|A clipping from Feb. 6, 1946 edition of The Progress tells how the local chapter of Toastmasters originally got its start after a presentation by the Vancouver club.<|
First started as a YMCA program in Illinois during the early 20th century, Toastmasters organizations soon began popping up across North America, with nearly 30 established by 1930. And in 1946, after eight members of the Vancouver group hosted a local demonstration, Harold Clark was named the president of Chilliwack’s first Toastmasters club—the sixth to form in B.C.
“Toastmasters teaches people to public speak, but not just in public,” said Ray Ramey, who’s the vice-president of public relations for the local chapter. “It helps people speak better at any time … and it helps with your writing, too.”
Since its modest beginnings in central Illinois, Toastmasters has always focused on personal growth through the development of exceptional communication skills.
Speaking “is a life skill and can improve things across the board,” said Ramey. “And it’s not just about the words, it’s a real confidence booster, too.”
But since seeing is believing, the Chilliwack Toastmasters group will be hosting an open house on the evening of Oct. 24, at the Mt. Cheam Lions Club Hall, starting at 7:15 p.m. That way, says Ramey, people can experience the joys of Toastmasters firsthand and hopefully be inspired to join like back in the 40s, only this time he hopes they stay longer.
And although it’s not quite known why, the original Chilliwack Toastmasters club dissolved somewhere along the line, with the current group rebooting in 1970, however, the fun didn’t stop when the original group did. In 1958, Chilliwack welcomed its first International Toastmistress Club, the female counterpart to Toastmasters, which was originally just for men.
“And they were such a busy group,” said Ramey of the Toastmistresses. “They were more on top of things than the guys: the ladies were always in the paper for something.”
Eventually, though, Toastmasters caught up with the times and gender segregation within the group went to the wayside, but instead of amalgamating, the Toastmistress organization renamed itself ITC—International Training in Communication—worldwide and continued its mission of helping members of any sex learn the art of public speaking, and the now co-ed Chilliwack Toastmasters Club also continued on with its similar mission.
“You don’t have to take a college course to learn how to public speak,” he continued. “It’s there and it’s fun. Toastmasters is like therapy!”
Ramey, a career mechanic and plow match champion, says he joined Toastmasters two years ago with his daughter, and in addition to the family bonding time, it became a great experience overall.
“It was really for my benefit to get better at speaking because I could be speaking to the mayor,” said Ramey. A lifelong member of the community, Ramey explained that because he’s a member of several social organizations, he’s often making presentations to groups of people, or even sometimes speaking with politicians.
“A month after we joined Toastmasters I gave a speech and it really helped me,” he said. “I loosened up and could look at (my audience) and speak to them and I’d never given a speech before to anybody.”
But beyond giving presentations, Ramey says Toastmasters can help a person learn how to run a meeting, use their words in a concise and exact manner, teaches them how to think quickly on their feet, and can improve memory.
Or, “what if you’re asked to deliver a speech at a wedding?” asked Ramey rhetorically. “Toastmasters (training) helps take away some of the scariness and pressure.”
The Chilliwack Toastmasters meet every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., at the Mt. Cheam Lions Club Hall (45580 Spadina Ave.). For more information, please visit Chilliwack.ToastmastersClubs.org, or telephone 604-824-8810.