Although I can’t imagine why Frank Skinner would have thought he should make a big lawn and I can’t imagine what happened on the big lawn before the 1950’s, the big lawn is a very central part of the Arboretum and of my childhood memories.  I would love to hear stories of the big lawn before 1950 (or any time for that matter) but for now, a story of the big lawn from the time of my childhood.

My story needs a little background. In the 1950’s and early 60’s Skinner’s Nursery was a little village.  Burke and Marg MacNeill and their 4 girls lived in the farthest east house. Mike Hawryluk, a bachelor, lived in the residence in the old office. Jack and Gladys MacLeod and their 6 children lived in the house across the road from the big lawn.  Nick and Dora Dohie and their family of 3 lived in the boarding house.  John and Nancy Palmeruk and their family of 4 lived in the house between the boarding house and the big lawn.  Ed and Irene Zimmer and their 3 sons lived across the back road to our house and in our house there were 5 children. The total kid count is at 25!  Although some children had left home and a couple were too small to be out on own their own, the rest of the free-range nursery kids often would congregate on the big lawn.  We played kick the can, dodge ball, baseball and hide and seek.  Or sometimes we just hung out.

The story came to me from Dolores Dohie.  In recent years our paths crossed several times as she helped to care for her aging parents who were living in Russell.  As we reminisced one day, she told me that she remembered, as a child,  going home for lunch in the summer and then listening for the slam of a screen door.  That was her signal to head back to the big lawn as there were probably others heading there too.  Now, I hope I haven’t confused this story, or the people in it, but even if I have, I too can still hear the snap of the screen door.  It sounds like fun and games to me!  We are heading back to the big lawn!

Why would Frank Skinner think he should make a big lawn?  On your next visit to the Arboretum spend some time there.  My guess is that maybe he thought it would be a good place for people to hang out.