Friday, September 21, 2018

Cyprian Fernandes: The Vanishing Tribe: Westend Seniors Club turns 40


In a parallel universe a human being would be dubbed as “over the hill” at forty. But the analogy does not apply to the Westend Seniors’ Club that has just reached that milestone and can still hold its head up high and give its members undiminished satisfaction.

Plumbing the depths of its physiognomy one finds that the club traces its origins to July 1977.  Yes, the Goan Overseas Association (Toronto) was already an up and coming entity since 1970, but it essentially catered to the needs of the middle-aged and its offerings were mainly successful periodic  dinner-dances for all and sundry.  But an important component was missing. Goans being a gregarious lot, older members of the community felt isolated in a sense for not meeting compatriots more often and shooting the breeze or indulging in card games, bingo, sing-songs and other forms of entertainment and good fellowship.  Distance, the weather, lack of proper transportation and premises were dominant factors in inhibiting any meaningful resurgence from the prevailing void. But the persistence of a handful of determined seniors led to an embryo that established a local chapter of the mother-house to keep the home fires burning in the west end of Toronto.  The pioneers were:

   Dionysius Almeida
   Felix Almeida      
   Louisa Anderson      
   Laurie Correia
   Robert &
   Eugene Coutts    
   Frank &
   Virgie D’Souza   
   Vincent &
   Freda D’Souza
   Joe &
   Flora Dias     
   Seby &
   Judith D’Sa     
Lily D’Silva    
Pulcheria D’Souza
Cyril &
Mabel Falcao             
Jovito Sequeira

The club started out as the “Seniors’ Club” until the advent of the Eastend Seniors’ Club, at which time prudence dictated the new nomenclature of Westend Seniors’ Club.  The basement of Christ the King Church in Etobicoke was the gathering place for several years until the needs of the church found the club scrambling to find an alternative venue.  Thanks to the Etobicoke Mayor of the day, the Fairfield Community Centre became the club’s new home on July 13, 1983, and it continues to enjoy Etobicoke’s hospitality on Fridays, to this day.  As membership grew, and the fire-code at Fairfield restricted attendance to 120, the club held its dinner dances for larger occasions at the Vic Johnson arena in Streetsville. Later it was found more expedient to have the larger functions at banquet halls.

Fast-forward to the latter part of the club’s life and one finds that its offerings grew to embrace snooker, bridge, “trouk”, carom, line-dancing, bingo, travel and inter-club picnics.  Thrown in the mix are the contributed or purchased snacks that members enjoy when they meet on Fridays.  All-in-all the friendly atmosphere makes for a congenial setting in a vibrant entity.  Yes, we may as “birds of a feather” congregate in clusters, but this in no way suggests anti-social tendencies.  In all cultures people keep closest to the ones know best but remain ever-willing to join hands with everybody.  In our collective narrative let us remember that despite our diverse backgrounds we are one at heart.   When all is said and done it must be recognized that the front-line workers and those who toil behind the scenes are the ones who have really been responsible for our wellbeing over the last four decades.  With a little tweaking of some of our internal procedures and checks and balances the club will remain viable for years to come, even if not all of us are around that long.

Modesty apart, Darrel Carvalho must be singled out for special recognition for skillfully editing, cobbling, collating and putting forth quality newsletters and brochures for the club for the last number of years.

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