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St. James Wakeham Hall, Wakeham (Gaspé)

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On November 17,1907, construction started on Wakeham Hall , the building that was to become the focal point for the community of Wakeham for many years.

larger_wakeham.1.jpgThe main part of the building was the dance floor with a stage at the west end. The east end was used for a ladies room leading to the "privy" which at that time was outside, reached by ascending steep steps. This was a very poorly lit area so rather a tricky ascent. Also at the east end was a second story had been built to house a kitchen and tables with benches to serve lunches. The hall was heated by wood stoves and the lighting was coal oil lamps mounted on the wall.

Dances were held every Saturday night plus special occasions such as Christmas and Easter. The hall was packed with young and not so young, all there to enjoy a night of music and dancing. Lunch was served upstairs, this consisted of home made bread, butter, jam and all sorts of delicious home made goodies. Cost was 25 cents.

Johnny Miller was probably the first fiddler to play for the dances, he played alone until Irene Miller started to accompany him on the piano. Many groups of musicians played for the dances. During the war the servicemen made up a band ,this was a more professional type of music and it was during this time that the "jitterbug" became popular with the young crowd. No matter who provided the music it was enjoyed by many.

The hall was used for many activities during the year. Amateur concerts were very popular and we had many talented people who could act, sing or dance for the amusement of the community.To seat as many as was possible there were "raised" seats, like steps that were placed at the back of the room behind the reserved chairs. These were borrowed from York Hall and one night they fell down, scaring but not injuring any one.

During the war the "Spitfire Club" was formed , becoming very active as hardly a house hold had not sent a man to war. This club raised money and sent boxes to the men overseas. These boxes contained items that were unattainable to the service men, of course.. being from home and packed by loving hands meant a great deal to the men.

The Women's Instute used the Hall for their Fall Fair where the ladies displayed the best of their flowers, vegetables, cooking, and handicraft for judging. The children of the parish also had a chance to show their efforts and win prizes. A Hallowe'en party for the little folk, sponsored by the W.I. was an annual event, very popular with young and old.

Christmas was celebrated in the Hall with a Christmas party for the children. Santa had gifts for all plus candy and apples.

On election day people came to the Hall to vote, one poll for the whole parish instead of using various houses for this event.

The Anglican Young People's Assn was started 1946 -7 by Reverend Sydney Meade and became very poplular with teens and young marrieds.Many of its activities were held in Wakeham Hall. one of them being badminton games. A court was painted on the floor and many games were held with other parishes participating, making a lively competition. The first Harvest supper (that I remember) was sponsored by the A.Y.P.A. It was very successful and the forerunner of many more.

Card parties were a popular event and a good way to earn a few dollars for the various organizations that were once a part of our thriving community.

The Hall was an ideal place to hold a wedding reception and after the war it was the place of choice for many weddings. Lots of space , also a delicious meal or cake and sandwiches were served by the ladies of the Hall committee.

After each event people were hired to clean which was a full days job. Once a year the parish got together and gave the Hall a spring cleaning. It was a very intense cleaning and at the end of the day it sparkled. It was like a picnic as everyone took a lunch and ate on the grounds .

The big event of the year was the Church Guild Sale, always held in July when, hopefully, there would be many visitors to fill the coffers of the Guild. This was the main money making event of the year and the ladies went all out. All year they had been busy knitting and sewing and planning for the Sale. It was a very social day ,people from other parishes attended ,also people "from away" who were "home" visiting family. Children could hardly wait as there was a "grab bag", where for five cents you could get a surprise. Also ice cream (which was very rare in the summer) was made and served by Mrs. Mervyn Annett. To end this delightful day a delicious lunch of home cooked goodies was served. There was always a line waiting for opening time, eveyone dressed in their Sunday best.

Through thite years our Hall was improved. Kitchen was moved downstairs and enlarged, tables and chairs were purchased to replace the benches, proper wash rooms were installed and of course electricity changed the whole face of the building.

105 years have passed since the beginning of the Wakeham Hall and it is very sad to think that is may be destroyed. Our generation will be the last to understand the simple pleasures and sense of community. Such happy memories.