Telling Our Stories:
Story telling is the Shuswap
way of passing our history
to the next generations
The Sugar Cane Gym/Community Hall- Work-in-progress
The Sugar Cane Gymnasium, first conceived as a possibility in 1976, continued to be a work-in-progress when I moved from Sugar Cane in 1999. In about 1980, the gym was pretty well closed in and usable to some extent. There was no heating system and no running water, so there was no in-door bathrooms. It had electricity with the bare amount of light fixtures. The floor was just rough plywood, although new. The previous year, we had demolished the old dance hall because it had become unsafe to use any longer. There was a real danger of the roof caving in because of the way it was constructed.
People just loved to dance back then. Sugar Cane had some pretty notorious dances back then, just ask any of our elders and any older person from Williams Lake. So, of course, people wanted to start using the gym even as it was still being built. Eventually, within the first year, we had to provide bathroom facilities, so we built a cement block men/women outhouse right out front of the gym across the road. We were in business, we had a lot of dances for a while after that.
One particular dance that stands out in my mind was one that we held in December one year right after a New Directions Training we had over at the Mission. Those were self development trainings similar to the Choices Trainings everyone goes to now. The residential school aspect of the Mission was coming to an end and local Bands were allowed to hold various events there with no problem. Anyway, after one of these trainings, all the participants wanted to celebrate a bit, so we arranged for a dance to be held at the gym. Of course, it was cold, I would guess 20 below zero, and we still had no heating system at the gym yet. There happened to be a construction propane torch type heater left by the workers. So, we set it up in the middle of the gym and commenced to try and heat up the place. The Nighthawks band tried to play some music, people tried to dance, everyone had fun, but we couldn’t get the place warm enough. Eventually, the band couldn’t play anymore because of the cold, so we all just huddled around the propane heater, trying to stay warm and a good time was had by all.