A reunion of the remaining original White Rock Players’ Club members in the mid 1990s. Left to right: Phyllis Clifford

A reunion of the remaining original White Rock Players’ Club members in the mid 1990s. Left to right: Phyllis Clifford

White Rock has rich panto history

Players Club originals share memories of traditions’ early years

It’s pantomime time again, and cause to reflect on the people who started this wonderful annual tradition in White Rock.

Although the leading light, Franklin Johnson, and most of the original members are no longer with us, Guy and Barbara Weston, a couple who joined the Players Club in 1948, recently shared their memories of those early years.

Guy’s family settled in White Rock in 1934, when his parents, Tom and Daisy, bought acreage at Royal and Roper to raise Angora rabbits.

When the market price of wool fell, Tom turned to fruit farming and construction work. Like many other men during the Depression, he took on anything to earn a dollar, including helping out with the local newspaper.

Soon, the family moved to a smaller property on the corner of Centre Street and Royal Avenue, where they kept a goat, chickens and bees.

“We had a lot of vegetables for sale, and mainly raspberries and strawberries which my father used to peddle around town,” Guy recalled.

Guy and his sisters, Jessie and Juana, swam with the White Rock Amateur Swim Association, of which Tom was president in 1937.

After high school, Guy travelled to New Zealand in search of work. He attended teachers college there, and married Barbara, also a teacher, in 1944. Daughter Kay was born the following year.

In 1947, they came to White Rock to meet Guy’s family, intending to return to New Zealand.

“But I got a good (teaching) job,” Guy said. “So we stayed.”

Son Richard was born in 1948.

To get involved in her new community, Barbara was persuaded to attend the reading of a play being put on by the fledgling theatre group.

“I said ‘I won’t go by myself,’ so Guy reluctantly came along. He’d never been on stage before, so it was going to be really interesting. We read, and I ended up with the female lead, and Guy with the male lead.

“Seven or eight couples made up the core of the group. That became our social life, we were in one play after another, and those people were our friends.”

Fortunately they had a built-in babysitter in the form of Guy’s mother.

“I had a wonderful mother-in-law,” Barbara said. “They lived across the lane from us. She knew to the minute when our rehearsals were, and she’d say, ‘Bring the children over,’ or sometimes she would stay overnight. We would never have had such a wonderful time with the Players Club if it hadn’t been for Guy’s mom.”

During the next 25 years, they performed in more than 50 plays.

Their first ‘theatre’ – a vacant storefront – shared a thin wall with the neighbouring café. A hidden door joined the backstage with the café’s phone booth.

“You’d be in a love scene and the phone would ring, and you’d be competing with a drunk explaining to his wife why he couldn’t make it home.”

One year, the pantomine included a dance number with the dancers dressed as parrots.

“Phyllis Clifford and I were in charge of making the costumes. We got two big bags of chicken feathers which we washed by hand. Then we dyed them different colours. I remember saying to Phyllis, ‘How are we going to dry them?’ As I didn’t have a dryer, we decided to go the nearby laundromat, and emptied the bag of coloured feathers into the dryer.

“We realized our mistake as soon as we turned the dryer on. When we turned the dryer off, and opened it, there were feathers everywhere, most of them stuck in those holes. So we had to climb into the dryer, and pull out as many as we could. People going by stared at us in the dryer with all these feathers! We got out as many as we could before going to rehearsal, but we often wondered what the next people to use the dryer thought.

“Anyway, we made the costumes, and they looked quite good.”

Guy’s most embarrassing moment on stage came when he was having a conversation with his leading lady who suddenly forgot her lines and stomped off the stage.

Figuring there was no use staying, he left as well.

“It was the longest third act ever,” Barbara remembered.

In 1975, they retired from the stage, but kept their hand in, ushering until just last year. Their contributions to the club were recognized with lifetime memberships.

An avid sportsman all his life, Guy excelled at swimming, badminton, and sailing. They have owned several vessels over the years.

As Barbara explained, “You get twofootitis when you’re a sailor – always want it two feet bigger.”

On one occasion, in 1972, they set out for Cloverdale with their friends, Hal and Ellen Sinclair, to buy gooseberry plants, and returned home sans gooseberries, but with an 18-foot sailboat.

Guys entire professional life as an elementary school principal was spent in the Surrey district, mainly at Sunnyside, after spending seven years as Ray Shepherd’s first principal. He retired in 1981. Barbara did substitute teaching, and specialized in speech pathology.

Although Guy, at 90, and Barbara, at 88, have lessened their activities, they enjoy an enviable degree of independence. And, by any measure, they have been blessed with a fortunate life.

The Peninsula’s best-known mother-and-son historians, Lorraine and Hugh Ellenwood, are dedicated to preserving history through the White Rock Museum & Archives. Call 604-541-2222, or email whiterockarchives@telus.net

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey chief constable says ‘comprehensive’ public engagement to be done this year

Norm Lipinski says Surrey Police Service has ‘good momentum’

Dyllan Petrin is charged related to an ongoing investigation in Surrey involving a kidnapping and assault that occurred in July, 2019. (Photo: Surrey RCMP)
Man arrested in connection to kidnapping, murder investigations: Surrey RCMP

Police say Dyllan Petrin was arrested in Vancouver

Crews work to clear the aftermath of a three-vehicle collision that occurred Wednesday morning (Jan. 20, 2021) at the intersection of 16 Avenue and 156 Street. (Tracy Holmes photo)
One person to hospital following three-vehicle collision in South Surrey

Police say it appears one driver went through intersection ‘as if it was not even there’

Surrey-raised forward Jujhar Khaira in action with Edmonton Oilers. (Photo: nhl.com)
Q&A: Surrey’s Jujhar Khaira credits parents for their hard work on his path to NHL

Port Kells-raised player talks about his journey to pro hockey with Edmonton Oilers

New United States Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and President Joe Biden (right) are sworn in at U.S. inauguration ceremonies Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C.. (Saul Loeb/Pool photos via AP)
Surrey Board of Trade highlights innovation, policy changes as new U.S. president sworn in

COVID-19, border re-opening among issues affecting city, SBOT says

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Most Read