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Your Playground Stories

Thousands of Thunder Bay citizens have participated in the Playgrounds Program over the years. The stories presented on this page have been contributed by former participants, former leaders, and City staff.

To add your voice, send us an email at

You can also share your stories and photos using the tag #Playgrounds100 on Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram.


Dina Morrone, Playgrounds Participant:

To us it was known as the Oliver Road Rec. An outdoor playground in the summer months that was turned into a place for two outdoor skating rinks. One rink allowed hockey sticks and pucks and the other was for people who just wanted to enjoy skating. We would skate around and around and around for hours. It's hard to believe that the cold weather was never a factor. And yet I am sure it was well below freezing. We didn't care because we were on skates and having so much fun. We'd bundle up wearing hats, scarves, double socks and walk down the street from our home on Andrew St. with our skates in our hands, until we reached Oliver Road where we carefully crossed the busy street.

Inside the recreational centre is where we would put on our skates. They also had a vending machine where we would sometimes splurge and buy a hot chocolate. There were always so many kids skating around and having so much outdoor fun. It was a safe place to spend the day. My parents, being Italian immigrants, had never skated but they encouraged us to do so and were very happy to know we were having a good time getting fresh air. They never once came to the rink to watch us. They never walked down or drove over to the rink to pick us up. We did it all on our own. We didn't wear a watch, but it was like we had an inside clock, we just knew when it was time to leave and go home for supper.

Every time I visit Thunder Bay now and drive by the Oliver Road Recreational Centre, I vividly recall memories of the countless hours I spent on that outdoor rink. It's the place where I first put on a pair of skates and learned to skate and the place which gave me and many others like me a safe place to go and enjoy being a child. Thank you to all the people who over the years worked there and maintained the grounds and the rinks.  

Kari, Playgrounds Participant 1980-1985:

I remember the days of summer long ago when I would wake up early on holidays so I could jump the fence in my backyard to get to the park before my favourite Playground Leaders arrived. I looked forward each summer to spending days at the park with all of the neighbourhood kids playing games, laughing, running, jumping, swinging and sliding. The Playground Leaders made the days so much fun and I loved every minute I got to spend hanging out at the park each summer.

Meghan, Playgrounds Staff 2013:

My favourite Playgrounds memory was this past summer at Vicker's. We were all playing on the playground when I noticed one of the girls looked upset. When I asked her what was up, she told me it was because she couldn't cross the stepping block structure, because she was afraid of heights. Knowing that with a little encouragement, she would be able to conquer her fear, I told her that if she wanted to try, I'd be there to make sure she didn't fall. She agreed, and started to climb. Around the middle, the highest part, she got very scared, but I encouraged her the whole way through, and she started to believe in herself, and was able to finish. When she got to the bottom, she was over the top excited that she had conquered her fear. It's amazing to see the trusting relationship and confidence that develops from something as simple as play!  

Alex, Playgrounds Participant:

I like going to Vickers Park because of all the games and it feels so welcoming.

Nina Morash, Playgrounds Participant 1945-1947:

Nina Morash, (nee Zarowski), moved from Gore Street to Brock Street, kitty corner to Tarbutt Park, in 1945 when she was 12 years old. This was a gut-wrenching experience. She left behind all of her friends with whom she lost all contact, as her immigrant parents had neither a phone nor a car. Nina said, "It was like moving to anouther country." On top of this she was about to enter high school ahead of schedule having been skipped forward two full grades by her teachers at Crawford School. For Nina, her saving grace was the playground programme at Tarbutt Park.

Read the rest of Nina's story 

City Councillor Iain Angus:

As a child growing up at Chippewa Park, I ended up being the "practice kid" for all of the playground leaders from Northwestern Ontario who came to stay at Chippewa each June as part of the annual leaders' training camp. I later married one of those leaders.

Samuel, Playgrounds Participant:

I like to skate and play hockey at the rink. I got my first goal there by being a good skater.

Laura Daniele, Playgrounds Participant 1974-1975 and PRO Kids Coordinator provided the following photographs:

August 1972, Participants with award for Senior Boys Baseball team

August 1972, with probably the award for Senior Boys Baseball. From left to right: Sam Veltri, Mark Simic, Jari Virta, Joe Fabiano, Bob Veltri, Bruno Valente, Joe Smanka, Joe Nigro, Frank Scorcello. Kneeling: Unknown, Madeline St. Marie.

Playground at Queen Elizabeth School, circa 1974-1975

At the back of Queen Elizabeth School, circa 1974 or 1975.

From left to right: Laura Tesolin (Daniele) Claudio Coppola, Enrico Coppola, Joe Nigro, Aldo Ruberto, Unknown.

(Accession 2014-12 #1)

Josh, Playgrounds Participant:

At Volunteer Pool I played soccer with a bunch of other kids and it was FUN!

Anonymous playgrounds participant:

I remember when I used to go ice skating at the East End Park (not Charry Park yet) and music was played over a loudspeaker in the evening. The shack was heated with a wood stove and couples skated together. I still remember "Sail Along Silvery Moon."

Donna, Playgrounds Participant:

I remember swimming lessons at Widnall Pool ... Summer couldn't come soon enough.  

Stacey, Parent of Playgrounds Participants:

I loved when my son went to playgrounds. We were at Vickers Park and they had made a homemade water slide. My kids didn't want to leave and they asked to go back every day.

City Councillor Larry Hebert:

I have many happy memories of the Parks system in Fort William for a number of reasons. First was the parks softball league we had. Every park had a team and a coach. Our coach at Vickers Park was Gary Polonsky and he was great with us kids. Our Supervisor was Sharon Gartrell ( Dorota ). We played in the west or south league against Tarbutt, Heath, and Wayland Park...

Read the rest of Councillor Hebert's story 

Valerie, Playgrounds Participant:

I enjoy being around kids my age. So many things to do at Chippewa Day Camp. It was the funnest thing I did last summer!

Bailey Giroux, Playgrounds Leader:

I was 16 when I was first hired by the City of Thunder Bay as a Play leader. My first day on the job I felt like any other kid would: nervous, anxious and excited. I came home from my first day on the site exhausted, covered in face paint and glue and beyond thrilled at the prospect of doing it all over again the next day. Four years and three summers later, I can't imagine myself spending those summers doing anything else.

Read the rest of Bailey's story 

Anonymous Parent:

I sent my 3 children to the playground activities. They had fun. A great service for kids. A good chance to meet other children.

Anonymous Participant:

In the cooking summer camps from playgrounds, the thing I liked most from the camps was that we got to take home whatever we made and we shared it with our family.

Megan, Playgrounds Participant:

When I went to Chippewa Day Camp it was so much fun. I would love to do it again this summer!