a program for all of Canada.
In 2008 Ambassador Branch 143 sold their building to the University of Windsor and purchased the Air Force Club on Marentette Avenue.
On May 19, 2019 Branch 143 hosted an Open House to celebrate its 90th year as a Legion Branch.
In 2022 Walkerville Branch 12 & Ambassador Branch 143 amalgamated to form Walkerville & Ambassador Branch 644.
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