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Community centres contribute to life

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In 1959, the Associated Community Club of Fort Frances published a series of articles to better acquaint the citizens of Fort Frances with their community clubs.

Six defined community centres were under the supervision of the Fort Frances Recreation Commission. With a community building, funds from the recreation program, volunteer programs, and fund drives, the typical club was administered by volunteer executives.

Some community centres offered large, open areas for playground and parks. Through the winter months, the clubs would build and maintain a rink and a rink house for hockey, broomball games, and skating parties.

The rink house was used as a club house, and was often the site of regular monthly meetings.

Craft programs for boys and girls were held as well as gym classes, dances, bake sales, picnics, socials, and get-togethers of neighbours and friends.

Teams sponsored by the clubs included ball teams of young and old. Minor hockey teams were organized through the community centres, as well as baseball and softball teams. It appears quite a rivalry developed as each community centre hosted teams and played in tournaments against the other centres.

Playground programs supervised by a trained leader from the recreation department included a day of crafts, storytelling, active and quiet games, tournaments, and special events for boys and girls.

Many of the club centres were located on school grounds, offering a central location in the community and the facilities needed for outdoor and indoor recreation programs.

The Central Community Club included all those living on the north side of Scott Street to the CNR tracks, east to Shevlin Avenue, and west to Central Avenue.

In 1958, an estimated 2,463 citizens were served in a 12-plus acre area. Activities included erecting a temporary rink on the Robert Moore School grounds and a rink house heated by a coal burner.

Two new steel backdrops were purchased in 1958 and erected at Robert Moore and used as home diamonds for the Central and South End teams. Boys registered in the ‘A’ league for those 16 and under and the ‘B’ League for those 13 and under.

Playgrounds operated at Robert Moore and one on Phair Avenue (Elks). It was noted that 532 children attended the Elks playground in the first three weeks of activity and 1,573 at Robert Moore.

The South End Community Club included all the area south of Scott Street to the river and from Central Avenue west to Shevlin Avenue, serving a population of 1,600 over about two acres.

Activities were centered at St. Mary’s School grounds—the only existing playground and suitable open area in the south end. Plans in 1959 included a new rink house that would serve as a community centre.

Meetings were held in the Columbus Hall.

A temporary rink was erected each fall on St. Mary’s School grounds. The three boys baseball teams—the South End B’s, South End Knights of Columbus. and the South End Pirates—and girls’ softball team shared the facilities at Robert Moore.

The South End also boasted four hockey teams and two football teams.

The playground program operated for the first time at the rink shack at St. Mary’s in 1959.

In the East End, the community club served those east of Shevlin Avenue and on the south side of Scott Street—a population of 1,358 over six-plus acres. On the south side of Scott Street, a playground was being developed at the corner of Church and Williams Avenue, and a large playground and athletic area at Huffman School.

The club boasted a permanent rink, a rink house with coal burner, and in 1958 purchased a steel backstop at Huffman School with two more to be put in place in 1959. Teams included the East End women’s team, the East End Red Devils (teenagers), and the East End Filmores.

The community centres were noted as making an invaluable contribution to the cultural life and recreation of our citizens—men, women, and children.

Memories of community centres and playgrounds? Please share them with the Community History Scrapbook. And perhaps community get-togethers at our old community centres can be part of the town’s centennial next year.

2003: a year for celebrating community. Let’s make it one to remember.

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