Harmony Hall and Gibsons Seniors Society
The Harmony Hall Activity Centre is managed by volunteer members for the benefit of our community. The Gibsons Seniors Society operates the building.
Harmony Hall is a welcoming place for seniors to gather to pursue a variety of activities that promote friendship, wellness and FUN!
The purpose of the society is:
As a Society, the GSS is limited in its ability to receive small donations. However, if individuals wish to make donations of $500 or more, these can be made to the GSS through the Sunshine Coast Foundation and donors will receive a tax-deductible receipt.
Established in 1958.
The Gibsons Seniors Society is a non-profit, member driven society established in 1958. Harmony Hall was built by the members of GSS on land leased from the Town of Gibsons for a nominal fee.
The History of HARMONY HALL
In the beginning……
The origin of the present-day Gibsons Seniors Society (GSS) can be traced back to about 1958 / 59. At that time the organization was known as the Old Age Pensioners Association #38. In these early days, meetings were held in private residences and wherever space could be secured. It wasn’t until the mid 1970’s that the GSS built its own facility, known today as Harmony Hall. The Hall is located on Harmony Lane in Lower Gibsons and continues to be a focal point supporting older adults and seniors in the local community. The GSS has a current membership of several hundred individuals.
In 2004, Irene Bushfield, one of the Society’s oldest living members, compiled a brief history of the GSS and the building of Harmony Hall based on her experiences in the community, after arriving here in 1973. In 2021, Irene turned 100 and a birthday celebration was held for her at the Calvary Baptist Church located on Park Rd. in Upper Gibsons.
Submitted by Irene Bushfield. July 18th, 2004
When my husband and I came to Gibsons in 1973 we quickly joined the Old Age Pensioners Club and became quite active in it. There was no Harmony Hall at that time. The Village government allowed us to use the Marine Room twice a month. The first Monday afternoon we had our general meeting, and the third Monday afternoon we had bingo. However, when the village needed the hall for some other purpose – such as for elections – we would get bumped out.
The United Church allowed us to their church hall one afternoon a week (at no charge) for our carpet bowling. After all of these occasions we socialized over refreshments. On Tuesday afternoons we had 5-pin bowling. It was quite casual – we just split up into fours and played a game, we did the high 5 whenever someone got a strike. But that fizzled out when they decided to play the game by the book. It became too competitive and was no longer friendly.
The Legion Ladies would put on a dance for us every year on Valentine’s Day. They also gave us Dinner and entertainment at Christmas – not just for club members but for all seniors.
My husband died in 1974 and later that year I became treasurer of the Gibsons OAPA Club. Our President at that time was a man named Maclaren – I never knew his first name – we just called him Mack. He was an agent for another agency that did tours to Hawaii, so every year Mack would take a group of us to Hawaii. I guess that was the full extent of all our activities at that time. There were not many facilities available to us – no Kinsman Hall, or Frank West, or Chaster House. All the churches except the United Church, were all old and small – they have since been built up. So, we were somewhat limited, and the feeling grew that we should have our own hall. Mack went to the Village Council and was able to get them to let us use this lot here for a dollar a year, payable every five years on condition that the neighbors agreed. Fortunately, they did!
Only trouble was we had no money, so it was decided that along with their dues, all members should pay $20 into the Building fund. Our membership dropped considerably. Well, it was like asking for $120 in today’s money. However, it was the next president, Jim Holt, who really got things going when he saw that we could have the making of a building for $19,000.00, and was able to get the Provincial (or was it Federal?) government to agree to pay for it. The only trouble was we would not get the money in advance – not until the building was under way and the company that had the building didn’t want to give us credit. Finally, they decided to release the materials if Members of the executive would sign a note to say they would be good for the money if the project fell through. All but one of us on the executive signed the note. The one that didn’t, moved away from the coast shortly after that.
We would have liked to have a bricks and mortar building, but the reason for taking on this building was that it was something the men felt they could handle themselves. They were all over eighty years old, and they figured they would save money by not having to hire anyone.
So the building got under way. I believe it was the Lions Club members that leveled the property and dug the hole for us. Then the eighty-year olds got cracking and put up the sides, the roof, and then the floor. We have to really hand it to those men. They used their own tools and equipment which they literally wore out. One man named Vic Eckstein, wore out his truck transporting all the stuff. The only thing the club paid for in that line, was to replace a sander that belonged to Jim Holt because they still needed one to finish the job. There was one hold-up when the building inspector decided the hall would have to have four pillars to hold it up – something we hadn’t bargained for. Anyway, we all gave a sigh of relief when the government came through with the $19,000 and we were off the hook for the note. However, we were running into debt to our local friends because we had to have lumber, doors, flooring, lighting, electricity, pillars, smoke inhalators, lino, locks, insulation for the ceiling, tables, chairs, bathroom cabinets, toilets, and kitchen cabinets. All we really got for the $19,000 was a metal roof and these side panels.
Around this time, we held a competition for naming the hall. It was Sally Garlick who came up with the name’ Harmony’. She is still with us, she lives on Headlands Drive.
So, Jim Holt approached ‘New Horizons’ for help. He had a long list ready when they came to meet with us. They agreed to buy everything on the list except a microwave, and they would not pay anything towards the building. We got money for a heating system which was the worst thing because the heat was blown down from the ceiling and made a terrible noise. We quite often had to stop the meeting ’til it quit. New Horizons paid for all the kitchen appliances and wares. I remember taking two other ladies in my little Pinto to Vancouver to buy kitchen wares and crockery, cutlery etc. And on the return trip we could not get out of the car on the ferry to go up on deck because we were packed in with boxes all around us, which took up every inch of the space we had.
Once the hall was up and people saw that we had a viable thing going, we started getting donations. People would stop me on the street – in the post office,.at the store, wherever, and shove money at me. I had to keep a special purse in my handbag for it. But it was never enough.
I kept borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and then we had to raise the money to pay back Peter. As soon as the roof was on and the floor finished, we had a big yard sale. All I can remember about that was the umbrellas – we had a whole table full of umbrellas. When we started having activities in the hall, everyone who crossed the threshold had to pay 50 cents. Some members objected, but they did get refreshments for that. We held our first bazaar that year too. The Lions Club started having their meeting here, and each month we would cook a dinner for them. I recall that the very first time I had to use the stove it didn’t work. I didn’t know it wasn’t working and that the potatoes weren’t roasting. Really embarrassing, but they did not hold it against us. We also leased the hall to other renters, but we had to stop renting to wedding parties because they were so noisy with their bands blaring and banging car doors and shouting across the parking lot at one and two o’ clock in the morning. The neighbors didn’t like that.
We also started having bingo on Thursday nights. We had put a lot of hope into the bingo paying off the bills but instead of making money, we were losing it because we were in competition with the Legion in Roberts Creek. We tried to make it pay by making crafts and selling them at the bingo. I don’t know what happened to the cane trays we had in the kitchen but the crafts group made those so we would not have to buy any. However, when Roberts Creek quit at the end of the year our bingo started to payoff. Helen Raby made the tea trolley and another member donated the pool table. So, we were off and running – so happy to have a hall.
I recall that we were a long time paying off those last bills. Jim Holt had asked New Horizons for more money for more tables, more chairs, several games, office equipment etc., and they were asking for the unused balance because we were supposed to have used it up within a certain time. By this time Helen Raby was our president and she was horrified to learn about the unpaid bills. [She] would have given the hall to the village and let them worry about it. But our secretary wrote a letter to New Horizons explaining that men in their eighties and ladies who had helped them with the painting and varnishing and cleaning up – had worked hard on the project for so long that now they had slowed down and needed more time to get things finished. After all, they did not have all the labor- saving devices that would have finished the job sooner. We did not have a large membership either. At the start of the project we only had 35 members and we were all involved in everything, so we were all exhausted. We had all been so busy working, we had almost forgotten how to play. It is sad to think that most of those people have gone now.
So that is the early history of Harmony Hall as I remember it.
Submitted by Irene Bushfield. July 18th, 2004
|Vice President||Lorraine Goddard|
|Treasurer||Betsy Van Halderen|
|Directors at Large||Kathy Rietze|
Join our activity centre!
We offer a wide range of activities at the Harmony Hall in Lower Gibsons. All seniors are welcome. Drop in any time and try your first activity for free!