Looking back – the enduring legacy of Clark Burlingham

Burlingham was the Town’s first recreation director

By Carson Ellis For the Independent

Shortly before the whole world went a little Alice In Wonderland; I was having a conversation with former teacher, long time friend, and all-around good guy Malcolm Fischer.

Young Mr. Fischer is a Stettler booster from way back in the day and seems to have no interest in losing some of that boost.

The subject of our conversation was a gentleman by the name of Clark Burlingham. Although we didn’t have much time to go over it, I was informed that Mr. Burlington was a driving force in the early development of the Stettler Recreational scene.

We planned to discuss him and other related points of interest more, but then life kind of went ‘TILT’.

Recently, I’ve found an article from September 1966 about young Mr. Burlington, so I wanted to share it with you folks.

Clark Burlingham was the Town’s first recreation director – a post he held from 1954 to 1964. In that time, the Town’s recreation program, which Burlingham started, had become one of the most highly regarded recreational programs in the province.

At the time of the article, the five-foot-six gentleman was the manager of the Family Recreation Center, and billiard establishment. In addition to his services as manager, Burlingham also offered his time and experience as a hockey coach – a position he was undeniably successful at.

The article notes that local hockey stars Bob Falkenberg, Ron Anderson, Bob Birdsell, John Chapman, and Sonny Perkinson, were all on the threshold of professional careers at the time. Adding to this, his services as a track coach produced record-setting athletes such as Pat Filipenko and Gery Ramsay.

Burlingham was a man of great ability and dedication.

He was also an avid supporter of youth. In the Advocate article, he is asked ‘Is there anything wrong with today’s youth?’

To which Burlingham replies: ‘I don’t think so.’

He goes on to explain his views, remarking that any problems there may be with the youth of the time was mix of problems from varying sources.

He notes that with everything happening in the world, and with the money many youth have available to them, he is impressed they are not worse than they are.

It was his belief that a major problem in the development of youth could be attributed to a breakdown in communications between parents and teens. He was bothered with teenagers being told about how ‘things used to be.’

He believed such remarks had little bearing on the reality they faced and meant as much to them as it did ‘to the man in the moon.’

Clark was a big believer in family recreation, and believed it played a key role in cementing relationships between the generations.

It was his belief that there was not enough of it going on, and that was one of the problems that was causing the rift most people perceived.

He also noted a failing in what the teenagers of the time were being taught, and how they were being taught. He explained that they were being educated in the basics, which was understandable, but that there was no real focus in educating them on the difference between what was right and what was wrong.

He stated a prime example of this was in the word sportsmanship.

He believed a majority of people knew the basic idea of the word, but asked: ‘…..how are young people to know what sportsmanship is, when nobody’s told them what it means?’

He noted that people seemed to be focused on winning at all costs, with little regard and/or focus on other aspects. He was a strong believer that winning championships was more a matter of decent facilities and a good program, and less about the ‘winning at all costs’ mantra.

One thing that Burlingham was particularly happy to see taking shape was the Alberta Ministry of Youth.

He believed such a governing body could work with the various sports programs and organizations to make them more efficient. He also believed they could help with the financial aspects of participating in sports programs.

Such an organization had been a major part of his platform in the recent (at the time) provincial election. However, despite his failed bid as candidate, he was still happy to see something like what he had wanted taking shape.

Burlingham also hoped that a ministry department would help with the education aspect of young athletes. He felt they could help furnish an avenue of education that focused on ethics and helping them to recognize right from wrong.

He felt such things might help to fix what he called was a growing hatred and subsequent violence in society.

Being able to help the youth of the province develop a deeper understanding of ethics could help them communicate better.

Not just in sports, but overall.

It was his belief that the growing hatred towards other races, as well as law enforcement, couldn’t happen unless the younger generations saw it in the older generations.

It was his hope that a better understanding of ethics, and an emphasis on improving communication between varying groups, could help these problems.

In a career that started in Saskatchewan and (at the time of the article) spanned a little over three decades, Clark Burlingham’s hope for the younger generation had not diminished. He seemed to refuse to allow that to happen.

Although he felt they may not have been shown a good example, Burlingham noted, “I’ve still got quite a bit of faith in them.”

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