By Mike Rainone
For the News
Over 90 years of friendly community hospitality and care is the wonderful legacy that has been created by several generations of mothers, daughters, and grandmothers as members of the longstanding Arbor Park Ladies group.
The Ladies of the Arbor Park district located north of Ponoka, first organized in 1918 as a local of the United Farm Women of Alberta, and are still going strong.
Mrs. Murray Smith was the first president, Mrs. Steve Fuller was the secretary, and other charter members included: Mrs. Ben Dickau, Mrs. George Sweet, Mrs. Page Baker, Mrs. Charles Park, Mrs. Ben Fink, Mrs. Bert Stoddard, Mrs. Gehring, Mrs. George Cross, and Mrs. Chris Beck. New members were always welcomed into the group, and were encouraged to join as soon as they became of age.
With as many as 40 members their dedicated ongoing support of their district included catering to weddings, anniversaries, and other special events at churches and halls throughout the town and county. Over those many busy but enjoyable years the Arbor Park Ladies have likely baked and decorated several thousands cakes, cookies and pies, as well as sewing and knitting exquisite items to suit most any occasion. One of their favourite events was dressing up and performing a host of delightful and sassy skits and entertainment before always-appreciative crowds of all ages. Proceeds of their countless activities were always donated to many worthwhile community projects.
Despite sometimes unpredictable weather conditions or various family circumstances the Arbor Park Ladies always managed to go forward with their special projects, and have succeeded in touching the hearts of many over those 90 plus years. Their countless visits and extreme humour has brought joy and good will to the guests of the Bethany Home, Rimoka Lodge, Northcott Lodge, the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre, the Centennial Centre, and on and on. They also have been the conveners of the sewing section at the annual Ponoka County Fair for many years; and for their own socializing they have enjoyed an annual Christmas dinner with their hubbies and families, visits to the Devonian Gardens and the Innisfail R.C.M.P. Dog Training Centre, and other keen outings.
While the Arbor Park Ladies group now consists of just 12 members, that long-standing spirit of friendship, hospitality, and community care will always remain within their ranks. They meet once a month, and new members or guests are always welcome, as this old reporter quickly discovered. Following is an earlier tribute to the Arbor Park Ladies, as written by one of their members Bea Schalin.
This is the town of Pon-ok-io; I came to live here eight years ago.
My hubby and I have been happy since then, and each one of you have been our special friends.
Why I recall the first time I met you, Ewald Lentz on a big horn blew.
Nearly scared me out of my wits, then in all came, hats-coats and mitts.
My hubby said ‘Tis a shiveree, put a smile on and come with me.
We all had fun and there was lots to eat, and many nice neighbours I did meet.
Irma thought that I should go to meet the ladies group,
To see just how the world was won, and eat potato soup.
You just can’t get along, she said, without the ladies’ aid,
Why all the gossip you hear, that’s just how the day is made.
Eight years have past since the first time I went,
Many good times together we’ve spent.
Bake sales and banquets too, this is how we’re feeding you.
And now I have a tale to tell, about each lady I know so well.
It may be happy, it may be sad, it may be good, or it may be bad;
But please don’t get mad!
A is for Albers; of them there is three…Marj, Gail and Mrs. Clara.
Marj’s favourite sport and what she loves to do, is ride around in her trusty ski-do.
The youngest member of our group is a little gal named Gail,
But any job there is do we know that she shall not fail.
Grandma’s always come in handy for baby-sitting and making candy.
Sometimes they have to rake hay, wouldn’t you know it on ladies aid day.
Mrs. Beck has a hot rod car that takes her near or takes her far.
Joyce (Stebner) is so tall and slim,
Due to the exercise that she gets when her drive way drifts in.
Beware of Anna (Park) and what you say,
She’ll report you to the paper the very next day.
School teaching fills all Ericka’s time, but being a dentist isn’t a crime.
Inger (Christensen) is shy comes from my pen,
But just wait ‘til you see her as the little red hen.
Jeanette Baker is our musician did you know?
She likes to fiddle as she’s on the go.
Ruby (Osburn) likes to sing and strum her auto harp,
That’s why we like to hear her do her favourite part.
Marion (Burton) always wears a big smile and tackles a job as big as a mile.
Santa Claus has a great frame, but if he loses his pants Norma Andrychuck is his name.
Shirley Piercy is always so happy and gay, any part in the skit she’ll play.
Martha Megger is the quiet one, but with her there we can all have some fun.
Roads ploughed out, sky getting black,
Clara Lentz thought she was going home when she hit the haystack!
Ruby John’s granddaughters keep her young and fit,
Because ski-dooing to them has made quite a hit.
Laura Lance talks a mile a minute, that’s why she’s President and we’re glad she’s in.
Perfect attendance was Fay Racher’s aim; even a baby daughter didn’t dare mess up the game.
Our newest member is Marie Stephenson by name, to have some fun she always game.
The long-long trailer belongs to Beth Hill, an Avon order for you she’ll fill.
Irma Lentz is our fastest, be careful when you sit,
Cause Irma and snow banks make quite a hit!
Betty Podritske likes to wear a pretty yellow garter, but her celebrity name is Miss June Carter.
Edna Hettler has two sweet little girls that keeps her hopping with kisses and curls.
Bea Schalin is fat and always black, so hubby says, that’s that!
Oh yes, we are a nutty group and have a laugh or two, but there’s a bond which can’t be seen, and that’s what makes us friends with all of you!