This amazing 1928 photo features the massive P.M.H gardens and green house

We will never forget our childhood up at the hospital grounds

This week's Reflections looks at growing up at the old mental hospital.

Once again it is a pleasure, especially for those of us who grew up so many years ago in a neat little red brick house with our parents on the very palatial and busy grounds of the Provincial Mental Hospital (now Centennial Centre) near Ponoka, and to bring back some of the countless memories and names through the wonderful and touching stories of Yvette Stack and friends. Here is some more of her nostalgic journey, which she always loves to share with family, friends, and many others as a special tribute to the countless hospital patients, staff, and families of then and now:

I don’t think any of us realized how fortunate we were to be growing up in such a protected environment, in good sturdy houses with running water (the town still didn’t have water utilities), and the acres and acres of fields and gardens to roam in.

Because many patients worked around the grounds, we regularly saw what outsiders would consider bizarre behaviour. We sometimes saw people talking to themselves, introducing themselves as celebrities, wearing unusual outfits and hairstyles, and sometimes having grand mal seizures. We were friends with many of these patients, and I know that this exposure to different personalities during my formative years has helped me and I suspect all of us who shared this unique childhood, to be comfortable and respectful around people who may be a little “different”.

As to the school bus, we must have been on it together for at least one year. I went to boarding school at the convent in Morinville for grades 10, 11 and 12 starting in Sept. 1950, but I fondly remember the kids around my age on the bus were Mary Stokes, Miriam Scott, Stan Clapp, Margaret Byers, and Betty Lou Smith, who had bright red hair and was Shirley Eileen’s younger sister. From the farm, there was Marge Seagrave and the Liddell girls, Judy and Lois and Dorothy, but they were quite a bit older, and then from the chicken farm was the Ames girls, Bev and Marilyn.

I don’t remember any family named Thompson at all, but I do recall those little houses back there, especially going to them all on Halloween. The Mollers lived there, too, and I think their little girl was named Patsy. Next to JA Smith before the Uylletts, I think it was Mr and Mrs. Thoms, but I can’t remember them much, they didn’t have kids, or if they did, they were grown up and gone. At some point Dr. Schofield and his little family lived there, too.

Clarence and Georgina King, who had no children, lived in that little house as you said, and he always had a fantastic garden. He was the baker at the hospital, and she worked in the business office. We always went to her to get our paycheques.

We lived in three different houses along our road. We lived downtown until I was in Grade 4, then moved to one of the two big houses that weren’t duplexes. We were there for six years, then the duplex at the very end, next to Sitters for one or two years, then the little house next to JA Smith, after the other Smiths moved away. Mom loved that funny little house and lived there for ten years.

I also think about the neighbourhood. This is how I remember the row of houses:

Bailey, Oness, Thom, JA Smith, Richie and Flo Smith, G.A.F. Jones (a very kindly older couple who moved away while we were there and I can’t remember who replaced them), us, Thorn, Bedard, Chandler (then Watson) Gordoniere, Ayers, you (meaning Mike Rainone), Scott, Bowdens, Stokes, Hughes, Kitchen, Sitters, and one family who had lots of kids.

There were the Mayleds in the little brick house at the top of the hill across from the top of the row, and then there was that row of wooden houses on the other side of the water tower where Roberts, another Watson family and the McGeachies lived, along with others who I can’t remember. This is really a nostalgia trip. It’s been ages since I thought about all those people. My kids are always fascinated when I talk about our life there. We didn’t realize how different our lives were. In general, I think we were pretty lucky kids. Did you take music lessons from Mrs. Byers? She was so nice, such a good teacher, and loved directing us for the Christmas pageants.

We will share a few more of Yvette’s favourite memories later in Reflections.


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