The Kiwanis Tea Room at Willows Beach will be celebrated with a cake cutting and a new plaque dedication on Saturday.
The current two-storey tea room was constructed in 1949 and follows a lineage of the original beach side tea rooms at Willows (previously Oak Bay Park) by several decades.
To commemorate the 70th birthday of the Kiwanis Willows Tea Room, Rob Taylor of Oak Bay Heritage will lead a heritage walk at 10 a.m. from the tea room. The brief walk returns to the tea room at 10:45 a.m. for an 11 a.m. plaque dedication (sponsored by Telus) and a cake cutting featuring Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
“It was Murdoch’s grandfather on Oak Bay council in 1948 who made the motion to build the tea room at Willows,” said Janet Morningstar, the director and media chair for the Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay.
“Think about the thousands of people who’ve grown up eating hotdogs from the Tea Room, spending their days at Willows Beach,” said Taylor. “There’s not many people who can remember Willows before the Kiwanis Tea Room was here.”
In July 1947, Oak Bay Kiwanis built a ‘hut’ at Willows Beach. By the following year it made over $700 in net profits, all donated for youth recreational facilities. In 1949, the club built the current tea room which continues to be the main source of revenue. The celebration is a partnership of the Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay, the Community Association of Oak Bay, the Mayor of Oak Bay, Oak Bay Heritage and Telus PureFiber, Morningstar said.
The Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay was founded in 1947 and one of the club’s first initiatives was to build a tea room at Willows Beach. The club formed of businessmen and contractors was encouraged by the bank and councillors of Oak Bay.
Originally, Allen’s Tea Rooms, the earlier tea room building, stood about 100 yards along the beach from the current Kiwanis Tea Room, about two houses past where the washrooms and playground are. It was built in 1916 and closed circa 1945.
Women, of course, couldn’t join the Kiwanis men’s club until 1995, a fact Morningstar still finds surprising. Nonetheless, many women did work hard behind the scenes either preparing, planning or selling for Kiwanis.
Today, the building stands as an icon in Oak Bay, a piece of heritage, Morningstar said.
“It is a time anchor, and it will stay that way,” she said.
Over the last two decades Kiwanis Club has opened the Tea Room and served up hotdogs and fries and other fast foods in addition to tea and sandwiches. The cozy tearoom often provides a much-needed refuge from the ocean breeze, even on a sunny July evening. It is open April to September and proceeds fund many community projects and not-for-profits in Oak Bay and Greater Victoria. In 2018, Kiwanis of Oak Bay donated $60,000 to charities in Oak Bay and Victoria, and Kiwanis Pavilion Foundation raised over $100,000 for the Kiwanis Pavilion.
Among the Kiwanis Club initiatives are the Kiwanis Pavilion at 3034 Cedar Hill Rd., a 122-room residential care facility serving frail seniors and seniors who live with dementia. Kiwanis of Oak Bay also supports Kiwanis Manor at 1075 Milton St. in Oak Bay, a 69-room residence for low-income seniors. As well, Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay operates the 70-unit supportive housing unit for seniors called Rose Manor at 857 Rupert Terrace Rd.