By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
The Village of Barons Community Hall is celebrating a big anniversary in 2022. The hall has been a community institution since its construction during WWII. The hall was built in 1941, but it opened for use in 1942 and has been the epi-centre of community events ever since.
Mary Bishop, president of the Barons and District Ag Society, Betty Anne Turner, president of the Barons History Centre, and Aimee deValois, who works closely with the Baron’s History Centre, all have a lifetime of memories in the hall. Although there are elements of their histories that overlap, it is clear the hall holds unique meaning to each community member from the Barons area.
While the old adage “build it and they will come,” is true, the proverbial “they” also presupposed the building. “They” came to build; the construction and design of the community hall was done entirely by volunteer labour.
“When the hall was built, it was all done with community money and labour. They didn’t incur any debt, they didn’t borrow, it was all volunteer,” explained Aimee.
There is often immense pride taken to preserve key moments in a municipality’s history, and the history of the Barons Community Hall is no exception. Upon first glance, the hall is an ordinary-looking building, and one which may soon be forgotten by those passing by without context, but the building holds significant meaning for the hundreds of people whose most memorable life events have taken place there.
“It’s got a lot of history, and a lot of things happened in it.”
Aimee said, “Betty Anne commissioned me, to write the story of the hall.” The timeline, an overview document drafted in preparation for the 80th anniversary, highlighted the various changes and maintain the building had undergone. Aimee aptly titled the document “A timeline to aging gracefully.”
She said, “I think it has aged quite well.”
The building is in remarkably good shape. This may be in part to the building’s semi-cylindrical architectural design, known as a Quonset hut, which is known to be suitable for weather extremes like heavy snows, strong winds, and hail storms, all staple weather events on the prairies.
Even still, the hall has needed plenty of restoration and renovations over the years. Most recently, a group of volunteers worked to hand-strip the floors, taking off layers of wax coating, plied thin like sediments and compounded by time.
“We redid the floor, two years ago and many were down on our hands and knees (they) stripped everything down to the bare boards,” said Mary. “It is a thing of beauty.”
Mary points to the remnants of a thick, dark, line on the ground. It runs laterally across the width of the building and perpendicular to the golden grain of the floorboards. The hall was often a preferred space for school and community events. Aimee said the hall “had quite a renowned floor. It was very springy,” making it the ideal location for sporting events, basketball games, and concerts.
In addition to the years of dances, sporting events, theatre productions, meetings, and banquets, the hall also provided a gathering space for showers, weddings, and memorials. The women sitting around the table, bantered about their own memories in the hall; some of life’s most meaningful events enclosed within the steadfast structure.
Today, the hall still functions as a community space for various personal events, and community events alike including bingos, markets, classes, and a walking club. Now, the Barons and District Agricultural Society takes care of the building, but the Village still owns it.
“We just try to do the upkeep and maintenance and hopefully, it’ll just continue,” said Mary.
To learn more about the history of the region, consider a visit to the Baron’s History Centre.
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