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THE LEDGEND OF THE “GOOD SHIP”   (1939- 2017)

This overview parable with nautical analogy is to record the legend of the “Good Ship” and to commemorate its continuous 78 years of service as a Social Centre, and its 50 year Anniversary as the “UVic Faculty/University Club”.

 

 

THE METAMORPHOSIS

PHASE ONE: E HUT; The Officers Mess

The keel for the “Good Ship” was laid in 1939 and was completed that same year. It was moved to anchor at the Canadian Gordon Head Army Officer Training Camp located near the confluence of McKenzie and Finnerty passage. It was then unceremoniously provisioned, christened as “E Hut” and put to service as the “Officers Mess”.

“E Hut” served as the “Officers Mess” during World War 2 and for the demobilization which followed.   It also provided quiet social refuge for the clandestine, secretive group closeted in the basement of “A Hut”. It was that group in concert with the US Navy that broke the secret code used by the Japanese Navy: the “Pacific Enigma”. The US navy took the credit.

This wartime service of the “Good Ship” was recognized by a border of “Weeping Willow Trees’’ planted at its gangway entrance.

At the end of direct military service, the “Good Ship” served as the Social Centre for many returning WW2 Canadian Prisoners of War from Hong Kong and their families. Those returning soldiers were undergoing stabilization, rehabilitation, and health care to help them recover from their gruelling ordeal. Some family members were housed on the base. Hospital care was provided in “R Hut’’ with more acute care being provided at the Veterans Hospital then located at the current site of the Royal Jubilee Hospital. More than one child was born on the base during this period.

The commemorative “Weeping Willows” offered new meaning and emotion to the “Good Ship’s” service.

In July 1959, title to the Gordon Head Military base was transferred to “Victoria College”. In February 1963 Victoria College became the “University of Victoria”. The “Good Ship” remained intact at its McKenzie/Finnerty anchorage. Its function as a Social Centre was never “mothballed”. It continued its deployment as a Social Centre under the auspices of the UVic Faculty Association with the support of the UVic Administration.

The fully matured “Weeping Willows” marking the gangway entrance now offered a further touch of class to the “Good Ship”.

In the early 1960’s a section of “E Hut” was removed to accommodate the new McKenzie-Sinclair roadway thoroughfare.

In February 1967, employees of the University of Victoria with the support of the University Administration established a new society: “University of Victoria Faculty Club”. This new independent society was to undertake the management and operation of the “Good Ship” (E Hut) to offer food services and alcoholic comfort to its members.   All members of the University’s Faculty and Staff were to be eligible to join the new society and the military “E Hut” moniker was to be retained. The Club was to serve as the UVic Social Centre to bring campus employees together: a “Melting Pot”.

PHASE 2: E HUT; The Faculty Club

The new society grew quickly and membership rose from 142 in 1968 to over 300 by 1972. The membership year coincided with the Academic year of July 1 to June 30.

Its roots as an “Officers Mess” were not forgotten.

Many of the Club’s members were WW 2 Veterans as were five successive University Board of Governors Chairs and a University President. Some Veterans were from the Army, some from the Air Force, some from the Navy, and some from secret and never reported roles: germ warfare, underground agents, etc. Two members of this latter group became UVic Deans: one received from France a high level of recognition (Chevalier), and the other was a Defense Research Board colleague of Dr. Frederick Banting. More than one of those veterans became the leaders of UVic Academic and Administrative units.

Some members had received their Officer Training at the Gordon Head Army Camp and some were Prisoners of War from Hong Kong. Some had their first real opportunity on discharge to attend University. Several became founding members of the Faculty Club and served on its Board of Directors.

All had friends who “Died in Action”.

The “Weeping Willows” stood tall to remember them all.

The Club flourished as the University Social Centre. “E Hut” soon required a mid-life refit. During the 1970’s furnishings were upgraded, the galley upgraded, and a new dining area and private dining room added. These improvements were undertaken as joint funding projects by the Club and the University.

The President and the Board of Governors used the Club extensively for special events. The Governor General of Canada and the Lieutenant Governor of B. C. were wined and dined at the “E Hut” Faculty Club as were honorary degree recipients such as Sir Edmund Hillary, Maureen Forrester, Northrop Frye, and Bill Read.

The Club was developing its own sterling history but at the cost of increasing capital improvement requirements.

Food and beverage services continued to improve and special functions became part of the regular fare.

The “Faculty Club” soon reached the physical limit of its location and its “E Hut” structure. The Club’s Board of Directors turned its attention to the prospect of a new facility in a new location. That thought brought a heightened level of concern among some of the “Good Ship’s’’ Passengers (members). Some passengers threatened to “Jump Ship”. The word “Mutiny” was whispered on the outer decks of the “Good Ship” under the cover of the shedding “Weeping Willows”.

The “Good Ship’s” Flag Officers (Board of Directors) decided to maintain course and weather the storm. The storm raged off and on for three years. Some passengers wanted to keep the “Ship” as is; some wanted to commission a “new Ship” to be moored at a new anchorage. Mutiny was in the wind. The Flag Officers position finally prevailed by a margin of 7 passenger votes (46 to 39).

The Flag Officers and UVic Administration located a new safe anchorage. Under UVic Administration and funding from the UVic Board of Governors, a new purpose built “Good Ship” was to be constructed and located at a new anchorage.

In 1982, the “Good Ship” weighed anchor, traversed McKenzie passage, headed south up Gordon Head Sound and then turned east at Bowker Creek. It navigated the creek’s shallows to its headwater where it dropped anchor at “Mitchell’s Moat”: a safe anchorage for a new “Good Ship”.

The “Weeping Willows” wept   on the “Good Ships” departure, but found solace and reason to rejoice in her promising future.

The “Good Ship” now sat at anchor at peace with its past, its passengers, flag officers and crew. It was ready for its next voyage: spirits high and sails intact. The only regret was leaving the historic “Weeping Willows” behind.

PHASE THREE: The Faculty/University Club

The “Good Ship’s” new location and facilities were made possible by dedicated, determined Flag Officers, and a supportive University Board of Governors and University Administration.

The facilities were funded and owned by the University on the condition that the Club enter into a formal agreement with the University.

Among other things, the Agreement was to provide:

“That Club membership be open to all University employees; that the Club be self sustaining for all its future capital and operating expenditures; that the construction of the Club not affect any element in the University’s prioritized 5 year Capital Budget Plan; and, that the word Faculty Club was never to appear on the Agenda of any future meeting of the Board of Governors!”

The required agreement was negotiated by two representatives from the Club and one representative from the University’s Administration.   The required Agreement was drafted and subsequently ratified by the Club’s Board of Directors and the University Administration in 1984.

In 2005, the Flag Officers adopted a new name: “The University Club of the University of Victoria”. This new name was subsequently incorporated into the Agreement with the University.

With new facilities in place and a new agreement in place, the “Good Ship” has sailed forth from its new anchorage with favourable winds and positive course settings for 35 years! Occasional storms were encountered but nothing the “Good Ship” could not endure. Its Captains and Crew were always up to the task with the support of its Flag Officers.

The “Good Ship” has maintained its historic role of wining and dining distinguished University Guests such as Oscar Peterson, David Foster, Michael Smith, Yehudi Menuhin, Myfanwy Pavelic, Prince Andrew and Prince William.   It has become increasingly popular for private events: weddings, receptions, memorials, regular service club meetings, etc.   The first wedding reception was held in 1983.

The “Good Ship” stands tall as one of the most viable University Clubs in Canada.

In 2014, the “Good Ship” underwent its first major refit. “It looks nearly new” said some of the passengers. The “Good Ship” has served over 78 years as a social centre firstly under a military flag for 26 years and then under the Flag of the Faculty/ University Club of the University of Victoria for the past 50 years.



 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

(Note:  The above history was compiled by Trevor Matthews.)