Courtesy of Parkland County as published in 2000 “Spirit of the Community”
IN THE BEGINNING...
The Woodbend community started with the hearts of a few pioneers. Some of the people who helped establish this area include the Block, DesLaurier, Dressler, Elliot, Fleming, Foster, Gavin, Gray, Heflik, Hemmig, Howard, Killan, Kulak, Lohin, Madson, McIlveen, McNeilly, Pike, Plant, Provost, Schaffer, Sommerfeld, Speed, Stewart, Theroux, Thomas, Thomson, Wise, Woodward, Worden, Workun, and Woytenko families.
The beginnings of the Woodbend Community are rooted in the old Woodbend schoolhouse. Originally built in the late 1920’s or early 30’s, the school doubled as a hall for community events such as weddings, box socials, dances, talent nights, Christmas concerts and boxing matches.
The schoolhouse windows were on the east side of the building. A cloakroom was located on the west side. The girls would hang their coats on the south end and boys on the north end of the building. The site included a teacherage, on the northeast corner of the property and a coal shed, west of the school. A barn on the northwest corner was used for the horses which some students rode to school. Other modes of transportation included walking, riding, buggies, bicycles, or horse drawn sleighs in winter.
The country school was one classroom. Initially grades one to nine were taught, and later grades one to seven. Grades eight and higher were offered at the Splan School in Winterburn.
Oscar Sommerfield was a student at Woodbend school in 1940. His first teacher was Mrs. Emily Schaffer. She lived with her family of fourteen children on land now known as River Valley Country Estates. After her retirement she moved to Lacombe.
Other teachers at Woodbend included Mrs. Bruce, Miss Daisy Egbert, Miss Sadie Macdonald, and Mrs. Irene Mae Goebel (who later moved to Wetaskiwin), Miss Long, Mrs. Isabell Payne (who taught at the school for several years), Mrs. Molly Phibbs, Mrs. McMillan and Mrs. Flora McDonnell. Flora was a favourite among the students as well as the last teacher at the school. All these teachers and their families lived in the teacherage. Mr. Hollingshead, the school inspector liked to make unexpected visits.
Christmas was a favourite time of the year because of the concerts. Held in the old schoolhouse, families would enjoy carols, visits with Santa, and gift giving. Families would donate their blankets to be tied together to create a stage curtain. It was not unusual for the blanket to fall during the performance. Candy bags were filled by parents and handed out to each of the children. The teacher would not be left out, as a gift was bought for them every year. The wood coal heater kept the schoolhouse cozy, while many young voices sang Christmas carols to celebrate this festive time.
The school closed in the early 50’s and students were then bussed to Winterburn School.
SENSE OF COMMUNITY...
The Woodbend Community League had its official beginnings in 1958. Norman Howard was the first President. The Frank Plant family sold the land on the corner of Winterburn Road and Woodbend Road to the community for $1.00. The old Woodbend schoolhouse doubled as a community hall, until it was destroyed by fire in the fall of 1963. Fortunately, a reunion took place just months before the fire, bringing together former teachers and students.
Following the fire, the community rallied together to rebuild a community hall on the same site where the schoolhouse once stood. Many hours of volunteering and donations of time, money and materials went into rebuilding the facility. Some of the families who helped in the construction were: Bates, DesLaurier, Fleming, Henning, Norman Howard, Wilfred Howard, Latimer, Keylor, McIlveen, Pahal, Bernie Schaffer, Sam Schaffer, Gordon Sommerfield, Oscar Sommerfield, and James Thomson. Many others also helped to complete the project.
After the initial construction, additions were made in 1976, to establish a playschool. A playground including a swing set, tire town, and sandbox was added. The first playschool instructor was Goody Winnitoy, from 1976-1980.
The McNeilly family operated a country store and post office just south of Woodbend Road on the east side of Winterburn Road, across from the new Petroleum Golf & Country Club. The store carried just about anything anyone needed. Mike Block trucked supplies from Edmonton for Robert McNeilly. Robert’s son John eventually took over the business and relocated in Namao. Until recently, the store was known as “Johnny’s Grocery Store”.
Two families were honoured for their community contributions with the naming of streets. Howard Road, now known as Township Road 512A was named for the Norman and Wilfred Howard families. Fleming Road, now known as Range Road 261 was named for Clarence and Henry Fleming.Some of the past community league presidents following Norman Howard include: Ted Piltz, Carrie Block, John Buba, Bill Donahue, Linda Spero, Janet Lywood, Debbie Wiancko, Marc Gallop (two terms) and Herb Grynke. Numerous other folks served as associate executive members and committee members.
Woodbend Playschool was established by a parent group in 1976 and operated in the old Woodbend Hall until February 1993. When a fire destroyed the facility, the kindness of neighboring communities helped meet their needs. Clymont Hall graciously provided class area until May 1993, Graminia Hall and Rainbow Playschool generously offered their facilities for two years, and Westridge Park Lodge & Golf Resort kindly provide a classroom for three years. Woodbend families greatly appreciate these open hearts and doors. In the fall of 1998 the playschool received a beautiful new class in Woodbend Hall.
Past playschool instructors, following Goody Winnitoy include: Glenys Wadson, Bertha Hall, Alison Gamlen, Gail Hemmerling, Lynn Roberts, and Bonnie Grynke. She has been the instructor at Woodbend Playschool since the spring term of 1984. A total of 512 registered students have enjoyed the rewards of twenty-three years of operation.
The Woodbend Community Hall faced adversity once again when their community hall was destroyed by an arsonist’s fire in February 1993. Without hesitation, the community worked towards rebuilding again. After much fundraising, a ground breaking ceremony in the spring of 1997 signified the beginning of the project. The site chosen for the new Woodbend Community Hall is west of the old site, the same property. Herb Grynke and Henry Schmidt volunteered as heads of the building committee, with many community members volunteering for the numerous other jobs.
This is a nicely decorated, highly functional facility offering a main hall area, large foyer, fully equipped kitchen, upper gallery overlooking the main hall, private meeting room and large parking area. The meeting room also contains a pool table, ping pong table and dart boards. It is a permanent home for the Woodbend Playschoool.
Reconstruction included thousands of hours of fundraising, volunteer labor, private and corporate donations, and a facility enhancement grant. Some of the children and grandchildren of the founding pioneers are still involved with the Woodbend Community. The grand opening was celebrated on October 17, 1998.
Even though Woodbend did not have a building, they were able to provide various events including barbecues, craft drays, baseball tournaments, golf tournaments, mystery dinners, Oktober fests, casino nights, Wayne Lee the hypnotist, game & pub nights, silent auctions, bazaars, family fun days, yoga, and more.
Woodbend intends to continue providing a friendly, neighbourly atmosphere.