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Friday, 22 June 2012 11:27

Young men’s club provided energy for Frontier Days

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The dreams of a few young men during the dusty Depression years to make Swift Current a better place gave the city a lasting legacy.
The story of the Kinetic Club, which was responsible for organizing Frontier Days in Swift Current from 1937 to 1950, was the topic of the lunch and learn talk at the Swift Current Museum June 13.

The presentation by collections officer Rachel Wormsbecher was based on information from the Kinetic Club archives, which was donated to the museum a few years ago. The material includes memoirs and first hand accounts from people who were closely involved with the club.
“The men who wrote these wrote very highly about this time in their lives and with a sense of pride,” Wormsbecher said. “They felt they were giving some back to the community.”
It started as a young men’s club in 1934 to promote self-improvement and to address the issue of community decline. Some of the original members belonged to the Metropolitan Church and their weekly meetings also took place there. As a result, their initial name was the  Metropolitan Young Men’s Club.
The club’s early projects included a blood donor clinic, furnishing a hospital ward, hosting dances and sporting events, and organizing an annual Christmas tree bonfire. Their church association soon proved to be a restriction on their activities and during the winter of 1934 they changed their name to the Kinetic Club in reference to a form of energy that results from motion.
“The group of young men, all in their early 20s, capped the membership age at 35 years because they believed that people older tended to loose their energy and progressive drive,” Wormsbecher said.
The club’s main goal was to raise money for a swimming pool in Swift Current, but their focus started to change in 1936. In that year the City of Swift Current called a meeting of local service clubs to discuss ways to improve the annual July 1 Dominion Day celebrations, which then only consisted of a small parade and a sports day.
For 1936, a Citizen’s Committee took over the running of the event from the City and the Kinetic Club was responsible for a dance and an ice cream booth. The celebration made a profit of $580, which convinced the Kinetic Club to take on full responsibility for organizing the following year’s event as a way to collect money for the swimming pool fund.
For the 1937 Dominion Day celebration, the club organized a kid’s parade, a sports day and a car draw. It was the biggest July 1 celebration in the city’s history and to improve on it, the club decided to have a western theme for the 1938 event.
The aim was to recall the pioneer days of the early settlers. This resulted in the adoption of the name Frontier Days for the celebration. The first Frontier Days proved to be a huge success, in large part due to the inclusion of activities such as a rodeo, a parade with floats and a boxing match.
“The club prepared for about 6,000 people to take part in the variety of festivities that they planned,” Wormsbecher said. “According to their reminiscences, 20,000 showed up.”
As a result, the club was able to donate $5,260.40 from the 1938 celebrations to the swimming pool trust fund. With the world standing on the brink of another war, the theme for the 1939 celebrations was International Days.
“Tensions on the world stage were rising, and the Kinetic Club wanted to emphasize the harmony enjoyed by the twenty-three nationalities represented in the Swift Current district,” she said.
The club’s publicity chairman, Ken Lewis, decided to send invitations to the major world leaders, including Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini. It was sent under the name of club president, William Harding, who received a 4 a.m. phone call from the RCMP.
“William had to go down to the police station the following day to explain the club’s good-natured intentions,” Wormsbecher said. “The Italian embassy in Canada responded, and declined the invitation.”
Until 1938 the Dominion Day celebrations took place in a park called Mitchell Field on the west end of town between Chaplin and Cheadle streets. The ground at this location was too wet to build a new permanent grandstand for the rodeo. The club was able to raise enough money for a new structure at the current fairgrounds, where Frontier Days has been taking place since 1939.
During the Second World War many club members left the city to join the war effort. Attendance of Dominion Day celebrations was helped by the presence of a RAF training base at Swift Current airport. In 1944, Frontier Days became the official name of the event.
The Kinetic Club did not recover from its loss of membership during the war years and it disbanded on Sept. 23, 1950. The local chamber of commerce worked with the Swift Current Agricultural Society, which was reactivated in 1947, to continue Frontier Days. In 1954, a new organization was created, the Swift Current Agricultural and Exhibition Association, which has organized Frontier Days since then.
The club held a reunion in 1967, when the dedication took place for the Kinetic Club gate at the main entrance to the fair grounds.

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