Edward S. (Ted) James was born in Carroll, Nebraska in 1910, and then in 1918 would move with his parents, William Henry and Elva James, and his three older sisters Hazel, Marie, and Cleora to Ponoka, where they settled on a farm in the Eastside district. When their farm home was destroyed by fire in 1922, they moved to the grounds of the Provincial Mental Hospital, where the parents and two sisters joined the nursing staff.
Ted attended school in Ponoka until the fall of 1927, then worked for the P.M.H. Department of Public Works hauling coal with a team and wagon from the Ponoka railway siding to the Hospital Power House until the railway ‘spur line’ was built. A milestone in his young and active life came on January 3, 1928 when he transferred to the nursing staff, and then in 1930 enrolled in what was called the ‘attendant course’. After graduating in 1933 with a 100 per cent mark in practical nursing Ted worked his way up quickly to the position of Ward Charge, and eventually was named as the Associate Director of Nursing Service, in which he excelled until his retirement in 1959. His very productive and successful career would span 42 years, which also included a stint in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1942 to 1945. Over the years, three generations of the James family would proudly serve on the nursing staff of the Alberta Hospital, the last being Ted’s niece Elva Clements Armstrong, who was a graduate of the popular four-year Registered Nurse’s Course.
Over the years, Ted James worked diligently and passionately to gain recognition for the Psychiatric Attendant Course to be accepted as a nursing course and to have psychiatric nursing approved as a profession of its own. With the keen support and encouragement of Dr. Randall MacLean, the Director of the Division of Mental Health, legislation was passed in 1950 incorporating the Psychiatric Nurses Association of Alberta as a professional body. Ted was honoured for his efforts by being the first person to register in the PNA as well as being appointed as the Charter President, and was so pleased when the position of ‘staff attendant’ was changed to psychiatric nurse to more aptly describe their vital ongoing role in the mental health treatment programs.
As a nurse, Mr. James wholeheartedly supported Dr. MacLean in his efforts to ban mechanical restraints of all kinds in the mental health treatment programs. During his vigorous work with his young students, he emphasized the importance of the interpersonal skills as well as developing a strong working environment that induced the good response and respect from the patient, which is vital in all of the nursing programs. Ted’s fellow-workers and students were always impressed by his strong personal commitment to the relationship between the patient and staff, which he visibly illustrated with his many first-hand experiences and always willingly passed on to many groups as a participant, trainer, innovator, team-builder, and on ongoing learner as the treatment programs advanced over the years. In 1967, Ted James was honoured by the federal government with a medal in recognition of his valuable service to psychiatric nursing.
In 1963, Ted married Ardyce Olsen, who also worked in several positions on the AHP staff, including Medical Stenographer and Secretary to the Director of the Division of Mental Health. She was also very much involved in volunteer work with the patients at the hospital, was a Charter Member of the Alberta Hospital Women’s Auxiliary, a longstanding member of the Ponoka Kinette Club, and was always very active in the community.
In his personnel life, Ted supported and actively participated in many sports at the hospital and community, including playing centre forward for the powerful AHP football team from the age of 16, as well as being an avid hockey and baseball player. He was the past president of the Ponoka Stampeder Senior Hockey Club, served as a longstanding member of the Ponoka Kinsmen and K-40 Clubs, and was on the Town of Ponoka Public Housing Committee. Even after retirement, Ted avidly continued to contribute his keen knowledge, support, and dedication to the Alberta Division of the Canadian Mental Hospital Association. Ted and Ardyce also cherished and took a great deal of pride in their pristine home and yard near the Ponoka Community Golf Course, to which visitors were always welcome. The warmth and charm of this fine couple as well as their countless contributions to their occupations and their community will never be forgotten.