Community Life: Entertainment & Events

Imagine that instead of living as you do now, you live in Wells during the 1930s. Your father works for one of the two main mines – the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine or the Island Mountain Mine – or perhaps he runs a thriving business in Wells. Your home is heated by a wood stove, and one of your daily chores is to split firewood. A ticket to the movies costs you 25 cents, a loaf of bread is 6 cents, and a man’s suit $18.95!

Entertainment in the 1930s was not the same as it is today. Two of the most popular forms available to the people of Wells were radio and theatre, both live and film. Families would gather to listen to radios that ran off a car battery and another small dry cell. The battery had to be taken to a garage every so often for recharging. The radio reception was not always good and people might receive little during the day, but a station in Calgary could be heard quite clearly on most nights. Radio shows such as The Shadow, Amos and Andy, and Jack Benny were favourites.

There were many events and social gatherings that took place in Wells: banquets, often followed by dances; wedding receptions; baby and bridal showers; birthday parties; and basketball and badminton tournaments with competitors from the towns of Barkerville, Quesnel, Prince George and Williams Lake; to name just a few.

Wonderful dances were held in the Wells Community Hall. The Muckers and Minders Ball, New Year’s Eve, Klondike Night, Halloween Masquerade, and the Snow Queen Ball were a few that occurred annually. The latter always began with the crowning of the new queen, and the presentation of trophies to the winners of the downhill, slalom, cross-country, ski jumping, and snowshoeing races. In addition, the old hall really did swing a few times to the Big Band music of Mart Kenny’s legendary Orchestra.

For the women of Wells, there was an active Women’s Association both in Barkerville and Stromville, a suburb of Wells. This group was responsible for the gift of a Bible and Communion Plate to the Wells United Church. The early records of the Congregational Meetings in the late thirties and on through the forties and fifties show a steady growth of church activity in Wells. A schedule of church times from the Wells Chronicle (Nov 21, 1940) shows a total of eight different services in one day.

Children were invited to a wonderful annual Christmas Party at the Wells Community Hall, sponsored by the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine. Children up to the age of fourteen received a gift. Every year community members jumped in to help with the Wells-Barkerville School’s Christmas concert. Students put on a wonderful show of dramatic presentations and musical and dance numbers. Local children could also participate in Brownies, Guides, Cubs and/or Scouts.

During the 1930s, Wells had three gambling establishments, only ONE of which was licensed. One was in Waller’s Pool Hall, a second in South Wells, and the third, which was licensed, operated across the swamp (meadows/marsh) in the “Red Light District”.

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