Reflections of Ponoka: A long family tradition of community business and fun

Dave and Jennie Jones arrived in Ponoka in the early 1900s, and over a span of several exciting decades raised their family of four

The present location of Jones Insurance Agencies at 5012-50th (Chipman) Avenue is currently celebrating their 61st year of the family business in Ponoka.

The present location of Jones Insurance Agencies at 5012-50th (Chipman) Avenue is currently celebrating their 61st year of the family business in Ponoka.

Dave and Jennie Jones arrived in Ponoka in the early 1900s, and over a span of several exciting decades raised their family of four, including boys Bill, Idris (Shorty), Dave Jr., Stan, and sisters Olwen and Laurine.  Along the way the bustling and happy family would become actively involved in their community at the business, sport, and volunteer levels … a colorful tradition that has proudly carried on through the Jones’ generations to the present day.

The latest milestone in their many successful business ventures is the celebration of the 61st Anniversary of the ongoing operation of Jones Insurance Agencies along historic Chipman Avenue as well as the change of ownership from Bill Jones Jr. to Sister Lori (Jones) Holt. After returning to his hometown after working as a surveyor and caterer in Calgary and Edmonton, Bill Jones purchased the business in 1983 after Shorty’s retirement, and worked alongside his father Bill for five years.

A long and colorful family history

The young and rambunctious family of Dave and Jennie Jones were raised in the former Dickau family home, which had been purchased and moved 5114-48th Avenue, across from the outdoor community skating rink, and is now the home of the Walrus and the Carpenter. Dave Jones Sr. was Ponoka’s first Policeman, and as the family grew up and completed their schooling, the boys and their father became involved in many trades, including the construction of the Dawnview and Eastview wards at the Alberta Hospital.

Among Bill and Shorty’s first business ventures was to start up a trucking company in 1946 in the spot where our local library now stands,  initially operating with one truck along the busy highway between Edmonton and Ponoka hauling canned goods, flour, sugar, and other supplies to our communities’ local grocery stores. In the first year brother Stan joined in as a partner, three more trucks were added, and the route was expanded to include the Red Deer area. The 1973 Ponoka Panorama History book delightfully explained that after a hard day’s work on the road, Bill and Shorty would dash home to get ready for a hockey game with the Stampeders, a strong passion that would carry on for many years, later including their own children as they got into sports, as well as adding the keen sport of rodeo to their mix, along with many other community activities.

In 1953 Bill and Idris (Shorty) Jones brought an insurance company from Mr. Arthur Eastes, and set up their new business known as Jones Brothers’ Insurance Agency in the Sweet Block along Chipman Avenue. The Jones’ brothers would later become partners with Ralph Vold in the Vold Jones and Vold Auction Market, still located in the west industrial park along highway 2 Ponoka. It was extremely interesting to note some of the early Rates and Rules for Farm Property in 1944 concerning fire, lightning, hail, and tornado insurance for the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the North West Territories. Fees for farm property and dairy barns (excluding silos) were 50 cents for a one year term and 75 cents for a three year term, which also included coverage for prairie fires.  For threshing machines (while in operation) the annual rate was $1.50 (for those using gas fuel with belts), and $5.00 for steam driven machines. In that era, the average insurance rates for automobiles and most buildings (depending on construction materials) was $11.25, with coverage of $5000 to $10,000 in liability. By the way, just in case you wanted to compare, the 1980’s yearly insurance package for a two year old vehicle was $275.00.

A new location for the insurance agency

After taking over the family insurance business Bill Jr. eventually purchased the Richie Thompson’s Men’s Wear building on the north side of Chipman Avenue, and along with an extremely dedicated staff operated in that current location until his retirement in 2013. In keeping the business ‘all in the family’ Bill and Yvonne Jones’ daughter Lori would take the reins after previously working at the Ponoka Herald and for 15 years in the oil and gas industry, and has really enjoyed the newest change and challenge.

Lori, who is really proud to be involved in a family insurance business that has been successful for over six decades, is married to Laurie Holt, who works with Mental Health in Red Deer. She has two daughters, including Justine, who is married to Geoff and lives in Grande Prairie, and Alyssa, who is 15 and attends school at the St. Augustine’s’ School. Both Bill Jr. and Lori paid tribute to their many dedicated staff throughout the years and today, with special mention of Linda McDonagh, who recently retired after serving over 30 years at the Jones Insurance Agencies. Bill Jr. was very active over the years as a member of the Ponoka Kinsmen, served on the Library Board, and is currently on the executive of the Seniors’ Drop-In Centre.

Bill senior, who passed away in 2006, was married to a Ponoka district girl (Yvonne Whitten), who continues to live in town and enjoys staying quite active. Together they raised four children, including Ron, Carleen, Bill, and Lori. Shorty and Jean Jones have lived all their lives in this friendly community, where they have happily raised their family of sons Terry and Danny, and daughters Debby (Grant), Tammy (Miller), and Margo (Buss). Bill Jr. and his wife JoAnn, who now plan to take some time to relax and travel, have two children, including Karen and her husband Nathan, and son Colin, who all make their home in Calgary. Needless to say, all generations of the Jones family from day one have and will always look forward to the ongoing arrival and constant pampering of many grandchildren and great grandchildren for many generations to come, while their successful business ventures will always continue to be a great asset to our community and districts.