The most humble beginnings of our local education system came in 1896 when 10 excited young students sat down in their wooden desks in a small log cabin on the outskirts of the tiny but thriving Village of Ponoka.
For well over a century thousands of boys and girls have been blessed with the amazing opportunity and experiences of receiving a quality education that would include 12 or so memorable years of learning and making new friends, along with the dream of later graduating in their favourite home town.
Those hallowed halls of learning would quickly grow from make-shift classes in local churches, town halls, businesses, and quaint tiny country school houses into our historical Ponoka Red Brick School, while advancing steadily into countless larger educational complexes that have hosted our vibrant younger generations through their vigorous but fabulous kindergarten, elementary, Junior High, and High School adventures over all those years to this very day and long into our future.
Whatever the size those Grade 12 classes may be, the grand and glitzy June tradition of your High School graduation has and always will be a very special and unique celebration each and every summer for the grad students, teachers, families, friends, and entire community. As we toast and extend best wishes and a great future to our successful grad students of 2017 from all Ponoka and district Schools, let’s take a look back at some of the colorful milestones of our glorious past from in and around those favourite school-yards that we will never forget.
1954 PCHS grad was very special
The community responded with great support as always as two very special distinctions would spotlight the annual graduation ceremonies held on the last Friday in May 1954 at the Ponoka High School following the banquet at the United Church. It was the first ever to be held at the school itself in the new auditorium, and turned out to be the largest. Thirty one proud graduates (20 girls and 11 boys) from our Ponoka Town and County districts took the leading roles in the evening’s gala events, which was applauded by an audience of between 500 and 600 guests.
Amid an array of fabulous decorations in the traditional school colors of black, green, and white and a thrill-charged atmosphere T.C. Fredrickson proposed the first toast to the grads, defining a successful person as one who is devoted to their home, their church, and their community. They must also be loyal to their friends while proudly promoting their own intellect, practises tolerance, and performs the functions of life without frictions. Award presentations to the grads were made by Principal Howard Larson, assisted by sponsoring members of the community.
Viola Ashdown proposed the toast to the parents, thanking them for their unflagging love, protection, and help; vividly stressing that ‘Home’ is the place where strife is kept out and love is kept in, where our stomachs get three square meals a day, and our hearts get one thousand. George Gillespie gave the toast to the teachers, declaring that this night was a ‘stepping stone to our futures’ and wherever we may go we will remember with heartfelt thanks our teachers for their instruction, their patience, and their discipline. Ivor Davies, Chairman of the School Committee for the Ponoka County expressed that it was a work of love to deal with the affairs of the schools, and was very proud to be associated with the dedicated group of local citizens who spent so much of their time in the best interests of the local education programs. School Superintendent E.W. White revealed that only 10% of the pupils who begin school together will graduate together, with that same percentage remaining in town after their graduation.
Highlights of the first half century at Ponoka Comp.
• The social and academic life of students so many years ago differed somewhat from today. Elaborate concerts were staged each year to raise money to buy everything from athletic equipment to a classroom clock. Box socials were always very popular, during which time the boys would buy at auction the delightfully decorated lunch boxes made by the girls, whose names were supposed to be kept secret, but somehow the RIGHT couples always managed to sit down and eat lunch together.
• Ponoka High School sports teams always excelled at whatever games they played, including the 1924-25 boys basketball team that never lost a game in two seasons. Other popular sports and activities included: track and field, boxing, curling, football, debating, Glee Club, house parties, sleigh rides, and of course the cheer squads.
• Truancy from school was quite prominent in the 1930s, especially when the Battle River opened for swimming, but was always patrolled, along with the pool hall, by the Truant Officer.
• The ‘War years’ saw many of Ponoka’s students joining the various branches in the armed forces, with some making the ultimate sacrifice. Children in all grades and their parents did their bit for various patriotic purposes by staging concerts, buying War Savings Certificates, and even forgoing Halloween treats in favour of fund-raising. In some magic ways ‘school days’ have not changed that much for our young students over the years…same enthusiasm, same goals, same studies, same results, with always just a few fun and mostly innocent shenanigans thrown in along the way to ease the day-today classroom stresses.