Weird and Wonderful Fundraising Events

A 1905 book by Mrs. Herbert B Linscott, called Bright Ideas for Entertaining, describes a Measuring Party as a “pleasing way” of raising money for charity. Whether or not they got the idea from that book, the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Royal Columbian Hospital held such a party at the home of Mrs. T.L. Briggs (today’s Irving House) in November of 1920. The invitation read,
“A measuring party we give for you,
‘Tis something pleasant as well as new.
The invitation carries a sack,
For use in bringing or sending back
Five cents for every foot you’re tall,
Measure yourself against the wall.
An extra cent for each inch you’ll give,
And thereby show how high you live.
Then with music and song, recitation and pleasure,
We will meet one and all at our party of measure”

A tiny bag of silk was sent with each invitation and on the day of the party, each guest was to bring their bag with money and place it in a basket by the door. At this party three ladies, including the Auxiliary President, Mrs. Elson, were in charge of taking various measurements of the guests such as the length of the nose, size of the head, size of the hand etc. The “winner” might win a prize or be expected to give a couple of cents for each inch measured. They had food, fortune telling and, as promised in the invitation, music, songs, recitations and lots of fun. And best of all, they managed to raise $75 for the hospital!

The Auxiliary has worked hard to support the hospital for the last 100 years and still does. The list of their fundraising activities over the years includes a French Cabaret held at the Legion Hall in 1932 by the Girls’ Auxiliary. It sold out with an attendance of well over 350. The tables were “illumined by flickering candles, the musicians wore Montparnasse garb, balloons were tossed, confetti showered and serpentines streamed”. The entertainment included a French peasant number, a Paris ballroom dancing exhibition, French songs and solo dance numbers.

In 1947, a special feature of the Auxiliary’s annual Country Fair held at the new market building was a “Galaxy of Dolls”. This is how the local paper described it, “Some of the toys to be found at this booth will be boy dolls in knitted suits, girl dolls in pinafores and sunbonnets; saucy Eva dolls in fluffy, bouffant skirts; Belinda dolls with upswept hairdo’s. There will also be cuddly stuffed toys for the baby, including blue bunnies with pink silk ears; velvet lambs, Scottie dogs and all other childish favourites. And perhaps most important of all, the luckiest little girl in town will be the winner of the raffle – a beautiful lifesize baby doll complete with bassinette. She is dressed in the daintiest of lacy christening robes, and possesses a whole wardrobe of real baby clothes.” As always the money raised went to provide equipment for the hospital.

In 1961, the Vancouver Sun advertised the Auxiliary’s Country Fair saying “the doors of the oldest market building on the lower mainland will swing open at 7 pm. There will be stalls of home cooking, candy, knitting, sewing, appealing gingham and felt animals, ideal for Christmas giving, dolls’ clothes, superfluities, handmade novelties and, of course, items for Christmas decorating. There will be refreshments galore and a party atmosphere for every member of the family at this 16th annual event. Proceeds will go towards the purchase of a deep X-ray therapy machine for the cancer treatment department of the hospital.”

Of course, not all community support was in the form of cash – sometimes it was goods and time. This notice appeared in the paper on December 22, 1922. “Between 90 and 100 patients at RCH will receive tasteful little boxes packed with candies and fruit on Christmas morning from the women’s auxiliary to the hospital. Mrs. Wells A Gray thanks the public for its generous donation of the candies and fruit.”

There are wonderful descriptions of a wide variety of events held by the Auxiliary and others to support Royal Columbian Hospital throughout its 150 years. We’ll post others in the weeks and months to come.

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