Van-Tan ClubVan-Tan Club in 1939 — to-day, Canada’s oldest nude organization. However, the Connetts (rhymes with CADETS) soon became critical of the club’s secrecy. They dreamed of a social nudist club that could provide indoor activities during the winter and do so sans the clandestine of backwoods locations or underground publications. Ray and Mildred wanted to bring to Canada a respectful public view of organize nude recreation based on successful clubs in the United Kingdom and United States. They observed that with tactful publicity and good neighbour policies, gaining acceptance and membership would prove successful.
As with many dreams of that era, theirs were put on hold as the effects of The Depression and a looming war shifted priorities. Ray, like many patriotic Canadian men, enlisted in the Army in the summer of 1939 whilst Mildred kept the home-fire burning. After signalman’s training on Vancouver’s Tower Beach — his first exposure to Wreck Beach — Ray went to Ontario’s CFB Camp Borden and the Royal Military College before shipping to England in 1941. He eventually served active duty in Italy where he found time for nudism in the fields, hills and beaches of Italy, and urged his fellow soldiers to keep their freedom from inhibition alive after the War. “My experience abroad strengthened a determination to see nudism grow in strength and power in Canada,” Ray commented years later.
Sunny Trails ClubSunny Trails Club on the cleared grounds of a 42-acre paddock just east of Vancouver. In keeping with their philosophy, the Connetts and other members routinely met with chambers of commerce, city hall, local school PTAs and even the RCMP to properly define nudism and introduce the club in the most positive light. Once the Surrey Municipal Council had debated its legitimacy, they cheerfully granted Sunny Trails with a legal and above-board endorsement.
Glen Eden Sun ClubOlive Dell Ranch in the hills above Colton, California, where they sought to find enough land to establish another nudist club. From their base camp, they were joined by real estate agent and nudist Cliff Kennedy in investigating every available parcel. Then, at an abandoned 90-acre olive ranch alongside Indian Truck Trail at the foot of Santiago Peak in Temescal Canyon, Ray and Mildred’s quest was realized — and, in 1963, the property for Glen Eden Sun Club was purchased at $300 an acre (additional land purchases over the years would bring the sun club’s area to its current 150 acres).
The Retirement YearsAmerican Sunbathing Association and later American Association for Nude Recreation. Ray also made a few public appearances on behalf of nudism, most notably his appearance on Donahue in 1994. All the while, Mildred’s heath was deteriorating from Alzheimer's disease to point she was moved to a nearby nursing home. Nonetheless, Ray would bring her to the club several times a week to soothe her aching joints in the spa.
The Connetts had a profound impact of nudism in both their native Canada as well as their adopted United States. At a time when the very idea of social nudity was viewed as subversive, Ray and Mildred sallied forth with their very public promotions. Simply, they knew that sun clubs would not grow and prosper if they stayed in the shadows.
Van-Tan Club, which they helped found in 1939, continues as the oldest Canadian nudist organization. Their rustic three hectare private park still stands above North Vancouver for the enjoyment of social nudism. The club also sponsors year-’round nude swims nights in conjunction with two other local clubs and maintain a Facebook page for updated information.Tynehead Park forced the membership to seek new lands. After the Liberal Party mayor blocked the club’s rezoning proposal on a twelve hectare parcel near the southern border, STC remained at the original property until they were able to purchase a dilapidated trailer park in Fraser Valley’s Lake Errock area. To-day, Sunny Trails is essentially a non-landed club, still associated with FCN and AANR but the campground went textile to keep from going bankrupt.
Glen Eden Sun Club is now marketed as Glen Eden Nudist Resort — with the public use of NUDIST perhaps in homage to Ray and Mildred’s blunt honesty. The non-profit 501(c)7 membership club has developed into one of Southern California’s favourite nudist destinations. Since its opening in 1963, Glen Eden has seen several expansions to its permanent residences with a new area being graded in early 2012.Western Nudist Research Library. The interior was gutted and renovated to provide a centralized location for collecting, preserving and displaying materials related to the origin and development of the American Social Nudist movement. To have such a facility housed in their old residence surely has the Connetts looking upon their lives’ work with satisfaction.