Reflections of Ponoka: A century of success through teamwork at Ponoka hospital

Reflections of Ponoka: A century of success through teamwork at Ponoka hospital

Shown in the new modern Dental Lab at the P.M.H. in the early fifties are Dr. H.A. Banks and his assistant Mrs. Isabel Tugman.

Shown in the new modern Dental Lab at the P.M.H. in the early fifties are Dr. H.A. Banks and his assistant Mrs. Isabel Tugman.

To succeed and survive along the path of life, whether as a family, in business, on the job, or at play, it usually always takes a strong and determined ‘team effort’ to make it all work out right.

The formula for success includes the ongoing combined efforts of parents, children, employees, bosses, and eager participants of all ages in all walks of community life. Over the years the Reflections feature in your Ponoka News has presented many great team and family efforts and milestones from all facets of our town and districts through a colorful and historical adventure of over 100 exciting years. This week we will bring back some of the great staff teams from the early years of the Provincial Mental Hospital, now Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, where of course new staff members continue to carry on the proud traditions.

The dietary department

The dietary department insures each and every patient and staff receives nutritious and well balanced meals daily. Since the arrival of the first baker and cook Mr. A.E. Thorn at the new provincial hospital on July 15, 1911 hundreds of individuals have worked together as a team in the kitchens and dining rooms to provide good meals in a pleasant and caring atmosphere.

Some of those countless men and women who toiled over those hot steel ovens and stoves in the early years were also complemented by those who prepared for and the served meals, as well as cleaning thousands of dishes, pots, and pans 365 days of the year. Some of the dietary staff members between 1912-1960 included Frank Westgate (baker from 1918-1942), Fern Stacey (head dietician from 1927 to 1958), Clarence King (baker from 1939 to 1967), Donald Campbell (Cook and chef from 1934 to 1968), and John Martin, who led the baking crew from 1946 to 1972. Later dieticians included Lorna Lashley, Margaret Tannis, and Grietje Jongman, who were joined by cooks, bakers, and chefs like Ekk Kok, Jim Smith, Enos Holben, Glen Rentz, Joe Staldecker, Robert Turner and dedicated support staff in all areas of food preparation.

Patients’ accounts offices

While the hundreds of staff at the Provincial Mental Hospital were extending excellent treatment to more than 1,500 patients and keeping the massive institution in pristine condition and running perfectly in all areas, there were those behind the scenes who tended to the mountains of day to day paper work.

In the busy Patient’s Maintenance, Trust, and Effects office, the financial interests of patients at the hospital were carefully managed for their benefit. Some were given a small wage for work around the hospital, which could be drawn from their accounts for personal use and needs. Some of the early staff who worked in this department were Thomas Stack (1940-1958), Jean Sparks, Lynn Gibb, Gail Miller, Winnifred Lea, Phyllis Stickel, Miss Louis McLaren, and Dawn Spence. The Patients Comforts Office is now located in the Town Centre at the Centennial Centre, and is always a popular place to pop and in chat with the “money ladies.”

The dental office

In the 1950s the PMH had a fully equipped dental office, operated by Dr. H.A. Banks and staff. As well as teeth extraction, cleaning, and repair, the clinic also handled denture needs, while also working closely with professionals in the Town of Ponoka. The hospital also had its own medical office, X-ray, and did some minor surgery, but that is another story for a future story.

We need your help

If you have any photos, stories, or ideas from the proud history of our town and districts from the late 1800s and into the 20th century please, give Mike Rainone a call at 403-341-5750 (email so that we can arrange to share them with our readers in a future Remember When or Reflections feature in the Ponoka News. Thank you for all your great assistance, interest, and support in the past and on into the future.

By Mike Rainone – For the News