Since arriving in Ponoka in 1948 I will never forget putting on my warmest coat, wearing a poppy, and attending the usually chilly Nov. 11 Remembrance Day ceremonies with many others at various locations around our community. Like generations of others of all ages we have proudly attended or marched at this solemn fall salute to the many hundreds of Ponoka town and and county veterans of past and present who have bravely served in the armed forces overseas and at home for countless decades.
Whether we took part in these services as a family, as an Air Cadet, as a Legion member, as a relative of a past or present soldier, as local citizen or guest, or to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, we must always be very proud to express our sincere appreciation and respect to those many hundreds of thousands of men and women who have, and continue to serve our nation. The Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 Ponoka received its initial Charter in May 1928, and hosted its first meetings on the top floor of the Town Hall at the corner of 50 Avenue and 51 Street. As the Legion membership grew rapidly and the Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary was formed, meetings and events were held at Ponoka County, Elk’s Hall clubrooms on Chipman Avenue, and in the Parish Hall of the Anglican Church.
Over the years the Legion Branch #66 has organized and hosted countless annual events, which have now become traditional and are blessed with the ongoing loyal support of our town and county residents and organizations. One of their first and ongoing priorities has been the ongoing support and recognition of our local veterans and their families. The first Ponoka Legion Hall and Clubroom started to become a reality in 1946 and was completed with great effort and dedication the following year, with many exciting changes and additions made to the 53rd Avenue facility for several decades. After several years of planning and fundraising by the over 250 members the new and present 3911-Highway 2A home of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 66 was opened in 1990.
88 years of Remembrance
The original November 11th Armistice Day ceremonies were held at the Cross of Honour in the Forest Home Cemetery just west of Ponoka, as well as at the Elks Club Hall on Chipman Avenue and in other sites throughout the community. On June 22, 1961 a Cenotaph was opened at the north end of the Kinsmen Park on 46th Avenue, and played host to the Remembrance Day ceremonies until the new Cenotaph was opened just across the street from the front of the present Legion facilities. Over those many very active years the local Branch #66 and the Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary have hosted countless annual events such as the Poppy campaign, 500 Club draw, Vimy Night, Community Appreciation and Awards Night, and on and on. They have also faithfully supported the long-standing Air Cadet squadron, as well as donating to many projects in and around the community and at the Alberta Hospital.
The Cross of Sacrifice at the cemetery was made possible by the grateful people of Ponoka and District to honor and commemorate the lives of our Ponoka and district men and women who left their homes and farms to serve their nation and laid down their lives for freedom. The Field of Honour has always been maintained by the Legion with much assistance from the Town of Ponoka and countless volunteers. In 1967 as a part of our Centennial celebration the FOH was renovated along with a spirited community project that resulted in the completion of the Chapel and the Graves Record building.
To realize the overwhelming efforts, dedication, and sacrifices of our Ponoka and district veterans going all the way back to the Boar War, World War 1 and 2, Korean, and in countless support and Peace Keeping roles at home and throughout the World everyone are invited and always welcome to drop in to the Royal Canadian Legion in Ponoka or our Fort Ostell Museum to view the authentic early military displays and salutes. The club-rooms walls are decorated with the honour rolls of the hundreds of local veterans who have served since the early 19th century, as well as many vivid photos of the rugged battles they waged and of the comrades and the Battalions and forces with whom they fought beside over all those years. The supreme efforts from these veterans and soldiers of yesterday and today, the horrific hardships that they faced, and the often supreme sacrifices that they paid through the perils of war were awarded with many victories as well as protecting the ongoing peace of our nation and the world. Because of this we have been blessed with quality family lifestyles in which people of all ages have been allowed to live happily and safely as well as having so many opportunities going into the future, and for these precious gifts we must forever be thankful.