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Reflections of Ponoka: A grand salute to former Ponoka champions

There may not be a “Town of Champions” sign sitting on the outskirts of Ponoka, but having had the great privilege of living
The 1926 undefeated basketball team.

There may not be a “Town of Champions” sign sitting on the outskirts of Ponoka, but having had the great privilege of living in this friendly community for more than 50 years, I can surely vouch that there have been many skilled and highly motivated teams and individuals who have earned countless championships and successes through their spirited efforts.

While I always really enjoyed being a ‘just for fun’ player on various teams and sports, I will always be somewhat of a total sports fanatic, and was so lucky over the years to be able to watch, cover for the newspaper, and cheer for all those who so proudly wear the ‘P’ on their uniforms, at home, or on the road. As another feature of “Reflections” your Ponoka News will continue to recognize the special efforts and dedication of our own home town superstars, who all love to come and play the game from all walks of life and age groups.

Cathy Galusha

Right from the beginning as a rambunctious youngster, Cathy excelled at many community and school sports, including baseball, fastball, basketball, curling and of course golf. In 1961 Cathy won the Canadian Junior Ladies’ Golf Championship, which was the amazing beginning of an exciting amateur stint that along the way has featured her taking part, and often winning in countless competitions throughout Alberta and across the nation.

A longstanding citizen of Ponoka, Cathy graduated from the University of Alberta and then began her lengthy teaching career at the junior high school. She later married former town councillor/draftsman Errol McMillan, raised two athletic daughters, with the family always enjoying being involved in many community activities. For several decades Cathy McMillan has competed in all categories of local and provincial golf competition, advancing many times as a member of the Alberta team to the national finals. She still enjoys success playing at the same senior level. As an avid member and supporter of the popular Ponoka Community Golf Club, Cathy proudly still makes her home in the town where she had so much fun growing up.

Small but powerful

Webb Frizzell was a citizen of Ponoka from 1939-44 and this popular and diminutive young man would eventually battle his way to become the Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion of Canada. Many of Frizzell’s bouts were staged at the Empress Theatre or at the Elks Hall on Chipman Avenue, all in front of huge crowds of avid boxing and wrestling fans.

When he wasn’t trading punches, Webb worked as the night clerk at the Royal Hotel, which was owned by his good friend, Johnny Phelan. The tavern was busy and noisy every night but with Webb around, there were never too many tussles. His coveted championship belt can be seen in the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame.

Central basketball champions

In the early days of the Ponoka High School it was the field of basketball that our school students enjoyed their greatest fame, and despite the fact that all of their games were played outdoors, both the boys and girls teams won many tournament and Central Championships. Shown here is the 1926 PHS undefeated team, whose roster included: Fred Zimmerman, Oswald Peffers, Thurman Curl, Wilbur and Elwyn Bowker, Chris Cook and Glen Park.

Many decades later, that same traditional spirit of good sportsmanship and keen competition continues in all Ponoka Composite High School sports programs. You are welcome to take a little time to browse through the lobby and check out the trophy and photo cases that honour all those champions of yesterday and today.

A dynasty of soccer excellence

It was through the Dirty Thirties and beyond that many hundreds of fans from town and rural districts were entertained by an exciting brand of football from a Central League that included feisty and talented teams from Wood River, the Provincial Mental Hospital, Red Deer, Penhold and others.

The matches always generated a fierce but friendly rivalry between teams, especially the Ponoka-area based Wood River and PMH squad. This mid-1930s hospital team, which was made up of staff members, enjoyed an undefeated season and picked up all the championship silverware available at both the central and provincial level.

More stories and photos welcome

If you have more story ideas or photos of the early days of Ponoka and districts, including families, teams, clubs, events, ‘characters’ and whatever else, please drop them off at the Ponoka News, or leave a phone number or contact so that I can get in touch with you, and we can continue the Reflections and Remember When features going for as long as possible. Meanwhile, thanks for all your interest and support now and in the past, and for helping us to recreate so many great memories.