Forty years ago, in 1969, one man had a vision to create a place where families could enjoy social nudism. It would lead to what became the most successful and longest running owner-operated nudist club in Canada. This is the story of Crocus Grove — the place and the people.
Leon Prucyk delivered papers for the Winnipeg Free Press. His pickup point had naturist magazines from Europe on display. Reading them gave him an interest in social nudism. He and his wife Evelyn and their children joined the local Manitoba Outdoor Club, whose members enjoyed swimming in the nude at a friend's lakeside cottage at Beaconia beach. Passing motorboats eventually made this difficult to enjoy au naturel so Leon decided to look for something more suitable. He dreamed of a place close to where he lived and worked in Winnipeg where families could go to enjoy social nudism, so he began to plan how to realize that dream.
In 1969, after a lot of searching, Leon found a 60 acre heavily wooded property on a high sandy ridge with pine trees bowing in the wind, the fresh scent of pine in the air and squirrels running about. It was an hour's drive north of Winnipeg. The trees provided a good screen from curious eyes and there was an all weather sand trail road.
An Executive was formed to run the Club with Leon. Everyone worked together. The Executive held meetings, set policies and planned events. In later years, it also handled some media communications.
In June of 1969, Leon applied for a charter for Crocus Grove Sun Club, with Sunny Chinooks acting as the sponsor. In August of that year the American Association for Nude Recreation (then called the American Sunbathing Association, or ASA), granted the Prucyks a charter for their clothing-optional club.
By 1971, Leon and John S. had cut a road all the way into the property and a fence had been erected to keep out curiosity seekers and wandering livestock from neighbouring farms. Ivan helped Leon dig a well by hand. There was a toilet and the beginnings of a volleyball court. Members pooled their money and purchased a 24-foot diameter above-ground pool.
1971 saw electricity introduced to the grounds. A pool filter and an electric pump were installed, which eliminated the hours of hand pumping required to fill the above-ground pool. It also provided drinking water. Plans were made to recruit new members and for the construction of more facilities. People pitched in to dig a line to the areas without running water. Leon supplied the pipes and members who wanted water for their lots did the work of laying that line.
One member, Carl, was a first year apprentice bricklayer so he worked on the construction of the first building on the grounds, the sauna building, in 1973. Leon supplied the materials and some of the other members lent a hand with the construction, working in the hot summer sun mixing mortar and laying cement blocks. It was the Club's fourth year.
In 1976 an in-ground pool replaced the above-ground one. It was a big project that saw practically everyone take a turn at helping in one way or another.
In the spring of 1977, while they were in Winnipeg shopping, Leon and Evelyn's cottage was stuck by lightening and burned to the ground. They rebuilt it that summer. The clubhouse was constructed at the same time and had a dining room, second floor lounge and small kitchen.
Membership was growing and ads were placed in a local newspaper advertising the clothing-optional resort. Over the years, Crocus Grove Sun Club has been written about in local newspapers and visited by television crews. Stories have appeared on local supper hour news, interviews have been on radio stations and articles have been written in the Winnipeg Sun and Winnipeg Free Press. A French radio station from Winnipeg even sent a reporter out to do a story. Crocus Grove was accepted by both the public and the media.
Crocus Grove's family-oriented atmosphere and affordable rates attracted many families, and the shouts and laughter of children enjoying the pool or children's play area could be heard echoing throughout the campground on sunny summer days.
The laid back atmosphere was interspersed with a wide range of social activities: pot luck suppers, camp fire sing-alongs, nude Olympics, the annual chili cook off, games nights, cribbage tournaments, wine and cheese, an annual Irish party, theme dances, wiener and corn roasts and of course, volleyball. Volleyball has remained a passion with the membership. Trophies have been won for volleyball tournaments at AANR and WCANR (now AANR Western Canadian Region) conventions and are displayed in the clubhouse.
Other sports that have become part of life at Crocus Grove include badminton, mini golf, croquet, horseshoes, and shuffleboard. There's also table tennis and a recent addition, Bocce ball. Ladder golf was introduced a few years ago by Harry and is slowly gaining attention.
The long, cold Manitoba winters don't prevent members from getting together. In recent years a bowling night, a roast beef dinner evening and a February breakfast have been planned and were very well attended. Volleyball at a local community center has been added. Unfortunately, all events are textile but they enable people to stay connected until spring.
Crocus Grove Sun Club is full of interesting people. Each person contributes to the club's atmosphere and spirit in some unique way. For forty years, people from diverse backgrounds have come together at Crocus Grove to enjoy the nudist lifestyle with its many benefits while engaging in sports and social activities. Over the years, members have come and gone. Some have moved on to other interests while others have died, yet each one has brought something to Crocus Grove that has helped make it the special place that it is.
After a long struggle with cancer, Leon died in 2005. The loss of the club's founder and champion of nudism was a very difficult time for all. A co-op was formed with the intention of buying the campground from Evelyn. However, funding goals proved to be too difficult to complete that model of ownership. In 2006, members Ray and Sue took a hard look at what they could do to keep nudism alive in Manitoba. They came forward and made an offer to purchase, which was accepted. It was their intention to keep the campground a clothing-optional community.
Crocus Grove Sun Club has survived two fires, the death of its founder, a failed attempt at becoming a co-op and the sale of the property. It has shown the power of a dream and what people can accomplish when they work together.
Our history is about crocuses and buildings, but that's only part of the story. Our history is also about the community that we've built over forty years. Over those years, Crocus Grove Sun Club has shown the strength and beauty of community through a group of people who have lived the nudist philosophy of acceptance, tolerance and care for each other. What Crocus Grove expresses so well in its members is also part of our history and what we celebrate today.
Sadly, this man's dream came to an abrupt end in April of 2010 when the couple who had purchased the original property from his widow in 2006 unexpectedly closed it to nudist use.
With its members now suddenly left without a home, Crocus Grove Sun Club's executive board immediately held an emergency brainstorming session from which emerged the concept that would become Naturist Legacy Inc. Modeled after a land trust (also known as a land conservancy), this new private non-profit corporation would own and manage land in such a way that both the land's natural heritage and our right to enjoy it as nudists would be preserved in perpetuity.
Crocus Grove Sun Club officially evolved into Naturist Legacy Inc. on September 11, 2010. New property was purchased shortly thereafter. With a new board of directors, new governing documents and an entirely new attitude towards business management, Naturist Legacy has become the steward of landed social nudism in Manitoba. Created and operated by and for nudists, this new corporation will own, develop and care for its land while permanently protecting it for family-friendly nudist use.
Naturist Legacy exists today because of the sheer tenacity of a small and determined group of dedicated nudists unwilling to relinquish their cherished way of life, or to let the dream of Crocus Grove's founder fade away. In the face of undeserved adversity, they devised a business model that has earned them a new home of their own and achieved a level of permanency for their nudism that was heretofore unknown.
We invite you to learn more about Naturist Legacy by visiting our new Web site.
SOURCE: This article originally appeared on the Crocus Grove Sun Club website (no longer maintained by Naturist Legacy Inc.). Read the full History Of Crocus Grove Sun Club (PDF).