History of the CAW Family Education Centre
In the 1950s, the former Region 7 of the Canadian UAW first explored the idea of an education facility for Canadian union members. The Centre would offer education programs, and hold Council and other leadership meetings. Since August was a slow period for classes and meetings, the plan was to reserve this time for vacationers.
A committee was struck to find a suitable site for such a union facility, and in 1956 they discovered the Gobleholm Lodge, a 12-1/2 acre site on the shores of Lake Huron, one mile south of Port Elgin, Ontario. It was described in the following way:
The lodge is frame construction and well painted, with a plastered interior. The main lodge has a natural field stone fireplace, office, two dining rooms which seat over 75, 16 rooms and four baths. There are 10 or 12 cabins with two double beds and a two-piece bath in each.
In September 1956, the Canadian District Council authorized the purchase of the property and it was officially bought for $37,000 on December 15 of that year. The purchase money came from local unions that contributed one dollar per member. To conduct needed renovations, the Council sold raffle tickets - 50 cents each or three for a dollar. The ongoing expenses of the Centre would be covered by an assessment of one cent per member. The official opening of the Centre was the weekend of June 22-23, 1957. The Complex was named in honour of the Canadian Director of the U.A.W. (1939-1968), George Burt
Over the years, education programs gained increasing importance in the union. The negotiation of Paid Education Leave programs beginning in the late 1970s rapidly expanded the development of education and the use of the education Centre. Additional frame buildings were added, winterized and repaired.
By the mid-1980s, the Centre was badly in need of significant upgrading. The Canadian Auto Workers union had gained independence by this time, and could now make decisions on its own about the future of the Centre. After extensive debate at the September, 1986 CAW Council meeting, delegates voted overwhelmingly to turn the Centre over to the National Union so that it could be rebuilt entirely on the Port Elgin site. This decision has meant the creation of a unique education facility that will serve union activists, leaders, and their families, for a long time to come.
Officially opened on October 1, 1988, the new CAW Family Education Centre is now a year-round, 47-acre site combining the best of a natural woodland setting and state-of-the-art technology. For CAW members and their families, as well as others who use the facilities, it is an exceptional environment for reflection, discussion and recreation.