717 Vernon St. has been home to Branch 51 of the Senior Citizens Association of BC since 1968. Photo: Greg Nesteroff

8 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Nelson seniors centre

On its 60th anniversary, we present trivia about Branch 51 of the Senior Citizens Association of BC

First of two parts

Nelson’s Branch 51 of the Senior Citizens Association of BC turns 60 this year. In honor of this milestone, we present some trivia that you (probably) were unaware of.

1. Branch 51 incorporated on Dec. 5, 1959. The founding executive was Charlotte Wood, president, Mrs. M. Rich, vice-president; Mrs. J.T. McKinlay, treasurer; and J.S. Burdass, secretary. The incorporation document, which the local chapter still has, contains the names of another 26 charter members.

2. The club initially met Friday evenings, somewhere in the Civic Centre. In 1961, it was suggested that a room would be made available for the group at city hall, but it’s unclear if that happened.

3. The club’s present building at 717 Vernon was purchased jointly in 1968 by the City of Nelson and provincial government. An order-in-council states the building cannot be sold, nor Branch 51 given notice to vacate.

4. The building at 717 Vernon dates to 1947. While its builder is unknown, by 1950 it was Mac’s Flower Shop and Coffee Bar, operated by John and Sadie McClelland and H.O. Borch. In 1954, the location was reborn as Mae’s Snack Bar, under the proprietorship of Mae and Edna Doi. By 1961 it was the New Moon Snack Bar under Louie Hoo, and later it was the Bamboo Gardens, under Wing Jay Joe.

5. There have been at least 31 presidents of Branch 51. While the record appears to have a few gaps, a new president has been named about every two years. The longest serving were Lucy Methuen (1998-2000 and 2003-04), Everett Kuhn (2006-10), and Mildred Anderson (2011-16). Current president Beverley Fischer has held the title since 2017. The rest of the current executive is Carol Howard (vice-president), Francine Brown (secretary), Murray Springman (treasurer), and Beverly Beck (director).

6. There are about 170 members, ranging in age from 65 to 100. The minimum age to join is 55. You can attend three times without paying any fee. After that, the annual membership fee is $15. A $1 user fee is also collected each time you attend an activity, which goes toward coffee/tea, goodies, soap, toilet paper, etc.

7. The seniors centre is used every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Activities range from games (bridge, cribbage, chess, Scrabble) to rug hooking, knitting, chair yoga, and tai chi. There’s always at least one jigsaw puzzle on the go. There’s a pool table in the basement, which has been dusted off in recent years and is now well used. The centre is equipped with a kitchen and is available for rent to other groups, so long as the meetings are non-political.

8. An annual Strawberry Tea has been held each June since 2002. This event was the brainchild of former secretary Betty McRae and honors members age 90 and up — of whom there is no shortage. We’ll meet some of them next week.

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Senior citizens banquet, January 1959, immediately after Branch 51 of the Senior Citizens Association of BC was chartered. The location is unknown. This photo hangs in the seniors centre today.

717 Vernon St. has been home to Branch 51 of the Senior Citizens Association of BC since 1968. Photo: Greg Nesteroff

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