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Gone but never forgotten

Bounty theatre signBounty Theatre sign

In 1930, the village constructed its fabulous new community hall, which would accommodate well over 200 people for major events. The new hall, built by volunteers with solid fir, was more than 25 metres long by 10 metres wide. It was originally constructed as a theatre and had acoustical ceilings sloped on both sides. The main floor was made from maple hardwood, and at the far end was a stage measuring six metres deep, eight metres wide and three-metres high. Dressing rooms were built on either side of the stage. In the basement, groups practiced for musicals and built sets for Christmas plays.

More than 70 years later into the 21st century, Bounty's community hall has fallen silent as the community is slowly fading into oblivion. All commercial services are gone, and only a half a dozen residents remain.

On November, 25, 1997, Bounty was dissolved as an incorporated village to become a hamlet under the jurisdiction of the Rural Municipality of Fertile Valley.

There are still the occasional visitors to Bounty, but as each year passes there are fewer and fewer reminders of the community's past glory days. Vandals, neglect and the elements are leveling Bounty's past. Each year, at least one more abandoned building is toppled. But in 1997, there was a brief rally by former residents to ensure Bounty was never forgotten.

Although the 85-year-old brick school at the south-end of Main Street was long closed, locals and past residents were adamant the 24-inch cast iron bell, lodged in an open four-sided bell house on top of a five-metre high tower, should be saved.

The bell was brought back to Edmonton by former resident Gary Lewis, who was born in the area in 1939, and raised on a farm 10 kilometres south of town. Lewis had the bell restored; sandblasted and re-painted.

He then had a memorial plaque made up, and the bell was taken back to Bounty. In 2000, it was placed permanently at the front entrance of the Fertile Valley Cemetery.

On July 15, 2000, more than 400 locals and former residents held a re-union and a dedication ceremony for the school bell at the Bounty Hall. It was a Saturday, and of course there was a rip-roaring dance just like in the old days. The original Bounty Blue Birds came, and played, as did the 1953 Bounty School Band and the Dallas Orchestra.

For the past five years, Lewis has spearheaded a committee to look into ways to save the Bounty Community Hall, one of the last remaining institutions in the former village. The rural municipality has given the committee permission to preserve the building. Applications have been made to the provincial government for heritage preservation funding. More dances have been held to raise money. There has been interest from Saskatoon, North Battleford, Hitchcock Bay and Outlook to have the community hall moved to those locations. Outlook is considered the most preferable because it is the closest community to Bounty.

"I am sad that it has to leave its present location but everyone realizes, including me, that if the community hall stays where it is, it could get burned down, destroyed or fall down by itself someday," says Gary. "It was the hub of the town."

As another sun sets in Bounty, the gaily wrapped sounds of music, laughter and the chiming of a school bell can be heard on the distant breeze, heralding another time past but not forgotten.