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Clarice Harkley and Women Volunteers Created First Whalley Park

August 27, 2016

 

The first public park in Surrey City Centre was presented by local women — volunteer fundraisers and workers — as a gift to the municipality in November 1949.

Clarice Harkley was one of the volunteers who had come to the fore as a flood relief organizer in 1948.  Harkley, a music teacher, and her husband had moved out to Surrey a few years before. They lived on Grosvenor Road.

Clarice founded a Community Guild.to to expand on the spirit of community cooperation fostered by the flood relief effort. . She had no trouble signing up more than 50 of the women who had come together as volunteers the previous spring.

Laurona Gunn was elected Guild President.

They decided their first project must be recreation facilities for children. This fastest-growing section of the district did not have a park.

The women’s Community Guild worked in step with the Businessmen’s Association. The Guild raised funds to acquire land and develop a playground for children, and the Businessmen worked toward a ball-park.

By the autumn of 1949 the women had raised a few hundred dollars, but their goal of acquiring a large enough site was still a dream, until local businessman Tom Binnie stepped up with a gift of 2.5 acres.

Binnie had done well in the local real estate boom. He had also been in charge of local Red Cross services during the ’48 flood.

Reporter Helen Carter covered the story for the British Columbian newspaper:

“With their own funds and volunteer labor the guild will drain and clear the land in preparation for seeding next spring. According to president Mrs Laurona Gunn, this winter’s activities will provide kiddies — slide, swings, teeter-totters, picnic benches, and possibly a wading pool in the park that will bear the name of the donor.”

“Whalley, Nov. 16 — The Ladies Community Guild of Whalley achieved its first objective when the deed to a 2 1/2 acres park site was presented to Surrey municipal council for dedication.”

In an “impressive ceremony” held in the new Legion Hall, “Tom Binnie Playground” was dedicated for the use of children by the Reverend NH Atkinson.

“The Harkettes, a newly formed girls choir under the direction of Mrs Clarice Harkley, delighted the audience that packed the Legion Hall when they rendered effectively Blake’s Jerusalem. Ivor Thomas, baritione, was also an appreciated soloist.”

 

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