Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Radio Edition - August 2, 2015

On today's show, Grant's Old Mill on Portage Avenue turns 40 this year. The St. James Assiniboia Pioneer Association joins me to talk about the mill, its history and their Pioneer Picnic on August 8th.

I will also talk about the beginning and the end of the Civic Holiday in Winnipeg, share some audio from a recent visit to Brandon's Dominion Exhibition Display Building II and its CPR Station, which is now home to Westman Immigrant Services.

Virden incorporated 125 years ago today. take a day trip to visit some of their historic sites, including the Virden Pioneer Home Museum. Also, relive the 1999 Pan Am Games at the U of M's archive of the games' website.

If you're into vintage vehicles, check out the Sunday Night Cruise on August 9th at Grant park Shopping Centre. The lineup will include about 10 buses from the Manitoba Transit Heritage Association fleet dating back to the 1930s.

Music from Stompin' Tom Connors, Andy Desjarlis,and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra with Tracy Dahl and Henriette Schellenberg.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Beginning and the End of Manitoba's Civic Holiday

Francis Cornish (source)

Winnipeg's Civic Holiday, now called Terry Fox Day, is as old as the city itself. The first one was proclaimed by our first mayor, Francis Cornish, for Wednesday, September 16, 1874.

Cornish first floated the idea at the council meeting of July 27, 1874, suggesting that "some steps be taken to have a civic holiday shortly." He was familiar with such a holiday as it was already a custom in a number of southern Ontario cities, (Cornish was a former alderman and mayor of the city of London, Ontario.) Toronto is credited with having the first Civic Holiday in August 1869.

It took a few weeks to wind its way though the political process, but on September 11th the city clerk was instructed to draw up the official proclamation.

September 9, 1874, Winnipeg Free Press

The reason for a "civic holiday" was to give citizens a day off during which they could take  time to enjoy and celebrate the achievements of their particular municipality. 

It was different than most other holidays for a couple of reasons. Initially, it was granted in the middle of the week, presumably so that people would stay around town. It was also proclaimed by the mayor each year, so the exact date could vary widely from year to year as it was sometimes made to fit with other events or celebrations. (Winnipeggers also usually got a half day civic holiday for the start of the Winnipeg  Exhibition.)

Winnipeg's first Civic Holiday was a low key affair. Most businesses, offices and government services closed for the day. The Free Press, which did not publish, noted in an editorial the following day that “Winnipeg is not up to this sort of thing yet.” it reported that a number of construction sites were still active and that no big public events had been planned.

Rather than a lively celebration of the city, it said the downtown resembled a Sunday. (It also didn't help that a heavy rain storm began late in the afternoon, putting off any small-scale events that may have been planned.)

City Hall ca. 1880 (source)

The following year, the Civic Holiday was proclaimed by mayor William Nassau Kennedy for Tuesday, August 18, 1875. This time, they were going to do it in style.

The city had started construction on its first city hall and public market building and chose the Civic Holiday as the day that to lay the cornerstone. The ceremony included speeches and a parades by various organizations. Over half of the city's population turned out to take part. (Read more about the day here.)

It was also reported that city parks were busy that day, the start of a long-time tradition of Civic Holiday picnics.Over time, large civic organizations such as athletic clubs, churches, ethnic organizations and unions organized these events, each attracting thousands of people to local green spaces.

August 19, 1905, Winnipeg Tribune

Other Manitoba cities soon came on board. Brandon's first Civic Holiday appears to have happened on August 10, 1890, though mayor McDiarmid required a great deal of prompting from the city's business community and a large petition presented to city council before declaring it. That same year, Portage la Prairie also hosted their own holiday.

August 20, 1903, Winnipeg Tribune

In the early 1900s the tradition of being held mid-week gave way to often being held on the first Monday in August, something that became a bylaw in 1938.

The change from a mid-week day off to a three day weekend also changed the intimate, local nature of the holiday. It meant that larger, more elaborate events could be held as there was an extra couple of days in which to set up and tear down. It also meant that people now had the time to leave the city that they were supposed to be celebrating. Railways and passenger ships offered special excursion fares to places like Portage, Selkirk and Grand Forks.

At some point, though I can not find when, the holiday was taken out of the hands of municipalities and became a province-wide affair.

August 20, 1918, Winnipeg Free Press

For most, though, the civic holiday still represented a chance to enjoy activities in city parks. Large scale picnics and sports days were the norm until the 1950s.

In other jurisdictions, the name of the holiday was changed, usually to celebrate someone who had an influence on the city's founding. The city of Toronto, the founder of the holiday, changed the name from Civic Holiday to Simcoe Day in 1969, honouring John Graves Simcoe. In 1995 Ottawa renamed theirs Colonel By Day for John By. Hamilton has George Hamilton Day, (after the city founder, not the tanned American actor !) 

In Alberta, the holiday is known as Heritage Day. That spawned the Edmonton Heritage Festival, now in its 40th year. 

Manitoba, though, chose to go a different route and removed the connection between municipalities and the Civic Holiday. In 2015 they renamed it in honour of Winnipeg-born Terry Fox, encouraging people to use the day to raise funds for cancer research.

August 2, 1937, Winnipeg Free Press

On August 2, 1937 the Winnipeg Free Press published a lengthy  editorial about the meaning of the Civic Holiday. It concluded with:

"Rambling round and round pleasantly idles away a Civic Holiday. It saves the cautious citizen from going too far or getting in too deep. In his meanderings, revelations pop out at him. He sees things that have always been there for him to see, but which he had never seen. He realizes that his home-town has a bloom he misses in other towns. It is home-like, healthy and open. It’s not a bad place to live in. This may be why other citizens who have to move either to the East or the West say they wish they were back again. It would be less a truism if not heard so often. This is worth recalling on a Civic Holiday."

Also see:
Civic Holiday The Canadian Encyclopedia

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Arlington Bridge Walking Tour - July 29th, 2015

Arlington Bridge
Join me for a walking tour of the historic Arlington Bridge on July 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm. 

I will talk about the city's early attempts at crossing the CPR yards, the history of the Arlington Bridge and give my opinion on the “River Nile” urban legend. 

The tour starts at the north foot of the bridge, Arlington Street and Dufferin Avenue. For more information check out the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation's event page.

To read more about the history of the bridge see my four part series from 2011 !

Monday, 27 July 2015

Ming Court Renovation Underway

 Ming Court Restaurant at 236 Edmonton Street is undergoing renovations and will be closed until early August.

The exterior renovations gave us a glimpse of one of its past incarnations - Bonnycastle Travel. It turns out that the original house dates back to 1888. 

For a look back at the history of the building check out my latest Winnipeg Downtown Places post !

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Winnipeg's housing crisis - in 1936

Winnipeg Tribune, April 24, 1936

In April 1936 Reverend James W. Clarke of Knox Church addressed the Local Council of Women about the deplorable housing conditions many Winnipeggers are forced to live in. 

His church recently conducted a housing survey of two districts. In “District 2”, Notre Dame Avenue north to the CPR tracks, they found an average of 3.3 families living in each house and 96 families occupying attics. He said:

Then it came to me, seeing these deplorable conditions, that as a community we are guilty of a major crime….a crime against children … against families ….

The other district was "Sherbrook Street south to the Assiniboine River", certainly a more middle class area. There, the overcrowding was worse, with an average of 4.1 families living in each house. Of those, 731 families lived and cooked in the same room.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Radio Edition - July 12, 2015

Cottage Summer

Tune in tonight at 7 pm on 101.5 UMFM for West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition.

It's a lazy summer show! Summer songs, a Stephen Leacock short story, commentary by Roger Currie and I'll preview some of the people and events that will be commemorated in the week ahead in Manitoba History.

Some upcoming heritage events to note:

July 18 -19, 2015 - Doors Open Brandon
July 29, 2015 - Arlington Bridge Walking Tour

I'll be mentioning the St. Regis Hotel, the opening of the St. Andrews Lock and Dam and Maison McDougall in St. Norbert.

Music by Uncle Smoky, Billie Holiday, Victor Davies with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Prairie Oyster.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Lance Corporal William Harvey of Winnipeg

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 100 Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

Wm Harvey Set Photo 1: William Harvey in Uniform

This is a "refresh" of a blog post I originally wrote at This Was Manitoba in 2008 after having been contacted by a member of Harvey's family seeking information. He was a missing piece of their family tree, having left for Canada at age 20 never to return home.

I was able to piece together some of his background and found that he was a "forgotten" Winnipeg solder. Here for such a short time before returning to Europe to die, his Winnipeg connection was not picked up by the papers.

I've lost touch with Harvey's family due to switching internet providers a few years back. If you are related or can add more information to any part of this write-up please let me know!

Guthrie Street & Scouringburn
Urquhart Street from Watson Street, ca. 1880s (source)

William Harvey was born February 17, 1881 to Robert and Frances "Fanny" Harvey of no. 4 Walton Street (at Urquhart Street) in Dundee, Scotland. He worked as a crane operator, or "craneman", in Dundee and served with the Gordon Highlanders for more than three years, seeing action in South Africa. 

Soon after his return, he decided to seek out new adventures and immigrated to Canada in 1911, likely aboard the Allen Steamship Line's Sicilian which departed Glasgow in mid-April 1911. Harvey arrived at his destination of Montreal where the above portrait was taken and sent back home to his family.

Around that time, Winnipeg was in the midst of unprecedented growth, on its way to becoming what many believed would be "the Chicago of the North". Harvey, like many young immigrants at the time, found himself drawn west.

Top: Rear of CPR Depot ca. 1909 (source)
Bottom: Modern aerial shot of Weston Shops (Aerial Winnipeg)

He immediately found work with the expanding Canadian Pacific Railway, first as a craneman, then a ‘turntableman’. 

As a CPR crane operator there were a number of places that he could have worked. Perhaps at the cargo area behind the CPR station on Higgins Avenue or at the CPR's Weston Shops, which underwent an expansion in 1911. As a turntableman, he very likely worked in the service sheds or roundhouses at the CPR Weston Shops.

The Henderson Directory lists no address for Harvey for the couple of years he was in Winnipeg. This is odd as even if someone was living in a temporary situation, such as renting a bedroom or in a CPR bunkhouse, that would normally be indicated next to their name. For whatever reason, he appears not to have settled into a permanent home, apartment or rooming house.

1915 Winnipeg Scottish Football Team (source)

Hopefully during his time here he found a sense of belonging within the city's Scottish community.
The Winnipeg Robbie Burns Society, the oldest chapter outside of the UK, was created in 1907 by a number of Scottish workers in the very CPR shops where he likely worked. He certainly would have heard about the society, if he wasn’t an active participant.

There was also a very active sports scene that he would have enjoyed. For instance, in 1915 the Winnipeg Scottish Football Team won the city and provincial championships before taking the Connaught Cup as national champions.

Troops leave from CPR Station, 1915 (source)

Given his military background, it isn't surprising that William soon signed up with the 79th Cameron Highlanders militia. On October 10, 1914 he enlisted with the 27th City of Winnipeg Battalion as a private.

William left Halifax for England on January 20th 1915 and on February 23rd 1915 was on to France. He was transferred in the field to 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian light Infantry and rose in rank to Lance Corporal. Within weeks, 2PPCLI was involved in the Battle of Bellewaerde Ridge, Belgium. The regimental war diary describes the battle of May 4, 1915 this way:

“Heavy shelling continued through out the day. trenches in many places where blown in Nos 1and 2 coys (*companies) in the fire line trenches lost heavily. 26 men killed 96 men wounded two of which died two days later.”

William Harvey was one of the men killed that day. His circumstances of death record simply states "killed in action".

Top: Winnipeg Free Press (wire), May 15, 1915
Bottom: Winnipeg Tribune, May 20 1915

Back in Canada, his name was mentioned in the Winnipeg Tribune and Manitoba Free Press. They were just “wire service” notices of Commonwealth or Canadian soldiers killed. His name was not amongst the “local boys” section. With no other family in Canada and no permanent address, it appears that his his Winnipeg connection went unnoticed.

His death was also noted in the Peoples' Journal of Dundee, Scotland.

Harvey's body was never recovered. His name apprears on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium. Inscribed in the monument are the names of the 55,000 soldiers killed in the area, 6,940 of them Canadian. This is an excerpt of the text over one of the gates:

“To the armies of the British Empire who stood here from 1914 to 1918 and to those of their dead who have no known grave. Here are recorded names of officers and men who fell in Ypres Salient but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death.”

Each day at sunset the dead are remembered as traffic through the gateway is halted and two buglers sound the Last Post. The trumpets used were a gift by an officer of the Royal Canadian Artillery who fought there in 1915.

Wm Harvey Set Photo 24: CPR Winged Angel Monument (2)

The Canadian Pacific Railway erected a monument in Winnipeg dedicated to CPR men who fell in World War I, though it contains no names. In the 90’s it was moved from CPR property to the front lawn of Deer Lodge Centre and rededicated to CPR men who fell in all wars.

 Harvey's name appears on the Soldiers' Relatives Memorial on the legislature grounds. The 1,600 names on it were compiled in the early 1920s.

Top: May 4, 2008, Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom: September 14, 2008, Winnipeg Free Press

Due to his brief time in Winnipeg and apparent transient situation, William Harvey was a man without a home town. An immigrant who came to make a new life, helped build the west, worked in the poor conditions offered by the railway repair shops and gave his life without an obituary or other recognition that he was a Winnipegger.

On the 93rd anniversary of his death I ran the above obituary in the Winnipeg Free Press and left flowers at the base of the CPR monument.

Attestation Papers
Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry
Circumstances of Death record