I really enjoy spending time browsing through our local history books and chatting with so many family generations who love to tell the colourful stories of the vibrant growth and successes of Ponoka and surrounding districts for over a century. From the most humble and rugged beginnings of our settlement in the late 1800’s, and over many decades to the present day, the countless changes in the everyday way of life has certainly been an overwhelming challenge of versatility and survival, made easier by somehow mixing hard work with a little fun.
So how did everyone cope with the rigours of breaking the land, establishing businesses, homes, and buildings, as well as raising and educating a family as they bravely ventured into the unpredictable 20th century? Following the horrific dirty 30’s and the war years, the age of electronics would begin, populations soared in all areas, countless opportunities and attractions arose, and existence in our day-to-day adventures got just a little more hectic and occasionally quite complicated. So along the way what did our hardy mid-century pioneers think about the winds of change that were constantly sweeping across the prairies, the nation, and throughout the world? Here are a couple of interesting poems from the Crestomere/Sylvan Heights Heritage history book, which offered some vivid opinions on the present state of our homeland, with concern for the price and effects of progress.
– Written by Wolfville district farmer and bachelor Idris Wilkins (The Welshman) in 1948.
Gone are the trees that grew upon my land; the Tamarac and the mighty spruce, Balmagalia, the silvery poplar and the alder, the Hemlocks and the silver birch, on which the Orioles loved to perch.
And now, the North wind’s mighty force sweeps down upon my place, the waters cut and wash a course, no trees to check their pace.
The elements now they sign no truce, wanton destruction by man’s own foolish hand.
Oh, for some windbreaks scattered o’er my land, to check the north wind’s angry rush, and halt the snows from piling high in drifts, that reach toward the sky; and to keep the freshets from running wild in springtime, when the weather’s mild.
Those mighty trees were wantonly destroyed, those sentinels that kept the wind in place; and now the land is getting bleak and void and has lost the wondrous beauty of her face.
No more Robin, Meadow Lark, or Thrush; they’re gone, destroyed by man’s own foolish hand.
Hitching Post to Limousine
– This poem was written by I.G. Wilkins in 1954 for Ponoka’s 50th Anniversary.
Sweet in my memory dwells the age of the buckboard, wagonette and stage; the sight of horses prancing, dancing….the dear old buggy, for romancing.
The Governess car, so proud, so haughty; the dog cart, mischievous and naughty; the carriage and the fancy surrey; the horse car, with its pomp and flurry….and getting nowhere in a hurry.
The lumber wagon, the lowly dray; the democrat, the one horse shay; the bag of oats, the wisp of hay; and one by one, they pass away.
And was there ever a sweeter sight, than coach lamps blinking in the night; the Coachmen with their four-in-hand….the proudest men in all the land?
I see them through a mist of tears, mindful of my early years; but the horseless carriage changed the scene, from hitching post to limousine.
Since the beginning of the early settlement in all areas the land and natures’ bountiful harvest has provided us with most of the resources that we have needed to survive, to raise our families, and to seek out the livelihood and unique opportunities that would take us successfully into the future. Of course along the way, and more and more each decade, there has been a tremendous amount of demand on the rich fields, forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and steams from which we have received so many vital benefits and pleasure right from the beginning. So has natures’ finest been over-used and abused so much that it may be too late to restore to its original pristine beauty, lush soils and forests, ample fish and wildlife, and the vital necessities that have developed so abundantly from within its vast and natural expanse?
People like David Suzuki, Green Peace, and so many others have vigorously promoted many projects for all of us to proudly preserve and protect our precious environment, which will always be ours and for future generations to prosper from and enjoy, and hopefully not destroy.