This is a brief history of the club as told by Bill Van Keuren, a Veteran member of the club
During the 1920s there were a number of canoe clubs based along both shores of the Hudson River. Wanda was located near the intersection of rt 5 and River Road below the Palisades Amusement Park (now Winston Towers) near what is now the NY Waterways terminal. The club facility was a two story barge that may have once belonged to PSE&G. There was a boat storage area on the main deck and a meeting area above. The barge was silted in and was located where the dock could not be used at low tide. They had arranged with the Active Canoe Club, an Olympic racing club, in an adjacent barge to use their dock and built a walkway between them for use at low tide. The Wanda Canoe Club had only a few members at that time and they were mostly seniors.
Meanwhile the North Jersey Canoe Club had a facility at Von Dohln’s marina about ¾ mile up river had lost their facility possibly due to a dispute with the Von Dohln brothers. And it was decided that they would find a home at the Wanda Canoe Club. It was a merger but the Wanda name was retained. Over the near term the membership turned over and there was a disconnect with the origins of the Wanda Canoe Club and the meaning of the name was lost.
While Bill was in the army or a short time afterwards when he left the area the club lost its home due to a Fort Lee/Edgewater park being planned.
During that time the club tried to find another barge and had some success in Jersey City thanks to Harold Messerschmidt’s efforts, but the location was not satisfactory for a reason Bill does not know.
In 1966 Janice Welte’s dad was a Ridgefield Park Village Commissioner and the club got permission to erect the current building on Village DPW property behind the police pistol range. Three walls of the building and a roof were constructed by club members using the pistol range backstop as the fourth wall.
In response to questions Bill confirmed that the War Canoe we donated to the Philadelphia Canoe Club was a 9 man boat. He recalled an incident when a group paddled across the Hudson to visit Yonkers Canoe Club. On the way back it was getting dark when the wake from a commercial vessel swamped the boat. The made several attempts to empty the boat but finally had to swim to the Eastern shore of the river to empty it. Of course at that time PFDs were a rarity. He mentioned that 15 man war canoes were popular with other clubs.
Bill also mentioned sailing at Sugar Island and outlined the different classes.