The 1966 edition of the Ponoka Composite High School Quill and Shield Year book was full of pictures, news, and accolades that congratulated the forthcoming graduating class and announced the exciting opening of a modern new educational facility for the community in September of the same year.
Since the turn of the 19th century the proud and dedicated tradition of providing a fair education for the young students of Ponoka and surrounding districts has been an exciting and extremely progressive story. Our earliest schools were held in community halls, churches, homes, or above local businesses; but the tremendous area growth resulted in an ongoing need for educational facilities in both town and county locations.
Likely the most illustrious phases of the school growth in our community included: the first public school in 1901, the classic Red Brick School in 1929, the huts in 1947, additions to the Junior High and High Schools on 48th avenue in the 1950s, the opening of the Riverside school in 1960, and the addition of large County Schools at Mecca Glen, Sylvan Heights, and Crestomere. The most ambitious project undertaken by the County School Committee was the construction of the new Composite High School on 54th street north of Highway 2A. The total cost of the building and related equipment was approximately two and a half million dollars, which was financed by the federal government through its program of assistance to institutions offering vocational training.
In additional to the regular academic program, the highly modern vocational facilities would provide training for automotives, agricultural mechanics, welding, drafting, carpentry, beauty culture, typing, shorthand, business machines, and office practices. All of the large and bright classrooms were geared to the most modern instructional methods, with provisions for team teaching, language labs, and video taping of programmes and lessons.
Also included were a beautiful and well-stocked library, a food services area to house a cafeteria, and a large gymnasium and general-purpose area. Amongst the lush grassed and treed areas outside were a modern track, recreation grounds, and specious parking lots. The new ‘Comp’, which the community could be truly proud of, was officially opened in September 1966 with a staff of 30 and an initial enrolment of close to 500 students.
The Quill and Shield yearbook has and always will be the media showcase of the Ponoka Composite High School for many decades; annually displaying delightful photos and stories of the many activities at the busy facility, as well as proudly introducing the students, staff and teachers to the supportive community. In his 1966 message Principal Russell Petterson thanked the graduating staff and Q & S staff for capturing the moments to remember of their great past semesters full of valuable learning experiences and keen camaraderie. He also paid tribute to the past successes that hundreds of students and staff had enjoyed at the local schools for many decades; expressing excitement for much more of the same at the modern new facility long into the bright future of our busy and growing community.
In flipping through those old yearbooks I always enjoy the many photos of the young students and teams; many who I had the great privilege of rubbing shoulders with as we grew up in Ponoka. I took the liberty of clipping out a few members of that 1966 grad class to place around the photo of that magnificent new high school, and will pass on their favourite class memories and wishes for their future. These thoughts certainly represented those of their classmates, both then and now, and they should always be very proud of their ongoing achievements and contributions to community, province, and nation.