Fond memories of growing up on the hospital grounds


Mike Rainone / Hammertime

From July 29 to 31, past and present staff, patients and their families, along with our always supportive town and county officials will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury.

This significant milestone represents an exciting century of growth and successes for both the hospital and the community, highlighted by excellent treatment, care, and understanding from generations of professional staff on behalf of thousands of clients from all walks of life and all areas of western Canada and beyond.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to have grown up and lived in this great community for many years, we will certainly have countless fond memories to share at the gala 100 Years of Caring Reunion weekend. Yours truly lived along the hospital road, then moved up to the grounds in my youthful years, which I will never forget, and look forward to passing on some of those favourite memories to you.

• I was a member of the Hooligans from Riverside who hung out and played fun games of football, hockey and soccer against the hospital bunch, which I later joined — but that didn’t matter because we were all friends. My best buddies from the Hospital Road Gang were Steve Uylett, Terry Rees, Don Bailey, Ronnie Moore, the Williams clan, and the Mark and Mackie bunch. Once we moved up to the grounds I got to groove with the likes of Kathleen and Billy Savage, Clifford Danner, Doug, Donna and Gloria Watson, Wayne Oness, Robert and Maurice Stack, Winnifred Bowden, Jimmy Byers, Susan Edwards, Fay Schofield, Marvin and Valerie Roberts, Sandra, Bonnie and Bev Hughes, Lawrence Wise, the Smith family, Dianne Matthias (my first unsuccessful crush), and many others along the way.

• Our parents all worked at that great big hospital and we lived in those nice brick cottages. Ours was 53B, for which we first paid $15 a month rent, and was located right across from the nurses’ residence. Wow! Little did we know then that a few years later many of us would come a calling on some of those fine young ladies with the stiff caps and the strict house mother.

• We always had a lot of fun but we were taught to respect the staff and patients, who were always supportive of the families on the grounds, as well as the many visitors from community and afar. There was so much to do on the grounds, including racing around the tennis courts or ball diamonds, building tree or ground huts, learning how to curl, many hours on the old skating rink, riding bikes, raiding those yummy big gardens and berry patches, or sneaking around the root cellars and out onto the nearby golf course. We also looked forward to going to the ball and soccer games and annual sports days, where we cheered for the patients and staff, and always managed to find some free treats.

• Our really daring adventures would be those excursions across the big fields all the way to the old black train trestle, climbing that huge pile of flattened cans at the septic tanks, a visit to the hospital farm to play in the barns and watch the animals and building a raft and hauling it all the way with our wagons to the east slough. We were usually under the watchful eye of the strict and scary hospital Commissioner Tom (Dooley) Ryan, but we bribed him with mom’s cookies and could run faster.

• An annual Christmas treat was the ‘At Home’ family party, where Dave Spinks Sr. was Santa Claus, we were treated to a fabulous dinner, show, and treats, and then got to run up and down those long hallways for one evening only.

• A great treat was going into town, whether it was riding on the old yellow school bus, for groceries with our folks, or on our bikes for a show, swim, or dip in the river. My dad worked at the Recreation Hall so I sometimes got to help him hook up the film and watch the movies, shoot some baskets, then later slip over to the fire hall and help wash the big trucks and maybe even sound the siren!

Throughout my entire lifetime I will never forget those adventures, and all the wonderful friends and characters that I rubbed shoulders with.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary celebration of our Centennial Centre I would like to extend sincere congratulations to the many generations of staff, past and present, for your dedication and ongoing efforts towards making this one of the finest psychiatric treatment and care facilities in the world.

Enjoy the reminiscing and camaraderie, and have a great week, all of you.