The early banking boom in Ponoka

This week's Reflections looks at the early banking boom in Ponoka.

Ponoka’s first major bank was this tiny Canadian Bank of Commerce

During the early settlement of the Ponoka area in the late 1800s and beyond, the opportunities for countless pioneer families to establish their new homes and livelihoods was overwhelming, but in those humble beginnings, the funds to achieve their lofty goals would be extremely hard to come by. Many arrived here with only meagre belongings and a few dollars in their pockets, and what they worked so hard to earn had to go right back to supplement their ongoing survival and successes here on the prairies. Any precious money earned in those days was likely carefully kept under the mattress, in a tin box tucked away in the cellar or in that heavy old black safe in the back room.

But progress would come quickly through great efforts and determination, and with an ongoing need for financial support and directions, the first official banking service arrived in the Village of Ponoka in 1902 when Messrs. Farley and Walker of Carberry, Manitoba leased the premises for a tiny bank on main street. On February 17, 1903 The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce continued its western expansion and became the first major banking institution to establish an office in Ponoka, which was located in a small frame wooden building across the street from the Royal Hotel, with Roland H. Brotherhood as the first Manager. The next banking service to come to town was a Merchant’s Bank in 1916 beside the local Co-op Store on 51 Avenue and was managed by the congenial Mr. Art Baadsgard, and would later move into a fancy brick building on Main Street, which would later become the first local home of the Bank of Montreal. The BMO later ceased business here for a short time, reappeared in 1961 and opened up in the Cash Food’s building, and then in 1964 unveiled a palatial new branch on the sight of the old Ponoka Town Hall, which still operates today.

As the local banking business continued to boom, the CIBC purchased more property behind the original bank, erected the prominent big red brick building in 1911, which was renovated and extended again in 1955, and has gone through many changes to provide the present day institution. It has been told that the first massive steel bank vault came into the Ponoka station in the early 1900s, was transported across the street on Dick Slater’s dray and gingerly moved into place with the help of many local men, and is likely still there today. It would be in 1948 that the first Credit Union would be established in our town in an office next to Dr. Melvin Graham’s historical home and medical facility on 51 Avenue, and thrived under the leadership of President Angus MacLeod and Treasurer Bill McIntosh. Ada McIntosh later took over as the first ever female bank manager in Ponoka, the palatial new branch office of the Ponoka Savings and Credit Union was opened at 4802-50 Street in 2006, then with later amalgamations the present modern facility of Community Savings would be introduced at 4780-Highway 2A just a few years ago. The staff at the Provincial Mental Hospital also organized and operated their own credit union for many years at the massive psychiatric facility.

The Imperial Bank of Canada opened an office in Ponoka on February 27, 1950, and was located in a small frame building just across the street from the local Co-op Store on 51 Avenue, and the first manager was Clifford J. Asp. The facilities were so small that it was necessary to transport the cash and records back and forth to Wetaskiwin each day, but rapid expansion resulted in a bigger premises in the Jack’s Menswear building, the completion of a posh new two story branch at 5002-51 Avenue in 1959, and the eventual amalgamation with the CIBC in June 1961 under one roof at the busy present corner of 5002-50 street location.

Ponoka’s first provincial Treasury Branch was opened on April 19, 1939 at the west end of Chipman Avenue under the management of Mr. Frank Robinson, and due to a steady growth and thriving economy would later open their present facility at 5018-48th Avenue. The newest banking institution to be welcomed to Ponoka was the Royal Bank at 5031-51 Avenue. Over the years, in addition to providing our community with the normal financial services of a chartered bank, our long-standing Ponoka branches have provided their customers with such extra perks as safe deposit boxes, extended hours, and of course today’s amazing electronic benefits that claim to provide the best 24-7 rates and bang for our buck. Along the way, they have provided countless employment opportunities for hundreds of young men and women to join their congenial management and staffs as well as right from the beginning striving to become a great friend and supporter of all facets of our growing family community.


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