The longstanding mission of the Canadian Legion is to serve veterans of past and present and their families, to promote Remembrance and to serve our communities and our country. Since receiving their charter in May 1928, our Ponoka Legion Branch #66 have passionately pursued these goals to the fullest, honouring hundreds of local veterans and their families, as well as serving their growing membership and their community for 87 very colorful and active years.
The 345 members of the Ponoka Legion Branch #66 and Ladies’ Auxiliary are really looking forward to celebrating the 25th anniversary of their great facility on Highway 2A, and will be hosting a special program and cake cutting ceremony during their gala Friday night supper on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m., with everyone invited to join in on all the fun and festivities.
A long and proud history.
The very first meeting of the Ponoka Legion was held in the auditorium above the old town office on the corner of 50 Avenue and 51 Street with 15 members in attendance under the direction of founding Club President Luther Jones and Secretary Peter MacDonald. The Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Ponoka Branch #66 was organized and received its charter on May 26, 1931, and has faithfully served and shared all facets of the club for close to 85 years. Both the Legion branch and the Ladies’ Auxiliary met at the town hall, the county office, the St. Mary’s Anglican Church, the Elks Club and various other locations around the community until 1946, when they purchased a large hut from Merle Gee, hauled it into town, and placed it on a full basement at the east end of 53 Avenue. Over the years, various additions and improvements were made to the building, then in 1968-69 both the clubroom and the hall were expanded to accommodate more members and visitors, as well as increased community activities upstairs. Longstanding Legion member Hugh Greene fondly remembers that the tiny side entrance to the first clubroom was nicknamed ‘The doghouse’ which was later sold for $10.
The membership of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 during the 1950s and ‘60s had grown to 250, with more extensions made to the very busy building, but a proposal from the membership was also on the table to enlarge the hall or build on a new sight in the community. As progress grew with plans and needs for the new facility, a milestone in Ponoka Legion history became an exciting reality in 1989, when the sod was turned and construction began on the new sight along Highway 2A, which also continued to receive tremendous support from the community and sponsors. The project was completed in 1990, with a gala official opening ceremony, which played host to a capacity crowd of Legion members, Ponoka and district citizens and guests and local dignitaries, as well as representatives of the Provincial/ Dominion Command and the governments.
The tradition of hospitality continues.
The generations of Ponoka Legion Branch #66 members, as well as thousands of citizens, volunteers, and visitors from the town and county of Ponoka and near and far will always be very happy to admit and fondly remember over the years that a visit to the Royal Canadian Legion Ponoka was and always will be a great experience of hospitality and good will among members, relatives and friends. That same keen tradition has continued at each and every event, big or small, at the new facility, with many more improvements, additions, and events taking place along the way to make everyone feel welcome and at home at the Ponoka Legion for whatever the occasion may be.
For over eight exciting decades, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 and the Ladies’ Auxiliary have hosted many yearly events to honour our hundreds of veterans past and present, to salute their members and local organizations, and to welcome hundreds of guests for casual, sports, social, family, community activities, banquets, and family weddings, funerals, and anniversaries. The solemn and annual tributes led by the Legion include Vimmy/VE/VJ Nights to honour the Veterans of World War I, the November 11 Armistice Day Ceremonies at the cenotaph in front of the Branch #66, the Cross of Sacrifice at the Field of Honour in the Forest Home Cemetery, special events for the anniversaries of World War I and II, Decoration Day and many others that are so much appreciated by so many.
Regular social and fund-raising evenings include Valentine’s and St. Paddy’s celebrations, garage sales, suppers honouring veterans and recipients of honours and awards, the November poppy campaign, the annual poetry contest, dances, entertainment, and so much more, all usually complimented by an outstanding catered meal, now under the direction of the congenial Bob Hepp and Company. Weekly events at club room and spacious hall may include a casual game of darts, poker, crib or pool, the super Friday Night suppers, meat draws, birthday parties, bus trips, ‘Over 55’ meets under the umbrella or just drop in for coffee or a visit with family or friends. Among the other welcome amenities of the Ponoka Legion facility is the outside patio, which was with compliments of the Ponoka Lions’ Club, as well as the surrounding ball diamonds, horseshow pits, horseshoe pits, and ample rooms for guest parking, camping, and other outdoor attractions
For over eight colorful decades, the Legion has always been pleased to support and sponsored countless sports teams and events, offered the ‘old blue’ bus for transportation to many community events and trips, proudly sponsored an early brass band in the early years, as well as offering the longstanding support of the Ponoka Air Cadet Squadron #65 since December of 1941. That kindly Legion sponsorships currently include Ponoka District Health Foundation, AHS-Centennial Centre, Ponoka Wheel Chair Society, Valour Place, Ponoka Youth Centre, Ponoka Lions, Ponoka Gym Club, PES Playground, High School Rodeo, Ponoka Stampede Association, School lunch program, Ponoka Literacy Society, scholarships to local schools, PCHS Broncs World Tour, and much more, on and on into the future.