This 1960s photo shows Sweet’s Store

This 1960s photo shows Sweet’s Store

Reflections of Ponoka: Sweet’s a friendly Menaik tradition for decades

Amos Sweet was my dad, who married Franky Lucas, and after acquiring the store and garage at Menaik from Fred and Pearl Sweet

By Patti Sweet Davidson and Mike Rainone

Amos Sweet was my dad, who married Franky Lucas, and after acquiring the store and garage at Menaik from Fred and Pearl Sweet, they would run this popular and busy business from 1941 until 1980. I grew up in the back of Sweet’s Store with four siblings, and at least one dog and cat or two. Amos was always a well-liked and respected mechanic and wheeler-dealer to the core.

I fondly remember one day my dad coming back into the store after going out to sell someone gasoline at the pump, and he was wearing no shirt. When my mother asked him to explain, he boldly replied the fellow he was serving admired this piece of apparel, so my dad removed the shirt and proceeded to sell it to him.

Many nights we were awakened by knocking on the front door by people needing gas, air, a tire repair, a ride, or just a few minutes of warmth on the big wooden box in the centre of the store where the heat from the coal furnace came. I never knew my parents to refuse help to those in need.

My dad died in 1980, my mom in 2000, and of us five children, my younger sister, Peggi, lives in Ponoka, I (Patti) live at Nelson Lake on Norm Crawford’s old farm, while Jack resides in Wetaskiwin, Miriam in Red Deer, and Don in Regina, Sask. As a side note, the word Menaik means corrals in Cree, but I always thought it meant lone pine, so I have once again learned yet something else. Now I will introduce the rest of the aunts and uncles and their extended families

Nellie married Roderick Lewis in 1923, and for anyone old enough to remember, before she married, taught at Ponoka district schools at Sharphead, Climax, and Manito. Their children were Norma, Ivan, Alan, and Marianne, and if the name Lewis Brothers rings a bell it should. Grandsons Blaine and Ron fed cattle in the Bobtail district until just recently, and Don still operates a mechanic’s business there. His sons, Adam and Nathan live near Nelson Lake, Garnet welds things in Ponoka, and Norma has lived in Florida with her family for about five decades Marianne died at the age of three in 1935, Nellie died in 1997, and Ivan in 2008.

Mollie taught school at Scott, Seafield, Riverview and other locations around central Alberta. She married Robert Crawford, brought forth their only son, Norman, in 1923, and for a time the family lived on property north of Ponoka where the Mamawi Atosketan School now stands, then eventually settled on the north shore of Nelson Lake 10 miles east of Ponoka. Norman never married but was well known in the area, and enjoyed farming and working at Kraft Auto Service in town. His mother, Mollie, died in 1949, and Norman died in the spring of 2008. Olive Sweet taught at the Elkhorn and Scott schools, starting at the age of 16 years. She married a Scotsman, Robert Mailer, and they raised their three children while living near and in Alix. Olive died in 1983, predeceased by her son George in 1972, while Bob Jr. died in 1984, and daughter Mary in 2005. The fifth Sweet daughter, Miriam, taught school for a briefer period than her sisters, spending her time at the Samson Day School in Hobbema. Later she became a nurse, and then was whisked away to Portland, Ore. by her new husband, Jim Jackson. They had no children and Miriam died in 1943.

Dorothy Sweet (1899-1989) was the third daughter of George and Emma Sweet, who became a teacher serving at various times at Home Glen, Manito and the Samson Day School in Hobbema. In 1929 she married Frank Cavanagh, and after living for a time near the Lewis farm they moved into Ponoka in 1942, where Frank found varied employment including driving a snow plow, installing the first natural gas service in the community, and serving on the police force from 1949-1954. Their daughter Carol is our devoted family historian, and she has compiled a huge volume crammed with the details of the origins of George Weeden Sweet and his descendants. I tarried to Provost, where she lives, to impose on her generous and patient nature for assistance in this present composition.

Bessie was the first Canadian-born child in the family, arriving just a few months after the Sweets arrived in Alberta. She met her future husband, Charlie (Red) Walls while she was still at home with her parents, and he was a teamster gravelling the Calgary-Edmonton highway where it passed the Menaik area. The couple married in 1926 and had four children: Bob, Sheilagh, Don and Tony, never living near Ponoka, eventually settling on Vancouver Island, B.C. near Comox. My grandfather later shipped 30 head of his Red Poll cattle as well as a fine Tamworth Boar out to their island farm. Aunt Bess died in 1972 before they could make their dream of a Mexican retirement a reality.

Fred was George and Emma Sweet’s first son, and was born in the United States. After moving here with his family he set about building at Menaik in 1926 with his younger brother Ted. In 1939 he and Bud Horn took over Percy McKelvie’s garage in Ponoka. His wife, Pearl, whom he married in 1929, managed Sweet’s Store in Menaik during the time they remained in this area, and then they moved to Wetaskiwin, where Fred spent his time welding and working for Stan Reynolds, restoring cars for the museum. There were four children born into this family, three who moved away, while George lived with the senior Sweets for some years, working for Twa’s Plumbing and Heating business before suffering a head injury. He later lived in Edmonton and Vernon, B.C., then returned to Ponoka and “bached” with Norm Crawford until 1989 when he bought a home in Alliance, where he resided until his death in 2009.

Fred and Pearl’s son Jim died in 2008, while a sister Gwen lives in Calgary, and Donna in Spiritwood, B.C. The final chapter of the Sweet family saga will be featured in a future edition of Reflections in your Ponoka News.