By Sue Tiffin
When Carol Stamp resigned from the West Guilford Community Centre committee in the fall, she did so after 40 years of service for the community she has called home since the ‘70s.
“She has been an active member since 1979,” read the committee meeting notes. “She began as a member of the monthly dance committee who were instrumental in renovating the upstairs classrooms into a hall. She was brought in by Perry Morrison and has been a part of the centre ever since. She has organized children’s Christmas concerts, Canada Day celebrations, fundraisers, community dinners and much more.”
Stamp humbly says, “I just sat on the committee, that’s all,” and notes the names of others involved over the years – including Clarence Bain, Burt Cowen, Eugene Ripley, Carol Duncan – while also acknowledging an entire community that has supported the West Guilford Recreation Centre at 1061 Kennisis Lake Road, from the municipality to the local shop owners who have always stepped up to help contribute for funerals or when supplies were low.
“We’ve always had between six and 10 people usually on the committee at one time,” she says. “They’ve always been really good, helpful, get things done, keep it going.”
Stamp remembers the building being a school that had been closed for a few years, before the municipality bought it for a dollar from the school board.
“They said they’d buy it, paid a buck for it, and said it would always remain that way as long as the community looked after it, you know, ran it,” said Stamp. She is grateful for the support from the municipality to help keep the centre going.
“So far we’ve managed to keep it running so that’s good for our community,” she said. “Right now there’s not much going on, but when this [pandemic] is all over hopefully they can get back to having [events] again.”
Stamp was here from Scarborough visiting her aunt and uncle at the lake when she met Lyle at a house party after a wedding dance and settled into life in West Guilford. They were married in 1975, and she joined the rec centre committee soon after. Dances at the centre – held in the basement at the time – were a big part of the couple’s life together.
“This is how many people used to go, they sold out every month,” says Stamp. “Clarence Bain kept the tickets in his pocket, and when he was out and about, so if you saw him you nabbed a ticket from him. By the middle of the month, you had to have your ticket from him to the next dance. Even for the ordinary ones, that’s how well they were attended.”
She giggles at the memory.
“I remember one year, we weren’t on the dance committee then, but we forgot to get our New Years’ tickets,” she says. “And they were all sold out, and so we couldn’t go. And Grenville [Stamp, Lyle’s brother] said, ‘that will never happen again.’”
Soon after, Stamp joined the dance committee.
“[Lyle] had two brothers and their wives and us, so the three brothers and the three sisters-in-laws formed a dance committee, to get bands in,” she says.
“They haven’t had a monthly dance for a long time. Maybe somebody will start them up again, it would be nice to see … [It was] kind of the focal point you know. It’s not so much in the last few years, it’s not the same as it was, but at one time it was a real going concern, you know. There’s still quite a bit going on. But it’s a different time than it was then. The young people, they don’t go to dances anymore.” And then, laughing: “And we’re all too old to go.”
She remembers an active centre, with quilting, sewing and craft events taking part there, and bingo nights.
“We weren’t over there all the time, through the week it was basically other people that did stuff there,” she said. “I wasn’t involved in the crafts … Basically what Lyle and I did together. He loved to dance and he really wanted the dances to keep going. We helped out with Canada Day a little bit. Always made sure we had a load of logs for the [cross-cut] contest. It’s just something that we did, and we lived close, so I just walked over.”
The upper floor of the building was still made up of classrooms when Stamp joined the committee, eventually they were taken out, a kitchen installed, and flooring laid down.
“It was made into a really nice dance floor,” Stamp says.
She suggested hosting a Canada Day event because she thought the community should have “something for the kids.” West Guilford’s beloved Canada Day celebration has brought neighbours and visitors together now since 1980.
“There’s way more people than just me that have been involved in it over the years,” she says again. “On Canada Day, we always had 30 pies – so that’s 30 women out of a little community like this that would bring pies, for nothing. That was a big seller. So on Canada Day, those pies kind of paid for a lot of stuff.”
The centre grounds are also now home to a ball diamond, skating rink and playground.
“We started renting it out so a lot of birthday parties were there, and weddings,” Stamp says. “It’s a nice facility, it’s not huge, but it’s got everything, has a nice yard. They keep it up. They hire someone to clean it. It’s all maintained.”
The West Guilford Recreation Centre means a lot to Stamp, where so many memories were made for her own family then, as well as her family now.
“It’s very important to me, because I think, another generation coming up, you know, I’m hoping that it will stay there, and the community will be able to maintain it because I think they need something like that,” she said. “There’s not a lot of kids in Guilford anymore, but they still need a place to go … I think we need something like that in our community and I hope they keep supporting it.”
Stamp stepped down from the committee because she hadn’t been attending meetings for awhile.
“Right now, [president] Tanya Sisson’s done a wonderful job,” says Stamp. “She’s really into everything, you know. She’s got a good committee going there, new people on it, people interested in keeping it open, so she does a good job.”
Though Stamp says that she followed others, committee notes presented to Dysart council acknowledge that those who follow her will have her work to build on.
“Her commitment to the community has been admirable and has set the bar for those who follow,” read the notes. “We thank her for her dedication and are sad to see her go. Her retirement is well deserved and we wish her nothing but the best.”
Stamp appreciates the kind words but says it takes a village of people helping where they can to make a community work.
“Try to acknowledge that there’s been many before me and there’s a wonderful, young girl there,” she says. “And that’s the kind of people they are in Guilford, they’re all community-minded, the majority of them. And still are … That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? If you can help, help.”