Shown here is a classic new lamp display at the Fort Ostell Museum. It features some of the unique and at times, only ways that our early hardy pioneers had of lighting up their lives and homes.

Reflections: Welcoming the new staff and light display at the Ponoka museum

Fort Ostell Museum has new summer staff and a new antique light display

By Mike Rainone for the News

Every year early in May the congenial staff at the Fort Ostell Museum in the Ponoka Lions Centennial Park welcomes their summer students into the fold.

Joining museum manager Sandy Alsopp and Sharon Chapman are Jen and William, and together this team will welcome many visitors during their busy May to August open hours of Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as hosting school classes and other groups for special events, churning butter, and working on many countless exciting historical projects and artifacts that are arriving every day. The very energetic Young Canada Works Program is funded by Canadian Heritage and is a great learning opportunity for students who are pursuing education and careers, as well as serving as a vital and enjoyable part of the summer activities here at the Fort Ostell and at other museums throughout the Province.

Let there be light

The newest addition to the amazing historical ‘display room’ at the Ponoka Fort Ostell Museum is a colourful light display, which features some of the age-old types of magnificent devices that faithfully provided light and showed the way for our earliest pioneer families in their tiny log homes, out in the yards or field doing work and chores, or somewhere out on the road during the darkest nights and sudden storms.

Our history books tell us that only the Alberta cities of Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge had access to privatized electricity by 1891, so the use of coal-oil and kerosene lamps or the traditional indoor, old reliable pot-bellied stove or the outdoor pit or barrel fire were the only sources of light and comfort for the vast majority of residents of the rapidly growing population of our urban and rural communities at the beginning of the 19th century. For the thriving new Town of Ponoka from 1912 to 1929 the electricity was kindly supplied for a minimal fee by the Provincial Mental Hospital, but this vital service was only provided for two hours in the morning and three hours in the evening, each day except Monday, when power was provided until noon so that the busy mothers could do their weekly laundry. One of the biggest and brightest milestones for Ponoka came in 1929 when the local electricity service was purchased by contract from Calgary Power Ltd. until 1973, and was later switched to Enmax circa 2011. By the Second World War most cities had access to regular electricity, but would not be completely provided to all rural Alberta until the 1950s.

The new light display at the Ponoka Museum features a number of unique very sturdy but delicately decorated forms of lighting appliances made from all types of material and for all purposes to suit the demands of that hectic and colourful era. These once traditional, but now very historical lamps and lanterns include: a glass oil lamp manufactured by the American White Flame Light Company, a glass night lamp, a green parlour lamp, a lamp with reflector purchased through the 1928 Sear catalogue for $1.15, an extremely popular 1950s Coleman Kerosene lantern, a coal and oil HASAG No. 654 Barn Lantern, a barn lantern with a wind-breaker manufactured by the Kemp Company of Toronto, a pair of copper and cresoline night lamps, a kerosene wick lamp, a Banker’s Lamp that was used at the Alberta Hospital in the 1940s, electric table lamp, electric wall sconce, a superbly decorated desk lamp, a gas lamp made by the Mantle Lamp Company. Everyone is invited to drop down with the whole family, to realize how they used to brighten and warm up their homes in those early days, and then enjoy ‘light years’ of changes while browsing through the countless colourful historical displays, artifacts, and tales depicting the overwhelming growth, successes, and proud pioneer families, our ancestors of the town and county of Ponoka dating back to the late 1800s and on into the future.

The Fort Ostell Museum staff is also very excited about the arrival on Monday to September 10 of the vivid and memorable National Travelling Exhibition From Vimy to Juno (1914 to 1945). A special open house for the event is set for Saturday, September 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the display will be remaining here in Ponoka for everyone to see until Friday, September 28. Those wishing to get more information about programs and bookings at the Fort Ostell Museum are urged to drop in or phone 403-783-5224 or email: fom@telus.net.

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