The Meraloma Club’s senior rugby team, 1928–1929. Courtesy of the Meraloma Club.

Vancouver’s 98-Year-Old Sports Club Started With a Team of Male Mermaids

If you’ve ever been to the Connaught Park clubhouse in Kitsilano, you may have wondered which team’s robust photo collection adorns its walls. Founded in 1923, the amateur athletic club now known as Meraloma boasts an enduring, and evolving, legacy. With the park’s fields now restored, the club is planning its 100th anniversary celebrations for 2023, even as it adheres to current health regulations. In this story from our Winter 2011 issue, we look back at how far the Meraloma Club has come.

In 1923, Kitsilano beach was the go-to gathering place for a dozen competitive male swimmers who whiled away countless summer hours along its shores. The young athletes dubbed themselves the Mermaids, but soon found that a name change was needed in formal competition to clarify that they weren’t a women-only team. Thus the Meraloma Club was born, a name cobbled together from the group’s original moniker and the Greek letters alpha and omega to denote “Mermaids, first, last and always.”

Nearly 100 years of Meraloma Club history is interwoven with that of Vancouver. Firmly entrenched in the roots of Kitsilano’s social fabric, the club survived the bleak years of the Great Depression and the Second World War, along with the vicissitudes of political and economic change.

Since 1945, the venerable Connaught Park field house has served as the Meralomas’ social hub. Extensive restoration and renovation undertaken by club members in the mid-seventies led to its designation as an award-winning heritage building in 1981. Its walls and display cases are lined with countless team photographs, trophies and plaques, an archival testament to the club’s legacy of success.

The Meraloma roster of competitive sports quickly diversified, fluctuating over the decades to meet the needs of its membership. Today, Meralomas participate in cricket, soccer, field hockey, fast pitch and basketball in addition to rugby, the club’s elemental sport.

“We have about 700 active members, both male and female, ranging in age from five to 75,” former club president Drew Sagar told us in 2011. “We’re essentially the only athletic club in Canada that offers such a broad range of sports from cradle to grave, so to speak.”

Meraloma Club

Meraloma football players in the late 1930s. Courtesy of the Meraloma Clubhouse.

Yet true Meraloma spirit surpasses a member’s performance on the field, as exemplified by Sagar himself. A former rugby, cricket and soccer player for the Meralomas, he considers it an honour to give back to the sports, the club, and the community that nurtured him during his years as a competitive athlete.

“We’re a collection of unique individuals who have become a family, and there’s a huge network of club members who put in a tremendous amount of time volunteering so that young athletes can have the same opportunities we did.”

Meraloma Club House in Kitsilano

Meraloma Club House, Kitsilano, circa 1930. Photo by Stuart Thomson, courtesy of the Vancouver Archives.

“We think we’ve got something pretty special, pretty valuable to the community,” Sagar says. He hopes the Meraloma Club’s sporting tradition will carry for years to come, fuelled by the dedication and continued involvement of its members. In the words of the club motto: “Once a Meraloma, always a Meraloma.”

This article from our archives was originally published on December 12, 2011, and updated on April 12, 2021. Read more Community stories. 

Post Date:

April 12, 2021