The First Fifteen Years of The Great Kingston Home Builders Association

by Bruce Barrett

One evening in the spring of 1954 a group of house builders gathered in the basement garage of a house Jimmy Renaud was building on Algonquin Terrace to debate the pros and cons of forming a House Builders’ Association in Kingston. Among those attending were Jim Renaud, Don McBride, Bob Marrison, George Oldford, Ray Kimberly, Frank Morris, Len White, Ernst Prohaska and Bruce Barrett. The seats were wooden nail kegs. An organization called Frontenac Home Builders’ was formed and the members each contributed $15.00. For the next two years dinner meetings were held at the Bo-Peep Restaurant and for some of this time Ken Greene was chairman.

Early in 1956 we were approached by John Caulfield Smith of the National Home Builders’ Association about affiliating with them. It was decided to hold a meeting where National would try to show their worth. They arrived with a large group from the Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, and successfully sold themselves. It was also decided at this time to admit Suppliers and Sub trades as members. Ken Eaton was elected President for 1956, and meetings were held in the Superior Restaurant.

On March 15, 1958 the FHBA joined the Kiwanis Club of West Kingston in building an addition to a house in Rideau Heights for a city employee whose wife had just given birth to triplets. Also during 1958 an organizational meeting was held to set up Frondevco. A steering committee under Chair Bob Clarke included Jim Renaud, George Oldford, Don McBride and Bruce Barrett. Also in 1958 a fish fry was cancelled due to a beer strike.

In 1959 nomination night and election night were held on consecutive meeting nights and have been ever since. Dues at this time were Builders and Sub trades $45.00 and Suppliers $60.00. Builders who built over 15 units a year were assessed more on a sliding scale by National. Ladies Night held at the Steelworkers Hall on Concession Street had a turnout of 230 people with Braun Catering, Paul Chabot’s Orchestra, Rita Lloyd McGratton sang, and Bob Carol comedian.

On March 9, 1959 we took a bus and picked up Belleville Builders whom we had included to make an Association visit to Peterborough. At the August meeting we were addressed by C. Douglas Calverly, P.P. of British Federation of Registered House Builders. In the spring of 1959 a very controversial Stag Night with strippers etc., netted the Association $650.00. Guests came from as far as Ottawa and Peterborough. In October our guest speaker stayed overnight at the B.A. Hotel at a cost to the club of $4.75 and 39 steak dinners cost $97.50. A poem was published in the Newsletter by Sec. A. Lyons . . .

Builders come and Builders go
And leave their mark behind them With houses small and houses great
And mortgages to bind them.
So when there’s nothing left to build
And all the earth is subdivided
They’ll join the new moon rocket guild
And leave their debts behind them.

In 1961 Stan Harrison was secretary. In 1962 Nancy Dewer was secretary. A Fine Master was appointed for each meeting and no draw was held. Total fines for an evening could reach $70.00. Meetings were moved to the Commodore Hotel. The first Parade of Homes was in September of 1962.

In 1963, an 11% sales tax on building materials was imposed by the Federal Government. It was fought vigorously by the FHBA and the NHBA and we got it imposed in stages. President Rod Cutway presided over Ladies Night at the Commodore where a buffet dinner cost $2.50 and drinks were 60 cents each. Attendance was 120 and we made a profit of $28.76.

In 1965 a committee of apartment owners was formed under the President Art Bidgood, and the name of Frontenac Home Builders’ Association was changed to Kingston Frontenac Home Builders’ or the KFHBA. Meetings were at the 401 Inn. Frondevco was activated and Applewood Acres was purchased. Bruce Barrett was Chairman of the Ontario Council.

In 1966 under President Howard Sly, KFHBA won an award from Canadian Home Builder Magazine for merchandising and the Harry Long Memorial Award for membership promotion. Arlie Moore was secretary. The Ontario Council spring meeting was held at the Commodore Hotel, Herb Hignet; president of CMHC was the speaker.

In 1967 and 1968 Ernst Prohaska, (the only person so far to be the President for two consecutive years) presided over 87 members. At that time it was decided that the President of the KFHBA no longer needed to be a builder. There was also much discussion on vandalism at that time. A fish fry was held at Case Blommestyn’s cottage. In 1968 our brass name tags were first worn at the Ottawa Convention where the Kingston “Boys from the Austrian Alps” entertained. Bruce Barrett was elected VP for Ontario of the NHBA. Meetings were held at the Glen Manor Motel. A regional conference at the 401 Inn was held May 2, 1968 and was attended by members from Peterborough, Belleville, Ottawa and Kingston. During 1969 the KFHBA meetings were held in various places; 401 Inn, Commodore, Imperial Restaurant, before settling at the LaSalle Motel.

After the first fifteen years the KFHBA had proved its worth to the Home Builders’ of the Kingston area.

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