I have most probably done hundreds of interviews in my long newspaper career in and around Ponoka, but casually sitting down recently with Frank Mickey, Shorty Jones, and Ralph Vold will always be among my most enjoyable experiences. These congenial gentlemen were all born and raised in the Ponoka district, where they would later marry and raise their families, as well as become extremely active in all facets of our community.
Along the way they would pursue their careers and business opportunities, were involved in several sports, and have been avid promoters and mentors of the Ponoka Stampede and the exciting sport of rodeo for over six decades. Although they may have now slowed down just a little, Ralph (81), Frank (83), and Shorty (85) are still very excited about the forthcoming Diamond Jubilee edition of our ‘Wild-Wild-West of 36th Stampede showdown from June 27th to July 3, 2011. This friendly trio were likely only scruffy cheering youngsters along the fence at the first 1936 two day Ponoka Stampede, but always loved to hang around the grounds, got involved in the action in the 1950’s, and then would devote a life-time to the annual July long weekend family event.
During our delightful afternoon together Frank, Ralph, and Shorty expressed sincere appreciation on behalf of past and present members of the Ponoka Stampede Association to the over 1000 annual volunteers and the ongoing tremendous support of the community and districts for helping to make it all come together for 75 glorious years, and counting.
One of the ‘Jones boys’
Idris ‘Shorty’ Jones, the elder statesman of this group was born in Ponoka in 1926 into the family of Dave and Jennie Jones, who were raised in a stately old home that is now the Walrus and the Carpenter on 48th Avenue. After completing school and helping his father in the family electrical shop, Shorty and his brothers Bill and Stan purchased their own trucking company in 1946, hauling freight throughout the area.
After selling the business to Tom and Ron Crawford in 1950, the Jones boys established an Insurance and Real Estate business a year later, then in 1957 Bill and Shorty joined forces with Ralph and Harry Vold to purchase the Vold-Jones-Vold Auction Market.
Shorty Jones was also a stalwart and scrappy defenseman with the talented Ponoka Senior A Ponoka Stampeders for 15 years, helping them to win many C.H.H.L. league titles, as well as a Western Canadian Intermediate ‘A’ Championship in the 1955-56 season. He joined the Ponoka Stampede Association in 1954, serving in all executive capacities, and later honoured with a Life Membership. Shorty was quick to express that among the many milestones that he recalls during his long tenure with the PSA was when Hector Labrie served as President in 1955, spearheading a project to fence the entire Stampede grounds and promoting free admission through the gates. The addition of the campground in 1974 was also a great plus for rodeo fans and visitors. He and his wife Jean were kept busy raising their active family of daughters Debbie, Margo, and Tammy, and sons Danny and Terry, and along the way have been blessed with 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
An early career in sports
Ralph Vold was born on December 3, 1930, a descendant of one of the first pioneer families to settle in the Asker district in the late 1800’s. One of four sons of Nansen and Kirsten, Ralph grew up on the busy ranch east of Ponoka with brothers Norman, Cliff, and Harry, then chose to pursue a career in sports. He played junior hockey in the Western League with Crowsnest Pass, later graduating to the Boston Olympics for a one-year stint with this farm team of the NHL Bruins. In 1952 this tall young man pursued another dream, becoming a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball organization, and pitched throughout the United States until 1958, when brother Harry persuaded him to come home and join him in the local auction business.
While Ralph and his wife Delores looked forward to raising their family, along the way he would also become a rancher, a steer rider, the owner of a herd of Brahma bulls, and a tireless promoter of the fast growing livestock industry and the rugged sport of rodeo. He also found a little time to play with the great Ponoka Stampeder Hockey teams, then later would develop the world class Wolf Creek Golf Resort near Morningside, which has celebrated over 25 years of great success and growth. As a Life Member of the Ponoka Stampede Association, Ralph served in all areas of the organization for four decades, and has been an ongoing international promoter of our rodeo and our community. He vividly recalls many milestones that have added to the success of the Stampede over the years, including the presence of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in the parade, the opening of the front gates for free parking and only one admission price, and the ongoing addition of many venues on the grounds to make the show even better! Ralph and Delores will always enjoy spending quality time with family, including daughters Laurie, Vicki, and Kathy, and sons Ryan and Blair, as well as spoiling their 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
For the love of the rodeo
Born in Ponoka in 1927 Frank Mickey has spent most of his very active 83 years in this community, where he and his wife Marg raised their two daughters Janie and Wendy, and have been blessed with four grandchildren and five great grandchildren along the way.
Frank, who worked with the Town of Ponoka Public Works Department from 1956 to 1988, 17 years as foreman, joined the Ponoka Stampede Association in 1959. His many decades of dedication have included serving as their President from 1966 to 1971 and from 1984-85, as well as a Director and Grounds Chairperson, and is currently the Grounds Manager. Frank Mickey, who is a Lifetime member of the Ponoka Stampede Association and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, has also served as the President of the Stampede Managers for 12 years, was on the C.P.R.A. Board of Directors for 20 years, the Dodge Rodeo Rep from 1994-2000, the Central Alberta Rodeo Circuit President for 8 years, and on the C.R.C.A. Board from 1999-2003. He received ‘Man of the Year’ honours with the P.S.A. and the C.P.R.A. in 1984, and was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame in the Builders’ category in 2005.
In his younger years Frank Mickey was an avid hockey fan, and would faithfully serve from 1952 to 1960 as the trainer for the Ponoka Stampede Senior Hockey Club. He has proudly overseen many changes and improvements to the grounds and rodeo events over the years, including the amazing transformation from wood to steel of the grandstands, the chutes, corrals, and buildings. Factors for ongoing successes have included the additions of the RV Park, Longscore Saloon, Tommy Dorchester Paddock, and the Stagecoach Saloon, as well as the rebuilding of the racetrack and the access tunnel. He fondly recalls that our Ponoka Stampede has grown from a two-day showdown in 1951 that paid out $400.00 an event, to a seven day world-class rodeo that pay out $45,000.00 an event for the forthcoming 75th anniversary 2011 edition. Frank also paid special tribute to the late Sid Turner, who was hired in 1978, and served for many years as the strict but congenial custodian of the grounds.
Through all his dedication and efforts, Frank is very quick to salute the support and enthusiasm of the volunteers, the community, the generations of PSA members, and from the many thousands of rodeo contestants and fans.