Thursday, 19 January 2017

Mental Health Industries of Brandon (1963 to 1971)

Brandon Salt and Pepper Shakers ca. 1968

Long ago, I stopped collecting historic “stuff”.

I often stumbled across it or was offered it by people and quickly realized that if I didn't stop I would soon be overrun. My one soft spot, though, is souvenir tableware - things like mugs, plates, cups, especially with centennial or municipal logos.

When my friend Kali at Atomic Age Vintage emailed to ask about “Mental Health Industries” of Brandon and if they made things like salt and pepper shakers in the 1960s, I was intrigued and went on the hunt for information. When I saw the logos, I knew I was going to own them.

Mental Health Industries was a commercial wing of the Brandon Mental Health Centre, which in the 1960s was called the Brandon Hospital for Mental Diseases.

In 1960, under the supervision of the clinical director Dr. W. Schlicter and industrial therapist George Wroblewski, the Industrial Therapy Committee was created at the hospital. The purpose was to provide patients with skills they would need in the outside world and make them a little pocket money.

Initially, the committee set up a scrap metal business and a pair of cafeterias inside the hospital and did contract work like repairing burlap bags for the City of Brandon. There were complaints that it took the government-run hospital way too long to return money to the patients, so the Canadian Mental Health Association was brought in as a partner. The non-profit organization handled the bookkeeping.

The name of the organization was changed in 1963 to Mental Health Industries, (MHI). By this time, they had a large workshop in the hospital and were producing a wide range of items like aprons, plastic goods and ceramic ware.

Nov. 4, 1965, Brandon Sun

On November 5, 1965, MHI opened a storefront retail shop at 32 Ninth Street, across from the old Government Telephones Building.

The move downtown seemed to have a dual effect. Not only did it allow for the expansion of the program by making its wares more widely available, it helped take away some of the stigma from the hospital. During Mental Health Week, for instance, numerous city businesses took out small ads to sponsor a page for the MHI store and the Canadian Mental Health Association, thanking them for their service to the community.

By 1966, MHI had eleven employees plus 200 patients on staff and the workshop at the hospital had increased to 8,000 square feet. Ads for the store listed products for sale such as home furnishings, (step stools, small table and bookcases), souvenirs, (ash trays, paperweights and salt and pepper shakers) and wooden children’s toys and furniture. The number of canteens in the hospital increased to four.

November 4, 1965, Brandon Sun

The store appears to have been a success.

In a 1968 Brandon Sun story, store manager Gladys Brown noted that people drove in from around the region to purchase gift ware and souvenirs to support the cause. A May 1965 editorial noted that the store made "upwards of $25,000 a year."

June 11, 1971, Brandon Sun

In the late 1960s, MHI began working closely with an organization called Rehab Industries of Western Manitoba. It was established in 1966 to provide work assessment, training and "sheltered employment" for adult handicapped persons.

On April 1, 1971, the two formally merged to create A.R.M. Industries and in June moved to a new retail space across the street at 35 Ninth Street.

Initially, they used facilities at both the hospital and Rehab Industries' building on Third Street at Van Horne to create products. Specialties of the Third Street site were printing, silk screening and sign making.

The Rehab Industries site was expanded in 1973 and  more of the workshop space moved out of the hospital. In 1977, the retail shop itself relocated there.

Its unclear when the production of souvenir items like the salt shakers ended.

On November 18, 1993, A.R.M. Industries of Brandon changed its name to Career Connections Incorporated.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Sherbrook Pool: 15 Before and After Renovation Photos

On January 9, 2017, more than four years after it closed for renovations, the Sherbrook Pool finally reopened. Anyone who was on the tour oohed and aahed at its bright, clean new look.

For many, though, picturing what exactly changed was a challenge.

Back in January 2015, I was part of another tour. This was just over two years after being shut down and renovations were still in their early stages.

I thought I would do some comparison photos to show what exactly has changed.

There were areas that I could not get into, the women's change room and some of the mechanical areas. Also, with walls back in place the behind the scenes stuff like the roof supports were no longer in view. 

Still, I managed to get fifteen images that I could match up and on future visits or tours I will try to fill in others.

If you want to see all of my photos from both tours, check out my Flickr album of the pool. You can read my Winnipeg Free Press column about the pool's history here, or check out my four piece blog post about its past.

 Wider entry door. First Aid room removed for an expanded lobby and seating area.

East side bleachers, only reachable from pool deck area, were removed.

West side bleachers thinned out, replaced with composite benches. Top rows replaced with a mezzanine with tables and chairs.

Remaining "orange" tile repainted white.

Bleachers / storage area on north side removed.

 Old pool deck jack-hammered out and replaced.

Less foreboding looking change room entries !
Men's change room floors, lockers and benches replaced. rearranged washroom.

Upstairs gym area repainted, washroom updated.

Monday, 9 January 2017

The Sherbrook Pool finally reopens

This morning at 10:00 am the Sherbrook Pool finally reopened after a nearly five year closure for renovations.

For 70 photos of the reopening and the tour, check out this album and scroll to he bottom. For 15 "before and after" images, check out this post.

After a number of false starts over the years, even this opening came down to the very last minute. On Friday afternoon, the city was still saying that the event was up in the air - wait for confirmation on Sunday evening.

October 30, 1937, Winnipeg Tribune

Opened in February 1931, the "Sherbrook baths" was a Depression relief project constructed to replace the recently closed Cornish Baths.

It has been a workhorse for the city's recreation department. Between 1948, the closure of the Pritchard Baths, and the opening of the Pan Am Pool in 1967, it was the city's only indoor pool.

During its 85-plus years of service it has seen hundreds of thousands of children pass through its doors for swimming sessions and lessons, has been the home for many of the city's swimming clubs and hosted many national and international swimming competitions.

Repairs underway and rusted out roof support, Jan. 2015

The pool was shut down suddenly on November 29, 2012 and swimmers ordered out of the building. The city later said it was "...closed to the public for an extended period of time to allow for a detailed structural engineering assessment of the facility."

The issue was rusted out roof supports. One engineer told me that some had 80% or less of their strength left and that some experts were astounded that the roof hadn't already caved in.

While engineering reports were being done, a protracted
debate about the future of the pool took place. In the end, the city set aside $1.7 million for renovations and the Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg donated an additional $1 million. (The new pool is called the Kinsmen Sherbrook Pool.)

As work was underway it was decided that rather than spending that sort of money just to fix the structure, only to have to close it in a few more years to deal with other issues, that the entire building should be upgraded. Using some cost savings from the initial work and finding new money in the city's budget, the cost of the fix came closer to $4 million.

No more ancient building systems, orange tiles !

At a "no photos allowed" tour back in May 2016 i got to see the the new-look pool.

Behind the scenes, all of its systems - electrical, plumbing and HVAC - had been updated. Structurally, the roof supports had been repaired or replaced and the pool deck area jackhammered out and replaced. Visually, the "first aid room" inside the front door was taken out to give an expanded lobby and seating area, the bleachers were replaced and those original orange ceramic tiles had been painted white.

It was said during the tour that the entire building, not just the structure, was good for at least another 25 years.

The additional repairs set the reopening date, once said to be the end of 2015, back. When refilling the pool in 2016 a leak was found that allowed water into one of the light wells, the opening was put off so that new repairs could be made.

After numerous rumoured false starts, it appears that today is the day !
Over the years, I have done a lot of research and writing about the pool. Links to some of that work is below:

- My Photo Album of the Sherbrook Pool
- With the historic Sherbrook Pool set to reopen next month, a look back at its history - Winnipeg Free Press
- A history of the Sherbrook Pool - West End Dumplings (4 part series)

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Brandon's Strand Theatre's 100th Birthday Gift

It may have come three days late, but Brandon’s historic Strand Theatre, closed since 2005, received a very welcome 100th birthday present.  On November 30th, 2016, Brandon University purchased what is the last remaining theatre building in the city’s core for one dollar from its owners, Landmark Cinemas.

The Strand opened in 1916 as Brandon's largest theatre. It also ushered in the era of talking pictures and Sunday entertainment to the Wheat City.

Read about the Strand's history in my column in today's Winnipeg Free Press!

Here are some of my other Brandon topics from over the years:

West End Dumplings
Manitoba's Worst Train Disasters: Brandon (1916)
Brandon's Retro Kentucky Fried Chicken Demolished
Brandon's Andrew Ranking and the Syndicate Block Fire
Brandon's firefighter down finally remembered
The 1919 Stanley Cup and the death of Joe Hall
Thirsty in Brandon (1): A history of the waterworks
Thirsty in Brandon (2): A history of the water tower

Brandon's first female alderman
John A Macdonald dies in Brandon
Telephony in Brandon
Sgt. William White - Brandon's first WWI casualty
The Aagaard Brothers and Aagaard Cafe

Winnipeg Free Press
Taking a Strand
Deadly Day in Brandon
Brandon's Deadliest Blaze

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Remembering Architect Charles Wheeler

Holy Trinity and Merchants Bank

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of architect Charles Wheeler.

Born and trained in England, Wheeler came to Winnipeg in 1882 and went on to design dozens of buildings across the province. His Winnipeg works include Holy Trinity Church on Donald Street, Dalnavert on Carlton Street and the Peck Building on Princess Street. In Brandon, the Merchants Bank building on Rosser and the Brandon Insane Asylum, (now partly Assiniboine Community College), are his. Also, the original provincial jail in Portage la Prairie. (For a more complete list of his work, see the Biographical Dictionary or MHS.)

Jan. 8, 1917, Winnipeg Tribune

Wheeler was also an accomplished organist and choirmaster. When he retired, he became the music critic for the Winnipeg Tribune.

On the way home from the theatre on New Year's Day, Wheeler slipped and fell on an icy patch of sidewalk and died six days later in the General Hospital at the age of 78.

Though he was a long time member and choirmaster of Knox Church, his funeral was held in Holy Trinity, his first major Winnipeg commission.

For more on Wheeler and his work, read this biography and The Architectural Legacy of Charles Wheeler.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

100 years of Winnipeg Policewomen - Jane Andrews and Mary Dunn.

April 6, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

The first two women hired by the Winnipeg Police Service were sworn in as officers on January 4, 1917.

Though some European cities had policewomen since at least the turn of the last century, the issue wasn't covered much in local newspapers until they were brought into the New York City force in 1913. The following year, large numbers of women entered the ranks of police forces in England to free up men to fight in in World War I. 

Calls to have women on the Winnipeg force began around 1915, led by organizations such as the Council of Women and social agencies like the Salvation Army, which had long worked with women and girls who got in trouble with the law.

The Free Press' Women's Editor, Lillian Laurie, reported about the growing number of women in police forces from around the world in her section of the paper and wrote editorials calling for them to be hired here. One example, on February 19, 1916:

“This is a reform that women can get as soon as they make up their minds to have it. They can have it because a great body of decent citizens – men and women – feel that it should be. They can have it because in the long run …. this great mass of citizens would decide unhesitatingly in favour of having women on the police force to handle women prisoners. They would decide to have women on the force to warn girls who are drifting into the danger zone. They would decide to have women on the force to advise with the harassed, distressed women who are in difficulty and who do not know what to do…..”

December 20, 1916, Winnipeg Free Press

At the Winnipeg police commission meeting of November 30, 1915, chair Alderman F. H. Davidson expressed his approval, with a proviso: “Though I am open to conviction in this matter, it seems to me that the place for women in connection with police work the social uplift sphere.”

The following month, at their December 29, 1916 meeting, Davidson announced that two candidates had been chosen for the force: Jane Andrews and Mary Dunn. They were sworn in for duty together by magistrate Hugh John Macdonald on January 4, 1917.

For whatever reason, Andrews was referred to as the “city’s first policewoman” right through to her death in the 1950s but in more recent years that credit has been given solely to Dunn. Newspapers of the day clearly indicate that both women were appointed and sworn in together.

Interviewed the day before the job officially started, Dunn admitted that their role would be as much about social workers as policing: "While we will have the powers of arrests, it does not necessarily mean we will go out on patrol looking for delinquent women and girls whom we will take the police station.”

They appeared infrequently in the newspapers for their work. The odd big time arrest of a female their or seeking / rescuing a runaway. A September 1917 Tribune article noted that the two women were busy, but: "devote their time to morals cases which are generally settled out of court and are therefore never given the publicity which other police workers get."

May 13, 1946, Winnipeg Tribune

Interestingly, by World War II things had gone backwards for women in policing. By 1941 both Dunn and Andrews were retired and there was only one policewoman, Helen Hansford, on the force. Stella Pelloxfen of the General Hospital's social work department called it a "disgrace" at a public meeting that year.

Even in 1943, with the police force down by 25 men due to the war and having difficulty finding fit replacements, Police Chief Gordon Smith flatly refused to even consider hiring women. "They have no place on the beat" he told a reporter.

Various social agencies rallied and convinced city council to pass a motion in 1946 that three policewomen be hired for the force but the police commission refused to enact it.

Here is a look back at those first two policewomen:

Andrews ca. 1916

Jane Andrews

Born in Hants County, Nova Scotia on November 8, 1872, Andrews trained with the Salvation Army in social work and worked for the organization for 20 years in England and Canada.

In 1913, she was appointed superintendent of the Salvation Army’s Kildonan Industrial Home. It was basically a detention centre in West Kildonan that took in women and girls caught up in the legal system, usually first-time offenders, and taught them life skills in the hopes that they would not re-offend.

Andrews was on holidays in nova Scotia to visit family when she fond out she got the job. One year later she lost six cousins in the Halifax Explosion.

A Free Press reporter caught up with her in the police station on her first day of work but she told him that she was too busy "getting settled" to grant even a brief interview.

Top: Andrews ca. 1940
Bottom: October 22, 1953, Winnipeg Free Press

Andrews retired on April 30, 1938, after 21 years on the force. At the time, she said that she intended to return to Nova Scotia, but ended up staying in Winnipeg.

In 1941, she created the Winnipeg Chapter of the “Plane Jane” fund, a fundraising effort aimed at women to help raise funds for a fighter jet for the RCAF. She also worked with the Children’s Home. 

She died at Princess Elizabeth Hospital on October 21, 1953 at the age of 80 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Mary Ellen Dunn

Born Mary Halpin in Ottawa in 1872, she married William Dunn and they relocated to Winnipeg in 1905, eventually settling at 759 Broadway, (now demolished.)

William died in 1913 leaving Mary to raise the couple's eleven children, six daughters and five sons. As the children got older she found time to be active in social work with the Red Cross and Catholic church organizations such as the Providence Shelter for Children's Aid before joining the police department.

In April 1920, she resigned to marry Joseph Guertin, a former Canadian Pacific Railway police offer who by that time was working for the railway proper. He died in a rail accident in November 1921 at the age of 56.

January 31, 1928, Winnipeg Tribune

Mary continued to live at the Broadway address as Mary Guertin, focusing on her charitable work with the Catholic Women's League and St. Mary's Cathedral.

Dunn died at Misericordia Hospital on January 30, 1928 at the age of 54. She is buried in St. Mary's cemetery.

You've come a long way, officer Winnipeg Free Press

Saturday, 31 December 2016

The top posts of 2016 !

At the end of each year I like to look back and see which blog posts got the most attention.

Because I've been at this for nine years, it's not all that surprising that only a small number of current year posts make the count, (marked below with an *.) Most are from years ago, but continue to be favourites.

In total, my three blogs had just over 101,000 page views in 2016, according to Google Analytics, and with nine years of blog posts to read, that stretches pretty thin. There are a number of clear winners, though.

Top of the heap is my post about Ken Leishman - The Flying Bandit from This Was Winnipeg wayyyyyy back in 2008. It appears at or near the top of the list every year and in 2016 was by far the most read post from all of my blogs.

Thanks to everyone who has checked out my blogs in the past year. There's more to come in 2017!

West End Dumplings
1. Manitoba’s worst train disasters – Brandon (1916)
2. Lives lived at 1021 Wellington Crescent 
3. Safeway’s Boom Years and Safeway's Sweeping Styles
4 *Winnipeg’s Grandest Home? 10 Ruskin Row
5 *Brandon’s retro KFC  to be demolished
6 *Centenary of Brandon’s deadliest fire
7 *The Windmill Lunch’s Gus Damiankos dies
8. The CBC - Carman air disaster of 1952
9. Remember Those Car Window Frost Shields?
10. A look back at the MS Lord Selkirk II 

Other popular posts written in 2016 that didn't make the top 10 cut:
- John W Dafoe House on Spence Street ready for wrecking ball?
- Resurrecting the Fortune Block
- Lives lived at 514 Wellington Crescent

This Was Manitoba
1. Ken Leishman, The Flying Bandit
2. Eatons' Catalogue Houses
3. HMS Titanic’s Manitoba Connections

Winnipeg Downtown Places
1. Donald Street: Masonic Temple
2. Kennedy Street: Medical Arts Building
3. Lombard Avenue: Richardson Building