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They dreamed of a baseball diamond – Local men built Whalley Ball Park

August 27, 2016

In the summer of 1950 Whalley volunteers were transforming a few acres of bush into an athletic park.

Inspired by the spirit of volunteerism fostered by flood relief work in 1948, local women had banded together, under the name of the Whalley Community Guild, to make a local playground for children, whilst men under the rubric of the Whalley Business Men’s Association, undertook to build a ball park.

The women had already demonstrated what they could do. They had created Tom Binnie Park.

As for the men of Whalley, wrote Helen Carter in 1949:

“They dreamed of a baseball diamond.”

The men founded the Whalley Athletic Association (WAA), donating funds – $500 each – and their own labor to build a ball park with a first class ball diamond.

It was definitely a community effort from the start, but when big city reporter Erwin Swangard was sent out by the Vancouver Province to cover this small town story, he chose to focus on one man. As Clarice Harkley was the prime mover in organizing the women, so Haddon Bolivar was the leader of the men.

Erwin Swangard was a veteran journalist who had seen much. In 1936 he reported from the spectacle at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Yet Swangard marvelled at the initiative and zeal of the local Whalley corps, and watched in admiration of the direction given by their leader, a local chicken rancher.

“All you have to do is drive down King George Highway to the centre of Whalley, turn to the right and there you will discover Haddon Bolivar, vigorously working on his own memorial, the most ambitious sports centre ever undertaken by a community of Whalley’s modest size.”

Over many years Bolivar had built up a successful egg hatchery operation, located just down the hill a bit from Whalley’s corner. He had always been community minded. In fact, the community name of “Whalley” had been chosen at a meeting in one of his barns. Now he had time, and had in mind a grand project to improve the quality of life in this growing suburban centre.

The goal was to transform 8 acres of “rough bush” into a multi-purpose athletic complex that would include a swimming pool, softball diamonds, tennis courts and a community centre.

The jewel in the crown was to be a regulation size baseball diamond and bleachers, fit for league play.

“Building his own monument” – Erwin Swangard on Haddon Bolivar

Reporter Swangard applauded the dedication of the local volunteers and the cooperation of the district in buying the property for them. But it is clear that Swangard was most impressed by the initiative and organizational skills of Haddon Bolivar.

“Conversation with Bolivar goes something like this.
‘Who called the original meeting?’
‘They blame me for that.’
‘Who is president of the Whalley Athletic Association?’
‘I am.’
Who persuaded Surrey council and Park Board to buy the property?’
‘I guess I did. You see I am a member of the Park Board.’
‘Who is manager of the ball club?’
‘Well, you see. . .well I am.’
‘Who drew up the plans for the project?’
Bolivar fidgeted for a minute and Junior Chamber of Commerce president Milt Hambly volunteered: ‘He did.’
‘Yes, he also has been the foreman. In fact he’s been out here every day since April 28 from eight in the morning until sometimes 11 at night, working,’ added Hambly.

It appeared clear to the group of volunteers that “once the project is finished it ought to be named Haddon Bolivar Centre.”

It appears clear also, that reporter Erwin Swangard was inspired by Haddon Bolivar, a man who was, wrote Swangard: “building his own monument.”

Under development in May, the park was “opened with a bang” by a baseball tournament on Labor Day weekend, 1950.

diamond builders Bolivar & friends - from Province photo

Whalley Ball Park under construction. From a photo that appeared in the Vancouver Province

List of some WAA members, the builders of Whalley Ball Park
Haddon Bolivar
George Dumont
Harry hughes
Ron Mcnoughton
CT McFarlane
Bob McFarlane
Ed Hope-Johnson
Ron Paterson
Dean Bolivar
Sam Miley
Harry Hughes
Syd Westluck
Fred Barnes
Milt Hambly

Whalley map 1958

Whalley Ball Park as shown on 1958 map.

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