Growing up in Arlington, Jim MacLeod remembers his parents bringing him to Watertown to visit the Canadian American Club where they could listen to traditional Irish and Cape Breton music, and have a fun time in a family-friendly setting.
This year, the club on Arlington Street in East Watertown celebrates its 75th anniversary, and MacLeod, the club’s vice president hopes more people will discover the welcoming atmosphere of the club.
The club has a three-day celebration planned to mark the occasion. From Oct. 19 to 21 the Canadian American Club will host Irish and country bands, have a dinner dance and a family night with step dancers.
Three Day Celebration
The fun starts Friday night at 7 p.m. with a Downeast Cielidh, featuring food, prizes, tea and coffee, and there is no admission fee, said Mary McDonald, known around the club as Mary Mac.
Music will be provided by members of the club.
“It’s open to anyone,” McDonald said. “Any member can bring a guitar or fiddle and play. They mostly play Maritime type music.”
On Saturday, the club hosts a dinner dance, which costs $35 per person and includes a chicken buffet dinner, dancing and appetizers.
Music will be provided by the Jackie Brown Band, an Irish showband that plays Irish, country and popular music. The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails, and dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m.
For more information and for reservations, contact Anne Batherson at 617-699-9074.
MacLeod expects a good crowd for Saturday’s Dinner Dance, including the Canadian Consulate General to Boston, Patrick Binns.
“He comes to some of our special events,” MacLeod said. “He loves it here.”
The celebration concludes on Sunday at 3 p.m., with a family kitchen Ceilidh, with entertainment provided by two young musicians.
“Two wonderful fiddlers from Canada will play, Troy MacGillivray and Kimberley Fraser,” McDonald said.
In addition, the Four on the Floor Cape Breton Stepdancers will perform. Tickets cost $15 and children 14 and under get in free.
Tea, coffee and some light sandwiches will be provided, McDonald said.
The club first started as a way to try to help the people who moved to the Boston area from the Maritime Provinces of Canada, MacLeod said.
“When the Canadians came down, the Irish were already here and they had all the good jobs,” MacLeod said. “A group of lawyers had an idea to create a political machine so the could elect someone and get access to some jobs.”
The efforts were not so successful, MacLeod said, in part because the groups would band together with those who came from their area of Canada: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island.
“They islanders didn’t go along with the New Brunswick, and so on,” MacLeod said. “They had cliques.”
Meanwhile, the club became a social club for those from Canada. The club does charitable work such as raising money for local food pantries and for causes in Canada, MacLeod said. The club has a bowling league, and there is plenty of traditional music.
Many of the events at the club revolve around traditional music, whether Irish, Maritime or Country music.
The club moved into the building in Watertown around 1968, MacLeod said.
“The club bought the building so members would have a place to gather and have dances,” MacLeod said. “That’s how we ended up in Watertown.”
The building had been home to an Italian American veterans group’s club before the Canadian American Club bought the building. Originally, it was home to Watertown’s first Greek Church.
A plaque on the club says it was the home of The Hellenic Association of Watertown from 1931-37 and the First Greek Orthodox Church of Watertown from 1937 to 1950.
Seeking New Blood
Other social clubs have closed down in the Boston area, MacLeod said, but he hopes the Canadian American Club will keep going for many years. The club has about 240 members, but they always hope to increase the numbers.
While it is called the Canadian American Club, anyone can become a member, McDonald said.
“A lot of members are people like myself whose grandparents came from Canada,” McDonald said. “But, you don’t need to have Canadian ancestry, it is open to anybody.”
Annual membership costs $15.
The events such as the music nights on Fridays and Irish and country bands on Saturdays, are open to members and non-members.
“We find we get younger people who come in and say, ‘this is nice,’” McDonald said. “It is a safe place, and people here are like a family.”