The demolition process at of old hospital in Ponoka began in earnest last week. The aged building provided service to many communities around Ponoka and area.
It took crews a matter of days to take down the upper floor of the building on the north, south and west wings with only the basement remaining by the end of the week.
The demolition sparked the interest of town and county residents who drove by the location to take pictures and videos and to reminisce of the days when the hospital was an active part of the community.
While the project marks the beginning of a new era for the Town of Ponoka with some serious development slated to take up the current space, it was also bittersweet.
Delphine Svenningsen, who lives between Ponoka and Bashaw, was a registered nurse at the old hospital and started in 1968. She worked as a nurse until 1987.
“There were a lot of babies born in this facility. We had our two kids here,” said Svenningsen.
She added that the surgery wing handled many different procedures, which is not something that residents see these days.
“The sweet part of it is all the memories,” said Svenninsgen, who become emotional when recalling those memories.
For her the bitter part is the fact that it was such an eye sore for the time that it was vacant.
She and a few coworkers from back in the day took some time to recount some old memories. Svenningsen, Barb Bowen, Helen Hagemann, Marguerite Seiben, Maureen Schell, Judy Stang, Darcie Wiggins, Mildred Jabs and Linda Volk spent a few hours together writing down some memories.
Down in the basement in the north wing there was a lounge and nurses residence where the registered nurses would sit and visit. In the south end was a residence for the licensed practical nurses.
At the time many of the nurses were single and then eventually got married although there was a matron who kept a close eye on the nurses.
The dumb waiter was the best way to get meals from the kitchen — all the food and laundry was done in-house — to patients upstairs.
Cooking staff would bake fresh bread.
Sybil Evans, who was an administrator at the hospital for quite a few years, confirmed that much of the work was done in-house. “In those days we were run by a hospital board,” said Evans.
Care of patients and operations were handled on a local level, something that is quite different from today. Back then there was a tax requisition to help pay the hospital costs.
There was locally grown produce at the hospital garden with potatoes and vegetables that supplemented patients’ meals. At one point the doctors wanted to paint the shed, so they did just that.
For Svenningsen and her coworkers the memories also include the consideration of the actual physical challenges with the building.
A ramp was there for EMS crews to drop off a patient but the incline was steep enough that at times it took everyone involved to move a patient. There was also no communication with the ambulance so the nurses and doctors never knew what was coming.
While there are lots of fond memories and a feeling of camaraderie there were times when tragedy struck. And being in a small community where most people knew each other, those days days were tough.
“You could talk about it,” said Svenningsen of using the residence to decompress.
Evans echoed that sentiment of working together and managing with what they had. The surgery rooms at times would handle a variety of operations such as setting broken bones,hysterectomies, hernia surgery and there was a radiologist who would come in once a week to take a look at X-rays.
The hospital itself opened up in 1946 and was expanded in 1952. The west wing, which housed the operating rooms was built in 1963.
Ponoka News/Bashaw Star will be reporting on the progress of demolition and then development of the site. As more people remember their stories of the building and their time there we would like to hear from you. Please call the editor or email your stories and/or photos.