The steps of the Bon Accord Community Centre have shrunk and the glass-block entrance of the frame-and stucco structure is not as impressive as it used to be. The hall opened September 19, 1947 and celebrates its 74th birthday this month.
The Brotherhood of American Yeoman built the first Bon Accord hall in 1915; this organization is infamous for its 1916 Yeoman’s Picnic which gave most of the attendees severe food poisoning. The Bon Accord Women’s Institute bought the hall in 1927 and took over its management. They bought a dust pan and broom as their first purchase. By 1945 the little hall needed major repairs, and the W.I. called a public meeting to ask for help in fundraising. Finally someone said, “Let’s just build a new one”. The W.I. gave their old hall to the newly established Community Centre Board who sold it for $200.00 to Earl Chubb who donated the lumber from the old hall for the stage in the new one. Popular subscription raised the rest of the funds through selling the glass blocks at the entrance for ten dollars each. The names of the buyers were supposed to be etched onto the bricks with hydrofluoric acid.
John V. Milligan, who was 11 at the time the hall was built, tells me that this action was postponed until the blocks were already in place. At that point the would-be “etchers” suggested that it would be difficult, even dangerous, to etch the names on the blocks at this point. The buyers received paper copies of their shares instead. Number 251, my shareholder certificate was issued when I was three months old.
Some people donated as much as five hundred dollars to the hall fund. Fifteen local citizens signed notes in order to complete the incorporation of the Bon Accord Community Centre Limited. In February, 1946, the charter was received and eighty shareholders elected seven directors to serve on the Hall Board. Chair of the Board Peter Kowalski, secured an architect named Dorash to design the hall, and the former tennis court property was chosen for the site. Tenders were called in April of 1947 and the hall was sufficiently completed by September to put on a dinner for three hundred people in the basement and a dance for six hundred upstairs.
Five experienced carpenters were hired for one week, but otherwise, the work was all volunteer, with every available man in the area finding time between getting the crop in and haying to come and work at the hall. When funds ran short, community members loaned money interest-free. Women made coffee and cooked meals for the workers morning and afternoon and sometimes evening.
The oak hardwood floor was a challenge – no one knew how to lay it properly. Finally Mr. Cardiff, househusband of one of the senior high school teachers, took on the job. According to John, “”Mr. Cardiff proved to be very difficult to work with and installed most of the floor alone. It took a very long time and he was quick to rip up anything installed by others that didn’t meet his standards. I guess he did a good job, since it is still there.”
The Bon Accord Ladies Community Club formed in May of 1946 with the express purpose to fundraise for the Community Centre building fund. At first they turned over the money they raised to the Hall Board to be spent at the board’s discretion. A rift occurred; perhaps the all-male Hall Board had neglected something the all-female Community Club thought was important. At any rate, the Community Club soon took charge of spending its own money.
In 1966 the hall was declared completed with all liabilities finally paid off. For twenty years it had brought in Saturday night movies for 25 cents including “Bambi” and “Gone With the Wind” and hosted Thanksgiving and pancake suppers, 4-H Achievement Days and countless weddings and dances. It’s long been eclipsed in use by the Bon Accord Arena.
The Alberta Fiftieth Jubilee photograph taken on the steps of the Bon Accord Community Centre shows people who had been in the Bon Accord District more than 50 years in 1955. Some of the names include Bland, Carleton, Chubb, Demers, Everitt, Hewitt, Kilarski, Kowalski, Lewis, Magera, Melick, Milligan, Mulligan, Nahirnak, Neilson, Rigney, Whittaker, Woywitka – descendants of many of these pioneers still live in the Bon Accord area. Not to mention three Bon Accord school children who appear in the upper corner of the photo.
Leaves of Yesteryear: A History of the Bon Accord district. Compiled by Jean Chubb and Hilda Milligan, 1967-69.
Interview with John V. Milligan, 11 August, 2011.