In 1997, Crawford Park United put out a booklet titled, 50 Years of Memories. It is a treasure trove of photos, reminiscences and a poem or two. I may be sharing other bits and pieces from it in the coming weeks, but for today, here is a slightly edited text, author unknown, probably written in the 1950s, that recounts the origins of the congregation and the building we now occupy. Note that it was only the basement level of the church that was completed in 1947; the “superstructure” including what is now the sanctuary, was not completed until 1952. How interesting to learn that there was once a “little red schoolhouse” at the corner of Lloyd-George and Churchill, especially since the newly-built CSMB school, Annexe Crawford, now occupies the block of Churchill between Clemenceau and Lloyd-George!
It is important to note that what is now known as SouthWest United came about through the amalgamation of Verdun United and Crawford Park United churches, congregations which had earlier absorbed members from Chalmers and First Presbyterian. Thus, the text below is not a complete history of SouthWest, but it is a history of our building at 1445 Clemenceau in Verdun, and a glimpse of the Crawford Park community of days gone by. - Amy
The Early days
Although the structure that was to become Crawford Park United Church was not begun until 1947, the actual community of faith began to form much earlier. This small group of people who met in the little red schoolhouse would eventually form the nucleus of CPUC.
In the growing community of Crawford Park, a dozen or so faithful souls felt the need to gather together on Sundays to worship in some form of the Protestant faith. Permission was secured to use the two classrooms of the little red schoolhouse then standing on the corner of Lloyd George and Churchill Avenues. The Rev. Wilkinson came out to lead these services each Sunday beginning in the early 1940s and continuing until 1944. As time went on about 34 to 45 hardy citizens braved the pioneer conditions prevailing in the schoolhouse and supplied the enthusiasm and fellowship that more than made up for any lack of comfort.
As the word spread that a service was held each Sunday, the congregation sometimes filled all the desks and available chairs and those in charge at the door would hurriedly borrow kitchen chairs from the nearest homes to seat the overflow.
Begun as a joint community Church to serve the needs of the Protestant people of Crawford Park and neighbouring environs, the present building was begun in 1947. With such funds as could be given or pledged by members, adherents and friends and with the help of the Home Mission Board of the United Church of Canada, the group meeting in the little red schoolhouse planned and prepared the basement of what was later to be completed as the splendid Church which now stands on Clemenceau Avenue. A six-roomed manse was constructed as well, and in February of 1948 the congregation began to hold its meetings in the basement hall of its own building.
After Mr. Wilkinson gave up the charge in the fall of 1944, the Rev. Meech carried on. The Rev. J.K. Brown took overall responsibility for the Church and filled in when needed. During the period from 1944 to 1947 the Rev. O. Stevens, Rev. Starkey and Rev. Williams supplied leadership briefly. The Rev. Douglas Reed, the Rev. W. Morris and the Rev. R. Purvis Smith came for somewhat lengthier periods. In 1947 Rev. J.C. Downing came from Greenfield Park and continued services in the schoolhouse and then took charge of the Church congregation preaching there in the morning and travelling to St. Jerome in the afternoon to hold evening services there.
Sunday School sessions began simultaneously with the Church services and continued diligently through the years offering leadership and training in Christian living to all children in the vicinity. The first Sunday School party was held in 1942 in the schoolhouse, and these festivities became an annual event. In 1948 the party was held in the present Church basement hall.
in 1944, the Women’s Auxiliary (W.A.) was organized under the leadership of Mrs. Oke and Mrs. Hepworth and the group held regular monthly meetings in the homes. Soon the membership and popularity of this organization made a larger meeting place imperative, and in 1948 the basement hall made it possible to extend the hospitality and interest of this group.
Late in 1944, the Women’s Missionary Society (W.M.S.) was begun under the leadership of Mrs. Maud Hall, gradually assuming responsibility for the extension of spiritual welfare in missionary work and younger groups.
C.G.I.T., Explorer and Mission Band groups were formed to serve the needs of girls from ages 6 to 16. Cubs and Boy Scouts began to meet weekly in the hall.
Beginning with a piano and a small group to lead the singing in the schoolhouse, the choir met faithfully and unceasingly to prepare music to enhance the atmosphere of worship as the congregation moved on from the schoolhouse to the basement hall. It was very fortunate that upon completion of the Church and the gift of an electric organ from the Men’s Club, a gifted and willing organist Mr. W. Hindle arrived in the district. Under the leadership and training of Mr. Hindle the music of the services contributed much to the enjoyment of the congregation.
from: Crawford Park United Church, 1947-1997: 50 Years of Memories