Just in case we forgot our teenage years

This week's Reflections looks at the memories of many years ago in Ponoka.

Ponoka Teen Town Queen Candidates for 1963 in the top row (left to right) were Shirley DeSpiegelaere

Ponoka Teen Town Queen Candidates for 1963 in the top row (left to right) were Shirley DeSpiegelaere

Thank goodness that so many of us can still fondly look back at the most glorious and exciting memories of our teenage years and the countless adventures of growing up in and around Ponoka and somehow managing to survive the experience,  occasionally a little battered and bewildered,  but never broken. Along the way, it was mostly a rollercoaster ride of happiness and heartbreak, and while trying to make it through school as just ‘one of the crowd’, but constantly trying to impress the opposite sex, we would never have made it without the keen support of a super bunch of loyal friends, amazing characters and mentors, as well as the often bent but never broken patience, love and understanding from our parents and family.

Great community support for teens

Betty Hoar wrote in the 1944-45 long-standing Ponoka High School Quill and Shield Yearbook that the first teenage club in our community was formed in February 1944 with the idea of keeping all good town and district lads and lassies from becoming bad juvenile delinquents. Through the kindness of the members of the Ponoka Elks and the approval of the local Home and School Association, the club was allowed to use the popular Elk’s Hall along Chipman Avenue two nights a month, free of charge, for the sole purpose of entertaining all the teens, and encouraging them to have fun together as a group.

Many folks in the community came forth to get the new club started, with the lofty promise and purpose that all of us rambunctious teens could have just what they wanted, as long as we followed a new set of rules. These included that during the fun functions that no one was allowed on the stage, backstage or out the back door, and that the hall receive no overly rough usage. That first February function was a Valentine party, with the hall gaily decorated for the occasion, including saw-horses and planks covered with crepe-paper set up in the corner to sell cokes and bismarks at a slight profit. Throughout the evening the  RCA Victor gramophone was blaring out the jitterbug music of Benny Goodman, Harry James, and on and on, and the dance floor was always rocking.

Games and entertainment included elimination dances where the last couple standing on the floor were blindfolded, with the girl required to feed her bibbed boyfriend some very mushy cake as well as a couple’s race to see who could drink the most coke, and a skit to see which lad could make the best proposal to their sweethearts. One of the highlights of the very successful evening was a speech by the PHS principal, welcoming all the teens to this new community adventure and explaining the purpose of this new Ponoka Teen Club, which would rapidly grow and carry on for many years and hundreds of appreciative teenagers..

A proud tradition up at the Composite High School in the 1940s was the annual welcoming of the new teen students from the junior high into the final and senior phase of their grade school education. Although the ‘newbie’s’ may have been a little fearful of what might lay ahead, most everyone looked forward to their annual initiation ceremonies. On that gala and colorful day, the boys would roll up their pants to reveal some wild leg art, draped baby blankets over their broad shoulders, and added the likes of lime-green bow ties to their masculine complexions. The girls, not to be outdone, dressed in their mothers’ housedresses and aprons, which added an air of the gay nineties, or was this the age of the homesteader? On this day, the polish and poise of the modern well-dressed gal was entirely lacking in pigtails, shiny faces and laced shoes, while the boys were really grateful that the whole affair lasted only one day. As the school year progressed, they soon became a part of the ‘in crowd’, taking part in team sports, barn dances, Frosh and sock hops, Masquerade A-go-go’s (with music by the Denteens), the Christmas ball, spring prom, and so much more.

In those days of our youth, only a few lucky students had cars, the bike racks were always full, and all of us looked forward to ‘downtown Friday nights’, featuring double dating or Dutch treat at the Capital Theatre, 8-10 kids packed into one car to get into the local drive-In, and capping it all off with all sharing pop and chips/gravy at Poor Gordies, Bud’s Cafe, or the A & W. Our hard-earned spending money came from a meagre weekly allowance, part time jobs around town, a paper route or collecting bottles, but there never seemed to be enough. One thing for sure, everyone usually came out on top, because we shared what we had, there were very few snobs or bullies,  and no one had ever heard of ‘peer pressure.’

The Teen Club advantage continued in Ponoka with the organization of the Ponoka Teen Town, which had regular gatherings upstairs in the old town hall above the jail cells, where meetings and other events were enjoyed with good turnouts. Occasional dances were featured, with music supplied by a radio or hot platters on the old record player, as well as goodies and games. Dances with real live bands were later hosted at the Elks’ and IOOF Hall, and the highlight of the very active teen town year was the crowning our community’s annual Teen Queen and Most Outstanding Teenager, a glitzy event which carried on until well into the 1960s. Over the years, many other vital youth organizations have been operating in and around our community such as 4-H, church groups, youth centre, sports and recreation, and others, and our ongoing support and encouragement to them is always appreciated.

Those of us who were trying to grow up in around Ponoka in those days will never forget the keen camaraderie and friendly involvement in all sorts of sports and other community activities. As our town and county grow and progress in this fast-paced and electronic age, it is most important that our youth be encouraged and welcomed to get involved in the planning, activities, and amenities of our great community, because they will all hopefully have the opportunity of becoming the biggest part of our brightest future.