The Playgrounds Program began in 1914, with the opening of five supervised playgrounds in Fort William. The creation of the playgrounds was part of a broader Playgrounds Movement across the continent. It was seen as important not just to "get kids off the streets" and into formal recreation, but also as a key component of child development: supporting not just physical fitness but mind and spirit as well. The program also responded to concerns that urban children seemed not to have the same opportunities for unstructured play as their rural counterparts, and might develop into weak or morally deficient adults without intervention.
That the Playgrounds were opened at the same time as the start of the First World War seems to have had significant effect on their role in the community. Children were given responsibility for governing the playgrounds, towards an end of developing leadership and patriotism among the young people growing up in a troubled world. Cultural programming recognized children of many national and ethnic origins while at the same encouraging assimilation to the mainstream English society.
The program was offered at no cost to children of all classes, funded at a low cost-per-child. In its first year, over 1,500 children participated each day in organized sports and games, folk dance and music, and unstructured play.
Over the years, the program grew in size and scope, and it celebrates its centennial in 2014. Today, 16 supervised playground sites operate throughout the summer, with age-specific activities such as arts and crafts, sports and games, music and drama, and special events.
This exhibit celebrates the Supervised Playground Program that began in 1914, and shows how it developed through the years into the Playgrounds that are enjoyed by children today.
Navigate the exhibit through the links below, or by exploring the timeline below.
|The Board of Parks Management Minutes: The Fort William & Port Arthur Board of Parks Management Minutes capture the opening of the first supervised playgrounds|
|Photographs of the early years of Playgrounds;
Photographs on Flickr
|Newspaper Articles from the first weeks and months of the Supervised Playgrounds Program.|
|Maps that show planned and actual playground development and construction|
|Manuals and Handbooks explaining how to be a successful playground leader and suggesting activities|
|Playgrounds Training Courses from 1966 and 1967: material for developing skilled Playgrounds Leaders.|
|Annual Reports from 1967, 1974, and 1997, showing the how the planning and operation of playground sites has changed over the years.|
|Pamphlets and Promotional Material circulated to generate interest in the Playgrounds Program|
|Short History of the origin and development of the Playground Program, in the form of excerpts from documents prepared in 1981 and 1987|
|Other Documents, including conference notes, attendance summaries, leader training, and equipment lists|
|Your Stories of the Playgrounds Program throughout the years, told by former participants and staff, and how to contribute your own recollections.|
|1913||Fort William Board of Parks Management Minutes regarding a Playgrounds Commission|
|1913||Port Arthur Board of Parks Management Minutes regarding Playground Apparatus|
|1914||Newspaper Articles on the first year of Fort William Playgrounds|
|1914||Reports on the first year of Fort William Supervised Playgrounds|
|1914||Attendance Statistics for the first year of Fort William Supervised Playgrounds|
|1914||Photograph: Playgrounds Gathering at Central School|
|1914||Photograph: Playfest Parade|
|1914||Photograph: Ball Game at Collegiate Playground|
|1916||Photograph: Boys' Baseball City Champions at Central School|
|1916||Photograph: Franklin 'A' Team, Boys' Baseball and Dodgeball|
|1917||Newspaper Articles on first year of Port Arthur Supervised Playgrounds|
|1918||Newspaper Article regarding lack of a Playgrounds Programme in Port Arthur|
|1927||Photograph: Fort William Public Pool|
|1927||Map diagram of Victoria Park (estimated date)|
|1949||Letter regarding Playground Leaders' Course|
|1950||Notes on the Mid-Continent Regional Parks and Recreation Conference|
|1953||Playground Patter newsletters|
|1954||Photograph: Playground Leaders|
|1955||Fort William Playgrounds Special Events Manual|
|1962||Minnesota Park Development Plans|
|1964||Fort William promotional booklet|
|1964||Attendance Statistics for Fort William Supervised Playgrounds|
|1965||Fort William Playgrounds Equipment Lists|
|1966||Playground Leader's Course|
|1967||General Instructions to Playground Supervisors, Fort William|
|1967||Year-end report for the Fort William Playground Program|
|1967||Playground Leader's Course|
|1968||Port Arthur Playgrounds Variety Show Program|
|1969||Port Arthur Playgrounds Organization Manual|
|1969||Playground Equipment Diagrams|
|1972||Neighbourhood Playgrounds Manual, Thunder Bay Parks and Recreation Department|
|1973||Parks and Recreation Facilities Map and List|
|1974||Thunder Bay Playgrounds Brochure|
|1974||Year-end report for Thunder Bay Summer Playgrounds|
|1975||Reading List for 1975 Playgrounds|
|1981||History of Parks and Recreation|
|1987||Draft History of Parks and Recreation|
|1997||Thunder Bay Playgrounds Program Brochure|
|1997||Year-end report for the Thunder Bay Playgrounds Program|
|1997||Attendance Statistics for Thunder Bay Playgrounds Program|
|2013||Thunder Bay Playgrounds Program Brochure|
|2014||100 Years of Playgrounds Events|
The exhibit was created using records available to the public from the City of Thunder Bay Archives, the Thunder Bay Public Library, and the Thunder Bay Historical Museum. Information and support have also been provided by the City of Thunder Bay's Playgrounds Program. The textual records seen in this exhibit cover the time period from 1905 to 2013, and the photographic images range from 1914 to 2013.
Archival series referred to in this exhibit include the following:
For more information on the Playgrounds Program, or any other subject of interest, please visit or contact the City of Thunder Bay Archives.
Some personal information has been removed to protect the privacy of individuals.
The funding for this exhibition was received, in part, from the Young Canada Works program administered through the Canadian Council of Archives. The financial assistance is appreciated.
Every precaution has been taken to ensure that copyright has been cleared for images used in this exhibit. If you have any concerns, please contact the City of Thunder Bay Archives.
Please note that the documents in the exhibition reflect the time period in which they were created. For the sake of authenticity, these images and textual documents have not been altered. The statements reflected in them are not necessarily the viewpoints held by the City today.