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The Community Hall, built in 1933-4 by relief camp workers, has hosted a variety of free and low cost activities for visitors over the years, notably in the Depression years when folks were unable to pay. It continues to be used for community events like pancake breakfasts, meetings, dances, weddings, and reunions.
Held at this hall in the early days were card games, dances, weekly film nights, ping pong games, sing songs, and concerts. In stormy weather, daily swimming lessons were moved inside for water safety lessons and films. Children practiced for weeks for the annual pageant, usually on historical themes. Park Recreation Director, Harry Houghton, organized a wide variety of activities for all ages using this hall and other facilities in the Park.
J.W.H. Sanderson, QC recalls participating in one of Harry's pageants in Volume II of Dorell Taylor's Waskesiu Memories.
"Harry made Waskesiu a family holiday resort. I can remember in about 1936 or 1937 being in one of Harry's pageants, where he restaged Wolfe's battle with Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham. I was one of Wolfe's fearless soldiers. Our shirts were dyed red and we wore red cloth tied to a band around our heads. We had muskets crafted by the Park carpentry shop and we set sail in the Nanette II from the site of the beached Nanette I to travel to the cliffs of Abraham, represented by the high shore bank at what is now the site of the second and largest breakwater.
"Everything went well until the spray started wetting the dyed shirts and bandannas. When we hit the beach to storm up to its sloops, our parents gasped to see their children red from head to foot, with eyes piercing out from blood red faces. the Frenchmen never had a chance and the victorious forces together with the then defeated foe were treated to a wiener roast by Harry."
The Park Superintendent, J. A. Wood hired Harry Houghton to organize activities for families and warned him to expect no government funding. Bill Waiser in Saskatchewan’s Playground: A history of Prince Albert National Park credits the success of the summer recreation program to the man himself (page 91).
“ Houghton’s greatest assets were his boundless enthusiasm and seemingly limitless drive. He had an uncanny ability to motivate people to get involved; in fact, the park’s recreation program would not have been as successful if it had not been for the many individuals and families who freely lent their support and assistance. At the same time, Harry led by example. He himself lived in a shack tent with his wife and children and was thereby considered by the campers to be one of their own. He was also constantly on the move - when not supervising or taking part in activities, he could be found walking around the townsite with a megaphone announcing the day’s activities and times. On rainy days, he would often drive through the campground with a large truck and, like the pied piper, coax children to come along down to the community hall.”
(Photo of Harry thanks to his son Merv Houghton)
Harry organized day trips for kids on the Nanette I or II, tour boats on Waskesiu Lake. They would travel the length of the lake and then hike into Kingsmere for swimming and a cookout. In this short audio clip, his son Merv Houghton, talks about these trips with Mona Finlayson, a seasonal resident of Waskesiu.
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