About the SSSC
In the late fall of 1877, a group of leading citizens of Sherbrooke met at the Magog House, a notable hotel in the heart of the city, with the purpose of forming a snowshoe club. Their aim was to create an organization open to all based on the sport of snowshoeing, a sport that at the time, like now, was the epitome of physical winter recreation. They wanted to initiate a fraternity that embraced clean, healthy exercise in an atmosphere of fellowship and sportsmanship.
For more than a decade, the club continued to congregate at the Magog House for its meetings, and as a starting point for 'tramps' or hikes out into the countryside. Then in 1888, the SSSC acquired its own property on the outskirts of the city in the Township of Orford. This location, now well within city limits, incorporates the present site where an initial clubhouse was erected, complete with a brick fireplace. As membership and activities increased over the succeeding decades, a number of additions were added to the original structure.
The club that was started so long ago is still in operation today. In the fall of 2015, the club inaugerated its 139th season. As such, it is believed to be the oldest, continuously operating snowshoe club in the world. Since the late 1800s, other clubs have come and gone, with as many as seven other snowshoe clubs having existed in the city. Of these Sherbrooke-based clubs, the SSSC was the first to appear and today is the only one to survive. It was, and is, the only English-oriented club, and in the past, participated with all the francophone clubs in the various winter carnivals and sporting competitions held in the city. With respect to the latter, the SSSC enjoyed especially close ties with the Tuque Rouge, often hosting one another year after year, complete with 'tramps' to one another's clubhouse through the streets of the city.
In addition to being the oldest and only surviving snowshoe club in the city, newspaper reports from the early 1900s indicated that the SSSC was the oldest sports organization in Sherbrooke. Given its continuous operation since then, the claim still holds true today.
At the current time, there are approximately 60 active members. The club's season runs from mid November until the end of February, with meetings held every Wednesday evening. Notwithstanding the short season, there are a number of activities held throughout the year. As from the beginning, the organization is essentially a men's club. That said, women are an integral part of the club, with special evenings each season dedicated to the wives and associates of members. As well, there are events held from time to time that are family oriented including a sugar-on-snow party in March or April, a large garage sale in June, and a barbecue in September.
Claim to Fame
The SSSC acknowledges the fact that it is not the oldest snowshoe club to have been formed. There were many clubs formed in the latter half of the nineteenth century, some undoubtedly before 1877 when the SSSC was established. The grand-daddy of all clubs was the Montreal Snow Shoe Club which dates back to 1840. There are even one or two clubs that were contemporaries of the SSSC which are still in existence, if in name only. However, these clubs' operation were not continuous (with lapses for the Great Depression and/or the two World Wars, for example) or were subject to changes in the nature of their activities, with some morphing into multi-sport organizations. The SSSC, on the other hand, has been in continuous operation since 1877, year after year, and remains devoted to the sport of snowshoeing to the present day. Thus it is the claim of the SSSC to be the oldest, continuously-operating snowshoe club in the world!
Within the SSSC, there are a number of subgroups or parties which were formed as a result of shared interests. These include the White Knights, the Red Party, the Snow-Walkers and Trampers, the Blue Party and the Memphremagog Party.
The White Knights are made up of members who serve the evening meal at regualar weekly meetings and Saturday night events. As a condition of membership, new members were at one time obligated to serve one full season as a Knight before being allowed to dine with the regular membership. The club's archives do not reveal when the group was formed, though likely it dates back to the post war era. The group's name is derived from the white bus-boy jackets that are worn during meal service. Once a year the White Knights take over the head table, for a well earned rest as the presiding executive takes up their task of serving the evening meal.
The Red Party is likely the oldest subgroup in the club. It first appeared on the scene in the early 1920s as an enclave of members willing to undertake projects of a physical nature and as a means of keeping the executive of the club 'on the straight and narrow'. During its first few decades of existence, it was the latter 'raison d'etre' that gained it a degree of noteriety with its constant and sometimes uncontrolled opposition to officers of the club. By mid century, however, the group's attitude changed, perhaps due to the evolution of members among its ranks. Henceforth, the critical opposition to authority so prevalent in the past, was replaced by activity that might be characterized as outlandish and prone to pranksterism. The party's poularity increased as a consequence and for many decades had its own designated night during the season. The party even published its own inhouse newsletter entitled 'The Red Party Echo', though it was shortlived.
The glory years for the party were the decades of the late 1900s. Today, its membership has declined and its influence on club activites decreased.
In the 1970s, a new group was formed, known as the Blue Party. This group arose in response to the wild, and sometimes uncontrolled antics of their Red Party counterparts. The party's goals were more altruistic, more sedate and aimed at doing good deeds for the benefit of the club and its membership. Its greatest legacy has been the annual auction night it initiated and which has been maintained down to the present day. Based on donations of new and lightly used items, as well as homemade food items and handicrafts, the yearly event has garnered a small but notable income for the club.
The party faltered in the decades around the turn of the century (though the auction continued unabated), its membership dropping to one sole individual. The party has rebounded in recent years however and is currently the most dominant and active subgroup.
The snow walkers and trampers represent the group of individuals within the club who are the most physically active and include members from all the other subgroups. It is made of those members who undertake a set level of activity, be it walking or tramping, every evening before meetings. It is this group that maintains the dedication to the sport of snowshoeing, by its weekly tramps and its organization of family-oriented annual tramps in the countryside. Once every season, the lead tramper, that is, the club's captain, and his associates take over control of the weekly meeting, assuming management of the proceedings and responsibility for the entertainment.
The Memphremagog Party is the newest group to appear among the SSSC membership. As the name would suggest, the members of the party all hail from a specific area of the Townships, notably the city of Magog and/or the environs surrounding Lake Memphremagog. It is barely a year old, having completed its first season, of which it assumed the task of providing the entertainment for one of the meetings. In so doing, it raised a sizeable donation for a local educational program.
The club's season consists of 13 Wednesday night meetings spread over the period from mid November till the end of February, with a break over the Christmas holidays. Each meeting is usually assigned a special theme or a specific form of entertainment at a planning session held in September.
In addition to the Wednesday night meetings there are usually four Saturday night events to which the ladies and associates of members are invited. On occasion, ladies are also invited to certain regular weekly meetings when the theme or entertainment might be of interest to them.
The club's first uniforms were typical of the era, consisting of white-coloured blanket cloth which soon proved unpractical for tramps in the woods. The jackets soiled easily and became unsightly. The club consequently switched to a fawn-coloured version which became the mainstay for decades. This second generation uniform remained in vogue throughout the first half of the 20th century after which its use was discontinued. The abandonment of this style of outerwear coincided with the cessation of operations of many snowshoe clubs in the city beginning in the 1950s.
For a full colour representation of this jacket and more information, please refer to the 'Special' page.
While the uniforms were employed as outerwear, they were nevertheless inappropriate for indoor use. As a result, the club decided in 1909 to adopt brightly coloured red dinner jackets for use at meetings and dinner service. These red jackets which offer a semblance of formal proceedings and decorum, are still in use today.