By Dorothy Isted
Special to The Pioneer
Its been called the Grand Old Lady of Invermere, for good reason. Standing next to the nearly 70-year-old structure, a person can feel dwarfed. Until Invermeres old community hall was built, larger events were held at the David Thompson Memorial Fort during the summer, with colder weather forcing the use of size-restrictioned venues at the Invermere Hotel or Athalmers Coronation Hotel.
In the wake of the Second World War, communities all over the country were building memorials to honour the sacrifice of many. Invermere had one cenotaph already and people felt the memorial community hall would be useful as well. The names of valley residents who lost their lives in the Second World War were inscribed on the cenotaph alongside those who had died in the First World War.
A committee was formed in June 1946 and it was decided that Invermere would build a hall to commemorate individuals from Spillimacheen to Canal Flats who had served in Canadas armed forces during wartime. Only the citizens of Invermere would be canvassed for donations.
The first fundraiser was disappointing as the goal was not met, though the average donation was between five and 10 dollars a significant amount in light of Canadian wages in 1946 being about $125 per month. Organizers decided to initiate a more assertive campaign to include former residents. Government money was granted, the Community Committee Funds bestowed $1,500, the Victory Loan Commissions gave $429.98, and the Columbia Valley Irrigated Fruit Company donated $200. A poignant contribution of $500 arrived from the widow of R. Randolph Bruce, the man who called this place Happy Valley and poured so much of his life into it (he remarried after Lady Elizabeths death).
It was initially estimated the building would cost $7,000. At completion, that figure had climbed but the total donations of $10,500 covered two thirds of the cost. A loan was acquired to complete heating, washrooms, storage, etc. The hall was built with volunteer labour, equipment and materials, and took one year.