Gyro Club of Winnipeg

History of Our Club

As told by Eric G Campbell one of the charter members of the Winnipeg Gyro Club at the Founder's Night Address in 1958

GYRO in Winnipeg

The history, or perhaps the story, of the origin, growth, and some of the highlights over the past thirty nine years as recalled by Eric G. Campbell, original charter member of the Winnipeg Gyro Club.


To those of my fellow Gyros who may read what is to follow some explanation is due. No complete set of records has been kept, and those in my possession are very sketchy. In some instances there are gaps of a few years. At least three of our former editors have died, former Gyros are scattered over this and other continents and these gaps are impossible to fill. In addition to this, some years ago vandals gained access to our records at the hotel, and destroyed our visitors' roster, or guest book, which bore the signatures of speakers and guests of local, national and international distinction. History in itself.

For much of what I write then, I shall have to trust a faulty memory. There will be many inaccuracies. Undue emphasis is bound to be laid upon events which appeal to the writer as important while others of equal importance (and particularly to other Gyros) may be completely forgotten. Certain Gyros will be mentioned by name, others equally deserving will be overlooked and to them I apologize now. As for times and dates, where there exists no record these are bound to be faulty.

With these misgivings then, I shall try as truthfully as I can to give you some of the story of Gyro in Winnipeg.

Gyro came into being in Cleveland Ohio in April of 1912. It did not become International until after World War One, when the first Canadian club was formed in Toronto. Hamilton became the second, Vancouver the third, Winnipeg the fourth. Winnipeg, when it obtained its charter was club number eleven in International. When Detroit surrendered its charter we moved up a notch, and are now officially club number ten.

Late in the year 1920 the first Gyro contact was made in Winnipeg by Joe Bannigan of Toronto. This was with Ted Hargreaves of the G.F. Stephens Paint Co Ltd. Ted became interested in the idea of forming a club here and discussed it with a few intimate friends. We were on our way.

Ted's earliest contacts were Alex Robinson, Doug McLean and Royal Burritt. Subsequent informal lunches brought friends and their friends and the idea began to take hold. The first luncheon I attended found eight present, these, inc1uding the four above, with Ted White,
Art Woodhouse and Charlie Ruttan.

This meeting took place in the St Charles Hotel, in the old bar, closed for its original purposes under the Macdonald Act. There were subsequent meetings with the same venue, until our group was large enough to graduate to a private dining room on the St Charles' mezzanine floor. Soon we outgrew the St Charles altogether and our meetings were transferred to the Royal Alexandra where we have met ever since.

Here would be as good a place as any to pay tribute to the courtesy and consideration shown to us by the C.P.R in general and the Royal Alex in particular. It happened that we were the first Luncheon, Service or other Club of its kind to make our home at this Hotel. Rotary and Kiwanis met at the Fort Garry and there were no other groups of consequence then in existence. These other clubs only transferred to the C.P.R. when the Fort Garry discontinued many of its functions during the depression. We were therefore treated as very special guests and the facilities we enjoyed were far beyond the charges made for them. Almost without interruption the hotel managers have joined Gyro and become valued members. This association was further strengthened by the presence of several C.P.R. officials on the board of Lakeside, including two Presidents, Mr. D.C.Coleman and Mr. .H.Nea1 amongst many others. As this story develops you will become more aware of the value and importance of this connection.

When we made our move to the Alex, our group was already large enough to be assigned to the principal dining room of the Tapestry Suite. Seating was at tables for eight which arrangement was to continue for some years.

I do not know even the approximate date when we made the above transfer. The ensuing few months however, in retrospect, was remarkable chiefly for the rapid rate at which our membership was to increase. A large proportion of our members were ex-service types from World War One, restless, active and seeking some outlet for excess energy in a world which was just beginning its recovery and at times seemed rather flat.

Gyro in Winnipeg in the pattern of the original Cleveland group was hailed as a "Young Man's Club" and so it was. Royal Burritt in an early address (he was a brilliant speaker) used the four letters to head up four descriptive paragraphs. I recall the opening sentence of each. "G" stands for God. "Y" stands for Youth. "R" stands for Realization. "O" stands for Optimism. An apt description at the time.

About this time there was the natural preoccupation with the election of officers, adoption of rules (forecasting the constitution to come), setting of dues and all the growing pains besetting an organization not yet quite sure where it was heading. Before very long we were to greatly regret some of the decisions made at this time. Meanwhile a petition for charter had been forwarded to Gyro international, sponsored by Toronto. Our petition granted, we prepared for our installation.

The Charter.

Our charter was granted on December 27th,1920.

Formal Installation was on the evening of May 6th,1921.

The banquet was held in the Tapestry Suite at the Royal Alexandra Hotel, with our first president W.E. (Ted) Hargreaves in the chair. The installing officer was Joe Bannigan of Toronto. Honoured guests included His Worship Mayor Parnell of Winnipeg, A.E.Johnson, president of the Rotary Club, H.B.Andrews president of the Kiwanis Club amongst others.

After the Toast to the King, and to our guests, addresses of welcome were given by Mayor Parnell, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Andrews, in that order, followed by a toast to Gyro by Royal Burritt. Reply was by Joe Bannigan following which the officers and members were duly instructed and installed.

During dinner we entertained by "Ellis 'Gyro Jazz Hounds", a sketch by W.J.Ireland and several numbers by the Rotary Club Quartet. After the singing of "God Save The King", the meeting adjourned to an informal get together and Gyro had arrived in Winnipeg.

One hundred and one members were installed into the Gyro Club of Winnipeg at this Charter Meeting. This remained as a record until May 29th, 1924, when a charter as club #37 was granted to Minneapolis with one hundred and eleven members. Our record was again surpassed by club #103, St. Catherine's, Ont, chartered with one hundred and two.

Elsewhere in these pages will be found a complete roster of the officers and members present at the installation.

Districts Formed.

When our club was admitted there were no District definitions in Gyro. The number of clubs (ll) hardly warranted it. International growth was rapid however, and on December 4th, 192l, Districts were formed and we found ourselves in District #3, comprising Chicago, Milwaukee, Winnipeg and Regina. On February 24th, 1922, there was a reshuffle and Winnipeg moved into District #4, composed of Calgary, Regina, Vancouver B.C., Edmonton, Victoria, Seattle and Winnipeg. A year later on February 22nd, 1923, our present District #7, came into existence, including Winnipeg, Regina and Port Arthur.

The subsequent expansion of this district will be familiar to you all. With the admission of Saskatoon on June 7th of this year (l958) we now have nine member clubs. In the nineteen twenties we had chartered clubs in Moose Jaw and Duluth. The surrender of these charters may be attributed to the depression during which many of our clubs experienced great difficulty in surviving. It had woeful effect on our own, Saskatoon also folded and it is a great satisfaction to welcome them back to our fraternity.

I am of the opinion that the early realignment of the Districts has given rise to some confusion both as to records and memories, pertaining to activities end accomplishments of certain clubs including our own. This may serve to explain some misunderstandings.

In Nineteen Twenty One.

It naturally took some time to acquire the feel and temper of Gyro and our early efforts were patterned largely along the lines of Rotary and Kiwanis. The distinctive character of Gyro as a fraternity with its main object the promotion, extension and maintenance of friendship took little time to emerge.

We started out with a rather rigid business category as a qualification for membership. Permanent identification buttons were issued. These were picked up from the board at the door and were compulsory at all meetings. A "Sergeant At Arms' was appointed and fines were collected for such offences as appearing without button, arriving late etc. The first member to hold this office was the late R.R. (Ronnie) Counsell. All applications for membership were submitted to and secretly voted upon by the membership at large and a single black ball sufficed to exclude.

It soon became evident that personal prejudice and petty spite was being exercised against certain applicants. Several members resigned in protest when candidates whom they had proposed or seconded were rejected. The black ball count was reduced to one in five. Our present method which is so satisfactory and avoids any embarrassment was not arrived at until several others were tried and found wanting.

For some years our presidents were elected by and from the membership and with more than one candidate, we had lobbies, pressure groups, electioneering with all the accompanying frictions and evils. We certainly were independent, damned exclusive and we learned the hard way,

At every meeting a speaker was provided. In addition, there was usually some other entertainment and always we sang, not mellow perhaps but, very loud. An early accompanist was H. (Harry) Darracott currently senior officer of the Govt. Unemployment Insurance branch here.

Cheerio Old Top

It was at about this stage that Winnipeg was to make a lasting contribution to Gyro International and possibly it's first. Our first Treasurer was V.V. (Vic) Murray. The same V.V.M. of "Tribune Trumps". It was Vic who composed the lyrics of "Cheerio" now known and sung to the same melody throughout all Gyrodom. Wherever you hear it you get a warm feeling of belonging and Winnipeg types should have a special reaction to OUR song.

The Service Clubs Council

In the earlier years of their development here, the service clubs, Gyro included were regarded as a sort of manpower pool at the beck and call of any charitable organization, public institution, or other group of "Do Gooders". It became so bad that committees in charge of these drives were practically assigning territories to be canvassed, rather than requesting assistance. For large and more worthy efforts like that of the Red Cross, Winnipeg General Hospital etc., we were glad enough to help, but as the demands increased in number something had to be done.

At the suggestion of our officers a meeting was held with the officers of other clubs, and this resulted in the formation of "The Service Clubs Council". This was composed of two delegates from each subscribing club. All requests for help were referred to the Council, and if approved a joint effort was made. This did not in any way prejudice the membership of any club from campaigning on behalf of a pet project of their own.

Not too much later was to result the formation of the 'Federated Budget, later to be succeeded by 'The Community Chest of Greater Winnipeg, as we know it today. In one of the early drives of the Federated Budget, Gyro members were paired off with members of the B'nai B'rith and worked an assigned territory with them. This was an enlightening and enjoyable experience and at that time one of very considerable significance. Herein, we felt we had some useful part in our city's future.

Lakeside Fresh Air Camp

The story of Winnipeg Gyro is so involved with Lakeside that the events and episodes must be treated in their logical sequence and that is the intention. At this point however it would be well to tell you something of that organization and how we became associated with it.

After World War One, many of the larger business organizations throughout Canada set out to provide suitable war memorials to commemorate the memory of officers and employees who had fallen or served in the armed forces. Largely, these took the form of statues and you are familiar with those which grace points of vantage at C.P.R. or Bank of Montreal installations across the nation. The officers of the Union Bank had other ideas.

For the benefit of some of our younger members who have no means of knowing, the Union Bank of Canada was a western Institution with its head office at Winnipeg in the building that stands across from the City Hall at Wil1iam and Main St. Later on it was to merge with the Royal Bank of Canada

The president of the Union Bank, George Balfour, General Manager H.B.Shaw and the directors decided that a camp for underprivileged children would provide them with a more suitable and beneficial memorial and they were so right. Thus it was that Lakeside came into being. A site was purchased on the West shore of Lake Winnipeg. There were some buildings already there, notably the cottage now known as the "Staff House". For purposes of the "Memorial Feature", a simple stone Cairn was erected with the names of the fallen inscribed. Here it is that the flag is raised in morning and lowered at "Retreat" and it is here where they sing the National Anthem and many of foreign extraction get their first glimmerings of what it means to be Canadian.

Membership on the board of Lakeside was soon to be extended officers and directors of the bank. Many well to do and influential men were attracted in support of such a worthy effort. One feature that appealed was that there were only two qualifications required; a clean bill of health and a dire need. There were no restrictions for reasons of race, creed, and colour. Early members of the board apart from bank associations were D.C.Coleman, Murray Ross, E.W.Kneeland, Hugh Osler, Lally Denison, George Northwood, Medical Advisor, Dr. Spurgeon Campbell.

Access to the camp at this stage by road was a bit sketchy and railway communication was largely used. This brought into focus the interest of the CPR. officials, notably Mr. D.C.Coleman (then president) and adequate services were provided for taking the children to and from the camp and the transportation of supplies. A Station was established and named for Ven Archdeacon McElerhan, padre of the camp. The purchasing agent of the CPR, at Winnipeg, Mr. De-Wolfe took over the buying of supplies and many economies were thus effected. Applications for admission to the camp came with recommendations from various groups engaged in social work amongst the needy of our city. In addition, the board engaged a full time social worker to investigate such applications, select the successful applicants on the basis of need, provide for their appearance at train time and see them safely established at Lakeside.

After being selected, all children before proceeding to camp had to have a medical examination including throat swab, lest some communicable disease were brought to camp. This chore was undertaken by Dr Spurgeon Campbell. Truly, a gigantic chore. It is estimated that in serving Lakeside he examined close to 38,000 children. In the hospital, which was to be built somewhat later, has been installed a plaque in recognition of his unselfish contribution. There have been a few outbreaks of contagious disease and the camp has been quarantined, (much to the delight of those not affected), but thanks to the care and foresight, these occurrences have been rare.
A matron in charge has always been provided and I believe there has always been at camp a registered nurse. Sometimes these offices were combined. First Matron we recall was Mrs. Turnbull and an early nurse, if not the first, one who served with such understanding of frightened kids in strange surroundings was Mildred Stephens (Gyro had a little day for her). I could continue here indefinitely but this may serve to indicate what a dedicated effort this all has been. Simple operation isn't it?
When we in Gyro began to look for some worthwhile effort to help along with our excess energies, from the floor and in committee came some of the most astonishing suggestions you could imagine. One after another being rejected a meeting was held at the "Military Institute" corner of Whitehall and Osborne. This was the Garrison Officers' Club and as the venue for such a meeting held desirable advantages. A charter member, Guy Proud of the Union Bank and familiar with their plans for Lakeside out1ined their aims and while his suggestion was not immediately adopted, it was eventually, and to Guy goes most of the credit for our happy association with Lakeside. It is also worthy of note that this association was formed in diaper years of both.

For an infant Gyro Club in the early months of 1921, even before being installed we began to do something to justify our existence. There were numerous families of ex-service men who found it hard to exist. In some cases the men found difficulty in becoming re-established and in others it was a question of widows and orphans. When this was brought to our attention by the Red Cross, we put on a campaign amongst our members and friends and were successful in obtaining clothing, bedding, provisions and cash donations to be turned over to the Red Cross for distribution. This was in March.

Later on we were to take part in an effort on behalf of the Knowles' Home for boys, and shared in arrangements for a Winnipeg Civic Winter Carnival.

We also did something to spread the gospel of Gyro. Sponsored by Winnipeg, a charter was granted to Calgary on September l9th, 1921. Also sponsored by Winnipeg, Regina was chartered on October 28th, l921. Both of these clubs were installed by Royal Burritt of Winnipeg, Calgary on November l2th, Regina on November l7th. We felt that Gyro was not something to hoard, to cherish perhaps, but wisely to share.

In this our first year there was a considerable turn over in membership. We had the usual number of "joiners", who brought little with them and took less away. There was some internal strife, petty jealousies resulted in resignations, and many charter members did not survive our first year. Recruits were not wanting and whereas we started in May with a members high of one hundred and one, we wound up in December with a roster numbering one hundred and four.

For the next few years our membership was to be well over one hundred, reaching a peak of one hundred and twenty five in our first convention year,1926.

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