The Upper Clearwater Hall & Grounds
In the mid-1930s, Upper Clearwater had a community of about a dozen households, spread along the 35km of wagon-road and horse trail. Families were often isolated. Any type of community gathering was welcomed and excitedly anticipated. Homes at the time were necessarily quite small. All agreed that a meeting place, large enough for dances, dinners, Christmas concerts or any good reason for people to gather, was needed.
People needed a place where the community could come together - a hall for the community.
During the winter of 1934/35, local people formed the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation Club. The CCF, known today as the New Democratic Party, focused on the working man at that time. The CCF club set about, in earnest, to make plans for a hall for the community.
The land, a parcel part of the south half of District Lot 2887, conveniently close to the road, was donated by Jack HYMERS.
Site clearing and construction began in 1936. The community pulled together with a team that included; Jack TUNNINGLY, Jack NORMAN, Jack HYMERS, his son, Melville, the LUDTKE brothers, - Charles, Laurence and Fred -, the SHOOK boys, - Roy, Floyd, Glen and Charlie- Henry DEFOSSES, Henry JOHNSON, Lewis RUPPEL, Alex FAGE and Mike MAJERUS.
Following the fire of 1926, there was no shortage of fire-killed timber but not everything could be constructed from logs. Some money was needed as well.
Mike MAJERUS donated a small Kodak camera to be raffled. Henry JOHNSON took on the job of making and selling the raffle tickets. During the winter of 1936, Henry and his family were living in Lower Clearwater and so walked the railway track east of Blackpool, selling his tickets to anyone with money to buy them. Then, catching the train to Little Fort, he walked back North, on the West side of the river, selling tickets as he went. Such tenacity and commitment helped the raffle net some $36.00 towards the building fund. Shorty MILLER, of Blackpool, won the camera.
In his book, memories of a Depression Homestead, Henry JOHNSON writes:
“Mr Hymers hewed lagging for the roof. We put a road up to a stand of shake timber and then went up and cut enough timber for the roof. We got the windows, doors and shiplap for the floor, through Bill Long but we had to buy the nails. Someone gave us an old stove and on the third June 1938, we had our house-warming and dance. When we closed the door after the dance, we owned the hall debt- free.”
During the winter of 1938/39, Jack and Mel Hymers, Jim Lehman, Jack Norman, Henry Johnson and Charles Ludtke, built a kitchen on the end of the hall where later, bunk beds with straw filled mattresses would be placed where babies could sleep whilst their parents danced and visited with friends.
The hall quickly became the place for the community to get together. Waltzes and polkas for dances were provided by local musicians and local women brought cakes, pies and sandwiches for a late evening lunch. By all accounts, the harvest dinner was a wonderful occasion of specialties and pies. There were many fund-raising events throughout the year including bake sales, sewing and crafts as well as a turkey-shoot with prizes for all ages. Entertainment for the Christmas concert was provided by children from the local school, until it closed in 1964, and ‘Santa’ would make a welcome appearance.
Hallowe’en was another occasion for the community to come together. Homes being so far apart, trick-or-treat was never a popular Upper Clearwater tradition.
Games and goodies at the hall was always popular and someone from outside of the community was invited to judge the children’s costumes. The winner could choose - $1.00 or a pair of Gladys Archibald’s warm and colourful handknit mittens.
During the 60s and 70s, with the arrival of electricity, telephones and road improvements, local people no longer felt quite so isolated. Local people could commute to Clearwater for work and local women had greater scope to take a well-earned break from household and routine family demands. Events at the hall dwindled.
Gladys Archibald, who took up writing poetry when 88, contributed this remembrance of the hall:
The old log hall stands quiet now,
The fiddle plays no more,
The gas lamp’s gone,
The heater too,
There is dust upon the floor.
In the moonlights glow,
I can hear them now,
Ghost dancer, to and fro,
Tennessee waltz or Virginia reel,
Where did they ever go?
They are all gone now,
Those friends of yore,
Who once made the rafters ring,
How we would laugh,
And dance, and sing,
And stomp upon the floor!
It seemed to many that the old hall would never recover from its abandonment. They were wrong!
In the early part of the 21st Century, local people started to acknowledge that, without some immediate attention to its location, its proximity to the road and its need for some serious maintenance, the hall was destined to simply rot to the ground - (like so many other log buildings in Wells Gray Park)
Over the years, Clearwater Valley Road has been ‘repaired’ many times. Each time the road grew closer and closer to the hall until finally, the emergency exit was located on the road right-of-way. The bottom logs were rotten and the next rows, exposed to dirt and wet, would soon go the same way.
In late 2004, through a local petition process, Bylaw No. 2018 was established within our portion of Electoral Area “A” (Wells Gray Country). The service provided for monies to be collected from local property taxes by the TNRD, on a yearly basis, which would then be passed to the UCFI to carry out operations at the hall, making it available to the community to use as a community hall.
In November 2004, members of the Upper Clearwater Farmers’ Institute met and started the process to address the issues.
On August 16, 2007, a new concrete slab was poured by local volunteers, in the agreed new location. This team, led by Larry COCHRAN included – (but not complete); Korrall BRUNNER, Rob BOWIE, Dietmar (Tex) KROMBACH, Adam NELSON, Andrew NELSON, Ulrich PATALONG and Pete PELTON.
The following year, the hall was prepared for its big move. The old kitchen attachment, which was by this time infested with rodents and decay, was removed. The old building was prepared, wires and cross members were attached inside to hold the old building together. Some of the rotten logs were removed and with the hall, now less connected to the ground, it was placed on a sled built from large local logs. A “cat” (bulldozer) and a “skidder" (large, wheeled logging machine) were chained to the sled and tension applied. Finally, and only after a few strong words of encouragement, the old log building began the slow careful transition to its current location. Teased into place by some dramatic displays of semi-aerial driving (see Photo Gallery) and more words of encouragement, the remaining rotten logs were removed and the old log building found its new home.
In 2009, a three-sided addition, using square timbers, was built by Uli MIGL with volunteer help from Larry, Tex, Ulrich on the south end of the hall. This was to become the new kitchen area.
During construction of the kitchen it became apparent that the UCFI would have to follow the rules for public buildings which meant building modern washrooms with a ‘state of the art’ septic system. This meant hiring professionals to undertake certain works, such as, electricians, plumbers and engineers. The requirements far exceeded the financial resources of the UCFI. The Thompson North Regional District stepped in. The area representative incumbent at the time, Tim PENNELL, recognizing the contribution and efforts already made by local volunteers, sought to resource the monies needed to finish the project. The bathroom extension, again made from square timbers, was built by Uli Migl and his team of local volunteers including, Larry, Tex and newcomer to the valley, Nick FROST.
Further donations from other groups including The North Thompson Community Foundation and The Wells Gray Community Forest (2010) Society, made it possible to equip, furnish and finish the hall.
The hall was officially opened for business in 2010 and has been host to many, varied functions and events including baby showers, birthday and wedding celebrations. Although the hall is the property of the UCFI, all of the events that the UCFI organises are open to all the community but not exclusively the local community.
The Grant-in-Aid service, Gas Tax funds and other assistance from the TNRD, together with donations of other monies, have enabled the UCFI to move, rebuild, regenerate and improve this facility and its functions, in the local community. With the financial support we have received, we have been able to extend the use and enjoyment of the hall to the wider community in Clearwater and beyond.
The Wells Gray Riders Association WGRA, operate, under licence, a riding arena in the grounds of the UCFI. This partnership is being thoroughly enjoyed by a great many people, from within and from outside of the local community. This joint enterprise has made good use of an area which had remained neglected and dormant for many years.
The UCFI say:
Working together, we have shown our commitment to maintain the heritage and integrity of this piece of our local history. We have all been left a wonderful legacy to enjoy now and to look after for those still to come. We have worked hard, together, to re-build and maintain this excellent facility - keeping it open and available to all.
We hope that you as a visitor to our website or to the building itself will consider our efforts to be worth it!