Cherie Strangward outside Ruskin Community Hall on Thursday. Celebrate the hall’s anniversary on Saturday

Cherie Strangward outside Ruskin Community Hall on Thursday. Celebrate the hall’s anniversary on Saturday

Ruskin Community Hall turns 90 or 92

There’s a bit of confusion about when the Ruskin Community Hall in Maple Ridge actually first opened its doors

Cherie Strangward calls it an “old girl,” maybe one that’s seen better days, but still hanging in there at 90 years old, or maybe it’s 92 or 94.

There’s a bit of confusion about when the Ruskin Community Hall actually first opened its doors at the east end of 284th Avenue, because it burned down once and was rebuilt and the dates of its rebuild or reopening are a bit fuzzy.

Looking Back columnist Fred Braches wrote recently that Nelson S. Lougheed officially opened the building on Friday, Oct. 10, 1924, but notes that a heritage plaque from the Maple Ridge Community Heritage Commission shows the year 1923.

And he cites stories from the Gazette at the time that refers to the brush fire in 1922 and the  hall’s reconstruction in 1923 and it’s reopening in 1924.

But longtime resident Cherie Strangward says the building may have just had its official opening that year, but says it could have built in 1922, which is the date of shown on front of the building. People didn’t have much money back then so it might have taken a few years to scratch together the resources for an opening celebration.

In any event, there’s an anniversary Saturday to mark the old girl’s survival.

From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., there will be coffee and cake while Harmony Five will be performing at 2 p.m.

Strangward has lived most of her life near the hall.

“When I was young, we used to have badminton and pro-rec (exercise) – different functions, because that was the mainstay of the community.”

Such halls were focal points for community life because people weren’t as mobile as they are now.

“If they had a car, they were doing good,” said Strangward. Now, most families have three or four cars and they can take off everywhere.

“A community hall basically is passé.”

Such facilities though still have a role in the Interior where people are further from big cities.

Louise March, secretary with the association, says the building needs no major repairs and expects it to last for another century.

“It’s in excellent shape we’ve had a lot of volunteers over the years who’ve helped us fix it up.

“We’re all so close to the hall and were so attached to it.”

Shannon Shields, with the Ruskin Community Hall Association, moved to the area when she was child, then returned as an adult.

People in the association have a special bond with the building and “they’re pretty adamant about keeping it going.

“I feel that it needs to be there for the community.”

While it’s more than nine decades old, the building is holding up well. The cedar shakes on the roof are in good shape following a rebuilt roof, while the kitchen needs an update and the floor needs refinishing. The bathrooms have been done recently, Shields notes.

“There’s always something to do. It’s all voluntary. Everything done in the hall is voluntary.”

The association rents out the hall for weddings and anniversaries to bring in money to pay for the annual upkeep. A yoga class takes place weekly and sometimes there are movie nights and pot luck dinners every few months, “just to keep people in touch with each other.” Pub nights at the Shake and Shingle pub also help pay the bills.

Shields says maybe the weekend will settle on a definite birthday for the building.

“Hopefully on Saturday, when we have all our historical facts, we’ll get it figured out.”

History

The property on which the hall stands was owned by William Gilchrist Laing, a carpenter, who, in 1927 wanted to donate the land to the people of Ruskin. The Ruskin Community Hall Association was incorporated on 4 Dec. 1930: to take ownership of the land and the Ruskin Community Hall “constructed through volunteer subscriptions and donations” and “to manage maintain and carry on the same for the benefit of the people of Ruskin.” That is still of the mandate of the Hall Association is today, but added they have also as an object” “To promote and advance the interests of harmony, fellowship and community development in the community of Ruskin.”