November 17, 2018

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Manitoba's legions and veterans clubs are local hotspots all year long

This Remembrance Day marks the 100th anniversary of armistice in the First World War, which came into force at 11 a.m. Paris time on Nov. 11, 1918.

There will be services city-wide to mark the occasion, a solemn remembrance of the conflict known as the Great War, which saw 619,636 Canadians enlist with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, approximately 424,000 of them serving overseas. Of these men and women, 59,544 members of the CEF died during the war, 51,748 of them as a result of enemy action.

No veterans from the Great War remain, and only a handful of Second World War combatants are still alive; their average age is 93.

This time of year, when poppies of remembrance dot many lapels, Winnipeg’s Royal Canadian Legions and ANAVETS (Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans of Canada) units are in the spotlight, but these groups would appreciate the attention all year long. As membership dwindles, these two non-profit veterans’ organizations — which are distinct from each other, though they have similar mandates — strive to appeal to a broader audience; the armed-services requirement for membership has long been dropped.

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This Remembrance Day marks the 100th anniversary of armistice in the First World War, which came into force at 11 a.m. Paris time on Nov. 11, 1918.

There will be services city-wide to mark the occasion, a solemn remembrance of the conflict known as the Great War, which saw 619,636 Canadians enlist with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, approximately 424,000 of them serving overseas. Of these men and women, 59,544 members of the CEF died during the war, 51,748 of them as a result of enemy action.

No veterans from the Great War remain, and only a handful of Second World War combatants are still alive; their average age is 93.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>Dodie Bennet and Jackie Cushnie are regulars at ANAF Club 60 .</p>

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

Dodie Bennet and Jackie Cushnie are regulars at ANAF Club 60 .

This time of year, when poppies of remembrance dot many lapels, Winnipeg’s Royal Canadian Legions and ANAVETS (Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans of Canada) units are in the spotlight, but these groups would appreciate the attention all year long. As membership dwindles, these two non-profit veterans’ organizations — which are distinct from each other, though they have similar mandates — strive to appeal to a broader audience; the armed-services requirement for membership has long been dropped.

Offering pool, snooker, darts, meat draws and the cheapest drinks in town, legions and ANAF units are warm and welcoming places to sip a beer and enjoy a conversation, while most also feature displays of artifacts and memorabilia that provide a valuable glimpse into Canada’s wartime roles. Your patronage helps them fulfil their mandates to aid and support veterans and provide essential services in the community.

Here are suggestions for five local legions and ANAVETS units to visit, not just for Remembrance Day, but any day.

St. James Legion Branch No. 4

1755 Portage Ave.

 This legion’s stucco exterior hides a gem of retro decor and a hotbed of activities. There’s an upstairs banquet and bingo hall, and the ’60s-style basement feels like a giant rec room.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>People gather to take part in an appraisal put on by the Manitoba Antique Association and hosted by the St. James Legion. </p>

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

People gather to take part in an appraisal put on by the Manitoba Antique Association and hosted by the St. James Legion.

It houses a huge lounge with friendly servers, cheap-as-borscht drinks and Enrique’s restaurant, which opens at 9 a.m. to serve breakfast (both classic American and Filipino), as well as a lunch and dinner menu of sandwiches, wraps and burgers, plus adobo pork, pancit and other Filipino specialties.

The back room has both billiard and snooker tables, as well as dartboards, all of which see plenty of action on Wednesday league nights and even got a turn in the spotlight during Amazing Race Canada earlier this year.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>The St. James Legion is home to the Wednesday Night Darts League where enthusiasts like Jeff McDonald can get together to socialize and take dead aim.</p></p>

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

The St. James Legion is home to the Wednesday Night Darts League where enthusiasts like Jeff McDonald can get together to socialize and take dead aim.

The location hosts meat draws on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, and during the summer months, you can enjoy a cold beer on the patio.

Live bands play most Fridays and Saturdays, and the legion offers ballroom and line-dancing lessons, Zumba gold classes, Chase the Ace events and Texas Hold ’Em poker tournaments.

St. James Legion Branch No. 4 will host a Remembrance Day service at Bruce Park. The parade marches over from Lyle Street at 10:40 a.m. for an 11 a.m. service, then marches back to the legion down Portage Avenue following the service.

 

West Kildonan Legion Branch No. 30

1748 Main St.

 This north Main legion has long had a reputation as a welcoming hangout for folks in the neighbourhood — a place to stop by for a game of pool or a team round of beers on the patio after a ball game, without any pressure to become a member.

Like St. James, the West K branch is heavy on the activities, with free pool on Wednesdays from 5 to 10 p.m., meat draws on Saturday afternoons, cribbage, darts and shuffleboard league play and live bands on weekends.

Its short-order menu is available whenever the bar is open, offering up such deep-fried fare as mozza sticks, chicken strips, egg rolls and onion rings, along with veggie platters, perogies and wings (on Wingy Wednesday, wings are 55 cents each between 5 and 10 p.m.). Members get discounted drink prices at certain times.

On Remembrance Day, doors open to the hall at 10:30 a.m. for a 10:55 service.

 

ANAF Club 60

3-433 River Ave.

 Located in Osborne Village, Club 60 has the unpretentious but cosy vibe of a neighbourhood pub, with two small back rooms, one for VLTs and one for darts and shuffleboard. The welcoming bar features a tap heavy on local beers and happy-hour prices are $3.75 for a bottle.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>ANAF Club 60 on River Avenue. </p>

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

ANAF Club 60 on River Avenue.

Bar manager David Swan clearly knows his regulars, pulling out a Coors Light before the front door has even closed behind a familiar customer. He estimates the club has around 70 dues-paying members (membership costs $37); it relies mostly on walk-up traffic in the neighbourhood or people popping in for a late-night game of pool.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>David Swan, Manager of the ANAF 60 Club</p>

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

David Swan, Manager of the ANAF 60 Club

The clientele doesn’t include many veterans, although Swan says active servicemen, especially those in the reserves, are frequent visitors.

Happy hour, Thursday nights and weekends are busiest, with the club hosting DJs and a popular Saturday karaoke night. The kitchen is open Monday to Friday, and offers daily specials.

ANAF Club 60 will be taking part in Remembrance Day ceremonies at the RBC Convention Centre, where attendees should be seated by 10:15 a.m. on Nov. 11. There is free parking at the Millennium Library and a blood-donor clinic after the ceremony.

 

The Duke of Kent Branch 119

227 McDermot Ave.

Set in the heart of the Exchange District on the corner of McDermot Avenue and Albert Street, the Duke of Kent — frequently the site of Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival improv shows — is a step back in time.

The vibe is laid-back and super-friendly, with the corner location’s huge windows allowing a view of the buzzing neighbourhood outside.

While the rest of the neighbourhood is gentrifying, it’s a respite from the world of $14 cocktails and distressed wood, with its veneer-topped tables and vinyl-covered seats, the only real nods to decor being a spring of plastic fall foliage on the table and three portraits of the Queen at varying ages.

At the bar serving $4 shots and beers, a line of empty bottles — Labatt 50, Kokanee, Standard Lager, Stella and the like — shows customers their options.

On a recent Wednesday, the bare-bones location was inhabited by three young guys sharing some chips ($1.25), a couple of regulars seated at the bar, gently razzing the bartender, a pair at a table talking about Donald Trump and one man playing VLTs. The vibe is laid-back and super-friendly, with the corner location’s huge windows allowing a view of the buzzing neighbourhood outside.

The regular hours are 2 to 7 p.m., but on First Fridays, when Exchange District businesses and galleries throw open their doors, stay open late and hold special events, the Duke of Kent is open until 2 a.m. and features drink specials.

 

ANAVETS Rockwood Unit 303

341 Wilton St.

This unassuming building at the corner of Wilton Street and Lorette Avenue in the Rockwood neighbourhood near Grant Park hides an unusually sleek and modern interior, accented in muted tones of grey and rose, with a bright lounge area, sparkling bar, shuffleboard and well-lit pool tables, and the de rigueur line of VLTs.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>Bryan Barkwell and his friends have been shooting pool at legion halls and veterans clubs for decades. These days they tend to meet at the ANAVETS Rockwood Unit 303 on Wilton Street.</p></p>

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

Bryan Barkwell and his friends have been shooting pool at legion halls and veterans clubs for decades. These days they tend to meet at the ANAVETS Rockwood Unit 303 on Wilton Street.

Hexagonal tables are set around a raised stage — the location is renowned for its live music, hosting a jam or open mic on Wednesday and bands every Friday and Saturday, which draw large dancing crowds. Admission to concerts is $5 (free to members, of which there are about 360).

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>Tim Butler performs during an open Wednesday Open Mic Night at the ANAF Rockwood.</p>

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

Tim Butler performs during an open Wednesday Open Mic Night at the ANAF Rockwood.

The Wilton Banquet Hall (capacity 300) and Memorial Hall (capacity 125) are licensed venues available for rental for socials, parties or meetings. Rockwood also hosts darts and shuffleboard leagues.

It’s open from 11 a.m. until midnight Monday to Thursday, and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, with Romana’s restaurant serving food Thursdays from 3 to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 3 to 10 p.m.

Bar prices are $4 for beer or mixed drinks, $19 for a bottle of wine.

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @dedaumier

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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History

Updated on Sunday, November 11, 2018 at 9:06 AM CST: Fixes address on St. James branch

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