During one of my regular and always enjoyable Wednesday visits to the Fort Ostell Museum, I was delighted to see that the ladies have been working very diligently to put together a unique display that will honour those very brave and hardy war brides who settled in Ponoka and districts so many years ago. Over a period of four rugged decades, these vibrant ladies from Great Britain and other European countries would meet and marry our young Canadian soldiers who were serving overseas during World Wars I and II.
Their colorful and very touching stories tell of how they sadly but willingly left everything behind in their homelands to follow the men they loved, and together they would start a new life and raise their families throughout the bountiful and growing nation of Canada. Immigration records show that in the late 1940s, over 50,000 war brides and 22,000 children made the extremely long and arduous trip to Canada, mostly by boat, either accompanied by their husbands or joining them to share newfound homes, occupations and everchanging seasons while facing countless highs and lows and extreme challenges.
Heritage Weekend tea
The coveted ‘War Bride’ scroll will be unveiled at the annual Heritage Weekend tea on Sunday, July 31 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Fort Ostell Museum along with the vintage ‘Once upon a bride’ display and everyone is welcome to attend. This special 2016 casual event will proudly honour our gala Heritage Day celebrations as well as marking the 100th anniversary of WW I and also reflect on the amazing adventures of those large immigrant groups of frightened but excited war brides.
The names of these early war brides and their husbands who ‘came home to Ponoka’ are Harry and Jenny Bailey (1919), Mr. and Mrs. Roy Burns (1918), Margaret (Kerr) and Allen Crawford (1920), Chris and Janelle (Burnside) Dalgaard (1919), Robert and Mary Jane (Thane) Dick (1918), Albert and Minnie (Clarke) Gibbling Jr. (1940), Mr. and Mrs. George Graham (1919), Lynn and Helen Kemp (1946), Carl and Betty Larson (1945), Jack and Florence (Adams) Lewis (1921), Debs and Mary (Hughs) Nelson (1921), Jess and Eileen (Henderson) Northcott (1921), Richard and Catherine (Jones) Priebe (1943), Michael and Irene (Brown) Rainone (1940), Howard and Audrey (Coutts) Rowland (1942), Roy and Lily (Avis) Whitten (1919), Martin and Mary Stokes (1945), and Lawrence and Jean (Ait kens) Williams (1944$. The museum staff are still browsing through the early Ponoka Herald files in search of more war brides, and anyone who may have any other information are urged to get in touch with them at 403-783-5224 weekdays.
Story of a Scottish war bride
Audrey Coutts was born on July 2, 1922 in Banchory, Kincardeneshire, Scotland into a family of six girls and six boys, and they lived on the estate grounds of Blackhill Castle. In her great story, which is also available at the Fort Ostell Museum wedding display, she recalls that when the World War I came, most of the men joined the services, including four of her brothers, and their town was always full of troops, and then came the Canadians.
She met her future husband Howard Rowland at a dance in 1941, and finally after getting his birth certificate sent from Canada and receiving permission from the church, they were married in January of 1942. Their little son Howie was born in November, and then Howard was posted to North Scotland but was sent home in 1945 with a badly injured knee. In January 1946, Audrey received her papers to go to Canada, left Liverpool on the Maurentania on Jan. 7, and arrived in Halifax on the 23rd. After a very long train trip to Calgary, they eventually arrived in Ponoka at 4:30 a.m. where it was 30 degrees below zero and the only person stirring was the town policeman. But after many hardships and a little homesickness, the extended family would eventually fall in love with this always friendly community that would serve as their home for so many memorable decades.
Please plan to visit the Fort Ostell Museum to enjoy the ‘rest of the story’ of our early war brides and all the many other memorable vignettes of the long and colorful history of the great Town and County of Ponoka.