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Thirst to preserve past remains GVHS members' cup of tea
by Lucy Scholey
Fifty years ago, Moiya Wright wanted a cup of tea.
The Meech Lake resident, then age 30, was strolling with friend Judy Crawley through the Kingsmere Estates. They often walked with their kids past the Moorside Tearoom, which was closed to the public and boarded up.
"Wouldn't it be nice if there was someplace you could have a cup of tea?" Wright remembered asking Crawley.
It may sound like a peculiar event for the 79-year-old to remember, but it was a craving that led to the now-named Gatineau Valley Historical Society (GVHS).
Wright and Crawley founded the society "to make use" of the idle Moorside Tearoom.
After meeting with National Capital Commission (NCC) representatives, they gathered eager community members and held the first meeting of the then-named Historical Society of the Gatineau in the closed down building. With a little funding from the NCC, the group eventually cleaned it up, bought China teacups and baked scones for visitors.
The NCC liked the group's work.
"And then we just took off," said Wright, the society's first president, in a phone interview from Haines City, Fla., where she is vacationing for the winter.
The revitalization of the Moorside Tearoom was just the first act of the group's historical preservation over the past 50 years.
"We were always roaring out doing things," said Wright, joking that members often called themselves the "hysterical society." Once, Wright saw a bulldozer beside pioneer Asa Meech's house and said she nearly threw herself in front of the machine before learning that workers were just strengthening the foundation and not tearing down the house.
Since its inception in 1962, the GVHS is less about advocating historical preservation than it is about historical awareness. The group has preserved documents, reports and 5,000 images of the Gatineau Hills through its archive and online digital database. Their next project will be digging into francophone culture in the Gatineau Hills, said current president Marc Cockburn.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the society, the group is planning something special every month. "We thought we would do a big splash about it," Cockburn said.
A celebration at the Wakefield Mill Inn at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 16 will kickstart the year's events. Throughout the year, speakers will present historical lectures on different areas of the Gatineau Hills.
Today, there are 300 members of the GVHS - about 50 are active - which is slightly lower than in other years, but Cockburn said he has seen more interest in the society with more people eager to volunteer with the digital archiving.
Wright said she hopes the 50th anniversary celebrations will make people more aware of the region's vast, rich history
"They really do a lot of good, quietly," said Wright, who is still a member of the GVHS. "I think that any society that has kept going and done good things should get a clap on the back." For more information, visit www.gvhs.ca.