Thursday, 13 June 2019

Assiniboine Park: Designing and Developing a People's Playground

Just in time for summer, there's a new local history book about one of Winnipeg's favourite summer playgrounds: Assiniboine Park: Designing and Developing a People's Playground by David Spector, (Great Plains Publications.)

We tend to take our parks for granted, assuming that these spaces were found much as they are and simply sprinkled with a few human-made amenities. For the most part, though, as much work went into creating them as any suburban neighbourhood. Every field, treed stand, and pond were conscious design decisions and developed by human hands.

In his 245-page book, Spector takes us through the decisions that led to creation of the park we enjoy today. He begins with the decades long debate over what type of park Assiniboine should be. At times it pitted parks board members against each other and their parks superintendent as some favoured a more natural space while others wanted a highly manicured setting.

In the end, some large-scale amenities like a zoo and conservatory eventually got the go ahead while a 9-hole golf course and man-made beach came out on the losing end.

Assiniboine Park in 1920, City of Winnipeg Archives

Spector tells not only the story of the bricks and mortar development of the park, but also the personalities of those who helped shape it. Some who had a say are rather unexpected, such as Grey Owl (Archibald Belaney) who visited the park unannounced in 1931 and sharply criticized the parks board after visiting its beaver enclosure. (He would tell mayor Webb: "the present care accorded to the beaver was only a refinement of cruelty.")

The book spans the 110+ years since the decision to purchase the land for a park in 1904, its major phases of development, especially post World War II and the 1960s, and into the 21st century with the handover of municipal control of the park and the possible impact of private development on its future.

Well researched and packed with images, if Assiniboine Park is part of your summer ritual, Assiniboine Park: Designing and Developing a People's Playground should definitely be on your reading list !

Monday, 10 June 2019

The Time Building fire - 65 years later

It has been 65 years since the Time Building at Portage and Hargrave burned. It destroyed or severely damaged number of other buildings and, thanks to strong winds that night, nearly took more of the downtown with it.

Here's a look back at the fire and its aftermath that I wrote five years ago.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Manitoba's long-forgotten Arbor Day Holiday

Today is Arbor Day in Winnipeg. There's a day full of events in St. Vital Park by hosted by Trees Winnipeg.

Abor Day was a holiday created in Nebraska in the early 1870 by J. Sterling Morton and his wife, Caroline Morton. A day to set aside for planting tees in the states fledgling towns and on its agricultural lands to improve their appearance and the environment.

It swept throughout North America and from 1886 to 1946 was a provincial holiday in Manitoba !

The overall effectiveness of Manitoba's Arbor Day holiday was often questioned and its timing, the first week of May, was a sore point for merchants and schools boards who already had three other holidays to contend with in a period of just a few weeks.

The "savior" of Arbor Day was when railways began running one-day trains to cottage country in the 19-teens. It took on a new life as a the official fits day of cottage season. The Winnipeg Board of trade got in the act by hosting a "Clean up, Paint-up" campaign fro those who did not have cottages.

For more about the rise and fall of the Arbor Day holiday in Manitoba, read my Winnipeg Real Estate News Column: Arbor Day once signaled the start of cottage season.


- In 1934, Winnipeg mayor Ralph Webb, with shovel facing camera, and parks superintendent George Champion, holding tree, plant a tree at McKittrick Park. In the background are students from Lord Roberts School. (Winnipeg Tribune, May 7, 1934)

- May 7, 1920 ad for the CPR's Arbor Day train to cottage country.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Lance Corporal Daniel Sephton of St. James

© 2018, Christian Cassidy

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.

April 27, 1917, Winnipeg Tribune

Born in St. Helens, England on November 10, 1895, Daniel Sephton came to Winnipeg with his parents, John and Emily, as a child.

The 1910 Henderson Directory finds the family living at 303 McGee Street. the teen-aged Daniel is working as a warehouseman at Pilkington Bros Ltd., a sheet glass manufacturing company on Market Street. His father worked at the same place.

By 1913, the family moved to 219 King Edward Street in St. James. Daniel now worked for Prairie Glass while his father became a department manager at Winnipeg Paint and Glass. Around this time, Daniel also began serving part-time in the militia, the Army Service Corps, in Winnipeg.

Daniel began 1915 as a waiter at the Assiniboine Club in Winnipeg and on August 27, two months shy of his 20th birthday, enlisted with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. After basic training, he sailed from Halifax on May 31, 1916 on the S. S. Olympic. 

Source: Military file, Library and Archives Canada

On April 8, 1917, Daniel was shot in the left thigh causing severe damage. He was admitted to 13 General Hospital at Bologne four days later, then transferred to King George Hospital in London in “dangerously ill" condition.

Daniel died at the King George on April 23, 1917 at the age of 21. He is buried in the Brookside Military Cemetery, outside of London.


Military File - Library and Archives Canada
Virtual war memorial entry - Veterans Affairs Canada

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The NHL should fund women's hockey...

Source: thecwhl.com

What I find really disappointing about the failure of Canadian women’s hockey is that it reminds me of the giant sucking sound the NHL makes whilst taking money out of the game.

I think the NHL should pony up money towards a league – not to run it, but to provide towards base operations and let the women's league brass make the decisions that allow it to sink or swim.

Before you say whoa – don’t be giving men's NHL money to something not NHL, the NHL already does that. There are things like development camps, clinics, scouting, in North America and abroad all aimed at men and boys, most of whom will never play in the NHL. (They even pay each year to renew the copyright on WNHL so that no pesky women come along and use it.)

Sports research is not my thing, so my numbers might be slightly off, (some of my sources for this are at the bottom), but here’s a sense of what it would take to fund the now defunct league….

The CWHL’s total costs, exclusive of player salaries, were about $2.5 million. That was running the league and its teams - which were league owned - paying travel costs, etc.. To put that in perspective: Matt Hunwick of the Buffalo Sabres, who played 14 games and got 2 points, earned that last year. So did Flyers goalie Michael Neuvirth, who played 7 games. The Jets’ Nathan Beaulieu also got that.

There were seven teams in the CWHL in its 2017-2018 season with a salary cap of $100,000 per team. That’s $700,000. The minimum salary for an NHL player last year? $700,000. It goes up to $750,000 next year.

Basically, the entire league was run for around $3.2 million, the salary of one decent NHL player out of the 610 or so who laced up. That amounts to $5,245 per player.

To look at it another way, 5,126,000 million tickets were sold to NHL games in Canada alone in 2017-2018. If just 63 cents from each of those tickets went to CWHL it would cover all of the league's costs and its paltry player salaries. A dollar per ticket would have doubled the player salaries.

These figures don't even touch on the really really big money in the NHL – TV contracts, sponsorships, advertising, tax and public funding schemes by owners from assorted municipalities, etc..

In recent years, other bastions of big money sports, like the NCAA and Olympics, have already conceded that out of the giant audiences, revenues and sponsorships brought in by the men’s game, they need to redistribute a fraction of that towards parity in the sports they rule. It is time the NHL did the same.

Some of my stat sources:

Saturday, 11 May 2019

The day the Governor of Virginia came to Winnipeg to marry his secretary

© 2019, Christian Cassidy

August 1, 1933, Winnipeg Free Press

In July 1933, Governor John Garland Pollard of the U. S. state of Virginia visited Winnipeg. He was not here for a high level political meeting or a trade mission, but to marry Violet McDougall, his long-time executive secretary!

The story begins with McDougall's mother, Mrs. Ellen McDougall.

A long-time resident of Glengarry Country, Ontario, she moved to Regina in 1903 after the death of her husband of 22 years. In 1926, she relocated to Winnipeg and took an apartment at North Panama Apartments on Machray Avenue.

One of McDougall's seven daughters, Violet Elizabeth McDougall, visited Florida around 1915 and ended up staying. She became interested in politics and in 1918 relocated to Richmond, Virginia.

Within a few years she had risen to the position of executive secretary to the governor which made her one of highest profile women in the state and one of its most powerful unelected officials with control over the governor's schedule and communications. McDougall served three governors before Pollard took office in 1930.

Prior to being governor, Pollard was an attorney general of the state and dean of the Marshall-Wythe school of government and citizenship at William and Mary College. He was widowed in 1932 and had three grown children.

July 27, 1933, The Danville (Virginia) Bee

The official announcement of the couple's engagement was made by Mrs. Ellen McDougall from Winnipeg. It was a surprise not only to people in the state, but to the Pollard family itself. Thankfully, they were accepting. A daughter-in-law told Danville, Virginia's The Bee newspaper: "She is a great friend of the family and we all think the world of her."

The announcement was made whilst Pollard was in California presiding over a meeting of  U.S. governors and McDougall was in Winnipeg visiting her sick mother. After the meeting, Pollard decided to take the train from California to Winnipeg to meet Mrs. McDougall. He was greeted at the CPR station on Sunday, July 30th by Violet McDougall, Alderman J. A. McKerchar and his daughter. (The McKerchars were related to the McDougalls.)

According to a Winnipeg Tribune story there was no intention to marry during his brief visit. Pollard simply wanted to meet his future mother-in-law, collect his executive secretary, and return to work. It was during that first evening here that the snap decision was made to marry as holding it elsewhere would mean that Mrs. McDougall could not attend due to her illness.

August 3, 1933, The Santa Rosa (California) Press Democrat

The following afternoon, Monday, July 31, 1933, John Garland Pollard, 61, and Violet Elizabeth McDougall, 44, were wed at First Presbyterian Church on Picardy Place in Wolseley by Rev. William G. MacLean. Only a few friends of the McDougall family were in attendance.

The newlyweds went right from the church to the CPR station. They stopped over in Chicago for a brief honeymoon and then it was back to Virginia to resume their respective duties.

Pollard did not seek re-election and retired when his term ended in January 1934. He died in April 1937.

As for Violet McDougall Pollard, she continued to be a political force in the state as a Democratic National Committeewoman for Virginia from 1940 to 1968. She joined the staff of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1940, eventually becoming an associate director. She left the museum in 1956.

Mrs. Ellen McDougall died at her Machray Street apartment in 1950.

Violet McDougall Powell died on January 2, 1977 and is buried in Richmond, Virginia. Her papers are at the William and Mary Library in Williamsburg, Virginia, U.S.A..