Our history begins on June 16th, 1960 when eleven charter members founded the Ukrainian Professional and Businessmen’s Club to create friendships and a sense of community among Ukrainian Canadians in our city and give support to various business endeavours. As the name infers, this early club was open to males only! (Women were introduced eighteen years later and we may have been the first affiliate in Canada to have opened the doors.) Among others, the major goals of the Businessmen’s Club were to encourage and promote Ukrainian studies in Canada “in order to acquaint fellow Canadians with Ukrainian history, culture, traditions and achievements” and to encourage its members to “materially support and individually participate in the work of the Christian Church”.
The club originally met at the St. Louis Hotel, which was then owned by member John Starchuk. There was some debate as to whether the club might function as a benevolent club or a social club; the primary motivation was for Ukrainians in Calgary to meet and exchange their common concerns. The meals which were served were hearty Ukrainian meals. Quickly, the membership jumped to twenty-two and eventually outgrew the banquet room of the St. Louis Hotel. It then moved to the Westward Inn (owned by a club member), and through several other locations, finally to the Elbow River Lodge (again, owned by a club member). Five years after the club’s inception, there were 85 members.
The purpose of Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Businessmen’s Clubs in Canada was being deeply pondered in the early seventies. As a result, a few major changes occurred in 1978: women were allowed membership in the club and it declared its non-political and non-religious character. The name of the society was changed to the Ukrainian Professional & Business Club of Calgary.
In 1982, then-President Joe Gonis placed an ad in the Calgary Herald, inviting fellow Ukrainians to come to a Club dinner-meeting; the membership instantly doubled! Not long after that, at the Tradewinds Hotel, sixty-two Ukrainians met for the monthly dinner meeting – the highest recorded attendance for dinner meetings for the time. It was because of that ad that many of our present longtime members first became aware of the club’s existence.
The late 80’s brought a second identity crisis for the UPBC of Calgary: public interest waned, membership numbers dropped significantly (only 30 or so people remained), and the club was considering closing permanently. In June 1990, the Executive Committee sent out a desperate letter to club members on the subject of folding its activities. UCPC’s registration with Alberta Consumer and Customer Affairs had expired by mid-1988 and renewal was not on the agenda for the next 18 months.