Long-time Langley program retired

They say even good things must come to an end and this is the case with almost 50 years of Pleasant Hours teas hosted by the Murrayville site of the United Churches of Langley.

The final tea was held on June 23 in the church hall according to Jean Gregson, a member of the church.

“They were always in the church hall,” she said of the afternoon activity designed to deliver activity for those in care homes.

A Valentine’s party put together in February 1967 by Daisy Holtby (the then minister’s wife) and Robena Rutherford was the first Pleasant Hours event. It was an outreach initiative by the United Church Women’s group of what was then the Sharon United Church.

Rutherford recognized the need for the monthly afternoon outing for rest home residents as a way of offering recreation, entertainment, and a social event.

That first February tea was obviously a hit because by September 1967 it was reported that seven of the events had been held for care home residents.

“A lot of the care homes didn’t have entertainment for their guests and residents,” noted Gregson of how the Pleasant Hours came to be.

“But most now do. So it’s different now.”

The fact that many care homes now offer a full-range of activities contributed to the end of the church-run monthly Pleasant Hours.

“Also, the Ministry of Health has asked that any bus that transports people from care homes have someone that could perform resuscitation,” she added. “It’s a reasonable expectation, but it was just another thing to add to the list.”

In addition to these reasons, Gregson said most of the people helping to put the Pleasant Hours events together are retired and are getting older.

“Working people are not available on a Tuesday afternoon,” she said.

In the past, while care homes didn’t have entertainment programs, they also didn’t have buses, so church volunteers would pick up residents, bring them to the church hall, and return them to their homes after the event.

Gregson’s mother, Doris Blair, was one of those drivers. She participated in the events as a volunteer as long as she was able, then enjoying the teas into her 90s.

It wasn’t just seniors who enjoyed the events filled with singing, dancing costume parties, meeting live animals, and more. Guests included those in assisted living facilities due to physical or mental challenges.

“So younger people were there as well,” Gregson said. “They really appreciated the outing.”

Volunteers may have been working at the events, but as Gregson points out, they enjoyed the entertainment as well.

“There are memories of hearing Joan Danby sing accompanied by Donna McTaggart, the appearance of Santa Claus (Ken Mallinson) at the annual Christmas turkey dinner held every December, Peggy McGregor’s costumes at the Halloween teas, Highland dancers, singing groups, live animals such as lambs, and much more,” she said.

Refreshments were part of the teas, too, with a monthly birthday cake and card to honour those who celebrated a birthday that month.

Gregson noted that Shirley McGonigal has been a “tireless worker” for the Pleasant Hours. She listed many other individuals who have taken part in the long-term success of the events over the past half century: Betty Lou Chell, Ellen Mufford, Althea Plowe, Bertha Alexander, Flo Riddall, Mildred Berry, Angie Barron, Kathy Burchill, Jean Beard, Francis Bishop, Rose Lembke, Audrey Spiegel, Robena Rutherford, Marilyn Packham, Lynda Christensen, Edie Thompson, Nancy Mallinson, Carol Tauber, Marlene Aylen, Joyce McHugh, Bob Baker, Charlie Bishop, Doris Blair, Dick Chell, Ken Mallinson, John McGregor, Allan McLeod, Harry McTaggart, Peter Skeates, Arnold Aylen, Wayne Markel, Fred and Bev Rodrigo,  Joanne Skeates, and other members of specific church units and committees.

The end of the Pleasant Hours was a difficult decision for the United Churches of the Langleys. Gregson said it is a bittersweet ending.

“There are new projects that are being planned,” she said.

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