Monterey Centre turns 40

What started as a place for seniors to play bridge has been transformed into an 18,000-square-foot hub of activity

Monterey Recreation Centre volunteers Joyce Bevan

Helen Larman was never one to join groups or societies. But after her husband died 40 years ago, she had the impetus to join the Monterey Centre.

“I wanted to do some volunteering and I thought it is right here in Oak Bay, close to home. I was thrilled (that it was available),” she says.

Larman was 51 when she got involved – she greeted members at the front desk. She went on to volunteer for 16 years as a cashier in the cafeteria and filled in on occasion as a hostess for events.

Now 91, she’s given up volunteering, but still stops by several times a week for lunch in the recreation centre’s Fern Café. She’s one of the longest-standing members at the centre.

“It provides friendship for me,” Larman says. “I’ve made a lot of friends here and the staff are just super.”

This month Monterey Recreation Centre celebrates its 40th anniversary. A dinner and dance to mark the milestone are planned for Wednesday, Sept. 28.

A traditional roast beef dinner will be served and the Swiftsure Big Band will get everyone out on the dance floor.

The centre was formed from very humble beginnings, says Lesley Cobus, a Monterey staffer since 1993.

“It was a group of like-minded seniors who said ‘We need a place to do our own thing,’” she says.

The group began meeting in 1960 to play bridge in the Guide Hall beside Fireman’s Park. Membership in the Old Age Pensioners’ Club was limited to 65 and fees were $1 a year.

Monterey Centre member Joyce Bevan, who has been researching the centre’s history all summer for a presentation screening at the gala, says OAP club members lobbied Oak Bay council for a designated building.

In 1968, the municipality purchased the estate home known as Kimbolton at 1442 Monterey Ave. for $50,000.

In 1971, the Oak Bay Seniors Activity Centre opened on the property.

It’s gone through several name changes and renovations since then, including a $1.2-million, 7,500 square-foot expansion in 1990, a glassed-in courtyard in 2001 and an elevator in 2010.

The Oak Bay branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library is attached, as well as a Hampshire Road house that the municipality purchased in the 1970s.

Renamed Monterey Recreation Centre in 2009, it still caters to retirees during the day and in the evening offers over 200 classes for anyone over 19.

That the centre continues to survive is “a testament to the power of people who want to make a difference,” Cobus says.

Tickets for the anniversary gala are $20 for members and $23 for guests. They’re available at the centre desk at 1442 Monterey Ave.

Call 250-370-7300 or visit www.recreation.oakbaybc.org for more information.

vmoreau@oakbaynews.com

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