German-Canadian Club 1931-1981: 50 Jubilee

Celebrating the 50-year jubilee of the German Canadian Club, we should reminisce and try to recall what happened during these 50 years.

How did it start?

German immigrants had often met informally to overcome their homesickness together. Eventually a group of German-Canadians, among others Heinrich Fischer, Heinrich Hildermann, Erich Brenngartner and “Bob” Schmied, founded the German-Canadian Club. It was registered 1931 under the name “German Association Forget-me-not”. There were about 50 members under the presidency of Mr. Larson. However, poor premises and economic circumstances allowed meetings only on special occasions at the 11 Ave SW location. Despite the difficulties, members like “Gus” Lemke and Mssrs. Taube and Weidmann looked after the growing club until the outbreak of the Second World War.

Between 1939-1951 the club was at a stand-still, until it was re-awakened by the post-war immigrants. New premises were rented in 1952 in East Calgary and president H. Hildermann breathed new life into the club. The increasing membership required more room and the next step was the renting of the Polish Hall. The celebrations there were great and the old ones will especially remember the dashing ushers (Hans Ockermueller and Vic La Vica).

The next two presidents, Mssrs. Weidman and Taube helped to expand the club, and again the question of premises arose. The Langevin Hallb was rented with an option to buy. The rooms were renovated and the official opening was New Year’s Eve 1954. Mrs. Erika Bente was the friendly hostess and a good cook withthe co-operation of her husband. The club became the second home in Canada mainly for bachelors. There were card-games and chees (Wolfgang Schumacher was then the town champion), concerts and coffee – in short, it felt like home.

Members developed undergroups, i.e. a ladies group, a men’s choir with Alberta Kaul and of course the soccer group. The members worked closely together and helped each other wherever possible, it was a time to be remembered. Then president Guenther Marx often recalls this time and talks of the successor of Mrs. Bente, Reinhold. Under the next president H. Duwe, assisted by H. Sattler, “Wally” Hildermann and others, soccer received a boost. The “genuine” Rhinelanders Karl Reinhardt, F. Bertels and Heinz Bohnsack started the carnival with all its pomp and the first special edition of the club news was published. Thanks to thrifty cashier “Fritze” Lange all the decorations were created from old issues of the Herald.

A new chapter started with Louis Oel as the president. His tireless effort, farsighted planning and financial support made him the real father of this club. Thanks to his decision and foresight, the club makes it home now at the Bow River in Bowness on 4.6 acres. “Shangri-La” became the home of the club “Vergissmeinicht”.

A busy time started. The kitchen was enlarged and an addition started. Many volunteered, among others Karl Reinhardt, Paul Schwab, Otto Knipschild and Gerd Schmitz. Living quarters for the club manager were added and in 1959 the big hall was built. A table-tennis group and a handball club joined the other undergroups and the Language school found a home. Social and cultural functions increased. No one would want to miss now Octoberfest, costume ball, Rosemonday, Winzerfest (wine festival), fashion show, spring festival or so many others. There was always a group of idealists willing to bring enjoyment to all who attended. The wine stube was created where everyone may drink what he wants.

In 1971 the club even succeeded in bringing a band to Calgary for the Stampede parade.

The tradition of the Schuetzenfest was also renewed in 1971 at Bowwood Drive and investigated throroughly in 1973 by the Mounties – but only in a friendly way at a shooting contest. The RCMP had been invited in honor of their hundred-year celebration. – A special success for the club and its hard working volunteers was the Stampede parade in 1974. The replica of the Zeppelin LZ127 won first prize in the float judging. And who came to congratulate? The unforgettable Max Schmeling. He liked it at the German Club, according to many pictures that were taken.

Highlight of the seventies was the visit of the chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1977. He was in Canada at the invitation of the federal government of Canada. His visit was short and hard fought for; however those, who had the opportunity to shake his hand, will never forget. A miner’s band played dashingly and Helmut Schmidt himself took the baton to conduct the march “Old Comrades”.

1978 turned out to be a successful year. The club finally got its emblem. Mr. and Mrs. Helmut Heinermann won first prize with their design. The choir celebrated its 10 year anniversary the same year. A special surprise at the Oktoberfest was a band from the Allgaeu, the Bleichacher Bergmusikanten. Their presence was made possible by the generosity of members who offered their home for the duration of the visit. Also a big success was the first Miss Oktoberfest Pageant in 1978, at which many talented young ladies appeared. The winners contributed a lot to the success of the Oktoberfest with their enthusiasm. Our “”Miss” proudly went to Kitchener-Waterloo for the North-American Oktoberfest contest. Elated by the success of the year, members of the club started to think about the planning of a new club building.

August of the following year held a special surprise: The Egerlaender costume group stopped over at the club and guests enjoyed their dancing, songs and music. The group was in Canada on the occasion of the 30-year anniversary of the Sudeten German association in Canada. The Bleichacher Edelweissbuam returned for the Oktoberfest. The same year saw the start of the “Hawaiian Nights”. So ended on decade.

June 25, 1980: The members of the German club made two decisions which ensure the existence of the club in the future: Firstly, a home for the elderly members, to be built on the adjoining property. Secondly, to rebuild the existing clubhouse.

Through generous co-operation with Central Mortgage and Housing and the City of Calgary the land for the project is now guaranteed. The final plans are expected to be drawn until the end of November this year, 1981, and will then go out for tender. The monies for the project have been reserved by CMHC and construction should start in spring 1982. The responsibility for the project lies with the Canadian Senior Housing Society of Calgary which was founded for this purpose. The senior citizen project is independent from the project of rebuilding the clubhouse.

Permission for rebuilding the club has been granted by the Calgary planning commission. Besides, the City of Calgary in co-ordination with the government of Alberta, will grant $600,000, provided the club can match this sum. The money will be raised with debentures and donations. Lovers of the German language and the German culture shall without doubt contribute generously to this worthy cause. Both projects will guarantee the future of the German language in Calgary and secure a safe harbour for our older generation.

Shangri-La, translated from Tibetan, means valley of calm and peace. May this spirit always prevail and may all friends look towards the future and the new projects with the words of Goethe from Dr. Faustus: “New shores herald a new day.”

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