Monday, 1 September 2014

Winnipeg's first Labour Day, 1894

August 30, 1894, Winnipeg Tribune

Labour Day was first established in New York City in 1882. A motion by the assembly of the Knights of Labor voted that there should be a day where all working men put down their tools and celebrate their work. They settled on the first Monday of September. The idea caught on and it soon spread to other cities throughout America.

It became a legal holiday in Canada starting in 1894 and Winnipeg celebrated in style that September 3rd.

Parade line-up. September 4, 1894, Winnipeg Tribune

The day was organized by the Trades and Labour Council but participation included the military, politicians, business and labour.

The day began with a parade that featured dozens of floats, marching bands and thousands of marchers. It was said to have been the largest parade ever held in Winnipeg, stretching for a couple of miles and taking 40 minutes to pass a fixed point. The grand marshal was Captain Billman, (likely of the 90th Rifles) with the mayor and president of the Trades and Labour Council followed behind in a cart.

Many companies built the floats that allowed their workers to show off their skills. The Vulcan Iron Works float had men in the act of constructing a boiler as it rolled along the route. The bricklayers' float, on which they were going to build a miniature house, fell apart on its approach to Main Street.

After the parade, it was to the Exhibition Grounds for a picnic featuring speeches, tug-o-war contests and foot races.

For a first-hand account of the day, from the Daily Nor'Wester newspaper, follow this link !

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Winnipeg's Holt Renfrew History

Portage Avenue Postcards 60's
ca. 1960

Another long-time downtown retailer, Holt Renfrew, is disappearing from Winnipeg's retail landscape, closing their boutique here as well as larger stores in Ottawa and Quebec City. 

This leaves The Bay as the last department store with a  presence on Portage Avenue, a street that at one time boasted national chains like Eaton's, Kreske's, Zellers, Marks and Spencer and Metropolitan.

August 13, 1913, Winnipeg Free Press

Holt, Renfrew and Co. came to Winnipeg in 1910 when they bought out furrier Dunlop, Cooke and Co. of Montreal, which also had salons in Winnipeg and Boston. They took over the existing 430 Main Street store.

In 1913 they branched out into mens and ladies clothing and accessories.

Top: March 3, 1917, Winnipeg tribune
Bottom: February 28, 1917, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1917 Holt, Renfrew relocated to the Carlton Building at Portage Avenue and Carlton Street. The main floor was their clothing department and fur salon while the fir factory was located on the third floor. They soon took over the second floor as well.

Though seen as a high end retailer, they did offer layaway plans for furs and advertized regularly in The Voice, a local labour paper. (Their motto for a time was "Exclusive, but not Expensive".)

Above: ca. 2002 (source: Historic Buildings Committee
Below: June 30, 1942, Winnipeg Tribune

By 1940 they owned the building and in 1942 undertook extensive renovations to give it more of a sleek, modern appearance compared to their stuffier, larger counterparts like The Bay and Eaton's. Some of the windows were filled in and an escalator added.

 Portage Place

In 1985, as Portage Place was being built, Holt Renfrew announced that they were selling the Carlton Building to Cadillac Fairview and moving to a two-storey, 40,000 square foot store in the mall.

In 2000 they downsized to a single storey. The clothing section of the store became Last Call, their retail outlet, with a makeup and perfume counter. In 2007 Last Call closed leaving just a boutique-sized shop featuring perfume, makeup and a personal shopper service.

The store closes at the end of January, 2015.

Ladies wear and fur department ca. 1917

ca. 1919

ca. 1923

ca. 1929

ca. 1943

ca. 1944

Friday, 29 August 2014

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Nursing Sister Miriam Baker 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 some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

Miriam Eastman Baker was born in Winnipeg on  August 20, 1886, one of ten children of  George W. Baker, (it was a blended family as two of his previous wives died.)

In her early years she was dedicated to music. In 1901, at the age of 15, she was the first president of the Junior Musical Club of Winnipeg. The organization's goal was to encourage the study and public performance of classical music among Winnipeg's youth. Baker, who played piano, also appeared regularly at recitals and sometimes on stage in dramatic performances.

Hospital interior, Christmas Day 1917 (Canadian War Museum)

On September 18, 1912, Baker left for St. Luke's Hospital, New York to study nursing, graduating three years later. It appears that when she returned to Canada, she went to B.C. to work. In October 1917 she enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps and was serving at the 15th Canadian General Hospital in Buckinghamshire, England. 

The hospital was built on the grounds of the sprawling Viscount Astor Estate and dismantled after the war.  (The house is now a 5-star hotel with historically designated gardens.)

Baker contracted "Spanish" influenza and died of bronchial pneumonia October 17, 1918 at the age of 32. She is buried at the Cliveden War Cemetery, Buckinghamshire, England.

December 17, 1926, Winnipeg Free Press

Her Junior Musical Club continued on. In 1926, at its 25th anniversary dinner, a moment of silence was held in Baker's honour. Some famous alumni of the club include piano virtuoso Emanuel Ax and conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson. Though the club folded in 2008, its trophy is still presented annually at the Winnipeg Music Festival. Its fonds are at the Manitoba Archives.

Baker was one of 3,141 women to serve with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Of that, 2,504 served overseas, some of them in fields hospitals close to the front and 47 were killed. Most died of diseases contracted while treating soldiers or drowning when their ships sank.

There are some excellent websites dedicated to these women, including this one about Baker. See below for the links.

Canadian Great War Project entry
Declaration paper Library and Archives Canada
Finding the forty-seven:Canadian Nurses of the First World War
---- Miriam Eastman Baker entry
The Nursing Sisters of Canada Veterans' Affairs Canada
Roll of Nursing Sisters Killed Overseas
Manitoba Vital statistics database
G. P. Baker Family History (includes family portrait)

 This history has been pieced together using a number of sources. If you have additional information or would like to point out a factual error, please do so in the comments below or by email at cassidy-at-mts.net.
© Christian Cassidy 2014

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

West End bus tour - Thursday night ! *Links

On Thursday evening join me on a bus tour of some notable places in the West End and West Broadway !

Stops include Wilson House (Klinic Building), Spirit Park, Orioles Community Centre, the intersection of Ellice and Sherbrook and Jacob Penner Park (Notre Dame Park.)

The tour begins at Wilson House, Broadway and Colony, at 6:15 p.m. and the bus leaves at 6:30 sharp. The tour will last 1.5 hours.

The cost is by donation to help cover the bus rental. Suggested donation is $10 per person.

For more information contact Bren at 204-774-7005 or greening@dmsmca.ca

Thanks to all who came on the tour tonight. As promised, here are further links !

Wilson House / Klinic

Winnipeg Downtown Places entry

Young Methodist / Young United Church / Crossways in Common

Biography of George Young
Young Methodist Church Historic Buildings Committee
The church tower
The church organ
Crossways in Common partners

The Origins of Sherbrook(e) Street 

West Broadway, a Neighbourhood History West End Dumplings

St. Matthews Church / West End Cultural Centre 

Winnipeg Downtown Places entry

Mac's Building

Winnipeg Downtown Places entry

Secure Storage / HMCS Chappawa / John Howard Society

Winnipeg Downtown Places entry

St. Matthews Church / West End Cultural Centre

 Winnipeg Downtown Places entry

Jacob Penner Park

Winnipeg Downtown Places entry

Orioles Community Centre

West End Dumplings entry

Thelmo Mansions

West End Dumplings entry
James Edward Tait, V.C.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Jack Smellie of Russell

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.

(Source) No photo available

In the official records, John Brown "Jack" Smellie survived the First World War. You won't find his name on Russell's war memorial or at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, though the physical and mental damaged caused by battle led to his death in 1924.


The Smellies were a prominent retailing family in Russell, Manitoba. Smellie Bros. and Company's interests included dry goods, creameries and a car dealership. (The Smellie Block is a municipal heritage building.)

There were seven children in the family and three of the four sons enlisted. Jack, 19 and a student at the time, signed on with the 44th Expeditionary Force. 

All three Smellie boys were were injured in 1916, Jack's was announced in the June 26, 1916 newspapers, (Vancouver World). His injuries, however, went deeper than physical. This February 1917 Toronto Star article, (transcribed by the Canadian Great War Project), describes how Jack was in a bunker with three other men when a shell hit, killing two of them. The third man was thrown onto his chest, immobilizing him. It took six hours for the soldier to die and another 28 until someone came across Jack to rescue him.

Jack spent months in a British institution suffering from severe shell shock, which included loss of memory, paralysis and speech. He returned to Canada and in 1917 was traveling through New York when a sudden noise brought about a relapse of his memory and muteness. He was found wandering the streets and institutionalized in a Brooklyn hospital. (Note that this story was not reprinted in Manitoba newspapers.)

February 25, 1924, Winnipeg Tribune

Jack returned to Manitoba and worked at the family store in Russell. On February 23, 1924 he went into the basement where he "suddenly lost consciousness" and died. No direct cause of death was given. An article in the Tribune noted that he never recovered from the effects of his shell shock and that “....his sudden death at the age of 27 may be directly attributed to them.

Additional Sources:
Attestation Papers Library and Archives Canada
Manitoba Vital Statistics Database

 This soldier's history has been pieced together using a number of sources. If you have additional information or would like to point out a factual error, please do so in the comments below or by email at cassidy-at-mts.net.

© Christian Cassidy 2014

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Radio Edition - August 24, 2014

Upper Fort Garry Gate

Check out the podcast on Monday ! For past episodes.

Tonight on West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition, our guest will be Jerry Gray, chairman of the Friends of Upper Fort Garry. We'll talk about the history of the site and the big development currently underway.

Show Links

Links to some of the people and events we will be talking about in the history portion of the show. These are just a smidge of what you will find daily at my blog This Was Manitoba.

Winnipeg's Monty Hall, (see below for the interview link.)

"Cartoon" Charlie Thorson's fonds are at the University of Manitoba.

"Your Pet, Juliette", also see CBC Digital Archives

A history of Harlequin Romance

The ManPop music festival of 1970 

Harry Colebourn and Winnie the Bear (also)

Play List

Lucky Trapper Reel by Sierra Noble

Winnie the Pooh by The Sherman Brothers

Unscripted Monty Hall Interview (excerpt)

Helter Skelter by Dianne Heatherington (read more about her here)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Interesting uses for transit buses in other cities

While we have MIRV, other cities are doing even more interesting things with transit buses.

 Source: lava mae blog

Last fall, San Francisco non-profit group Lava Mae began "delivering dignity one shower at a time" with their converted transit bus. It is being used to combat the fact that there are only a handful of places in the entire city where the homeless can use such facilities. There is an Indiegogo campaign to put more units on the road.


In Ottawa, the MarketMobile bus has hit the streets. The pilot project is a partnership between government, private and non-profit groups to brings fresh fruit and vegetables, plus nutritional information, to neighbourhoods where grocery stores are scarce.
Source: Bridj blog

In Boston, a new take on "the bus" as private bus firms like Bridj have hit the streets offering private shuttles, ranging in size from coaches to smaller, luxury vans. This CityLab story looks at what they offer.