As the City of Weyburn continues to celebrate its 100th year, the Wheatland Senior Drop In Centre is observing its 25th anniversary.
"Many now take for granted this centre, which provides a venue for meeting the social and recreational needs of seniors, we persons aged 55 and over," said Erskin Sandiford, past president of the Wheatland Senior Centre board of directors. "Perhaps this may be an appropriate time to reflect upon its origin and growth."
"When Weyburn became a city in 1913," noted Sandiford, "most of the people were relatively young. Seventy years later, with a population of (at the time) nine and a half thousand, approximately one third were seniors - creating a need for a facility such as this."
Sandiford said that prior to the Centre's inception, the Pensioner's Hall was being used for meetings.
"It was a one room building, which made it difficult to conduct more than one activity at a time," he explained. He noted that seniors did have to resort to renting other buildings to hold their events.
"A group of cribbage players used to go from house to house to play," he said.
In the fall of 1985, about 20 seniors met in a home and formed a board of directors to be known as the Weyburn Wheatland Seniors. Charter members of the board at the time were Ehrling Johnsrude, Al Yeaman, Pearl Fox, Mel Tollefson, Mac Kradovill, Eva Tollefson, Annie Frey, Iris Miller, Russel Beach, Gordon Ogden, Doug Pulfer, Ted Gregorash, Johnny Norman, Ken Dunn, Norman Watson and Don Lauder.
"Wheatland owes much to the vision and drive of Mr. Johnsrude, his board of directors and volunteers," said Sandiford. "He was proactive in nature, and was tenacious about ideas in which he believed and he made well thought-out plans to accomplish them."
Once the board agreed to build a new Centre, a petition was circulated and 1,000 signatures were secured.
"The City was approached and Mayor Shields wanted to get an idea of what kind of membership could be raised. In short order, 600 paid up members at $5 each were on the books," he said. "The go-ahead was given. The current lot, which provides adequate parking, was offered by the city and gratefully accepted."
The board then travelled to other senior centres in the province to get ideas for their building.
"Mr. Johnsrude surrounded himself by community-minded people who had lived through the depression of the 30s, who worked together with that pioneer co-operative spirit and who believed that where there is a will, there is a way," explained Sandiford. "They went from door to door, selling quilted items that were donated for raffles. They had bake sales, auctions, garage sales and they worked the community bingo, whenever available, for three years, raising just short of $29,000." In addition to using every imaginable fundraising methodology, the board also sought available provincial and federal grants.
"We have a wonderful, multi-room facility, complete with a kitchen, where members can keep their minds active," he said. Activities at the centre include fitness exercises, contract and duplicate bridge, trump whist, military whist, Kaiser, canasta, Hi-low whist, scrabble, snooker, dancing, shuffle board, bingo, cribbage and a month-end supper.
"Just as at its inception, we continue to rely on volunteer services and fundraising," said Sandiford, noting that the Centre does fundraise by renting out for events and offering catering services.
"We are most grateful to the various agencies, organizations, volunteers who have brought us here and continue to keep us going."
To commemorate the anniversary, a come and go tea will be held at the Wheatland on September 13, and a concert featuring Gary Fjellgaard will be held on October 19. For further details contact the Centre at 306-842-3503.