During the pioneer days, community halls in the southern Gulf Islands were the vibrant centres of island life. Today, they remain important heritage icons and, in spite of inroads by television and wifi, continue to be where islanders gather and socialize.
Saturna Island, for example, has recently built a large recreation centre with a gymnasium, kitchen, medical clinic and a large firehall/emergency-services building. The Old Hall, built in 1933, however, continues to be popular, particularly for cultural presentations, which benefit from the building’s excellent acoustics, its cozier size and its unique historical ambiance. Currently, renovation work is underway to significantly improve the old building.
A post-and-beam, two-storey community hall, opened in 2000, is Pender Island’s heart and soul. It hosts the Saturday Farmers Market; the annual Fall Fair; concerts; movie nights; art exhibitions; seminars; dances; weddings; yoga, Taoist Tai Chi and fitness classes; summer camp for youngsters; card games; carpet bowling; meetings of island organizations; a weekly social with soup and music; and much more. But there’s another proud story. At the entrance you are greeted by three imposing First Nations welcome poles consisting of female bears. They were carved by island women, directed by Victor Reece, an indigenous master carver.
Mayne Island has two community halls. The new Community Centre, topped by solar panels, offers a variety of programs for fitness, health and well-being, arts, crafts and education. It also hosts meetings, community events, concerts, weddings and banquets. Out back is a thriving community garden, and on the side are tennis courts. More than a century old (1900), the much smaller Agricultural Hall hosts community events such as presentations, meetings, workshops, movies, theater productions and small special events.
Galiano Island also has two community halls, one at each end of the long island. The one at the south end opened May 1929 with the BC Lt. Governor present. It is operated by the Galiano Club, and is a hub of the community with many local events such as concerts, dances, weddings, plays, exhibitions, lectures, etc. held there. The quaint North Hall, a renovated 1930s school house with a new commercial kitchen, is a hub of north Galiano community events including the Canada Day Jamboree, the Robbie Burn’s Supper, the Great Chilli Cook-off, weddings, receptions, workshops, weekly Scottish Country dancing and a monthly Luncheon Games. It is also the reception centre for the Emergency Preparedness program, and is the home of the Galiano Garden Club and it’s library. The hall at the north end is also a social hub and features soup-and-bread Mondays.
With their many social events, community halls are invaluable in uniting our island communities. They are also a bridge into the past.
Credits: Thanks to Richard Blagborne, Saturna; Allan Forget, Judith Hamilton, Galiano; and Facebook pages for photos and information.