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The Verdun Auditorium was born during a dark and uncertain period in the 20th century: the Great Depression of the 1930s. Who didn’t suffer from those times? The city of Verdun was one of the many victims! Mostly working class, its population was hit very hard by this depression. In 1933, nearly 30% of Verdunites were unemployed and desperately looking for work. Fortunately, the various levels of government and the municipalities decided to offer assistance in the form of direct relief to the cities, and set up public works programs to provide the residents with employment.

Black-and-white photo showing a group of 33 workers, some seated, others standing, in front of the steel structure of a building under construction. Only the steel structure and a brick wall can be seen.

Bricklayers at the site of the Verdun Auditorium in 1939

 

In the summer of 1938, Verdun received $500,000 from the provincial government to start construction on two large-scale projects aimed at meeting residents’ sports and recreational needs: an outdoor swimming pool and an arena. That is how the Verdun Auditorium was born!

The work involved in building the Auditorium was carried out very quickly. The groundbreaking ceremony was held in September 1938. Two months later, the foundations were already completed. The City suddenly steps up the work pace by forming a night shift. Why? England’s royal couple, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, were scheduled to visit Canada in the spring of 1939. Verdun wanted so much to be included in their itinerary, to welcome them in high style at the Auditorium! As it turned out, the royal couple didn’t make a stop in Verdun; however, the hopes of such a visit had prompted the City to complete the construction of the Auditorium faster than originally planned.

Black-and-white photo of a building construction site, taken from a distance, where about ten men are working on the floor of the building.

Construction of the Verdun Auditorium

 

Once the construction was finished, the Auditorium quickly opened to the public. Verdunites could at last try out the facilities, especially the skating rink.

Black-and-white photo of the inside of an arena, where we see a skating rink surrounded by empty stands, as well as hockey nets at each end of the ice surface with flags flying overhead.

The rink at the Auditorium, all ready to welcome its first skaters

 

Thursday, November?9, 1939, was the big day! For the first time in the Auditorium’s history, hockey players set foot on its rink. A few days later, on Tuesday, November?14, 1939, the Auditorium heard its first whistle-blowing at the very first official hockey game. Its official inauguration took place on November?28, 1939 when the local team, the Verdun Bulldogs, faced the Québec City Beavers. Guess who won that game by a score of 5-3?