Featured in the picture are the 39 class-mates and one teacher who attended the gala 55th reunion of the Ponoka High School Graduate class of 1963 on Saturday, Sept. 21. Shown in the photo from left to right, back row are: Stan Lux, Gord Jones, Ed Andrychuk, Jorgen Sviestrup, Garry Humphreys, Don Sutherland, Leonard Perry, Carl Jensen, Tom Doran, Richard (Dick) Osokin, former teacher Jim Day, Larry Kleckner, Ron McDowell, Gerry Field, Ken Pohl, Ken Williams, Marty Schmidt, Louis Peterson, and Richard (Dick) Groom; and then in the middle from left to right is: Vivian Baumgartner, Lill (Young) Brulhart, Pat (Bonnett) Stark, Shirley (Despeigelaere) Johns, Carol (Stewart) Fleck, Shirley (Roesti) Onesto, Sharon (Kroening) Hoffman, Miriam Sweet-Wright, Elaine (Stuart) Bruns, and Jennie (Risto) Nauroth; while seated in the front row from left to right are: Fern (Paulson) Zurawell, Violet (Fleck) Lorenz, Elaine (Cissell) Groom, Beverley (Hughes) Lyon, Carol (Hughes) Potts, Carole (Newton) Jensen, Kris (Younge) Jones, Sharon (Donaghy) McLean, Gail (Beach) Chudleigh, Terry (Doran) Haakonson, and Gloria (McCue) Konelsky. Photo courtesy of Brita Lengwenus-Blynn

Reflections: Former Ponoka high schoolers celebrate 55th reunion

There was a large group of folks who descended on Ponoka to celebrate their 55th high school reunion

By Marty Schmidt and Mike Rainone for the News

It really doesn’t matter how old we may be, most of us will never forget our glorious adventures at school, the countless friends we made, our favourite teachers, and the amazing experiences of learning that we received, and hopefully enthusiastically utilized to pursue and mould our future for the rest of our lives.

How precious it is to browse through the photos of our former classmates and to remember and share all those wild and wonderful occasions and events that we enjoyed from grades one through 12, and over the years are still able to stay in touch with those who had such a special place in the topsy-turvy days of our youth.

It’s hard to believe that 55 years have passed since the Ponoka High School graduate class of 1963 left the hallowed halls of learning, and for many, their hometown. Some stayed and partnered with their parents on the farm, some took jobs in the town or district and advanced their work skills, while others ventured off to colleges and universities. But, this class didn’t forget their schoolmates, many of whom had been friends since Grade 1 in the Old Brick School.

It is probably fair to say that this rambunctious group of students is the only one in Alberta that has organized a class reunion in Ponoka every five years since 1973 (no fifth year reunion) with a newsletter being contributed to by numerous students every year around Christmastime. In this way lasting friendships have been built, and every reunion provides a special time to continue, rekindle or build on a unique relationship that started decades ago.

This year was no exception. Classmates gathered at the Legion Hall on Friday, Sept. 21 for registration and an evening of meet and greet. Behind all the endless chatter and laughter, you could hear background music featuring the top hits from the 1950s and ’60s to help set the mood. This was truly a picture of old school friends getting together to reflect and reminisce about the warm memories, pranks, romances, sports and great days enjoyed in their old hometown of Ponoka.

Of the 108 graduates from 1963, several had attended every reunion held over the years, some had not attended during the past 20 or more years, and a few had never attended before. By registration records, 25 of the graduating class still show a Ponoka address, with one of our teachers, George Olson, still residing in the town. Of the 67 who attended the reunion, there were 40 classmates and our favourite Phys-Ed teacher, Mr. Jim Day here to join in on all the fun, with the rest being spouses and partners.

On first meeting, it was a challenge for some to put a name to a face, which tends to happen as the years zoom by. After a brief chat and “guessing game”; the face and character of an old school mate (or even and old girlfriend or boyfriend) gradually emerged. As is always the case, some changes were quite pronounced, while some looked little different from the last “good byes” spoken many years ago. Once reference points were re-established, it was like time had stood still and we were once again right back in our youthful element.

The wet snow that greeted our mates on Saturday did not deter the hardiest ones among us to join in on the fun of a wagon ride courtesy of our classmates, Ken and Verna Pohl. His 3-hitch team of trusty Percheron horses hauled a dozen brave souls on a tour of their farmland, winding up with hot beverages, donuts, fritters and lots of laughter before heading back to town to change out of wet clothes for the evening banquet and entertainment.

A moveable feast which seemed all the more delightful in contrast to the wintery weather outside, was most ably catered by Bob Hepp and his skilled staff. Following dinner and decadent desserts, a snooze would have been welcomed by our group of “70-somethings”, but entertainment would first have to be enjoyed. Our most capable and much-loved alumni president for all our post-school years, Jennie (Risto) Nauroth, extended an official greeting to our gathering. She then outlined the evening program and presented interesting statistics concerning our reunion history.

Marty Schmidt, acting as emcee, read a humorous poem depicting experiences that characterize most high school reunions. A special poem, read by Ken Pohl, introduced a memorial moment to honour classmates, children, other family members and staff who had passed away over the past decades. A feature presentation was given by Jim Day, our beloved sports coach during our high school years. He focused much attention on his deep appreciation for the staff, students and his athletes during his tenure, and later posed for a photo with class members who made the Ponoka Broncs football team a formidable foe against many high schools in the region.

Door prizes and gifts were generously provided by several students, with a framed, original water colour art piece created by Karen (Calvert) White for each classmate.

Humour was added to the evening with a Fashion Show featuring outlandish outfits, narration and hilarious “actors”. A choreographed “dance” routine by eight classmates posing as “real” seniors, pushing their walkers around the dance floor in sync with Rock ‘n Roll music, was a true “show stopper”. Marty Schmidt performed a tribute song, in costume, of Jimmy Durrante’s “Young at Heart”, while Tom Doran did a fine guitar and vocal tribute of Blake Shelton’s “Some Beach Somewhere”. Following some banter between these two wannabe “artists”, they led a Hillbilly jug band version of “Down on the Corner” by the Creedence Clearwater Revival. After considerable cajoling, volunteer instrumentalists joined in the gig playing everything including combs, spoons, tambourines, a box drum and even a Tom Doran, custom-made “Ugly Stick” played most skillfully by Kris (Younge) Jones.

As happens with all good times, an ending arrives. In a more reflective tone, the classmates all joined in on the old Roy Rogers and Dale Evans parting song, “Happy Trails to You”. And so, the evening ended. It was hard to say “goodbye”, but with a commitment to hopefully make our way back to our hometown in 2023 for our 60th reunion.

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