Blackburn Community Association, Prince George, BC – A Brief History
Compiled by Glenda Nelson and Sandra Goodkey with assistance from Brian Bouchard and Evy Ploeger.
In the 1960’s, the Blackburn Community Association was known as the Recreation Commission. Some of the people involved at that time were Joe Boudreau, Hon Dayton and Conrad Girard as well as many other volunteers. In 1965, the Recreation Commission purchased property on West Bittner Road from Dan Bittner. A small hall and a baseball diamond with bleachers were built. Northwood’s Shelley Division donated most of the supplies and the men of the community carried out the construction.
In the late 1960’s the hall burned down. Hon. Dayton and Shirley Massicotte travelled to Trail, BC to attend the BC Convention for Recreations seeking grants to start a building fund to replace the hall. That hall was never replaced but the funds received were the start of a bank account that would become the building fund to erect the present Blackburn Community Centre.
Between the early 1960’s to early 1980’s the Recreation Commission swapped names from ‘Blackburn’ to ‘Grandview’ then back to ‘Blackburn’. On October 29, 1971, Grandview Centennial Committee made a subdivision application to the Crown for 10 acres of land which would eventually become the site of the new hall. On May 16, 1972 the Queen (Crown) leased land, Lot 1 D.L. 1543, to the Grandview Community Association as a Centennial Park.
In 1982/83 the City of Prince George started proceedings to obtain the parkland from the Crown, along with its assets, as they had developed this parcel as City Property (which at that time it was not). Due to an oversight by Grandview Community Association, the property had been inadvertently returned to the Crown. Members of the Association had neglected to submit Association reports to the Government for three consecutive years, as was required under the Society act. On April 11, 1983, the Crown turned the park land over to the City of Prince George as ‘City Park Land’. The Blackburn Community Association subsequently leases the land from the City where the present facility now serves the community.
In the 1970’s, the Recreation Commission became known as Grandview Recreation Commission. During this time the Blackburn area amalgamated with the City of Prince George. Pete Sandstrom and Dorothy Hardy organized Bingo games in the Library at Blackburn Elementary School. An ice rink was built and maintained by the community in the area of the tennis court and lacrosse box for the community to enjoy during the winter months. Each year a hockey team formed and was coached by Dennis Downey, Rolland Chartrand and Bill Zwosdesky. The Blackburn teams played ‘downtown’ teams. Ball diamonds were re-constructed on the West Bittner Road property. The lacrosse box and tennis courts were built by the City of Prince George after the amalgamation.
In the 1980’s, Joe & Penny Boudreau took over the bingo games, which were attended by more than 400 participants. Bingos were subsequently moved to the Blackburn Junior gymnasium in order to accommodate larger crowds. The objective of the bingo games was to raise funds for a new community centre. Little League ball teams were formed with games held downtown as well as locally. In 1986. The Blackburn Community Association, as we now know it, was incorporated as a Society, in accordance with the Society Act. Joe Boudreau, Jackie Muise and Evy Ploeger were instrumental in hall development and completion. Moving day into the hall took place December 18, 1989 with a New Year’s Eve celebration merely days ahead! Brian Bouchard became an avid volunteer in the late 1980’s and has remained a willing and able all-round expert in many fields, including holding the position of President for many years. We treasure his energy and reliability. The official opening of the Blackburn Community Centre was held on May 27, 1990.
The 90’s were a busy time for the Association. In the summer of 1990, Richard and Jackie Muise organized a successful Turkey Shoot. For many years through the 90’s and into the 2000’s we relied on Evy DuBois to organize the concessions that took place during our many events. We called her our “Queen of Concessions”. Joe Boudreau spearheaded the annual crib tournaments which were continued by Glenda Nelson, Sandra Goodkey and Pat Watson. After a length absence, the crib tournaments now occur as much-anticipated monthly tournaments at the Community Centre, organized by Linda Weissenmayer. In October of 1992, the annual Fall Fowl Suppers began and were organized by Glenda Nelson and the ladies’ group from Mount Tabor United Church. These continue today under the organization of Brian and Carolyn Bouchard and until recently, Evy DuBois. The Community Association shared costs of building the playground equipment for the Blackburn Elementary School. Craft Fairs were organized by Jackie Muise, Sandra Goodkey and Glenda Nelson. During the early 1990s while Don Ferrey was President, a strong effort was made to communicate and work together with other recreational groups such as those in Willow River, Ferndale, Tabor Lake, and Pineview. Programs included T-Ball, Keep Fit, Floor Hockey, Volleyball, and Baseball. In 1992 and 1993, the Conways (Grant and Ben) successfully ran Prince George’s first ever Cash Calendar, with proceeds used for paving, lawns and finishing other necessary projects. An active Youth Group helped develop the grounds in front of the Centre and also helped with the outdoor spring clean-ups in the mid-90’s. Janet Hays and the Bouchards guided the activities. The Blackburn Community Association Youth Award was awarded to Ronnie Downey 92/93, Celinea Scofield 92/94, Evan Korum 94/95, Chris Bouchard 96/97. The Blackburn Carolers (active from 1995 to 2007) were out in the community a few weeks before Christmas, “singing for someone’s supper”. As they caroled through the neighbourhood, food and/or money was collected to bring a bit of cheer to those families less fortunate. Food donations stayed within the area and any money collected was designated as “seed money” toward the Christmas Dinner and gifts for the Youth Christmas dinner given by the Prince George Native Friendship Center. In the late 1990’s the 5 acres on Giscome Road was purchased in partnership with the City. This was developed as Bittner Park, with hard work of volunteers from the community. The City owns and maintains the park. September 1995, spear-headed by Toni Etter, saw the beginning of Li’l Rascals Preschool, meeting in the lobby of the Community Centre. November 1, 1995, Jackie Muise proposed to the Board that the original Blackburn House be restored as a Heritage House. This was donated by Roy Goodkey, grandson of RJ Blackburn. Preschool was moved to the basement of the House. This project was completed as a result of many generous grants, (BC Government Gaming and Millenium Grant), donations and numerous fundraising community events as well as volunteer support and determination. Evy Ploeger was awarded the Governor General’s Award on February 16, 1993.
The Blackburn Community Association introduced an annual post-secondary Bursary in the 1990’s. Tanya Barrett was the first recipient. This Bursary continues to be offered.
The Blackburn Community Association moves into the 2000’s! Glenda Nelson and committee organized a very memorable and successful Family New Years celebration to welcome the 22nd Millennium. There were sleigh rides, food galore, fireworks, campfire and door prizes for every familly. The Grand Opening of the RJ Blackburn House was held on june 23, 2002 and included Pioneer Days, a Silent Auction, a special edition cookbook (with a sprinkling of history included), children’s activities, Tombola Table, Drag Saw demonstrations, smoked beef and salmon, bannock, freshly made ice cream and horse and cart rides. Fun Galore! The House is open to the public each Saturday from 9 am to noon. In 2005, Jackie Lear introduced a year-long fundraiser (Penny Drive) with the ambitious goal to raise as much money as possible in pennies to give to the Salvation Army. The plea went out to the community to save their pennies and bring them in. $700 was raised and presented. The person who gave the most pennies won a beautiful, HUGE white stuffed Bunny. The winner was the Bubba Balloo’s Family Day Care. The Blackburn Community Association Youth Award was awarded to Jordan Conway 2007/08 and Amanda Conway 2008/09. In 2009, the RJ Blackburn House was the first recipient of the City of Prince George Heritage Commission Heritage Places award. In 2010, in partnership with the Blackburn Elementary PAC another Cash Calendar was organized. Once again, Grant Conway was a key volunteer. Proceeds were used to replace playground equipment at the school. in June 2010, a huge effort by Donna and Dave Nichol and their committee made it possible to host award-winning Country music performer Aaron Pritchett at the Centre. By popular demand, a second performance was offered the following evening. A great show! The Blackburn Community Association continues to offer a wide variety of programs for youth and adults along with the regular events held throughout the year: New Years Eve, Crib Tournaments, Spaghetti Dinner, Spring Breakfast, Fall Fowl Supper and Silent Auction, Community Craft Fair, Preschool and Out-of-School Care. Programs continue, events are planned, and the ever-present need for volunteers doesn’t diminish. If you value your community and desire that the Blackburn Community Association continues serving, please consider giving some of your time and energy to see this happen. We, as a Community Association, thank those many supporters for helping to bring us to this point, in which we as the present community can ‘look forward to our future’, and hopefully leave a legacy for the community in the future.