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Reflections of Ponoka: A tribute to Rod Jensen and his music

I was never much of a dancer, but like so many of the rest of you over the years, we always looked forward to getting a bunch together
Rod Jensen

I was never much of a dancer, but like so many of the rest of you over the years, we always looked forward to getting a bunch together and heading out to those friendly and spirited weekend country dances. Whether it was the polka, the 2-step, the chastise, jitter bug, bunny hop, slow waltz, or whatever else was in swing, everyone joined in, and those fabulous bands who played and sung those great songs never missed a beat or turned down a request. These classic get-togethers featured fun, frolic, and celebration, and were the perfect opportunity to relax after a long week and to generate precious friendships and relationships that usually lasted for a lifetime.

In the colorful early days of our town and districts, these gala weekend flings at jam-packed community halls and other venues became a wonderful tradition for all occasions, ages, and family generations, and were always a great evening of dancing and letting loose into the wee hours, while enjoying the company and keen camaraderie of all sorts of fun-seekers. Many of our 19th century community musicians were self-taught, dashing away from their day jobs with their instruments to perform for countless events for the pleasure of others, a fabulous meal, and maybe even a few dollars.

Rodney Jensen and friends

Rod Jensen was born on June 16, 1912 at Daneville, Divide County, North Dakota, and would later move with his family to Alberta, settling in the Home Glen district 28 miles northwest of Ponoka. Following the active days of his youth on the farm, Mr. Jensen ran the Home Glen Store and Post Office as well as the cream route throughout the area. He married Dorothy Jensen, and together over those busy years they raised their family of daughters Mildred, Joyce, Judy, and Linda, and son Vern.

As well as being active members of the district, the Jensen family also had a great passion for music, with Rodney playing his cherished accordion and the rest constantly honing their talents with other instruments and delightful song stylings. The popular Home Glen Hall was a host to many activities over the years, with the Friday and Saturday night dances attracting folks from far and wide to dance and enjoy the music of Rodney Jensen and family, as well as the many other skilled artists from near and far who would come together on the stage for hundreds of great gigs.

Reg Rust, who joined Rodney Jensen in 1959 and had the pleasure of playing with him for 28 years, recalled that those lively bands would travel for countless miles, from Ponoka to Carrot River, to Okotoks, to Red Deer, to Phoenix, and beyond, to jam and play together for weddings, fundraisers, barn dances, at the local taverns, and during the Ponoka Stampede. They also very willingly offered their time and talents to play for patients at the hospitals and local care centres, as well as for special events such as Remembrance Day at the Legion, and on and on.

Some of the musicians from Ponoka Town and County who played with Rodney Jensen over all those glorious and rag-tag years included: Wendy and Allen Midal, Spen Muddle, Mildred Scherby, Otto Brachmann, Joe Staldecker, Esther Marcinek, Fred Hiebert, Ken Lindstrand, Wally Kriel, Ben Schmuland, Daryl and Don Fiveland, Shorty Polushin, Beryl and Kay Swanson, Stan Tofsrud, Peter Morrison, Reg and Ron Rust, Russell Petersen, Velma Hart, Michel Black, Mel and Mary Kreil, Cecil Stoddard, Tommy Williams, Jim Hanna, Eddie Bengston, Matt Monaghan, Jess and Mrs. Husby, Daryll Doran, Merle Anderson, Gordie Kroening, Bill Olichuck, Art Lemke, Ernie Santee, Rosemary Johnson, and so many colleagues and friends that he made along the way.

Rodney (Rod) Clarence Jensen passed away in Ponoka on August 20, 1990 at the age of 78 years. In appreciation for his ongoing dedication to his family, his community, his music, and to all the fond memories over years, this delightful tribute was presented at his funeral by long-time friend Ronald V. Johnston.

An Ode to Rodney Jensen

Not long ago, maybe a month or so, it was brought to my attention that a ‘friend’ that day had passed away, and his name was Rodney Jensen.

A friend and more, his name is lore, his fame has broad extension; as many a hall, both big and small, heard the music of Rodney Jensen.

For sixty years, through joys and tears, I thought I ought to mention, that for so long, we’ve loved his song, and the music of Rodney Jensen.

When lights were low, be it rain or snow, we stayed with good intention; and we’d dance all night, ‘til the morning light, to the music of Rodney Jensen.

When the nights are chill, I can hear him still, and I feel no apprehension; as the Home Glen hills echo the trills with the music of Rodney Jensen.

And I hope someday, we’ll find a way, when we’ve reached our final pension; to join and sing, on angels’ wing, to the music of Rodney Jensen.