By Patti Sweet Davidson and Mike Rainone
It wouldn’t be fair to hog the spotlight when we are talking about the Sweet family saga from in and around Ponoka and districts, so I prevailed upon Rob Smith to help me straighten out my understanding of how the heck we are all related. Together we searched our brains and some history books and came up with a more or less comprehensible set of data that has untangled the mystery for both of us, and hopefully for those of you who are wont to ask us the same question.
So as we head into the saga of the Morningside Sweets I was quick to discover many of these relatives seemed to be adverse to using their given names, which really sent us on kind of a wild goose chase. You will understand shortly, right off the bat, as we introduce from the beginning, Amos Leroy, who was my grandfather George’s older brother, who married my grandmother Emma Shively’s older sister Bertha, was never called Amos, going by Leroy instead, and had the same initials as my father, Amos Lincoln.
Amos Leroy was born in 1855 in Connecticut and his eventual wife Bertha was born in Nebraska in 1871. They were married in Nebraska the same year as my grandparents in 1892, then came out to Alberta in 1907. The eight children who followed were: Henry, who was born in Surprise, Neb., but don’t call him that because he went by the name of Lee (1893-1965); Charles (1894-1948), who was born in Ulysses, Neb., along with brother Art (1897-1981); Margret, who died at birth in 1901; Leroy, who was called Roy but was known to most folks as Skinny (1902-1968); George, who was born in Winterse, Iowa and died at the age of two in 1905; and Harold, who was probably born at Morningside (1908-1969).
Henry/Lee had a homestead in Springdale near his father’s place, while Amos/Leroy left his family in Morningside for a time to improve on the homestead, returning in 1912. When AL died in 1919, Henry/Lee also came back home to help with the growing family farm, later marrying Anna, and along the way welcoming five children: Leo (1932-2007), Max (1933-2008), Alice (1935-2011), Ross in 1938, and Glen in 1941, who died in 2007. Charles also settled in the Morningside district, married Ella in 1924, and would be blessed with four children: Vern in 1925, Phyllis in 1926, Charles (who was called Tuffy) in 1931, and Rex, who went by Pike. In 1933 William moved to B.C. after his Morningside marriage, and raised three children: Robert, who was born in 1928, Louise in 1929, and June in 1934. Art remained a bachelor, made a living in B.C. and working in the logging industry, passing away in Lillooet.
Leroy/Roy/Skinny was Rob my helper’s grandfather, who farmed at Pleasant Hill northwest of Morningside until 1948, then worked at Art Prohl’s Gulf Service Station south of Morningside until 1955, then came into Ponoka to work for Cec Shantz at the Shell station, located where the Ponoka Liquor Store now stands. His children with wife Florence came into this world as follows: Bertha, or Biddie (1929-2007), Elsie in 1931, Florence (call her Joyce please) in 1933, Walter in 1936, Gloria in 1943, and Susan in 1945. All of them except Bertha moved away to live throughout central Alberta.
In keeping with our “all in the family” theme of focusing on the Sweets who still inhabit the area, there are several fourth generation Sweets still around Ponoka. In fact, three of Max’s (son of Henry/Lee) five children can still be found in and around town. Bill (born in 1952) lives east of Ponoka on Highway 53 and works as an oilfield construction supervisor; Gord (1954) makes his home here and is a driver for Northwell Trucking; you will always see Marj’s smiling face when you enter John Low Agencies; sister Marion (1951) lives at Calmar, and Donna (1956) in boomtown Fort McMurray.
Now, here is the family I know most about after my conversation with Rob. Bertha, a daughter of Leroy/Roy/Skinny married R.T. Smith in 1947. R.T. was well known around town, and if you ever wondered what his real name was it was Robert Theodore, so I guess the Sweets weren’t the only ones who did this kind of name changing after all. The Smith family lived in Morningside practically forever, with Bertha working at various places at various times, including having the restaurant at Alf Clarke’s Gulf Service station on Highway 2A near Ponoka, then daily at Telford’s Cafe, which is now under the Bank of Commerce. She would later be employed on the cooking staff of both the Ponoka General Hospital and the Alberta Hospital Ponoka, the latter from which she retired due to the onslaught of arthritis.
Meanwhile, R.T operated the family farm, raising cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and registered quarter-horses. The children of this marriage were: Nettie (1949), Doug (1952), Rob (1954), and the twins, Delores and Doreen in 1958. Nettie married Ray Winslow and was the face of the Ponoka Farmers’ Market for 28 years; Doug works at the Centennial Centre and still lives at the old farm home; Rob is an honest-to-goodness truck driver and congenial jack of all trades, while Delores moved to Ontario and Doreen works at the Centennial Centre and lives in the Nelson Lake area.
Patti thanks Carol Murray for a wealth of information, to Rob Smith, and everyone else who helped to put the Sweet family saga together with great detail and effort in keeping up with their long and colorful history and ongoing contributions to our community and districts. “Our proud heritage can easily be lost, forgotten, or never known at all, but we must heartily always appreciate the great efforts and keen spirit of those who help to keep it all together.” There is no doubt that for this huge and still growing and hardy clan: “How Sweet it has been, and hopefully always will be.”