By Shea Henry
Today, we can find and hear music in every aspect of our lives. We have it on our morning commutes, in movies, in stores, at restaurants, and even on the occasional bus. But music was not always so easy to get. In the early settler years, there were just a few ways to hear music.
You could hear the church organ or piano, but that was just on Sundays. And, after about 1900, you could purchase a gramophone and records – but both were expensive and difficult to get. You could also make your own music if you had your own instruments, which, like the gramophone, were expensive and hard to get. If you had your own instrument, and could play it (even badly) you would be roped into a local band to play at events, community gatherings and the local community hall.
For about 100 years of Maple Ridge history, the place to be on a Saturday night was the local community hall for music night. When people had their own instrument that was transportable, they would become part of a local band to play at any one of the local halls throughout Maple Ridge.
Even by the 1960s, the community halls were still the place to be for local music. Local bands like Bud Webb and the Outriders, the Nocturnals, The Harmony Boys, The Merrymakers, and so many more, all got their start playing at these local halls.
Each neighbourhood had its own community hall, which would often be built not long after settlement. In those early years, the hall was an important part of any community. It was a place where people could gather and socialize and share culture. Theatre troupes, both local and travelling, could perform. The halls could even become arenas for indoor sports like wrestling and gymnastics. They were an integral part to the well-being and culture of each community they served.
In Port Haney, the first municipal hall was built by local residents in 1892 as a venue for dances, performances of various kinds, and an agricultural fair. It wasn’t until many years later that it was sold to the municipality which held council meetings on the stage.
Several of these old halls are still standing.
Sampo Hall in Websters Corners was built in 1915 and would serve the community as a cultural space until 1984 when it was sold. The owners kept up the old building until their deaths. The hall still stands as a reminder of the strong community ties it represents, but is currently vacant and in need of upkeep.
Other still standing heritage community halls include the Ruskin Hall, built in 1924 after a fire destroyed the previous hall, and Thornhill hall built in 1961.
Gone but not forgotten are the original Albion hall (1923-2011), Hammond Hall (1921-1971), Japanese Hall in Whonnock (1926- 1947), Reedsdale Hall (1926-1988), and the first Whonnock Community Hall (1912-1977). Many of these spaces have been replaced by larger community centres, which continue to serve their communities in much the same way as their early counterparts.
Learn more about the history of music in Maple Ridge by visiting the Maple Ridge Museum and checking out the temporary exhibit Sounds Like History: Local Bands and Musicians of Maple Ridge Past on now through February 2020.
Shea Henry is curator at the Maple Ridge Museum and Archives.