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Irene Wright, Rimbey’s Confidante

by Fred Schutz

Page 1  | 

Irene Wright, 1949Irene Wright was already launched into her lifelong avocation of helping others when I first knew her. I was in my first year of high school, and she was 10 years my senior. The year was 1937 and Irene was a busy volunteer in an era in which that word held only military connotations for most people.

Irene liked people, and she loved to mingle. That winter of 1937-38 I would meet her and get to know her at birthday parties, at skating parties on the Blindman River or on Cooper’s Lake, or at young people’s get-togethers, either community-or church-sponsored, at any of which she might be the oldest person in the group. While she was congenial with all age groups, she was especially popular with the younger set. She knew games to play, songs to sing, and ways to get even the shyest wallflower into the mix and enjoying the evening. Her very presence would assure any party’s success.

I also knew Irene in her white-collar role, as the person who represented the town of Rimbey to the people of Rimbey. I remember climbing some wooden steps to the door of the Rimbey town office, a wood-frame, false-fronted building on Main Street East that was the village equivalent of city hall. On the right, as you entered, a long, medium-high wooden counter separated the public from the work area. It was across this counter that you conducted your business with the town or Irene. Here she was less jolly, less personal and more business like, but always cheerful. Rarely do I remember her being grouchy, but she could be.

Rimbey Town Office with Fred Shultz at the door was Irene Wright's business address for decades, now sitting in Pas-ka-Poo Historical Park, Rimbey Alberta.Irene served the village, and the town for a total of 38 years, first as assistant secretary under Bert Saunsers, then as town secretary, and finally as secretary treasurer. Her starting salary was $50 per month. She had her own unique but very tidy system of bookkeeping. An examination of the records in the town office will reveal that Irene was the annual recipient of an excellent inspector’s report. “Miss Wright’s minute books give a clear, concise picture of council meetings and the business conducted therein,” states one such report. The town office served as tax collection centre not only for the town of Rimbey, but for the County of Ponoka, and Irene made a monthly trip to the town of Ponoka to deliver the take, much of which would be in cash half a century ago. She sometimes carried as much as $10,000 in her purse with no thought of worry or concern.

When the County of Ponoka came into being in 1943, Irene had an opportunity to move to a position in the county office. “I made the decision to remain in Rimbey.”she told me in 1975, “and I have always been thankful that I did. This is where my friends are. It’s where I belong.” Irene’s father, T.N. “Uncle Tommy” Wright, remained with her for eight more years, until his death in 1951. Irene’s mother passed away in 1934. Irene retired from her position with the town on August 28, 1975. She was their third secretary over a 56 year period.

Irene’s secretarial abilities were recognized and utilized by various other organizations in the town of Rimbey, usually with little or no remuneration. For a time she kept the books for the Chronic Convalescent Hospital, and for decades she was secretary and record-keeper and researcher for the Mount Auburn Cemetary which was not far from the town office. She also took her turn as president of the Oldtimers’ Association. Secretary for her church was another of the volunteer positions that this busy person took on for a period of time.





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