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[Copyright Sidney Allinson 2010. May be re-printed on condition attribution is stated along with a URL link
Thursday, October 14, 2010
ROYAL CANADIAN MILITARY INSTITUTE TO MOVE TO A NEW LOCATION
Sad news for many Canadian enthusiasts of military affairs, with the announcement that the 120-year-old Royal Canadian Military Institute closed the doors of its historic building on University Avenue, Toronto, in October, 2010. and will be moving to modern new quarters elsewhere in Toronto.
The announcement is particularly poignant for me personally. I have been a member of the RCMI for over 30 year, had the honour to be a member of the Board Of Directors, and was editior of both the RCMI Yearbook and SITREP Newsletter.
Here's a description of the Institute's cloising days, reported by Peter Kuitenbrouwer in the National Post.:
"Director Captain Charles Scot-Brown stood on Friday in the lounge of the Royal Canadian Military Institute, at 426 University Avenue, resplendent in his navy blazer with polished RCMI brass buttons. On his lapel glittered the wings which attest to his participation, as a Can-Loan military officer with the British troops, in the ill-fated paratrooper drop into Arnhem, the Netherlands, in 1944 (immortalized in the film A Bridge Too Far.)
Yesterday Cpt. Scot-Brown, 87, prepared to give his last tour of this 100-year old Institute before wreckers demolish it to make way for a 42-storey condo. I asked his feelings.
“It’s like watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in a new Cadillac,” he said. “Mixed emotions.”
Few living Canadians know this place as well as Capt. Scot-Brown. “I first came here as a boy in 1936 when I was getting ready to go to Jarvis Collegiate,” he recalls. He was a guest of his father, also a soldier. Six years later his father was killed in the bombing of Bristol, 1942. “Luckily I was overseas so I was able to go to the funeral.”
Thousands of memories cram the privately owned Institute, which bristles with pistols, rifles, swords, bayonets, even clubs and boomerangs, and made me well up with nationalistic pride. Canadian Forces rifles, from the 18th century to those used today, line one side of a hall; across from them are enemy rifles, including the weapon of choice for the Métis in Louis Riel’s Northwest frontier rebellion: an “Indian-modified American Army model 1863 rifled musket.”
Another case contains the history of pistols, ranging from a 1775 Wilson flintlock pistol through a “Great War 1911 German Army P-08 Luger semi-automatic pistol” to a black Browning hi-power Mark 1 automatic pistol, labeled, “1944-present.”
Cpt. Scott-Brown showed us what used to be known as “the Ladies room.” Until 1974 the club required all women to enter through the rear, with only two exceptions: the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II. “Their men’s club was their men’s club, and they didn’t like women around,” he recalled.
Pauline McGibbon, the first female lieutenant-governor of Ontario, changed that. “She wasn’t about to come in the back door,” our tour guide recalled.
The plan gives the club floors two through six in the new Tribute Communities tower, and club staff said that most members approved it.
Last fall city council overrode planning staff to approve the project. Staff had said the tower, with 210 one-bedroom and 105 bachelor units, five times the size permitted by the zoning and with just nine parking spaces, “is not considered appropriate.”
Some members had other objections: Brian Lawrie, a member, worries for the future of the collection. On Friday Lt.-Col. (ret’d) Jeffrey Dorfman, chairman of the building committee here, promised that, “It’s being all packed up and crated and going off to Fine Art Storage. The library and museum will be brought back two years later.”
Today the two British field artillery 9-pounder canons that flanked the entrance are already gone into storage. They will return when the new building opens.
In the meantime the members will meet at the Albany Club, Church and King streets; their bartender, Mike Leavy, is moving there too.
Capt. Scot-Brown remains unconvinced of the wisdom of the move: “I’m a crusty old sucker. I was brought up in a generation where you didn’t sell the family farm,” he says. But then he reached for a more optimistic metaphor: “It’s almost like a mother watching her child go off to kindergarten. It’s emotional.”