Reflections of Ponoka: MacLeod family active in Ponoka business and sports

Throughout countless decades, the exciting and colorful ongoing growth and successes of our town and county has been led by many families,

Ardent Ponoka businessman and sports promoter Angus MacLeod

Ardent Ponoka businessman and sports promoter Angus MacLeod

Throughout countless decades, the exciting and colorful ongoing growth and successes of our town and county has been led by many families, individuals and organizations that have always been proud to call Ponoka their home. Angus and Gordon MacLeod were outstanding gentleman who passionately pursued and promoted business and sports during more than 70 very active years while raising their families in and around our vibrant community.

Angus MacLeod was a robust and jolly man, who came back to the Ponoka district in 1941 after a stint in the north. In one of our early ‘business firsts’, he opened this community’s first cold storage plants at 5025-51 Avenue, where quality meat was cut and frozen, as well as providing storage lockers that customers could rent year round to store their purchases. A modern abattoir was also located in the Riverside district in 1943, which was capable of processing and chilling up to 100 head of beef or hogs a day for the operation. As business boomed, the west bay of the Ponoka Cold Storage plant was added in 1948. When personal deep freezes replaced the need for rented lockers, the entrepreneurial Mr. MacLeod promoted other businesses for the building, which included a grocery store, a fabric shop, and an insurance company.

The original building, which still stands at the same location, featured a white cement exterior, louvered vents, traditional small windows, and raised floors with sawdust insulation. In 1997, when the MacLeod family joined in with the Ponoka Main Street programme, many improvements were made and can still be viewed and enjoyed at what is now considered as an historical sight in our community. Mr. and Mrs. MacLeod’s son Gordon, who took all his schooling in Ponoka and was very active in sports, would quickly carry on on the proud family traditional of establishing new business opportunities in the vibrant and growing community.

Those of us who were growing up and living in Ponoka in the 1950s and ‘60s will never forget Poor Gordies’ Lad and Lassie Tastee Delite Drive-in along Highway 2, across from the present Fort Ostell Museum. Gordon MacLeod opened this exciting new way of ‘eating out’ in 1958, where you could walk or drive up to the window in your vehicle or bike and order from a delightful menu of hamburgers, hotdogs, huge plates of hot fries, all sorts of cold or hot drinks, yummy ice cream and the thickest milk shakes in town. Your meal was ready in minutes, and the congenial staff always included local ladies and lots of young PCHS students. Mr. MacLeod later added a go-cart track next to the facility, which was very popular for all ages. Gordon’s wife Ruth would open Ruth’s Fabric Centre in the cold storage building in 1963, and offered a fine and complete line of colorful fabrics and patterns that were ideal for moms, daughters, and grammas to take home and sew and create delightful outfits for all occasions and family members.

Angus MacLeod was also a hockey fanatic and avid promoter, who served on the executive of the great Ponoka Senior ‘AA’ Stampeders championship hockey teams of that era, and also served as a player scout in the central Alberta area for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League. Gordon MacLeod played on several local minor hockey squads and later with the Stampeders, and was later involved on the community committee that organized  our first and only Ponoka Stampeder Junior ‘A’ team for several seasons of exciting competition in the prestigious Alberta Junior ‘A’ Hockey League. It was Angus MacLeod who always insisted that the old arena concession stand must open up early and stay late on game nights, because it was the aroma of the sizzling burgers, hot-dogs, and pop-corn that helped to attract the fans to the rink.  Gordon and Ruth’s children Brian, Doug, Joanne, Kathy and Donna all grew up in Ponoka, and after school and on weekends, helped out at the businesses as well as taking part in all sorts of sports and community activities. The Macleods also provided ongoing sponsorships for hockey, baseball, fastball, and other community and district sports teams and organizations for decades.

Over the years, many businesses have set up their signs in the Ponoka Cold Storage building, and have served thousands of customers from far and wide. Another longstanding Ponoka family, the Crawfords would open their insurance office there in 1967, which is still operating to this day along with Sun Life Financial.