Jack Pine Savages

by Jean Johnson 

The Jack Pine Savages was a little local club organized by Mrs. Ethel Wynne and named by Guy Gibson. Mrs. Wynne – never called by her first name – was an interesting person. She was artistic, well-read and she had an active mind. She was a staunch Conservative and, at one time, she had taken a great interest in politics. She worked for R. B. Bennett in his successful campaigns of 1925 and 1926, but for some mysterious reason, when he became a leader of the Conservative party of Canada in 1927, she went into what she always called the “Seven Year’s Silence.” 

In 1934, having broken the Seven Year’s Silence and having renewed her correspondence with the “Right Honourable”, she cast about for a cause. In 1934 all the talk was about Social Credit. 

Mrs. Wynne decided to form a club for the purpose of suppressing this upstart idea. So, mounted on her roan pony, Willie, she rode around the neighbourhood and interviewed those she wanted in her club. The idea of a club, an excuse to get together for a social evening, appealed to all of us and we agreed to join. Mrs. Wynne was the president of the Jack Pine Savages, Jean Johnson, the secretary, and Audley Richards, the treasurer. The other members were: Walter Candy, “the common denominator of all Albertans’, Mrs. Jamieson and Sandy, Jack McDonald, Guy Gibson and Maud Lewis King. A rather unlikely group to overthrow anything. 

Throughout all our meetings Social Credit was never mentioned; we decided that the proper procedure was to raise some money. Each member was instructed to arrange an affair at which a silver collection could be taken. Several of us put on dances in our homes, but there was a natural reluctance to pass the hat. The music was free and the ladies brought food – so why charge? 

In the winter of 1935-36, Mrs. Wynne attempted to get up a play with only Jack Pine Savages in the cast. But most of us were rather poor actors so she abandoned that project. 

In 1936 Jean and Laurie Johnson put on the first gymkhana held on the Mount Royal picnic grounds. A picnic for local people, with foot races, jumping and a few horse races, had been a yearly event, but there had never been a full-blown gymkhana such as the one now planned by the Jack Pine Savages. It was decided that the members should ask merchants and others to donate prizes. Walter Candy went to Calgary and returned in triumph with the following loot: twenty subscriptions to the Farm and Ranch Review, a flashlight, a lady’s compact and a dozen tulip bulbs. Jimmie Rodger of Morley Trading donated a pair of stirrups, Laurie browbeat Riley and McCormick into donating a bridle and Tilda Hammond donated a Navajo blanket. Word of the last two prizes generated great excitement and people started training their saddle horses. 

Most of the events were of the traditional type, but Guy Gibson devised a cowboy race in which the rider lay on the ground wrapped in his saddle blanket and his head on his saddle; his horse hobbled nearby. On a signal, he was to arise, unhobble his horse, saddle up and ride to a given point. This race led to a horrible amount of skullduggery. All were supposed to be wrapped in a full-sized blanket which had to be folded up. Some sinners disregarded this rule. Each was required to hobble his horse with a strip torn from gunny sack and tied with a square knot. One malicious character snuck in and wrapped certain knots with stout twine tied in hard knots which couldn’t be untied in half an hour. But, we made some money. The gymkhana was a great success and under other auspices, was carried on for many years. 

In November of 1936, a disastrous fire swept the country south of the Bow River. The Savages unanimously agreed to donate all their funds to help those who were burned out. After that, no more meetings were held. 

Ironically, Social Credit in Alberta outlived all the Jack Pine Savages except three, Audley, Sandy and Jean. 

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