Penhold Memorial Hall was built 100 years ago to honour those who fought in the First World War.
Local philanthropist Stewart Ford, who has lived in Penhold his whole life, will discuss the hall’s legacy at the town’s Remembrance Day ceremony at the multiplex at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
The hall “is part of the story of the growth of the town and how a small community, in many ways, led the charge of having a memorial to the Great War. It was a lot quicker than many other places. It was almost immediate,” said Ford.
The original proposition envisioned the hall would be “a memorial for those who had fallen, and also a thank you for those who had been saved and came home,” said Ford.
The estimated cost was $3,000, but it ended up being $7,000.
“They paid off about $2,500 in 1919, and they paid off another $2,000-something in 1920. It was until 1925 they paid off the last hundred or so dollars,” he said.
Even though the facility wasn’t completely paid for until the mid-1920s, the opening night was held in late 1919, featuring a masquerade ball.
“There were 225 people in the 50-foot-by-30-foot floor space – the rest was the balcony and the stage. They fed them in two shifts from this little kitchen in the basement … and then they cleared the floor and danced,” he said.
When the hall was built, it became the go-to spot for community events, Ford said.
“The hall was that hub for entertainment that brought you in, and where you would come if you had a do you wanted a lot of people to come to, whether it was political, educational,” he said, adding the hall was used for various events, such as dances, plays and weddings.
The entertainment that came to perform at Penhold Memorial Hall was “top of the line,” said Ford.
“Penhold was on the rail, so the beauty of it was you’d have (entertainment) acts going through from Calgary to Edmonton and they would look into places there was a stage.”
It was the rural community in central Alberta that “really made it work,” he added.
“There were lots of farmers around, the town population was very small.
“It wasn’t the locals that could support the hall. It was that large rural community that would focus in. Penhold was a really good place to come: you’d have (grain) elevators, primary building supply and machine dealership, a good grocery store and a place for entertainment.”
The hall was extended by the Lions Club in the 1970s. Ford said the multiplex has since become the new “hub” for the community.