Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The forgotten poet of Victor Street

©2018, Christian Cassidy

 "There is a citizen of Winnipeg whose name is known to only a few outside literary circles, yet his fame will live long after our captains of industry, the grain nabobs, members of parliament and the city council, to say noting of other saints, scholars and sinners will have passed on unwept, unhonoured and unsung. I refer to Cecil Francis Lloyd, essayist and poet."

 Alex Musgrove, Nov 2, 1935, Winnipeg Tribune

495 Victor Street

While researching sites for my Victor Street walking tour I came across this sad looking, boarded up little cottage and was intrigued to find out what stories it had to tell before it is torn down.

I found that one of the residents of the home was considered by some to be one of Western Canada's great up-and-coming poets and essayists until he tragically took his own life there during the Depression.

This 800 square foot house with no basement was built in 1905. Initially, it was home to a number of men who worked on loading docks until 1907, when teamster John Evans, owned it for a few years.

Jump ahead to 1922 and it became home to Cecil Frances Lloyd and wife, Maud.

Alex Musgrove, the Winnipeg Tribune's literary reviewer wrote of Lloyd's background in one of his column under the nom de plume, "Ivanhoe".

He noted that Lloyd was born into a wealthy family in Malvern, England, and that, "He spent his youth in a literary coterie of wealth and culture.... He and his mother traveled extensively throughout Europe and halcyon were the days which promised to stretch into a long futurity. But his mother died; adversity came; he sought a living in a new land."

It appears that Lloyd spent his first years in the province outside of Winnipeg. He married Maud Robinson in Gladstone in 1913.

In 1918, the couple can be found living at 333 Edmonton Street, a comfortable rooming house geared at business people, in Winnipeg. They bought this little home on Victor Street in 1923.

Lloyd's day job was working as a bill collector for Stanwood's, an odd combination of millinery shop and music store. He wrote poetry and essays on the side which he submitted to magazines and journals for publication.

One of the first mentions of a published piece was the four page poem, How the Canadians Came to Fresnoy in the April 1919 edition of University Magazine, a quarterly co-publication of McGill, University of Toronto and Dalhousie.

Sadly, Maud died at the home after a lingering illness in May 1926 at the age of 35. The couple had no children.

The death devastated Lloyd and it became a recurring theme in his writing.

When not working at Stanwoods, Lloyd became a recluse inside the house with his dog and cats for company. His writing was his escape.

"Ivanhoe" later recalled that Lloyd approached him soon after Maud's death with a manuscript for a novel and some poems and essays to critique. He felt the novel had a number of "structural" problems but found Lloyd's poetry and essays "decidedly worthwhile" and encouraged him to pursue this facet of his writing.

Lloyd followed Ivanhoe's advice and in 1927 had a number of works published in magazines such as Saturday Night and The Canadian Bookman.

Lloyd also released his first collection of poems in 1927.

Leaves of the Sybil was self-published through Hunter Rose Co. of Toronto. Ivanhoe's review for the Winnipeg Tribune concluded, "(Lloyd) has no small talent and is more original in thought than most singers in the Canadian choir."

Another self-published book followed in 1928, Sunlight and Shadow, also through Hunter Rose Co., in which Lloyd explored a "return to nature", a popular literary theme at the time.

In 1929, Lloyd self-published two more works through Stovel Co. of Winnipeg: Rosemary and rue and Vesper Bells.

By the end of the decade, Lloyd was becoming a familiar name on the national poetry scene and Ryerson Press of Toronto published his next book, Malvern Essays, in 1930.

In The Manitoban literary review supplement in the Winnipeg Tribune of 1930, "KMS" wrote of Malvern Essays, "His essays are short, pithy and frequently give one to think exceedingly", noting that Lloyd writes "simply and naturally as if he were writing to a friend."

The review concluded with a passage from the essay Clouds: "Take your noses out of the newspapers and away from the latest vulgar murder for a minute, my dears, and look at the sky. You will grow happier and perhaps even a little bit wiser." 

The Literary History of Canada includes a reference to Malvern Essays and says of Lloyd: "...he derives a mild and checkered enjoyment from being alive. His attitude is ambivalent, recognizing as it does the permanent and the fleeting, the beautiful and the homely, life and death.... Lloyd's style has individual faults, but in general it is easy and graceful and faithfully portrays a sensitive, rather sad personality."  

Despite the publication of Malvern Essays Lloyd struggled during the Depression.

Lloyd lost his job around 1932 and could not find another one. He tried to live on his writing alone, which was nearly impossible as publishers scaled back their operations and the few appearances in journals and magazines paid a pittance. Living in poverty, and eventually on city relief, Lloyd could not afford to self publish.

Ivanhoe wrote of Lloyd in 1935: "He is an eremite. He lives all by himself on a little house on the edge of the city and loves loneliness."

Lloyd got a lifeline in April 1935 when Ryerson Press agreed to publish Landfall: The collected poems of Cecil Francis Lloyd for the fall season. The news even coaxed the recluse from his home to attend the annual meeting of the Winnipeg branch of the Canadian Authors' Association that May.

Landfall was dedicated: "To the memory of my wife. A loyal comrade in many a hard-fought battle and a gay companion in many a wild adventure of the spirit."

On the strength of his work, Lloyd was chosen as one of thirty-eight poets included in the inaugural edition of  The Canadian Poetry Magazine published by the Canadian Authors' Association in January 1936.

In the 'new books' section of a 1936 edition of the Dalhousie Review, writer Watson Kirkconnell wrote of the collection: "Twenty-five sonnets and thirty-eight brief lyrics may seem a slender foundation on which to base a poetic reputation, but when some of them are the finest ever written in Canada, the authenticity of Mr. Lloyd’s high poetic rank seems indisputable. Should he write nothing further, his place in the front rank of our lyric poets will remain secure." 

Like Musgrove, Kirkconnell was a member of the literary establishment that supported Lloyd's work. When Kirckconnell was a professor at Wesley College from 1922 to 1940 the two struck up a friendship, communicating mostly by letter.

Lloyd's final letter to Kirkconnell was dated July 12, 1938, not long after the author received notice that his tiny Victor Street house was to be foreclosed on by the bank. The professor was on an extended stay in Hungary and would not get to read it for another two months.

It read, in part: "I have lost home, books, pets, everything that makes life worth living and I am not going to stay to become a nuisance to my friends and sink as I have seen many sink.

The hardest thing I shall have to do tomorrow morning will be to kill my poor pussies to save them falling into the hands of some brute who would abuse and neglect them... I shall be nearly dead before I turn the gun on myself.

Now an eternal goodbye, my very good and true friend and may whatever gods there be bless you and Mrs. K and the children."

On July 13, 1938, Cecil Francis Lloyd took his own life. He was 55 years old.

Upon news of his death the Winnipeg Free Press wrote, "Lloyd's writings are certainly his monument. He made a vital, if small, contribution to Canadian Literature."

Writer and journalist Wilfrid Eggleston, who knew Lloyd only by his writing, called his death "one of the most poignant incidents in Canadian literary history" in a 1969 column.

Kirkconnell seemed haunted by the death of the man he referred to as his "tragic friend". His 1967 memoir A Slice of Canada included mention of Lloyd's death and passages from the final letter Lloyd wrote to him the day before he died.

In 1974, Kirkconnell went one step further and produced 60-page tribute book to Lloyd called Rest, Perturbed Spirit: Being the Life of Cecil Francis Lloyd, 1884-1938, (Lancelot Press, 1974). It included a selection of Lloyd's poems, essays and letters sent to Kirkconnell along with "an affectionate critique."

What was a blossoming career as a writer of national significance was cut short and today Lloyd is barely a footnote in a handful of anthologies.

The house where he wrote, struggled and died will soon be gone, too.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Winnipeg's Hottest Day: July 11, 1936

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
July 13, 1936, Winnipeg Free Press

As we wait for Sunday's high temperature of 38° C to kick in, I thought I would look back and see what it was like on Winnipeg's hottest day.

Winnipeg's highest recorded temperature was 42.2° C, (108° Fahrenheit), and came on Saturday, July 11, 1936. This was the mid-point of an extended heat wave that gripped much of the central Canada and the U.S. for nearly two weeks and helped add to the misery of The Depression by destroying yet another year's crop.

The Free Press described the day like this: "An indication of the horrid hours ahead came early in the morning as a southwest breeze seemed to carry on its wings hotter and hotter temperatures. At noon, the wind was like a stifling draft from an open furnace."

To make matters worse was the humidity. According to one reporter, the humidity recorded outside the Tribune building was as high as 90 per cent.

The city's previous hottest day was 39.4° set on August 24, 1896. it was broken on four occasions during a seven day period during that heat wave: July 6, July 11, July 12 and July 13.

July 13, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune

The extreme heat of the July 11th was followed by a high of 40° on Sunday the 12th and proved too much for some.

Over that weekend, at least
17 people died and another 20 were hospitalized due to the heat. Seven others were considered "incidental deaths" as they drowned in rivers or streams trying to escape the heat.

Animals didn't escape the effects. Thirty horses were reported as dying as a result of heat exhaustion.

Wading pool at Notre Dame Park (City of Winnipeg Archives)

For residents of the city, especially those with little money, options to escape the heat were limited.

Many were said to have moved into root cellars, if they had them. For others, it was taking to city parks and pools. The Tribune reported that: "...parks were havens of comfort to residents in their immediate neighbourhoods where clothes were shed to the limit allowed by the law...."

For some, cold baths or hoses were their only reprieve, which led to a record daily water consumption of 11,295,669 litres on Saturday the 11th.

July 14, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune

For many businesses, the impact of the heat wave was a positive one as those with the means tried to make their lives more bearable.

Taxi services did a brisk business as people avoided walking or stuffing themselves into overcrowded streetcars.

Beverage producers did well. This included breweries, dairies and soft drink manufacturers. The regional manager of Orange Crush Co. told the Tribune that their sales were up 75 per cent over the previous July and that, "We have never done such a business before."

Theatres outfitted with cooling systems drew big crowds. Eaton's and The Bay, which also had cooling systems, saw more customers and an increase in sales of things like handkerchiefs, underwear and men's shirts.

The losers were smaller stores in the downtown, where the temperature felt even hotter than the recorded totals. Shoppers were simply not interested in wandering.

Also, cows produced much less milk during this period, which had a knock-on effect for dairies and bakeries.

Sports were impacted as junior soccer and football games were cancelled for the weekend. Golf courses sat deserted.

There was a slight reprieve on the weekend of July 17 - 18, when the temperature only reached 28.9 on Saturday and 27.7 on Sunday. By that point, it was estimated that the death toll had reached 29.

The relief was only temporary, though. By the end of July, another extended heat wave gripped the prairies.

July 13, 1936, Brandon Sun

The weekend of July 11 - 12 saw the entire province bake under temperatures above 40°. Manitoba's hottest temperature ever recorded was a scorching 44.4° on July 11 in St. Albans and on July 12 at Emerson.

Brandon also recorded its hottest day at 43.3° on July 11th. In that city, two people passed out in the downtown due to the heat but, it appears, there were no deaths.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

West End Historical Walking Tours are Back !

Starting this week, I will be doing a series of West End Walking Tours. New this year is Victor Street!

Friday, 27 July 2018

The Videon Weather Channel is back !


Thanks to Brandon Martel and Craig Midwinter, a piece of Winnipeg broadcasting history has been resurrected.

For those of you not from Winnipeg, or too young to remember, the weather channel is an old, familiar friend to a couple of generations of Winnipeg cable subscribers.

As seen above, it was a pretty simple concept: a channel that broadcast 24-7 text-based weather information in a series of screens, sixteen of them at the time of its launch, each appearing for about 30 seconds.It also displayed the time to the second.

Local and regional temperatures and the local conditions and forecast appeared most frequently in the loop. They would be followed by screens showing national, continental, international and vacation hotspot temperatures, monthly precipitation totals, record highs and lows for the day, and, in later years, windchill or UV indexes.

It may not seem like a big deal today, but before 24-hour news, the Weather Network, or the internet, this was instant access to vital information at the flip of a dial. It determined when you left for the bus, what you wore to school or work that day, or whether the family was going to take a day trip to Gimli or not.

December 5, 1975, Winnipeg Free Press

A partnership between Videon Cable, the cable TV provider west of the Red River, and the Winnipeg Weather Office of Environment Canada, the weather channel as we know it debuted on December 8, 1975. It was believed to be the first such channel in the country. (It is unclear if a similar partnership popped up in other cities or if this was unique to Videon.)

It should be noted that Videon did have some sort of text weather service when it launched cable TV in Winnipeg on August 14, 1968 in St. Norbert. It referred to it as a "time - weather service" on channel 13. The above article from December 1975 indicates that what was launched that day was something new, not an update of an existing service.

The weather data was sent via computer from the Winnipeg Weather Office to Videon's antennae complex in St. Norbert where it was automatically uploaded and sent out on cable channel 9. Regional temperatures usually updated every half hour while national and international sites usually updated every hour.

The local forecast portion was written by the weather office and had to fit into eight lines of text, which made it tricky on a day with changing weather.

Soon after its launch, the channel was picked up by Greater Winnipeg Cablevision which served the city east of the Red River.

The addition of background music to the channel came on January 1, 1979 and was a game changer.

The man responsible for programming the music was CKY personality Bob Burns. The one-time Teen Dance Party host had moved to the production side of things with a company called Emm-Cee Productions, (a subsidiary of Moffatt Communications, as was Videon.)

Burns hand-selected blocks of easy listening,country and western and instrumental tunes. (Imagine an Anne Murray, Barry Manilow, Chuck Mangione mash-up.)

As Christmas neared, he curated a 24-7 selection of holiday music. He joked with Tribune columnist Gene Telpner in 1979, "It's one of the toughest selection tasks I've even undertaken, a mixture of just about every Christmas song ever recorded."

It is unclear when Burns' work ended and streaming began, which tended to rely more heavily on Muzak-esque orchestral numbers.

The addition of music made the station a friendly source of background noise.

It was the soundtrack for family get-togethers and Christmas dinners or something to hum along to in a waiting room. (I used to work at a hospital for the department in charge of waiting room televisions - most had the weather channel permanently burned into their screens.)

If there was nothing on television - which often happened in a 13-channel universe - the weather channel was many people's default station. Sort of like a pre-computer era screen saver.

Generations of technology came and went, but for whatever reason the weather channel did not upgrade until the very end of the century. Its simpleness and old-school look became part of its charm.

In a 1999 Free Press article about the channel and an impending move, a Videon spokesperson said that their internal research showed that 78 per cent of their 140,000 cable customers tuned into the channel at least once a day.

Change finally came on September 1, 1999 when Videon moved the weather channel from its basic cable package channel 9 to channel 51. It said that it needed the room on the lower end of the dial dial for additional television channels.

The new weather channel threw highway conditions and airport arrival / departure screens into the mix. The response was thousands of calls a day to Videon's switchboard to complain.

Shaw, which had acquired Greater Winnipeg Cablevision, bought out Videon in 2001 and soon after relaunched the channel. They chose to revert back to same basic format as the 1975 version, just changing the colours to their corporation's blue and white.

The weather channel can still be seen on channel 48. 

Monday, 16 July 2018

Coronation Street cast visiting Winnipeg and a look back at Corrie's Canadian history

© 2018, Christian Cassidy


Good news for local Coronation Street fans. For the first time in many years, one of their Canadian cast tours will stop in Winnipeg!

Lisa George and Katie McGlynn, who play Beth Sutherland and Sinead Tinker, will be at the West End Cultural Centre on September 28, 2018. More about the show and ticket sales here.

I thought this would be a great time to look back at some Canadian Coronation Street history !

Opening credits, first episode, Dec. 9, 1960

Coronation Street, produced by Granada Television in Manchester, England, debuted as a regional show on December 9, 1960 and went national in May 1961. For nearly 60 years, it has chronicled the lives of people living in the fictional, working-class town of Weatherfield, part of Greater Manchester.

The question of when exactly Coronation Street first aired in Canada is up for debate. In the 1960s, television stations, even those affiliated with networks, had much greater say in what shows they purchased and aired. It was certainly a local station, not a national network, that introduced it.

Harry Elton in 1970, Ottawa Journal

Most sources that state that the year was 1966, as that was when CBC Toronto began airing the show, but there is at least one other station station that beat it to the punch by many months.

Ottawa’s CJOH, (now CTV Ottawa), began showing Corrie two nights per week in prime time starting on September 7, 1965. It would make sense that this may have been the first station to show it as CJOH had a big Coronation Street connection.

Toronto's Harry Elton was a producer at Granada Television from 1957 - 1963 and is credited with giving screenwriter Tony Warren carte blanche to write a show set in the north of England and then fought to get it on air. That show was Coronation Street.

In 1963, Elton was back in Canada with Ottawa's CJOH as a news anchor and drama producer. Though just an ordinary network affiliate today, CJOH was a leader in Canadian television production from the 1960s to 1980s. Some of its productions attained a national audience, such as You Can't Do That on Television, The Amazing Kreskin and the Galloping Gourmet.

September 25, 1965, Ottawa Journal

Coronation Street wasn't the only soap to debut on CJOH in September 1965.

Milk and Honey, produced by Elton, was a soap chronicling the lives of working class people in inner-city Ottawa and centred around the fictional Olive Grove Cafe. Its 15-minute episodes aired five nights a week after the late local news.

The show, a very low-budget affair panned by critics, only lasted until June 1966. (The only other notable attempt at a Canadian-made, "working-class" soap was CBC's Riverdale, which aired from 1997 - 2000.)

CBWT-Winnipeg, Winnipeg Free Press, July 3, 1967

After Ottawa, it appears Toronto was next in line. According to Marsh, CBLT, (CBC Toronto), purchased 266 episodes of the show in the spring of 1966. These episodes began airing in July 1966.

In October 1966, CBUT, the Vancouver CBC affiliate, began airing Coronation Street five days a week at 1:00 pm.

Winnipeggers finally got to tune into Coronation Street on July 3, 1967. A small article in the Free Press and Tribune gave viewers an outline of the main characters.

Though the show only aired two nights a week in England, CBWT purchased back issues and were able to show it five days a week in the 2:30 - 3:00 pm time slot. (It is unclear how far back in the series the Winnipeg episodes began.)

One audience that was likely to have seen the entire run of Coronation Street were viewers of CBKST, the CBC affiliate in Saskatoon. In May 1971, it purchased 1,144 back episodes of Coronation Street from Granada. It was recognized by the Guinness World Book of Records until at least 2002 as the largest single purchase of television shows in history.

Top: October 16, 1976, Winnipeg Free Press

The early run of Coronation Street in Winnipeg wasn't a smooth and continuous one.

By 1971, CBWT was showing it five days a week but was running out of episodes. It put the show on a summer hiatus to "bank" enough episodes so that it could go return to five daysa  week in the fall.

It appears that in the mid-1970s the show was interfering with local programming, (perhaps an indication that it wasn't the local station buying it anymore, rather it was being fed from Toronto.)

The show went off the air in September 1976 due to "scheduling problems". It returned in October at with two episodes per week at 9:00 a.m. on Monday and Tuesdays.

Bottom: December 29, 1977, Winnipeg Tribune

In late 1977, it was again dropped from the CBWT schedule. Thanks to angry fans who contacted the station, it returned in early January 1978. The new time slot was from noon to 12:30 on Mondays and Tuesdays. The local lunch hour news show had to be shortened to accommodate it.

In December 1981, a couple of angry letters to the editor of the Free Press referenced the fact that the CBC had announced that it was cutting Coronation Street from its lineup due to budget restraints. One writer stated: “maybe we can have a whip-around for the CBC because it is one of the few programs I would pay to see.”

This was either a false rumour or the CBC did an about face because the show never went off the air in Winnipeg. In fact, according to Coronation Street: 25 years, it was around 1981 that Granada sold seven years worth, about 728 episodes, to the CBC to beam across its national network of 42 stations. Two years later, the braodcaster bought another 208 episodes.

In May 1983, what is believed to have been the first cast visit to Canada took place when producer Bill Podmore, Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch), Christopher Quenten (Brian Tilsey), and Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin) visited Toronto to promote the show.

In 1986, CBC Enterprises published Coronation Street: 25 years. It was the republication of a Granada book, so there was no specific CBC or Canadian content, but it was a sign that the show had entrenched itself in the CBC's broadcast schedule.

After a decade on the air it was time to address another issue: the fact that the show was years behind Britain.
To bridge this gap, according to Coronation Street Wiki, in the early 1990s the CBC skipped numerous episodes from 1987 and 1988. It did the same in 2001 with episodes from 1997 and 1998.

It also moved to a five episode a week schedule versus the home broadcaster's two. (In 2009, Granada increased to five episodes per week and to a sixth in 2017.)

In 2004, CBC made a daring move by shifting Coronation Street from daytime to prime time, (where it had always aired on British television.) It was given the 7:30 pm slot and it retained its long-standing Sunday omnibus program from 8 a.m. - 10 a.m..

The show ran five nights per week, bumped up to two episodes a night during a CBC labour dispute around 2009.

By 2010, the show was nearly a year behind, something that was becoming increasingly frustrating to Canadian viewers in a digital world where any fan site or news story about an actor was a major plot spoiler.

A concerted effort was made in 2012 to catch up further with Britain by showing additional episodes and by 2014 Canadian audiences were just two weeks behind. Starting in September 2017, a sixth episode was permanently added weekly CBC schedule and the show is now just a week behind where it will remain.

Here are some Winnipeg-related Coronation Street nuggets I found in local newspapers from past decades.

- On October 3, 1998, CBC Winnipeg hosted a Coronation Street fan event at Eatons. It included the airing of  a not yet seen episode.

- In 2004, the Hotel Fort Garry held a fundraiser in its ballroom. Fans, some in bathrobes, packed the place to have breakfast and watch the Sunday omnibus from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.. Proceeds went to the  Rainbow Society.

- On March 22, 2012, Julia Haworth (Claire Peacock), Charles Lawson (Jim McDonald), Nicholas Cochrane (Andy McDonald ) and Steven Arnold (Ashley Peacock) were touring the country and stopped in Winnipeg at the Playhouse Theatre.

Who watches Coronation Street?

A Globe and Mail article from just after the move to prime time noted that the CBC was attracting about 900,000 viewers. More recent articles indicate that TV viewership is in the 750,000 range and that it is one of the most viewed shows from the CBC website.
From a 2011 article in The Walrus: "...men constitute approximately 40 percent (of viewers), and Sunday broadcasts attract more Canadians in the thirty-five to forty-nine age group than those over fifty."

Also Read:
Coronation Street CBC
Coronation Street at 50 The Globe and Mail
How Coronation Street became and Unlikely Staple of Canadian TV National Post
Craving Corrie The Walrus

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A look back at St. Boniface


My latest Real Estate News column looks back at the history of three St. Boniface landmarks: City Hall; the Tache Avenue surge tank; and the Belgian War Memorial.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

A look back at Steinbach


My latest article in the Real Estate News looks at the history of three Steinbach landmarks. You can check it out here.