Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Happy 60th birthday, Transit Tom !

The courteous and affable caricature Transit Tom was making his debut 60 years ago!

Tom was created in-house by the Greater Winnipeg Transit Commission ad department to try to convince more Winnipeggers to take the bus and to keep riders up to date on route and fleet information. He made his newspaper ad debut on September 7, 1957.

Of course, not everyone was impressed with the man and his message, such as "Contented Car Driver" who wrote a Letter to the Editor published in the Free Press on October 3, 1957.

“We have been bombarded with advertisements glaring at us from the back of buses and with singing commercials on the radio.” He or she scoffed at the 30 cent fare and how much more time it would take them to use the bus instead of driving their own car, concluding: “On the whole, Transit Tom will have to offer me something better than present conditions before I give up my car to join the mass evacuation scheme he offers.”

GWTC bus bench, 1957 (City of Winnipeg Archives)

Transit Tom's usage faded around the time of Unicity in 1972, but every decade or two his face seems to make a brief comeback. Even today, you will often see those handwritten transit information signs posted at stops to announce service changes signed "T. T." I wrote a column about Tom and his origins back in September 2014 for the Winnipeg Free Press. There was only so much artwork that I could include with it, so here are more glimpses of Transit Tom from over the years.

For more transit heritage related images, check out my Flickr album and the Manitoba Transit Heritage Association website.

The initial GWTC ad campaign featuring Tom:

Tom's first ad on September 7, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

 October 5, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

 October 14, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

October 19, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

 October 21, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

November 16, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

 December 28, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

January 25, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

March 29, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

Later Transit Tom ads:
May 6, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

 June 14, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

July 10, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

November 22, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

February 1, 1960, Winnipeg Free Press

October 28, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press

December 24, 1962, Winnipeg Free Press

September 6, 1969, Winnipeg Free Press

Other Tom appearances:

Winnipeg's last trolley bus
MTHA Bus Museum Day
The late 1960s remake of Tom (also see)

2010 retro Tom !

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Private George McLean of Douglas

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

George McLean was born November 8th, 1894 at Dauphin, Manitoba to Charles and Bella McLean. The family eventually farmed near Douglas, Manitoba. 

He was working on the family farm and listed his occupation as teamster when he came to Winnipeg to enlist with the 44th Battalion in August 1915.

Mclean was single but was given permission by the military to get married on January 26, 1918 to Winifred. She lived on Manor Street in Chelsea, London and became his next of kin.

According to his military file, in June 1916 McLean spent six weeks in hospital recovering from a  broken ankle, something that happened while playing and not on military duty. 

He was killed in action on August 20, 1918. There are no details in his file about the circumstances of his death.

McLean's remains were never found. He is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France and the Douglas, Manitoba war memorial.

A brother, William McLean, survived the war.


Virtual War Memorial Entry
Attestation papers and Military File* (If you are interested in how extensive one's military file could be, this is by far the most detailed one I have come across.)

Monday, 18 September 2017

Farewell, Wet 'N' Wild Waterslide Park?

©2017, Christian Cassidy

After years of demands from local government officials, it appears that the abandoned Skinner's Wet 'N' Wild water slide structure on Highway 44 in Lockport might finally be demolished.

Top: May 1993 Interlake Spectator ad
Bottom: In better days, (1990 newspaper ad)

In May 1984, it was announced that Wet 'N' Wild would receive up to $150,000 from Destination Manitoba to build a water slide park at Lockport, Manitoba. (DM was a 1980s government initiative funded 60% by the feds and 40% by the province to promote tourism and tourism development projects in the province.)

The ownership group of Wet 'N' Wild included Al Thompson, owner of Skinners restaurants, and local area NHLers Wayne and Dave Babych.

The seven-storey structure featuring four, 130-metre long slides officially opened in 1984. Surrounding it was a recreation site that eventually comprised of two baseball diamonds, mini-golf, bumper cars, a golf course and a batting range.

The slides weren't just a big tourism draw for the area, attracting about 1,200 customers on the average weekend in the 1990s, it was also where a few dozens area kids found their summer job each year.

August 23, 2005, Winnipeg Free Press

In the early aughties, a couple of unseasonably cold summers cut attendance and the increasing costs of both maintaining the aging structure and purchasing liability insurance for it, made the business economically unfeasible. It was closed in 2005.

Around 2007, Skinners sold the 30-acre piece of land, including the intact water slide structure, to a development company. (A 2013 Free Press article says Skinners sold to Santa Fe Developments of India, which is has since relocated to Winnipeg. More recent stories say that Sante Fe purchased it more recently from a foreign developer.)

The assumption was that it would soon become a residential development.

The land was never developed and the structure became a favourite haunt for late-night partiers.

With concerns about the safety of those sneaking onto the site, St. Andrews municipal officials called for the structure's demolition in 2013, in 2015 and, after an out-building on the site was set ablaze, in 2017.

Heavy machinery recently appeared on the site which has led to the speculation that the structure may finally be torn down. (Also see.)

The Santa Fe Development website says that the land is slated for redevelopment in 2017 - 2018.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Sears, founder of Garden City Shopping Centre, bids farewell

July 14, 1970, Winnipeg Tribune

When Sears Canada announced earlier this summer that it would close 59 of its 129 stores across the country it meant bad news for the Garden City Shopping Centre. That location is now being liquidated and Sears has sold the building to new owners.

The disappearance of Sears from Garden City's retail lineup means more than just the lost of an original tenant. In fact, it was Simpsons-Sears, as it was known at the time, that made the ambitious mall plan a reality.

Check out my history of the Simpsons-Sears store jut posted at my Winnipeg Places blog for more!

P.S. Fun fact: the last original tenant appears to be Shoppers Drug Mart. When it opened in 1970 with the mall, it was the first Shoppers in Western Canada !

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Haynes' Chicken Shack is Fading Away

Sadly, the former Haynes' Chicken Shack is looking worse for wear.

From 1952 to 1998 it was home to one of the city's iconic live music spots, where greats like Billy Daniels, Oscar Peterson and Harry Belafonte came to jam after their shows.

For more about Percy and Zena Haynes and their restaurant, check out my 2012 post about them: http://westenddumplings.blogspot.ca/2012/02/manitoba-black-history-percy-haynes.html

Sunday, 3 September 2017

West End Boxer Frankie Battaglia

Top: Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame
Bottom: Jan. 13, 1933, Scranton Republic

My column in today's Winnipeg Free Press is about the career of Frankie Battaglia. He was one of the best boxers our city ever produced and his exploits in the ring, including a title bout at Madison Square Gardens, were a great distraction for Depression-weary Winnipeggers.

I first learned of Battaglia while researching a blog post about the history of 690 Ellice Avenue. Now Gelyn's Wedding Lounge, from 1906 to 1926 it was home to Battaglia Fruit and Confectionery store on the main floor and the Battaglia family, which comprised of eleven children, including Frankie, who lived upstairs.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Private Reginald Johnston of Fairford

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

UPDATE: More information on the burial of Reginald Johnston.

Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston was the second-youngest of seven children of a pioneering family in the of Fairford, Manitoba area. When he enlisted with the 107th Battalion at Winnipeg on January 19, 1916.

20-year-old, unmarried Johnston listed his occupation as "homesteader".

Top: February 17th, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: 107th Marching, Aug 1916. (Pilot Mound WWI Museum/ WFP)

The 107th Battalion was recruited by a popular local war veteran and Lt. Col. named Glenyon Campbell. He was a draw at public recruitment events and even took out personal ads asking people to join him.

In fact, when was it was announced that the 79th Brandon Battalion, which Campbell recruited for, would be going overseas without him so that he could raise another local battalion, the 107th, it was reported in the Winnipeg Tribune in December 1915 that at least 200 men from the 79th applied for transfers.

Campbell made use of the network of Indian Agents to also spread the word and, as a result, the 107th was notable for its large number of Aboriginal and Metis recruits. (Johnston was, seemingly, Metis.) Recruits came from places like Roblin, Kelwood, Brandon, Gilbert Plains and Winnipeg.

Top: 16th Battalion badge (source: eBay)

After arriving in England, Johnston was transferred to the 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Canadian Scottish). He was killed in action during the Battle of Hill 70 on August 15, 1917.

Johnston's body was not found until a munitions clearing exercise in the small town of

of Vendin-le-Vieil, France in 2011 discovered skeletal remains. The Department of National Defence's Casualty Identification Review Board determined that they were Johnston's.

Johnston will be buried August 24, 2017, in the Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France. Five members of his family will be in attendance for the ceremony.

Battle of Hill 70, Casualty Identification National Defence
Attestation papers and military file Library and Archives Canada