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No. 90

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Manitoba Organization: Outlook Club of Winnipeg

The Outlook Club was founded in April 1925 when four men—W. Alexander Cuddy, George M. Farwell, Spencer C. Guest, and G. Herb Jackson—were having a spirited discussion while walking along Portage Avenue in Winnipeg. They decided to meet over lunch every Tuesday to continue the conversations. On 5 May 1925, the inaugural meeting occurred at the Marlborough Hotel with the original four men along with Clifford S. Williams, Spencer Rodway, J. B. Harrison, and Clinton A. Congdon. They decided on the club name and selected Guest as President and Cuddy as Secretary.

Subsequent Tuesday meetings occurred at the Grange Hotel (on Lombard Avenue opposite the Grain Exchange Building) until September 1926, Nankin Gardens (corner of Portage and Donald, later site of the Clarendon Hotel) until September 1928, the Hudson’s Bay Company store to 1937, and Moore’s Restaurant (Portage Avenue opposite the Somerset Building, now Mountain Co-op) to 1968. In addition to the weekly meetings, an annual gala dinner for members and their lady friends was held at Moore’s. From 1969 to 1980, meetings were held at the YWCA Restaurant and, after it merged with YMCA, at the latter location. In September 1984, the club moved to Lions Place and, in 2000, back to the Hudson’s Bay store. They moved to the Charter House Hotel in January 2002 and, in 2003 to its present meeting location in a private room at a cafe in the Fort Garry Place Mall. The annual Christmas meeting, to which the women were invited, was instituted on 29 December 1931. For many years this popular event was known as “Ladies Day” and was held between Christmas and New Years at the regular noon meeting. In the 1960s it was moved, first to an evening, then to a noon hour prior to Christmas.

By the time of the first annual meeting, held at the Grange Hotel on the evening of 27 April 1926, there was a roster of nineteen members, with seventeen present. Interestingly, a report was presented “recommending the increase of the maximum membership from twenty to twenty-five.” In later years membership fluctuated between twenty-five and thirty (and sometimes more) so membership limitations do not appear to have been observed strictly. Although established as a men’s club, wives and lady friends of members were invited to attend the second annual meeting in 1927. Women have since been included in all of the club’s special events and, as the years passed, a special welcome has been extended to the widows of former members. In 2015, women were for the first time invited to join as regular members and now constitute an active and growing part of the club’s membership.

Over the years a wide variety of places of employment appeared in conjunction with the membership rolls: businesses, educational and religious institutions, and branches of government. By the 1970s many of the names carried the designation “Esquire,” that is, Retired, and by the 1980s these were so numerous that beginning in 1984 places of employment were no longer shown.

At its tenth anniversary in 1935, a commemorative document noted that:

“One of the objects of the club is to promote the art of public speaking among the individual members and each address is followed by a general discussion. With this end in view the members have given the majority of the talks, and during the past ten years we have invited in only twenty-one guest speakers.”

Clearly there was no reluctance to tackle difficult topics, as evidenced by a talk entitled “Railway Freight Rates” given by Alexander Cuddy at the second meeting on 12 May 1925. Talks given in the 1930-1931 season included “Ancient Egypt” by E. G. Williams, “The Proposed Federation of Europe” by F. M. Barton, “German Fascists” by W. D. G. Runions, “Sir Sandford Fleming” by M. McNicol, “Canada’s Northland” by F. A. Allden, “Unemployment and its Causes” by guest speaker J. S. Woodsworth, and “Manitoba Limestone” by guest speaker A. C. Garvin. There have been many distinguished guest speakers over the years, including Grant McEwen, Rev. Thomas Saunders, Dr. Paul Hiebert (on the topic “Sarah Binks”), Rev. A. R. Huband, Stanley Knowles, John A. MacAulay, and Rev. C. E. Gordon. Speakers in 1954-1955 included Dr. W. Topping, Prof. Carl Ridd, Prof. C. J. Robson, and Prof. Harry Crowe (whose topic was “The Age of Laurier”). Most of the speakers’ topics were serious but some were evidently in a lighter vein as in 1948 when guest speaker Miss Edith Motley spoke on “British Humour in War and Peace.” There is no doubt, however, that much good-natured humour permeated the meetings. Indeed, one memorable exchange was recorded in the eleventh annual dinner program on 5 May 1936:

“Mr. Chairman,” said George Farwell, “there are so many ribald interruptions I can scarcely hear myself speaking.” “Cheer up, guv’nor,” said Harry Dunderdale. “You ain’t missin’ much.”

The annual meetings seem to have been occasions for fun. In 1930 several members presented a play titled “Why Blame the Druggist” which was “concocted after a supper of lemon cheese and a ride on the CNR.” Many of the programs include jokes directed at various members:

Mrs. Fairbairn: “How is it that you can kiss so divinely?” George: “Oh, I used to blow the bugle in the Boy Scouts.”

In the early years it was customary for the annual meetings to include sing songs and musical entertainment. For example, in 1929 there was a baritone solo by Art Dingle, a cornet solo by George Fairbairn and a tenor solo by Reg Hugo with Mrs. E. W. Ireland as accompanist. The meetings concluded with games, cards, and dancing. In later years Mrs. J. N. T. (Ruth) Bulman remembered those early club meetings when “we had a wonderful time dancing to live music until at least one o’clock in the morning.” In 1936 all reference to dancing disappeared.

The first “In Memoriam” entry in the annual meeting program appeared in 1945, for Alex Cuddy. In 1957 there were three more “In Memoriams” and by 1960 the list had grown to fifteen names. By 1986 the “In Memoriam” list was considerably longer than the membership roll and the following year it was omitted altogether. Since 1986 it has been customary to show only the names of those who have passed away since the previous annual meeting.

In May 1942, a program for the seventeenth annual dinner contained this reminiscence by Spencer Guest:

“One remarkable feature of our Outlook Club is the high percentage of attendance – higher than the service clubs with their attendance committees, weekly notices and penalties. What is the attraction? It cannot be the catering or the address of the day, as we get much better meals at home with a good lecture thrown in. The opportunity to meet regularly with congenial friends to exchange ideas and get new view points is welcomed and appreciated by all.

As we grow older, as some of us do, we value our friendships more and more. To the admonition in the Book of Proverbs – “get wisdom, get understanding” we would add, with all thy getting get friends – not just acquaintances whom we call by the first name, but real friends whose sorrow is our sorrow, and whose happiness and success bring joy to our hearts. Having such, we are wealthy beyond measure – without, though rich as Croesus, we are paupers indeed.”

Sources:

“Twenty Club interested in current events,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 March 1932, page 5.

“Friendship has kept club going for 66 years,” Winnipeg Free Press, 20 January 1991, page 102.

This page was prepared by Alan Crossin and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 9 November 2017

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