Reflections of Ponoka: A life dedicated to sports, family, and community

May Pringle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 3, 1923, and immigrated by ship to Canada in 1926

The Championship 1945 Edmonton Army and Navy ‘Pats’ Basketball team shown from left to right

The Championship 1945 Edmonton Army and Navy ‘Pats’ Basketball team shown from left to right

May Pringle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 3, 1923, and immigrated by ship to Canada in 1926, eventually settling in Edmonton with her parents and three young brothers. She attended Parkdale School through grades 1-9 and eventually developed an instant love for the sport of basketball. The Pringle family worked hard and also became very active in sports, with May’s brother Alex Pringle later playing with the Edmonton Flyers team when they won the Allan Cup in 1947-48, starring on the big line of Kreller/Smitten and Pringle, and affectionately known as the ‘receding hair line.’

May began her Grade 10-11-12 studies at Edmonton’s Eastwood High School, where, of course, she would join the basketball team. She was later contacted by Claire Hollingsworth, (the son-in-law of Percy Page, the Coach and mentor of the perennial world champion Edmonton Grads hoop team), and in 1937, while still playing for the Eastview team, she was invited to play centre with the prestigious McDougall Commercial High School squad. The team played in various Edmonton city leagues, as well as travelling, all expenses paid to games and tournaments throughout the province of Alberta. Among her earliest fond memories included playing in Cardston, being billeted by the Mormons and getting to tour the magnificent Mormon Temple. May’s inspiration for joining and enjoying the great hoop game came as a young girl, who followed the amazing story of the famous Edmonton Grads basketball team, which put together an unbelievable record of 502 wins in 522 total games, as well as winning all 23 games that they played as a demonstration sport in the 1924 (Paris), 1928 (Amsterdam), 1932 (Los Angeles), and 1936 (Berlin) Olympic Games.

In 1944 May Spence met and married Pilot Officer Robert Lorne Spence, who served in the Mediterranean for the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. May would play for the Edmonton Army and Navy ‘Pats” ladies’ basketball team for nine years and along the way would help them to win numerous city, provincial, and prairie championships. She vividly recalls going by train through the mountains to Vancouver for a competition, where May and her mates were able to play with former Edmonton Grads Noel (McDonald) Robertson, Etta Dann, and Laura Scott. After cruising the west coast, the talented team returned home, and this would mark the end of May’s exciting Basketball career.

The happy couple moved to North Battleford, Saskatchewan, where she taught basketball as well as playing softball for years on a great team coached by ‘Wild Bill Hunter’ of later hockey fame.  Daughters Donna and Darlene were born in North Battleford on June 19, 1948 and June 19, 1951, then after moving to Edmonton, son Ron was welcomed on October 25, 1954. The family moved to Ponoka in 1955 and soon after purchased Central Hardware on Railway Street, which they operated for many years. May later went to work at Lou Gorman’s Drug Store on Chipman Avenue, played lots of golf in the summer, and also teamed with Dorothy Berg and others to open the Clay Barn, which was dedicated to the promotion and teaching of the arts, culture, and crafts for all ages. An accomplished artist, May really enjoyed painting as a hobby, and loved to donate many of her works (under the name of Tu Tu) to worthy causes in and around the community.

The Spences very quickly became involved in the community, Bob as a longstanding Director, President, and Secretary of the Ponoka Stampede Association, and May as busy volunteer during the annual Stampede, as well as a member of the Kinettes and K-40, as a coach of the Composite Hi-Aces girls basketball club for several seasons, as a Sunday School teacher, and one of the leaders of the 72 girls taking part in the United Church C.G.I.T. Club. After raising family, Bob and May loved to join the Snowbirds for their annual winter getaway to Yuma, Arizona. Both the Spence girls, Donna and Darlene, went into nursing careers, while Ron and his family were very active in business and sports here in Ponoka. As a lifetime member of the Ponoka Community Golf Club, May played in many tournaments and events, and the highlight came with the scoring of a hole-in-one out on the pristine Ponoka course.

At the age of 91 May Spence still continues to enjoy an active life-style with her partner of 11 years Don Dillon, loves go to out for coffee and share memories with family and friends, as well as staying in touch and pampering six grandchildren and 10 great-grand-children. She has always been proud to be a Ponokan, a community she will always cherish as a great and friendly place to live, work, play, and raise a family.