Pictou Advocate sports

Just don’t let the hall close

Sports

More than seven years ago — in the November 30, 2011 edition of The Advocate — I wrote a column suggesting the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame would be a perfect fit within the new Wellness Centre, allowing more people, Pictonians and visitors alike, to see what a rich athletic history the county has.

Unlike many of my weekly columns, I didn’t get a single comment from anyone. No phone calls. No emails. No snail mail. No Facebook messages.

I wondered why.

One thousand, eight hundred and eighty-four days later — in my January 25, 2017 column — I revisited the subject, calling the modern centre “the ideal place” for the hall, rather than on East River Road where the doors are locked much of the time, where proper parking is almost non-existent.

Again, no comments. Not a single word from local politicians. Not a whisper from inductees, their families or sports fans in general. Just total silence.

I wondered if anybody cared.

I still shake my head. Doesn’t anyone in the county give a damn about the museum-like facility that was developed a quarter of a century ago by a group of very dedicated sports-loving Pictonians?

Will those efforts in the early 1990s be totally forgotten and tossed out while we still have plastic bags? Will the impressive number of artifacts return to boxes out of sight? Will concerns about the hall’s future be ignored?

I have in my possession a copy of a photograph of 14 people — all of whom loved sports dearly and were willing to give of their time to make a local hall of fame possible. It’s a photo of the first board of directors in 1993.

I’m sure most Pictonians know most — if not all — of them.

Familiar names, indeed: Sparky Paris, Bobby Beaton, Donaldo Fox, Billy Dee, Dorthea Ryan, John (Brother) MacDonald, Ralph Cameron, Dave Melanson, Hughie Murray, Jim Sears, Lawrence LeBlanc, Clary Semple, Ernie Jordan and Bill Purvis. Three others were absent that day: Kenny Langille, Babs MacNeil and Sandy Cyr.

Right now, I’m not preaching the Wellness Centre idea fell on deaf ears. That can certainly wait.

I’m much more concerned after reading Steve Goodwin’s report in last week’s Advocate that it has become necessary for political leaders to meet with hall curator Barry Trenholm to discuss the hall’s “long-term viability.”

I hadn’t seen any storm clouds on the horizon. I hadn’t heard any forecasts that the hall is in this kind of situation. Even if it’s only a whisper, it concerns me. Actually, it scares me.

Since those 17 people — and others behind the scenes — began putting together a hall of fame proposal that would make Pictou County people proud, the local facility has grown in leaps and bounds. Sure, I know about the facility’s crowded quarters and limited access on East River Road.

The hall has grown spectacularly, primarily because of two men in particular who have given so much to it — the late Billy Dee in the early years, Trenholm since Billy’s death. Without those two former Trenton municipal politicians, I often wonder if this grand idea would have succeeded.

Do people in New Glasgow, Trenton, Stellarton, Westville, Pictou and the municipality not care what could occur if potential volunteers stay home, sitting on their hands?

Though I lived only my first 30 years in Pictou County, my heart has never truly left there during my now eight decades. I’ve never stopped being proud of where I grew up, where I began my career.

From afar, I’ve watched many of my favourite places in the county disappear.

I hated to see my old high school close. I hated to see my elementary schools shut their doors. In the sports community, I hated to see John Brother MacDonald Stadium put on a waiting list for the wrecker, and I hate realizing that Stellarton Memorial Rink faces the same sad fate. I hate the fact Heather Lanes no longer exists on New Glasgow’s west side. I hate so many places downtown are but a memory.

I hoped I’d never see the day when anyone would even hint at the possibility the hall of fame would be just another fatality.

Pictonians should be proud the hall was established by those dedicated people. It’s a wonderful facility. Anybody would be impressed to see the amount of memorabilia that has been collected, the number of athletes, teams and builders who have been inducted.

My opinion that the hall would be better off in the Wellness Centre was formed after watching the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame bounce from location to location while few people cared. When it relocated into Scotiabank Centre, attendance skyrocketed because people visit before attending events next door.

There is, as Trenholm says, one disturbing thing about the Pictou County hall — the lack of volunteers. Nobody can expect Barry to continue on, almost single-handedly, trying to be there hour after hour, day after day. The man deserves help.

So much has been done, so much has been accomplished in making the hall a reality. Don’t lose it all by making wrong decisions now.

Volunteers must be found, as Trenholm outlined to the mayors and warden.

When I think of the number of people in the county who benefited from sports participation through their lives, and the hundreds of men and women who have been deservingly honoured by the hall, it makes me wonder why volunteers are so scarce.

I still believe there is merit in the idea of relocating the hall to the Wellness Centre. Like the situation in Halifax, put the facility in the best location and the people will come.

For now, though, the advice of this old writer – to the politicians and all Pictonians — is simple: Don’t let the hall close.

It would be regretted for a long, long time.