Certain Friday afternoons have become a highlight for a group of Bethany Sylvan Lake residents recently. One Friday a month, they spend an hour in the afternoon sharing fond Sylvan Lake memories with Pat Ammeter — one of the town’s long-time residents.
Ammeter has been involved with Bethany as a pianist in the care centre’s Hymn Sing group, and several months ago talked with staff about returning for regular visits to talk about Sylvan Lake’s past.
As someone who was born and raised in town, and spent more than half a century in it, she was the obvious choice to lead such talks, according to Bethany recreation assistant Stephanie Schwartz.
“(Ammeter) had mentioned that she was born here, and that she had all these fantastic stories accumulating in a book, and we thought, wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could talk to the residents about it,” said Schwartz.
Since those discussions, Ammeter has met with residents monthly to chat about anything and everything Sylvan Lake. Some of the stories she relays come from the memoirs she’s writing for her grandchildren; others simply arise out of the back-and-forth dialogue she shares with the residents — many of whom, like Ammeter, are longtime Sylvan Lakers.
“They connect well with her stories,” said Schwartz. “They actually remember a lot of the people she talks about, and they remember a lot of the places that she talks about.”
At the beginning of the program, Ammeter was asked to come in and talk with residents for 15 to 30 minutes. She initially feared not being able to fill that time.
Last Friday’s session, which, like others before it, ran closer to an hour, showed how well received the program has become.
“You would think I could run out of stories every week, and it could get kind of boring, but there’s new people all the time,” said Ammeter. “I like to engage the people, and when I got started, I said, tell me a bit about yourself, where you came from and why did you move here.
“I don’t want them to be just a face, I want to know a bit about them.”
Often, introductions between Ammeter and new attendees lead to discussions about common acquaintances. Those discussions, in turn, help dictate the flow of the remainder of the session.
“Sometimes, I haven’t got a clue how it’s going to go,” said Ammeter. “I don’t take hours to plan something to read — that doesn’t sit right with me. “(Instead), I want to engage the people and let it flow.”
Ammeter said each session she hosts is just as enjoyable for her as it is for the residents.
And with the number of longtime Sylvan Lake residents dwindling, preserving precious town memories, she feels, has become more important — but also more enjoyable — than ever before.
“I (know) other people that maybe grew up here, but they don’t talk about it,” she said. “I just love to tell the stories. It’s a very enjoyable experience for me.”