The month of February in 2021 marks the 60th anniversary of the Oil Wives Club of Swan Hills. This anniversary isn’t tied to a specific day of the month, but it is an important milestone nonetheless. The Oil Wives Club of Swan Hills was founded in 1961 to give the wives of the men working in the oil patch a night out. The town of Swan Hills has changed significantly over the 60 years that the club has been present; at one time, there were as many as 80 members, but membership has fallen to just eight in recent years.
Ann Nagel has been a member since 1968 and has many fond memories of her years with the club. Over the years, the club has worked to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Swan Hills Food Bank and Santa’s Elves, among other great causes.
Ten years ago, around 200 people attended the Oil Wives Club of Swan Hills’ 50th-anniversary celebration, including prior members. The club members performed skits as part of the entertainment, and everyone had a great time.
The Oil Wives Club of Swan Hills is a part of the larger Association of Oil Wives Clubs, a very structured organization with clubs in Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. According to the Association’s website, a woman by the name of Dean Hunter from Redwater, Alberta first had the idea for a social club for the wives of men working in the oil industry in 1951. This idea was in response to the fact that life could be very unpredictable for those who worked in oil and gas, with irregular hours, last-minute emergencies, and the ever-present prospect of being transferred to a new community. These circumstances not only made it difficult for “oil wives” to make friends, but they often led to planned outings and nights out being cancelled at the last moment. Taken all together, this could make life very lonely for an oil worker’s spouse. An Oil Wives Club would provide one night a month that an “oil wife” could be reasonably certain of a night out with friends.
The Association of Oil Wives Clubs holds a yearly convention for their member clubs in October. Each club will send delegates to the convention, where they will meet to review and set policies while enjoying the fellowship of their peers. The 2020 convention was cancelled due to the pandemic, but there is hope that a convention will be possible for this year.
The Oil Wives Club of Swan Hills meets on the second Thursday of each month, usually at a restaurant in town. Meetings are currently on hold due to COVID-19, but hopefully, they will be able to resume meeting again before too long.
Unfortunately, the club will not be able to celebrate its 60th anniversary in the way that it would like because of the risks presented by COVID-19 and the current public health restrictions against indoor gatherings.
The Grizzly Gazette would like to congratulate the Oil Wives Club of Swan Hills on their 60thanniversary and wish them many happy returns in the years to come.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette