Round Lake Hall renewed

🕔Dec 15, 2009

Driving west from Houston you will eventually come to a high crest in the highway where the valley opens up ahead of you: the Telkwa Range, the Babine Range and, if you’re lucky, the first glimpse of the peaks of Hudson Bay Mountain. This area, generally known as Quick, is home to larger acreages, cattle and dairy farms, rambling ranches and homesteads, with residents who know what a calf-puller is and how to plow snow with a tractor.

I lived in Quick at the end of a steep gravel road in a log cabin on a stump farm. The views were stunning and the neighbours made up for their physical distance by being very friendly, dropping by to curse out the encroaching hawkweed, wonder at the grizzly prints, and help chase cattle back through broken fences. When my husband and I decided to “get hitched,” what better spot than the tiny and remote St. John the Divine Anglican Church: quaint, and historic, where our guests could park by the rural-route mailboxes and walk up the dirt road to the ceremony.

And what better place to have the reception than at the nearby Round Lake Hall, a historic spot albeit with rustic outhouses and no running water in the kitchen. Our families may have misunderstood what we meant when we said ‘outdoor plumbing,’ but not one complained about hiking up the hill behind the hall to the slightly leaning outhouses, or washing their hands with the reliance jug perched on the stump.

But things have really changed at the hall. It now boasts flush toilets, running water, new windows in all the right places, and all the history of the Quick community.

In the old days…

What is known today as Round Lake Hall was originally the Hubert Hotel, located across the Bulkley River. According to The Interior News, the building was purchased by a group of enterprising “farmers’ wives” in the winter of 1919 for “socials, dances, card parties, literacy programs, children’s entertainment and club meetings.” The building was dismantled, then hauled across the frozen Bulkley River and overland to the shores of Round Lake. A community-minded citizen donated land overlooking the lake for the building to sit upon. The women had a site, the materials to start a building and only needed some money to get the construction started. In 1919 a “fancy dress” fundraiser, called the Rose Ball, was held in Telkwa. The women decorated with 5000 tissue paper roses, the men made pergolas, and attending couples paid $5.00 a ticket. The event was popular and raised enough money to start construction of the community building at Round Lake.

Throughout 1920, 54 people volunteered and built a simple clubhouse with a fireplace, a large front porch and a grassy area outside for picnics, community games and races. In 1921 the Women’s Community Club held the official grand opening. The ceremonies had speeches by club members and provincial politicians, a large picnic, the laying of a cornerstone and a time capsule. Mrs. Ida May Williams spoke at the ceremony and said the hall was “...dedicated to the harmony, contentment and happiness of the district.” The advertisement for the opening ceremonies boasted a huge array of activities, “a Greco Roman wrestling contest, a horse-packing race, chopping contest, tug-of-war (Round Lake vs everyone else), a hurdle race, running high jump, 100-yard dash” and even more. The ad also states, “Water Sports, walking up a greasy pole, tub race, men’s swim race” and (and!) “women’s and children’s contests to be announced on the day of celebration.” In case that wasn`t enough, the day also featured a Model T race around the lake, which was won by Roy Wakefield. (Some sources say the win was due to the help of a waitress from the Telkwa Hotel weighing down the back end of his car.)

The hall was historically used for community picnics, and seasonal parties such as Christmas, Halloween and Armistice Day (November 11). During the summer there were swimming, boating and box-lunch socials. Twice a month during the winter horses were hitched up to sleighs and card parties and dances were held at the hall. Local musicians played and people danced into the wee hours, when sleeping children had to be rustled up out of coat piles and loaded onto sleighs for the ride home.

The hall has been heavily used throughout the years and has undergone numerous renovations and repairs. Some locals who were once the children attending the events there insist that the hall has shrunk: they tell me it seemed so much bigger when their mothers and fathers sang and danced there. But, if anything, it has actually expanded over the years.

Time capsule unearthed

Since 1958 there has been a steady effort by the Quick community to stabilize and repair the historic building. In 1999, work on the hall’s foundation unearthed the time capsule laid by the Women’s Community Club in 1921. Inside a glass jar was a note that reads: “Today, July 21st, 1921, this corner stone is laid by the Women’s Community Club. …A large crowd of our neighbours and friends is present and the Community House is being dedicated to the harmony, contentment and happiness of this district. May it be a source of inspiration to us, leading to a broader charity, a truer culture and a greater loyalty to our neighbours.” It also listed the names of club members, names that remain in the community today either on rural road signs or the gates to descendants’ farms.

In the summer of 2008, the Round Lake Community Recreation Society met and mustered the strength to tackle the Round Lake Hall. Mel Coulsen spearheaded the community efforts to find grants and raise funds to completely renovate the hall from foundation to rafters. Indoor washrooms were necessary to update the building and a “flush fund” raised $16,000. Substantial grants from federal, provincial and local sources put $260,000 into the local economy. Five area residents were employed full-time for 38 weeks, alongside a troop of subcontractors and talented community-minded volunteers.

In the summer of 2009 Round Lake Hall was officially re-opened in a grand ceremony attended by a crowd of three hundred people. There were speeches by local government representatives, pioneers of the Quick community and members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

This grand re-opening was a bustle of activity with musicians rallying the crowd and children racing around the grounds in impressive packs. The hall is now complete with modern kitchen and bathrooms, and the Quick community has been strengthened by realizing the common goal of preserving its historic hall.

It should come as no surprise that our wedding anniversary party is in the planning, and what better spot than the newly renovated Round Lake Hall. This time there will be no need for a human wind-shield around the barbeques—there’s a great kitchen inside—and no more water jugs on stumps by the outhouses.

Thanks to eighty years of community-minded citizens, the Round Lake Hall has not only survived the years but has made the transition into the 21st century.