Reflections of Ponoka: The story of the Dittberner family

Ed Dittberner was a tall and handsome young man who came to the Asker district in 1898, and began his new life on the prairies as a ranch hand on the Ramsey Ranch.

Right: Ed and Theresa Dittberner farmed in the Asker district from 1901 to 1946

Ed Dittberner was a tall and handsome young man who came to the Asker district in 1898, and began his new life on the prairies as a ranch hand on the Ramsey Ranch. His only son Harry was brought up on the family farm, completed his education at the Camrose Lutheran College, then began an illustrious career that would take many colourful paths in and around Ponoka for many decades. Both father and son raised their families in town and districts, and as well as always enjoying the good life, thrived on hard work, and were avid sports fanatics long into their active golden years.

Ed Dittberner was born of German origin in Wisconsin in 1878, then came to Wetaskiwin in 1895 and would spend two years with his family around the New Norway district. In 1898 Ed headed out on his own, finding employment on the Ramsey Ranch for four years, then homesteading the S.W. 16-43-23 W4th property in 1900.

In June 1901 he was married to Theresa Holifer, and this ceremony at the Holifer home was the first wedding in the growing community. Together the happy couple lived on the farm, where Ed demonstrated his fine ability as a farmer, building a large barn and raising very good livestock.

Ed and Theresa and their only son Harry were always very good neighbours, and friends in the community were sorry to see them leave when they later moved to their palatial retirement home in the Riverside district of Ponoka in 1946. They kindly gave a home to their relative Melvin Holifer when his father passed away. In Ponoka they kept busy for many years, enjoying being grandparents, while Ed cherished his hobbies of raising donkeys and rare pheasants, as well as being an avid trap shooter. Well into his nineties the congenial gentleman could be seen driving his tractor down the hill into town to shop and socialize. Theresa passed away in 1970, while Ed died in 1972 at the age of 94.

After growing up on the family farm in the Asker district Harry Dittberner received his early education at the community schools and at the Camrose Lutheran College. In 1922 he took employment with Ponoka merchant Jack Kerr, and while working part time completed his High School studies. In 1925 Harry married Mildred Pendleton, and would begin their busy life together in their fine Ponoka home on 50th Avenue. In his early years Harry heartily engaged in several lines of work, including clerking in Thomson’s General Store, managing the local Safeway Store when it opened in Ponoka in 1930, and selling cars for Bert Pendleton. Along the way Harry and Mildred would welcome their son and daughter Gordon and Elaine.

Always affectionately known as ‘Honest Harry’ Dittberner discovered his true career in 1937 when he entered into the service of Mr. G. N. Field of Field Motors, initially managing the automotive business, and then becoming the part owner from 1953 to 1958. Harry, who had quickly gained a keen reputation of being able to make a deal for anything that had wheels, became a top salesman for Parkland Motors, Brigham Motors, and Pahal Motors of Wetaskiwin well into the 1970s.

As well as a prominent figure throughout the community, Harry Dittberner was also known as a sports fanatic. The heavy set gentleman was a pitcher on Ponoka’s first baseball team, and as an avid supporter of hockey was the Manager of the Ponoka Stampeders Intermediate “A” team that won the Western Canada Championships in 1965. Harry continued to carry on his passion and knack for selling vehicles at his own lot near the VJV Auction Market until the age of 75, while he and his wife Mildred continued to enjoy grandchildren and community activities until their passing over a decade ago, both at the age of 93!

Daughter Elaine Dittberner (Janigan) fondly remembers her school years in Ponoka, as well as attending the spirited dances at the Elk’s Hall on Chipman Avenue with her girlfriends. Seeking her fortune, she moved to Toronto and was hired in 1950 by prominent Stockbroker Frank Leslie, with whom she worked for 15 years. “He was an eccentric millionaire, who owned an island, was very generous, and hired the likes of Count Bassey and Duke Ellington to entertain at the gala parties he hosted,” Elaine recalled. Elaine later married Malcolm Janigan and lived 35 years in Toronto, while raising four children, including Jane (Brazil), and Peter-Kara and Marisa, all still in Toronto.

Harry and Elaine’s son Gordon and his wife currently live in Kamloops, B.C. and have two daughters. Daughter Elaine later returned to Ponoka, and currently lives in the same home where she was raised, and really enjoys being surrounded by the countless special mementos and memories of her parents, grandparents, family, old friends, and good times.

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