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This article first appeared in the February 8, 2012 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Rupert youth group celebrates 50 years

By Lucy Scholey

When the gates first opened and the wintry conditions were severe enough to freeze the outdoor rink, a chocolate bar at the Rupert Community Centre canteen sold for just 25 cents.

Volunteers first flooded the skating area with a gas pump that drew water from a nearby creek. Every weekend, Rupert residents and wannabes from neighbouring villages flocked to the rinkside shack to play organized hockey, teach their kids to skate and to huddle around the wood stove to unthaw frozen toes in the small building. Because winter roads were more treacherous and less traveled, the new centre was a meeting place for the more isolated community.

YWAR kids Holly Harvey, Jim Trowsse, Derek Kidder, Kelly Trowsse, Les Kidder are captured on the Rupert rink in 1974. Photo courtesy Judy Thompson.

Fifty years later, a chocolate bar costs about $1.25. Families venture to a larger hall for yoga classes, weekly dancing sessions or the used clothing store. Today, an underground well supplies water rink flooding.

Yet little has changed. Families from Rupert and beyond still await the annual winter carnival (at press time, the roast beef supper was almost sold out) and kids are still learning to skate on the rink. In many ways, the community centre is still a staple of Rupert's identity.

And it's still totally volunteer- run.

The Youth Welfare Association of Rupert (YWAR), the organization that founded and still runs the hall, is celebrating its 50th anniversary at the annual Rupert Winter Carnival scheduled for Feb. 10-11.

"It's quite an accomplishment to keep a volunteer organization like that running for 50 years," said 82-year-old Leyton Woods, a founding member of YWAR. In June 1962, Woods and several others decided that the community's youth needed a place to get together. The Rupert School, which still sits at the corner of Des Erables and Shouldice Roads, closed its doors the previous year, leaving the community without a building in which to congregate. YWAR volunteers built the rink and cabin behind the school, but needed to expand the facility because it quickly became overcrowded. In 1974, they moved the facility to its current location, built a regulation-sized skating rink and eventually doubled the building's size again.

With the help of volunteers, YWAR raised about $90,000 over two years to replace the hall. Again, the number of users had outgrown the space. Judy Thompson, an executive member of YWAR, said families used to run the facility, in weekly rotating stints, but now volunteers handle the necessary duties. Thompson, who remembered YWAR's inception because it's the same summer she married, said she's starting to see the community grow.

"There was a period there where there weren't too many little ones," she said. "We're seeing a new trend of new people moving in." Myles Mahon, also a YWAR executive member, was just eight years old when Rupert Hall first opened. Now he said he's seeing a third generation of kids lacing up their skates and dancing in the centre. "We're extremely proud of what we've built together," he said. "If you don't have a place to meet and do things together, you don't have a community."

For more information, contact 819-459-8893 or visit www.ywar.ca.