The Oyama Community Club’s president wants to pass down a tradition his children can enjoy.
Brendan Prettie remembers performing in a Christmas concert on the stage of the Oyama Community Hall. He was born in the Okanagan Valley and has lived in Oyama for all of his 35 years.
“I know this building like the back of my hand. I did preschool upstairs. I performed on the stage when I was shorter than my dad’s waist… my entire lifetime worth of memories, I can draw a lot (of them) back to this place,” he said.
The Oyama Community Club has been around since 1914. The hall, which is located at 15710 Oyama Rd., was constructed in the 1920s, and upgraded in the 1970s, according to past president Deb Butler.
What first started as a meet and greet for the agricultural association gradually grew into a beloved community hall, described by Butler as the heart of the Oyama community.
“For the people in the community, it’s a place to come together. We have a lot of traditions that revolve around this place, stuff like Oyama Fun Days, Turkey Bingo, we had the Christmas pageants and stuff that we did. Beyond that, we serve the entire valley, people can host weddings, services for people who have passed away and family reunions,” Prettie said.
A board of volunteers keeps the hall up to snuff, handing out candy at Halloween and ensuring it’s usable for other members of the community. The Memorial Hall upstairs is used for yoga classes, the field for sports and the Royal Canadian Legion’s Lake Country branch also has that hall its home base.
People come from Salmon Arm to Armstrong for events, which helps the keeps the lights on, Prettie said.
And in the last few years, one of the hall’s main events, Turkey Bingo, has been growing.
Held once a year, around 300 people cram into the hall for a chance to win a turkey, ham or other grocery store gift cards, he said.
“My generation was when stuff like Turkey Bingo was started, when I was young. Our parents came out here to try and win a turkey and the community was much smaller then. Now that all of us have kids and have big turkey dinners to host for ourselves, we’ve brought our kids and families down to this and it’s just the natural growth in the community and as the generations move on, that’s caused that growth (in the event,)” he said. “There’s a huge cross-section of the community that comes in. Most people come here specifically to win a turkey.
Prettie welcomes newcomers with open arms, and accepts that Oyama may be changing from the rural identity it once had.
“The word community means a lot of things to a lot of people. We are a community, but we’re also part of a larger community,” he said.
As president of the club for less than year, he’s excited and nervous to see what the hall becomes.
“Me being in charge of it, and being the next generation taking care of these things, making sure my nephews have the same opportunity for memories that I had, is no small thing. It’s an honour, it’s a responsibility, it’s great, but it’s also terrifying,” he said.
“I want the opportunity to preserve the traditions we’ve got and for the next generation to create their own. I want this place to be somewhere where people can do that.”