Sometimes a tragedy can bring neighbors together, and even create something far more enduring. In 1954, an auto accident near Brooktondale gave rise to the foundations of our Community Center. The bereaved parents of teenagers Skip Lattin and Joseph English made constructive use of memorial donations to create a program for local youth, which became known as the Skip and Joe Club.
The Skip and Joe Club was loosely associated with the Brooktondale Volunteer Fire Company, holding regular meetings and informal events at the Fire Hall on Valley Road, but bigger plans were afoot. A Board of Directors consisting of both teens and adults was formed to establish a formal charter. Meanwhile, a dedicated group of adults, the Trustees of the Skip and Joe Memorial, set about improving the grounds behind the Fire Hall and the adjacent schoolhouse, adding tennis and basketball courts. In 1957, with plans underway for the new Caroline Elementary School, the Trustees attempted to buy the old Brooktondale schoolhouse but were unable to generate sufficient funds.
The Skip and Joe Club had no real place to call home until 1960, when the Fire Company bought the old schoolhouse next door and encouraged the youth group to use it. Therein followed a few quiet years, during which the group reformed as the Brooktondale Community Center (Skip and Joe Memorial) with a new focus on the entire community. Sadly, in November of 1962 the old Brooktondale schoolhouse burned down.
Undaunted, the newly formed Brooktondale Community Center Board of Trustees held a meeting in the Spring of 1963 at the Caroline School and made plans for a new building. Funds were raised, a loan was signed, and the new Brooktondale Community Center building was formally dedicated in September of 1964. The first Apple Festival was held the following month, on the third Saturday of October, as it has been every year since.
In 2004, the Brooktondale Fire Company moved to a new building down the road. With the old fire hall now up for sale and some locals worrying about what kind of new business might move in (the building, with it’s large truck bays, was best suited for an auto repair shop), one dedicated soul stepped in and changed everything for the better. Peggy Dunlop, a 40-year resident, rallied the community and worked tirelessly to raise funds, making it possible for the Community Center to purchase the building, which we now call the Old Fire Hall. Still Mrs. Dunlop pushed on, and as a member of the BCC Board saw to it that important repairs and improvements were made, including a complete renovation of the back rooms, the furnace, and the septic systems. The building now houses the Caroline Food Pantry, the Farmer’s Market, and regular get-togethers for several community groups.
Thanks to the sustained efforts and support of area residents over the past 50 years and more, the Brooktondale Community Center is as strong and vital today as it has ever been. The spirit of the Skip and Joe Club lives on with youth programs ranging from scouts and 4H to summer camp, and for those merely young at heart, the BCC remains a vital center for civic activities, interest groups, sports activities, and celebrations of all kinds.
Many thanks to Molly Adams, “Our Town, Handbook of the Brooktondale Community Center,” 1970