Kinsmen History

Hal Rogers

Our Founder

Hal Rogers, O.C., O.B.E. (1899-1994)

Harold A. Rogers was born in London, Ont. on Jan. 3 1899. Harold (Hal) moved to Hamilton, Ont. to work for his father when he was appointed manager of the Standard Sanitary Co. Ltd. Soon after the move, on May 1, 1916, Hal, at the age of 17, enlisted with the 173rd Argyle and Sutherland Battalion. After further training in England, and anxious to get to the front lines, he transferred to the 54th Kootenay Battalion CEF, 4th Canadian Division, 11th Infantry Brigade. He fought at Vimy Ridge, Lens, Hill 70 and Ypres, where his leadership skills in the field led to his promotion to the rank of corporal and a recommendation for a commission. Before it could be acted upon, he was gassed at the Passchendaele front (Ypres) and wounded at the Amiens front. After hospitalization in England, he returned home to Hamilton in January 1919.

Missing the camaraderie of army life, Hal decided to join the local Rotary club where his father was a member. Because a once fundamental rule of the Rotarians was to only have one member from each employment classification and as he worked as a salesman in the plumbing industry for his father, Hal’s application was rejected. (It was a humorous recollection of Hal’s for many years).

Not a person to be outdone, Hal, then 21-years-old, decided to create a new club. As a result of his initiative, a small group of like-minded men gathered for a dinner meeting on Feb. 20, 1920 and formed what became known as the Kinsmen Club of Hamilton – Canada’s first Kinsmen Club.

Throughout his life, Hal Rogers believed in the value of education. In his own words, “providing and promoting the finest and most effective education possible for our young people” was a noble endeavour.

He was dedicated to the concept of education throughout his life. His commitment is evidenced in his many years as a trustee on the Forest Hill Board of Education. His devotion to the concept of education for young people was recognized by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which named him the first recipient of the coveted Lamp of Learning Award in 1950. The Lamp of Learning is awarded annually to a non-teacher who has contributed to the furtherance of education in the Province of Ontario.

More than 10 years ago, the concept of developing an endowment fund for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the pursuit of education was approved enthusiastically by Founder Hal. Consequently, after he died in September 1994, the Kinsmen & Kinette Clubs of Canada established the Kin Canada Bursaries, a program of the Hal Rogers Endowment Fund in his memory.

Kin History

Over the years Kin Canada has had an impressive array of members, from Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn and more. Members can probably name several people who have used what they have learned in Kin to become community leaders. The dream of Founder Hal Rogers started with an idea that spread to an organization with members from coast to coast. Since 1920, literally hundreds of thousands of Canadians have been touched by the spirit of Kin when asked to join our great Association. This year will be no exception

Fun, leadership, personal development, pride in one’s community, importance of family, service work… caring about the world in which we live. These could be words taken from sociologists describing the shift in attitudes of the “me” generation to a more socially conscious society of the new millennium. These words, though, are the cornerstones, the aims and objectives of Kin Canada (Kinsmen & Kinettes clubs), phrases developed in 1920 and becoming relevant again 85 years later as the Association celebrates its 85th anniversary.

The combination of fun, service work and personal development has created a winning formula that has attracted thousands of young men and women who, today, comprise Kin clubs coast to coast.

Similar to many other successful organizations, one person’s dream and vision of the future are the driving force behind its success.

Harold Allin Rogers was that person. Born in London Ont., on Jan. 3, 1899, Rogers finished public school and went to work as a junior clerk with the Home Bank of Thorndale, Ont. He moved to Hamilton when his father took over the management of a wholesale plumbing and heating supply business. Soon, Hal Rogers found himself a member of the staff and prepared for a sales career.

Two months later, Rogers was on his way to Europe and the First World War, first enlisted as a member of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders and, once oversees, leaving for combat duty in France as a member of the 54th Kootenay Battalion. He described his war experiences in the 1987 book, Only in Canada, Kinsmen & Kinettes, written by Ken Coates and Fred McGuinness.

“I’d lived a parochial life before I joined up. When I was assigned to the Kootenay battalion, this was my first experience with young Canadians from the mountains, the Prairies, from Quebec and the Maritimes. I can never forget how we shared a common belief that what we were doing was supposed to make Canada a better and stronger nation. Sure, we went through Hell in the trenches, but what made it bearable was the comradeship, the feeling of working together that I received through my buddies.”

Rogers fought at Vimy Ridge, Lens, Hill 70, and Ypres, was gassed at Passchendale and was wounded at Amien – the place he received a slice of schrapnel in one leg that he carried with him until his death.

Upon his return to Hamilton, Ont., he rejoined the plumbing supply firm, but being a relative newcomer to the city, had few friends his own age. This feeling was magnified by the loss of the fellowship and camaraderie shared with his army buddies.

In an effort to meet with young men his own age, he approached the local Rotary Club for membership. His application was rejected because another member of the club already filled the employment category of “plumbing wholesale.” (At the time, Rotary allowed only one person per employment category). That member was Charles Rogers, Hal’s father.

More determined that ever, Rogers decided to form his own club. The initial steps are recalled in the 1979 book, The Cross and Square, written by Robert Tyre.

“I stopped a chap on the street and introduced myself. I had noticed him in church occasionally and he impressed me as someone who might take an interest in my plan for a club. He said his name was Harold Phillips. We shook hands. Then I went on to explain that I was a comparative stranger to the city and had been toying with the idea of starting a service club where young fellows could find companionship and participate in club programs. Phillips thought that was a good idea. He said he had been in the city a little over a year but knew very few people. We agreed that we’d each try to interest another young chap in the project and then get together for a talk. A week later, four of us met to discuss the scheme and an agreement was reached on going ahead with it. The following week, on that Saturday night in February, a dozen like-minded men sat down to dinner in the Namking Café in Hamilton and proceeded to organize the first club. That was the start of it.”

Service History

Dinner meetings and socials provided the framework for the addition of another ideal – service work.

Early club projects included welcoming young men to the city and providing entertainment for children in a home for orphans.

Being young professionals, Hamilton Kinsmen soon followed their careers to various parts of the country, taking Kinsmenship with them. Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg soon followed in establishing clubs. By the end of 1926, nine cities had Kinsmen clubs. The 1926 national convention in Winnipeg saw the organization adopt a constitution and bylaws and fixed the maximum age for active membership at 40.

The Association continued to grow throughout the 1930s and at the outset of the Second World War, Canada had 103 Kinsmen clubs. With the call to arms, Kinsmen mobilized in two ways. First: as soldiers fighting for Canada. And second: at home, becoming a war service club, assisting in the total war effort.

It was during the Second World War that one of the largest Kin projects of all time, Milk for Britain, took place.

Responding to a radio appeal for milk for British children, Rogers began to rally Kin troops across Canada to raise funds for the purchase of powdered milk. The goal for the first year was to raise enough money to purchase one million quarts. Within nine months, Kinsmen and Kinettes had supplied more than three million quarts. By the end of the Milk for Britain campaign, the Kin family had raised more than $2 million and sent 50 million quarts of milk to Britain. The wartime effort saw the emergence of 41 new Kinsmen clubs and the formation of a new part of the organization – Kinettes.

Kinsmen wives had, for years, supported the activities of their husbands and, in various parts of the country, had begun to create their own clubs on an informal basis. The Kinette movement began to grow. At the Association’s 1942 national convention, Kinettes were given official recognition in the national bylaws and duly certified as an auxiliary organization.

The end of the Second World War marked a new era in service work for Kinsmen.

The Association’s motto, “Serving the Community’s Greatest Need,” took on a more global perspective as the Association helped to found the World Council of Young Men’s Service Club (WoCo) in 1945.

Included in this group was the Association of 20-30 Clubs (USA and Mexico), Active International (USA and Canada), Apex (Australia), Round Table Clubs (Great Britain and Ireland) and, of course, The Association of Kinsmen Clubs of Canada and Newfoundland. Kinsmen now had a network through which to channel their fundraising efforts to all parts of the world by working in co-operation with their service club brethren in other countries.

With the end of the 1940s came the formation of another Kin auxiliary, K-40 clubs. The upper age limit had always been a contentious issue. What happens to a Kinsman when he reaches 40? Attempting to maintain its identity as a young men’s service club, delegates at the 1947 national convention endorsed the formal establishment of K-40 clubs.

Kinsmen older than 40 years of age would still enjoy the fellowship and service work, but would not be allowed to hold executive office, thus ensuring that the younger members assumed these responsibilities and learned experience associated with them.

As Canada prospered in the 1950s, so, too, did the Kin family. Club expansion was foremost in everyone’s minds, yet so was member retention. To assist in keeping Kin interesting, many national award programs were developed, giving Kinsmen goals to attain and excellence to strive for.

In 1964, the Kinsmen Club of North York began working with a relatively unknown disease that struck down children by the age of four. From this one service project, support grew for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and today, 41 years later, is the Association’s charity of choice.

In 1970, the Association celebrated its 50th anniversary in grand style as the entire country supported a national project of raising $350,000 to assist in the construction of the Kinsmen National Institute on Mental Retardation, built at Toronto’s York University.

The decade of the 1970s also gave the Kinsmen a heightened profile through their involvement in the Particip-action Movement, particularly with the construction of Participarks. Kinsmen led the way in building these fitness-oriented parks and opened more than 100 by the early 1980s.

In 1980, 60 years of Kin culminated with the opening of the Hal Rogers Kinsmen National Headquarters, a three-storey, 14,000 square foot building in Cambridge, Ont.

The 1980s brought many changes within the Kin family, most notably, the raising of the maximum age limit to 45, the equalization of Kinettes as full partners in the association and, in 1989, the change in the organization’s name to the Association of Kin Clubs to reflect a new commitment to bilingualism.

Many milestones were celebrated during the 1990s – the ‘Proud to be Canadian Tour’ in 1992, the more than $20 million raised for cystic fibrosis research by 1993 and the Association’s 75th anniversary.

But with celebrations, there was also a farewell as the Association paid tribute to its Founder Hal Rogers, who passed away on Sept. 15, 1994.

In the late 90s, Kin voted to remove the upper age limit and now it is possible to be a member well into the senior years.

The millennium is already proving to be a successful period for Kin. More than $33 million has been raised for cystic fibrosis, the Association’s new name Kin Canada was adopted, and more than $15 million was raised nationally in 2004 for community projects.

As the Association works its way through its eighth decade, many challenges are waiting to be met. Increasing the Kin presence in urban Canada, firmly establishing Kinettes as a leading women’s service organization and overall, increasing membership with a focus on retention, are issues of priority.

One thing is for certain. Kinsmen and Kinettes will respond to these challenges with a zest and enthusiasm. The Kin attitude is one that exemplifies a hands-on approach to service work. Not content to simply write cheques – if there’s work to be done, Kin clubs do it!

Self satisfaction, fun, personal growth – all ingredients in the winning Kin formula.