A salute to our pioneer women….the first 50 years

Reflections looks at the pioneer women who first came to Ponoka.

The pioneer woman stood over her hot old kitchen stove preparing a meal for a big rambunctious and busy family at the beginning of each and every day of chores and challenges from dawn to dusk during the early settlement of our Alberta prairies.

The pioneer woman stood over her hot old kitchen stove preparing a meal for a big rambunctious and busy family at the beginning of each and every day of chores and challenges from dawn to dusk during the early settlement of our Alberta prairies.

The Town of Ponoka was in full celebration mode during the first week of August 1954 to honour the gala 50th anniversary of a great and active family community that in half a century had grown from a handful of settlers, a few wooden buildings and a brand new railroad to a thriving town of over 3,000 citizens.

It was a festive week of fun that featured parades, banquets, entertainment, historical  displays and a much deserved salute to our founding Ponoka urban and rural families from all walks of life, as well as the businesses, professionals and dedicated labour force who had teamed together to build the foundations of Ponoka and districts from the grass roots on the way to a bright future for all generations. During the opening ceremonies of the fifties celebration, Mayor Hughie Roberts and honoured guest John McGillivray, who was the first Mayor of Ponoka in 1904 (population 400), extended greetings to thousands of local citizens, dignitaries, former pioneers and visitors from far and wide. In his welcoming speech, Roberts stressed that we must always appreciate and never forget our dedicated first pioneers, who faced countless hardships, loneliness, and sorrow in those rugged early days, but worked hard together and persevered through the good times and the bad to give us what we rejoice and celebrate today. He also reminded the young people that we cannot stop here, but to press on and continue to carry the torch that our forefathers lit and to set higher goals for our community as they headed into the new generations and exciting challenges of the future.

Pioneer W.A. Archibald salutes the ladies.

In a delightful address to the Old-timers’ Banquet during the Ponoka 50th Anniversary Week, pioneer W.A. Archibald paid tribute to the remarkable men and women who had the courage to converge on this unbroken wilderness in the early 1900s and began to pool their ideas and stake their claims for a place in the future of Alberta, Canada. “Today, as we look back over a half a century there is a feeling of extreme pride to realize that through all the challenges and hardships along the way we were mostly thrilled with the idea of exploring, breaking, building, and slowly developing this country into the fine town and country districts that we share and enjoy today,” he said. Mr. Archibald also vividly expressed that in the beginning, we, younger men, were so lucky to have had the advice, know-how and leadership of these older pioneer families, who brought their know-how, knowledge, skills and experiences from all parts of the world.

He expressed disappointment that the fine Ponoka 50th Anniversary History book did not give enough recognition to our hardy pioneer women, whose accomplishments and contributions were both amazing and never-ending, and would have made an epic tale equal to the bravery and devotion of the Florence Nightingale’s, Laura Secord’s and so many other great ladies of the world, both then and now. Mr. Archibald fondly exemplified their courage, kindness and inspiration by offering examples such as…. the elderly woman who killed a big black bear in the hen house with an axe; the mother who tied her kids to the table legs and went out to hunt the cows, got lost in the storm, and had to stay in the bush all night; the brave and determined women who travelled miles on horseback through horrific conditions to aid a sick neighbour, deliver a baby, and on and on. He also referred to Sir Winston Churchill’s most prolific quote of being a strong supporter of kings, but he liked queens better, and also thought that daughters were always a mighty good investment.

Facts you should know by Allan James

Long time congenial Ponoka resident and carpenter/bus driver/Jack-of-all-trades Allan James wrote a delightful story which starts on page 89 of the Ponoka Panorama History book and pays tribute to countless early community citizens, entrepreneurs, and real characters, as well as a special tribute to all the ladies in their lives.

‘Our hats are off to the wives of the pioneers for their strong pride, persistence, patience and passion in what was the exciting era long before ‘Women’s Lib’ was ever heard of.’ Through those challenging early decades of our town and districts the old saying was, ‘Where there is a real successful man, there is always a remarkable woman that has quietly helped him to reach his lofty goals during their day-to-day challenging role as wives and mothers, as well as the calming influence around the house, the farm, and the store.’

Somehow along the way they managed to handle all the chores from dawn to dusk, while raising very active families that often numbered as high as 16, but still somehow found the time to tend to the garden, help with the harvest, host a Sunday picnic, take part in the play at the hall, and provide room and board for the school teacher. In those glorious days of no television, radio, telephones and long-distance neighbours, it was during their rare quiet times that the wives and mothers were often disturbed by a visit from tramps and peddlers, but with a little luck she may just get to watch one silent movie a month or read a chapter of her book. It all changed just a little when dad got his first car, which a few wives were allowed to drive once in a while, but usually only slowly through one of the many ‘cattle gates’, where hubby was constantly standing with his hands on his hips hollering ‘whoa-whoa.’ Whatever the case, there was and never will be too many occasions when we will ever be able to survive without these wonderful ladies at our side.