Reflections of Ponoka: Stagette Club was dedicated to community women

For over an exciting century, countless clubs and organizations have been formed in our community and rural districts

Some members of the Ponoka Stagettes Club appear in this mid-1950s photo taken at their Provincial Convention. Shown in the front row from left to right are: Connie Eastwood (Kjenner)

Some members of the Ponoka Stagettes Club appear in this mid-1950s photo taken at their Provincial Convention. Shown in the front row from left to right are: Connie Eastwood (Kjenner)

For over an exciting century, countless clubs and organizations have been formed in our community and rural districts, and along the way, have supported so many causes and established a proud heritage that we can enjoy to the present day. The overwhelming results and legacy of their ongoing care and dedicated efforts have and will continue to benefit several generations of families, teams, and traditional celebrations that should always be appreciated.

The Ponoka Stagette Club

The first Stagette Club was organized in Saskatoon in 1932, and would quickly become a friendly community institution for young women of 20 years of age and over across Canada. The main purpose of the Stagette organizations was to engage in charitable enterprises and to improve the social and educational life and activities of its members. Their ongoing and caring creed encouraged all members to smile and have others smiling, to try always to tell the truth, to act wisely and promote action, to greet all friends gladly, to educate ourselves to be efficient, to treat all as we would be treated, to take time to be thoughtful, to enjoy life as it is ours to enjoy, and to serve others and not be selfish. The always friendly and congenial motto and belief of each and every Stagette member was ‘As birds of a feather, we will always flock together.’

Our Ponoka Stagette Club was organized on February 1, 1944 and the original 14 members included June Birch, Marion Hueston, Nellie Harris, Blanch Nelson, Erna Block, Clara Anderson, Blanche Tees, Dorothy Dick, June Fate, Isabel Mackenzie, Dorothy Patterson, Barbara Prochaska, Lois Young, and Jean MacDonald. In the early years, most of their time and funds were devoted to war work, with the main project being vital child welfare support. The local Stagettes quickly became a friendly club that actively reached out and welcomed single women who had chosen the Ponoka area to make their home, to begin their careers, to meet new friends and to become new citizens and a part of the community.

Sybil Evans fondly remembers coming to Ponoka in the mid-1950s to work at the Hospital and was pleased to be invited to join the Stagettes. During the 1955-56 season, the local club enjoyed a very active and growing membership of over 20 ladies, who, by means of their active endeavours and enthusiasm, were able to raise over $700 to donate to such important community projects as the Kinsmen Swimming Pool, the Community Playground Association, the Chamber Of Commerce Library Fund, Christmas hampers for needy families, the Polio Fund, the Canadian Cancer Society, a food parcel for Maidstone School, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, The Wood’s Christmas Home in Calgary, purchasing bingo cards for the patients at the Provincial Mental Hospital and others. The members also willingly gave of their time to assist with the annual Red Cross Blood Donor Clinics as well as to promote and assist the establishment of playgrounds throughout the growing community and districts.

Along the way these busy club members always vowed to have fun during their year round efforts and endeavours. Their popular fall doughnut drive was always a great fundraiser, but it also allowed the Stagette ladies to visit homes in and around Ponoka, where they would meet new friends and neighbours as well as encourage newcomers to join the club. During the cold winter, the Stagettes faithfully staffed the concession booth at the old Ponoka Arena, and it was claimed during that era that they became well known for cooking up the best hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, and goodies for big line-ups of hungry fans at each and every game and event. In February, our local Stagettes hosted their delightful Valentine’s Cupid’s Frolic, where everyone decorated the hall and dressed up for the romantic occasion, dined and danced up a storm, and quite likely created unique friendships, many which lasted for a lifetime. Another real treat was attending district conventions, where the Ponoka gals were well known to entertain in a regal fashion.

Apart from all their work and activities, these rambunctious ladies always took some time to enjoy potluck suppers in October and invited prospective members,  had a gala get-together in April where the new members were initiated, as well as hosting Christmas gatherings at the homes of ex-members. Stagettes always looked forward to getting together and going out to shows or other social or recreation events in and around the community, and their keen ‘let’s have some fun’ attitude was always catching to everyone who met and mingled with them. In June, the most exciting event was the informal fried chicken supper, followed by the bridal showers in the evening for all the girls who were getting married. Once they were married, the Stagettes became honorary members of the club, while members who were leaving Ponoka all received silver spoons as a fond farewell.

The Stagette clubs caught on very quickly in Alberta, and after hosting their first national convention in Grande Prairie in 1947, many of the Stagette clubs in the province, including Ponoka, remained active until the late 1950s and early 60s. They will always be remembered for the countless wonderful contributions they made to their local communities, as well as for making hundreds of young women welcome and active in their new found homes.