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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Government of Alberta

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The Golden Age of Rural

Community Halls

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In the early years of settlement, pioneers often held their dances and political rallies in nearby schools. But these often conflicted with educational needs, and, by 1913, with the consolidation of school districts, it was apparent that rural communities needed their own permanent halls.

According to historian Don Wetherall, the typical hall had a stage, a kitchen, and an open area for seating and dancing.

And the equipment that was put in these places was very simple. There was a stove for heating, a few cupboards and benches and tables, and often a piano. And most also had a sports field close by where ball games were held in the summer or community picnics, and in the winter sometimes the rinks were built there, and hockey was played at the community hall as well.

The new halls were embraced in the Ukrainian settlements of east-central Alberta. Regular meetings of the local reading clubs moved from neighbours' homes into the halls, and their activities quickly broadened to include sports, picnics and dances.

But then, some communities built more than one hall.

This reflected divisions within a community. There might be a Catholic hall, there might be a hall which was used by people who were politically independent, and there might be a hall that was used by people that were pro-communist.
Now, in English-speaking districts, the United Farmers of Alberta, which was a farm lobby group, also had halls, and the UFA of course, as we know, became politically active and formed the government of Alberta in the 1920s.

The golden age of rural community halls lasted from 1914 to 1945.

The population of rural areas began to decline, people began to be more mobile as roads improved and as cars and trucks improved, and people had more money, so they could go to a nearby town for entertainment. And, because of those forces, many small community halls were closed, although some still remain.

The decline of the community hall mirrored the changing nature of rural Alberta after World War II.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.