Reaching the age of 90 is quite the feat for an individual, but it’s even more of an accomplishment for an organization that has seen its share of branches literally die off.
On May 4, Ponoka Branch 66 of the Royal Canadian Legion marked its 90th anniversary with a celebration dinner and reception. It was also no coincidence the event came on the very date it was given its charter way back in 1928.
Legion president Barb Olsen read off the list of the 55 past presidents and thanked everyone for helping keep the branch from joining many other rural Legions that are no longer operational.
“While we have gone through a few different buildings, we are still standing and remain fairly strong. It’s amazing what support we get and it will be great to see that continue,” she said.
Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins was on hand to present the branch with a plaque on behalf of the Parliament and noted the great work being done by the Ponoka membership.
“Branch 66 sets a stellar example with its members honouring the memories of those that laid down their lives in service of their country and by helping those that survived get the services they needed. Congratulations on 90 years,” said Calkins.
Congratulations was also received from the Legion’s Dominion president via a letter as well as the district and local ladies auxiliary.
While the night was about the anniversary, there was a lot of history present ranging from photo albums, plaques and awards to Hugh Greene — branch president from 1962 to 63 — taking to the podium to provide a brief account of the Ponoka Legion’s historical memories and accomplishments.
“Following the First World War, veterans organizations and a large number of regimental associations were all trying to do the same thing. However, they all came around to the idea they needed to be unified and the Royal Canadian Legion started after a successful convention in 1926,” Greene explained.
“The Ponoka branch received its charter in 1928 and started out with 15 members, who first met in the first town hall.”
The life of Branch 66 continued through various meeting places and buildings until the first Legion was ready for use in 1948, Greene noted.
Other branch highlights included the construction of the cenotaph in 1961 and entrance gates built three years later; sponsorship for the local air cadets and a community bus as well as funding to build the running track at the high school in 1965; a fire in 1973 that came close to wiping out the Legion facility; the building of the Legion Arms home in 1980 and the current Legion opening ten years later at a construction cost of around $1 million. In more recent times, the Legion got the Town of Ponoka in 2007 to name a street Veterans Memorial Way and assisted in bringing the Flags of Remembrance dedication to the community.
While these events are significant, the Legion has widely supported the community for many years on many levels and in many projects.