BNVA Club History
BNVA Club History
Author Bas Bradley
During the latter part of WW2, a group of Brant County Sailors stationed in Halifax formed a club and called it “The Convoy Club” (their picture hangs in the Club). When war ended some of these guys hatched up a scheme to form a proper club, which was to become know as “The Brant Naval Vets”. Meetings were held at various locations including The Legion, Branch 90, Brantford Armories, Alexander Park, and many others in an attempt to organize. After many false starts in the spring of 1946, a group from the Toronto Naval Veterans organized a meeting at the Branford Imperial Club with the hope that our area Veterans would join their Club. Each person paid the princely sum of .50 cents each with stipulation that this fee would be returned should we decide to open our own local club. Under the leadership of our first President, Reg Hall, we did form our own Club and our money from the Toronto Club was refunded. Over 150 Vets attended a meeting held at the Imperial Club. An announcement of the meeting was placed in the Brantford Expositor and over 150 Vets attended the meeting. Of the people attending only a few survivors are left today.
On October 1st, 1947 we rented the third floor of a building on Queen Street between Colborne and Dalhousie from its owner P.A Schultz. This hall had a great dance floor, similar to the one currently at the Brant Naval Club. The Club stayed in this location until October 1955, at which time we moved to our present location, 54 Wadsworth Street, Brantford. We had 240 members in 1948 and all were Active Naval Vets. Social Members were allowed in 1953. The Ladies Auxiliary was also formed about this time and its first President was Norma Bradley. Over the years they held many functions and greatly assisted the men’s section not only in helping make a success of the club but also money donations from draws. For many years they also worked the cloakroom for our Saturday night dances etc.
While in the old clubrooms on Queen St. many things came about regarding the early running of the club, for instance it took awhile to get the Liquor License and because now rent and other expenses had to be paid bootlegging helped to make ends meet. After a few disappointments in securing a license the second President, Don Buttenham, was able to lobby certain people that helped in finally securing a Liquor License. The Ontario Liquor Control Board, as it was called in those days, granted the License in appreciation of the service to the Country by the Naval Veterans of Brant County. At this time the Club hired the first full time Bar Steward in the person of John Judd. John is still an active member, as is his son Fred (social member). Regular Saturday Night Dances began which were a very profitable event. The early bands were mostly six piece ones supplied by Al Gallagher, Harry Smith, and Tim Eaton among others. Things ran along smoothly for a few years there was always those three flights of stairs. Around this time in the early 50’s the Club received it Ontario Charter and Non-Profit Organization status for the same reasons as the Club was able to get its Liquor License. The club hosted teams, which included darts, cribbage and baseball. Our Colour gained recognition as the RCNA. Brantford helped organize the original Royal Canadian Naval Association and Sid Calvert served as second President of the RCNA.
The Constitution was developed and one of the members, Dick Waterous, lawyer, worked many hours for free in 1955 to make it finally happen in 1956. The Presidents’ in the old club were Reg Hall, Don Buttenham, Ernie Fish, Gord Stokes and Sid Calvert. In 1954 Sid Calvert and Bas Bradley got fed up with all the talk about “our own club rooms” and decided to do something about it, which included running for President and Vice-President. In those days all the Executive positions were elected from the floor, so they tossed a coin to see who would stand for President and the other for Vice-President. Sid became President and Bas, Vice-President while also holding the position of House Chair.
From L to R Front Row: Alf Edwards, Don Brooks, Gord Stokes (pres.)Harvey Dumsday, Wally Shrum
From L to R Back Row: Ron Walton, George Obe, Les Larion, Bill Smith, Syd Calvert and Paul Haines
To fulfill their promise to the members, the search began for the “New Club Rooms”. After looking at several properties and hearing through the grapevine about a property at the corner of Wadsworth and Joseph and appointment was set up to view it. This Property was owned by a Mrs. Batchewsky and was put on the market by Horace Pamplin Real Estate. The building was rented out to a person who was in the truck tire and spring business. When Pamplin was asked about the original plans for the property, he replied that Mr. Batchewsky, who had recently died, had wanted to build a bowling alley and that is why there is a cement foundation all around the perimeter of the property. After looking it over Bradley, who was carrying a toolbox in the building industry, thought something could be done with it. Pamplin said there had been an excepted offer on the place of $14.500 but the bidder had been allowed to back out. He thought it could be bought with the same offer the offer was drawn up. Pamplin said that a $100.00 deposit would be required, which was big money 1955. The disappointment showed in both their faces as they knew that neither one of them could come up with that kind of money without going back to the floor at the next meeting at which time this property would probably be sold.
Sid Calvert was a guy who was on the road selling for a company that had moved him from Toronto to Brantford a few years back and was carrying $100.00 expense money for this company, which will be nameless at this point. He said he would put this money up if Bradley agreed to split it with him should the money be lost. This was agreed upon and the business of making an offer on behalf of the Club was consummated. Can you imagine Sid having to brown bag it now and getting gas on credit from Johnston’s Sunoco until he could get his company’s money back? Gord Stokes was the treasurer at the time and a real stickler for parliamentary procedure and doing things right, but he was also a guy with a big heart and a soft touch for the younger guys. He called an Executive meeting and our legal beagle informed us that unbeknown to us, when you put money up and make an offer on real estate you now owned that real estate unless the vendor agrees to let you out of the deal. She had already let one prospective buyer out and it was very unlikely that she would let us walk. What this meant was that Calvert and Bradley had committed the Club to buy this property, period. Sid got his expense money back before he lost too much weight much to our relief. All we had to do now was to convince our Bank to give us a mortgage and let us run an overdraft to renovate the building. The Bank agreed providing we got twelve of the Club members to co-sign at $1000.00 each as a guarantee that the Bank would get it’s money back in the event of a failure. This was done and all we had to do now was wait for our new property to close so that we could get on with the renovations. Don’t forget that besides being our president Sid was a salesman for a living and I might add a great one at that. It was now Bradley’s time to perform and the first thing he did was to get his draftsman friend Colin Crow to help him draft plans for the new club. It wasn’t that hard as the location of the various rooms was predicated on where the utilities such as water, sewerage etc entered the building. The plans were presented at the General Meeting and approved by the floor.
insert pic of early presidents receiving gavels from Bas Bradely here
We now had a building, plans and money for the alterations and renovation. Volunteers without any benefit of pay or free beer carried out all the labour. The work parties were allowed to purchase beer at half price ($.25 a bottle in those days) after the work was ended for the day. Occasionally a beer salesman would drop in and leave a case or two of beer for the work party. The work parties were employed 5 nights a week and on Saturdays till 5 o’clock but took Sundays off. The work extended though the entire summer of 1955 and into the fall. The lease ran out on October 31st and that is the day the big move was on.
When the building was taken over there was a large double door that had to be removed and bricked in to match the existing brick. At that time it was also decided to brick in a band shell on the Waterloo Street side of the building as well as a window on the Joseph Street side. All this brickwork was courtesy of 3 great bricklayers, Ozzie Stemmler, Chick Hunter and Denny Carswell (all social members). Ernie Jones brought his father, (without pay), to work on the masonry that housed the indoors imitation hedge that ran down most of the building and separated the dance floor from the other rooms. All of these men did a great job and showed what great tradesmen they were.
There were other tradesmen who also worked on the building. Bill Loube the plumber, Nelson Partridge the Electrician and Stan Zultowsky the painter and decorator all volunteered their services. There was never had a person who worked as a carpenter although there was a lot of handymen who filled the bill quite nicely.
Bob Hignell and Jack Medd did a lot of slugging and breaking up cement floors. These two used to go over to the Bell Telephone Warehouse (where they worked out of) on Duke Street and supply us with all the tools to do this heavy work. No one ever did ask them if they had permission to use these tools (it must have slipped their minds). Most of the general Volunteers brought in their own hammers, etc. and there sure was a great gang of guys who worked on the new clubrooms and they all seemed to enjoy it. There would have been anywhere from 20 to 30 members most nights and Saturdays.
The original Building that was taken over was basically square, (approx. 58ftX62ft). The length was the length of the dance from Wadsworth Street to where the poolroom is now and the width from Joseph Street side to main wall on parking lot side. As previously mentioned, a bandstand was built and the was what was taken over and moved into on October 31st, 1955. Yes the building was finished on time and then began the Saturday Night Dances. A couple of weeks later on November 19th, it was the official opening with the honoured guests including Mayor Reg Cooper, MPP George Gordon, MP Jim Brown who were introduced by President Sid Calvert. A Special Guest, Rear Admiral Kenneth Adams, was introduced by Past President Gord Stokes who had sailed during the war with Adams.
Now all that remained was to pay for all this. That became very easy as the huge crowds that attended every function made for very profitable times. If you didn’t join the line-up by 8.00 o’clock for the Dance, you just did not get in. These were the days before casual clothes so you also had to be dressed properly. These sure were good times and everyone was enjoying them to the fullest.
In the first full year in the new Club it showed a nice net profit. In a couple of years the original mortgage was burnt and air conditioning was installed which made the clubrooms more comfortable and added to the attendance. The Club hosted its first CNA Re-union in 1961 with the main features being held at the Brantford Armories. When the new Brantford Civic Centre was built the Club took advantage by bringing in the Glenn Miller Band, which was conducted by Buddy DeFranco and had many of the original band members. This operation was a sell-out of course and as the sponsors the Club not only had the gate receipts but the bar as well. All of the Clubs subsequent RCN Re-Unions would also use the Civic Centre, a real luxury compared to the dingy old Armory. As the Years went by there were many more money makers which allowed the Club to buy the house next door and the one across the road, both on Joseph Street. Expansion was already in the works and that is why the Club needed the house and property next door.