Thursday, 7 November 2019

Paradise Restaurant closes

Paradise Restaurant at 789 Portage Avenue closed suddenly on November 2, 2019. It had been a fixture at the corner of Portage and Broadway for over 40 years.

In June 1978, Mike Rendina of Paradise Restaurant Co. Ltd. applied for and received a liquor permit for a 100-seat dining room and 50-person cocktail lounge at this location. For years the space had been home to a pharmacy. Its last incarnation was Midgie's Drug Store.

October 4, 1978, Winnipeg Tribune

The first grand opening ad for Paradise appeared in local papers on October 4, 1978. It was run by  Mike and Dina Rendina and employed other family members.

Marian Warhaft, The Free Press’ long-time food critic, visited just a couple of weeks after it opened and wrote: "An enormous sign stretches across the top of the recently opened Paradise Restaurant, 789 Portage Avenue. You can’t miss it and, if you’re fond of Italian food, you shouldn’t. The place is big, solid and comfortable with carpeted floors and scarlet napery on the well spaced tables."

The family opened a second location on Leila Avenue in 1983. It remains open.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Winnipeg's grand, old hotels

I look back at the history of two of Winnipeg's grand, old hotels in this week's Real Estate News: The Fort Garry and the Marlborough.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

The NFB's Log Driver's Waltz turns 40!

© 2019, Christian Cassidy
Source: NFB.ca

If you are of a certain age you will remember Canadian content television shorts back in the thirteen-or-less channel universe. They were filler, often used to close the gap between the large amount of time American TV shows left for commercial breaks and the limited number of commercials Canadian channels were allowed to show.

These shorts included the one-minute Hinterland's Who's Who series produced in the early 1960's by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the National Film Board's "Canada Vignettes" series of the late 1970s.

One of the most enduring and beloved films in the Canada Vignettes series is John Weldon's Log Driver's Waltz. It was released in 1979 and is one of the most watched films on the NFB's website today.

Here's the story behind the series and everyone's favourite log driver who has pleasing girls completely for four decades!

In 1977, the country was still reeling after the election of the separatist Parti Quebecois as Quebec's provincial government in November 1976. The federal government struck back by announcing that additional funding would be made available for Canadian cultural institutions.

The CBC was in need of fillers primarily for its daytime programming and approached the NFB to work out what would become the Canada Vignettes series for broadcast on both its French and English networks. They submitted the proposal to the feds and on September 6, 1977 the Treasury Department approved nearly $1 million for the project to create films that would "foster and maintain cultural unity".

Some were critical of the announcement, even within the NFB. They expressed concern that the series would be little more than flag waving propaganda to promote the federal government or even the governing Liberal Party itself.

The NFB appointed Bob Verrall as the series producer for Canada Vignettes and around 80 directors, animators, writers, camera operators, editors and researchers worked on the shorts at the NFB's Montreal headquarters and its seven regional studios.

In May 1978, production was well underway and Verrall said in a Canadian Press interview that as many as 100 films would be ready for release starting on Canada Day 1978.

Verrall said of the series, "Our idea was to produce spots that would deal with Canada, that would reinforce pride and excitement in the country and a sense of heritage." He added that from the start they decided to steer away from a "flag waving approach" which would be a turn off for audiences, or to create a romanticized history which audiences would find unbelievable.

The films rolled out onto the CBC's networks beginning in the summer of 1978 and were eventually  released to other broadcasters for use. Some, including the Log Driver's Waltz, were also show on the big screen as shorts before feature films at Cineplex Odeon cinemas.

According to this NFB database there are 124 films in the Canada Vignettes series. The vast majority were released between 1978 and 1980, though a dozen or so titles released later in the 1980s are credited as being part of the series. (Here's a more descriptive episode guide to the series without links to the videos.)

 John Weldon, ca. late 1970s and today (Source: John Weldon)

One of the NFB filmmakers who answered the Canada Vignettes call was animator John Weldon. The Montrealer joined the NFB in 1970 and in his 33 year career worked on over 50 films. He and Eunice Macaulay won an Academy Award in 1979 for Best Animated Short for Special Delivery.  

Weldon decided to animate a song called The Log Driver's Waltz written by Canadian folk singer Wade Hemsworth in the 1950s. (Here's an hour-long look back at Hemsworth's music.) In the 1960s, he was part of Montreal's folk music scene and sometimes performed with a group called the Mountain City Four made up of sisters Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Jack Nissenson and Peter Weldon, John Weldon's.

The animated version of Log Driver's Waltz was released in 1979 and is said to be one of the most requested films in the NFB catalogue to this day.

I contacted Weldon through his website and asked him about his work on the film, which he animated and directed. I began by erroneously thinking that it was he, not his cousin Peter, who was part of the Mountain City Four!

WED: In the book, Mountain City Girls: The McGarrigle Family Album, I read that you were part Mountain City Four with the McGarrigle Sisters in Montreal in the 1960s. Another source says that the band knew and performed with Wade Hemsworth and maybe even performed The Log Driver’s Waltz at the time. Is that true?  

JW: I think you’re confusing me with my cousin Peter, who was one of the founding members of the MC4.  I was never part of the band.  The original four were Kate and Anna, Peter Weldon and Jack Nissenson.  I knew them all, including Wade.  Other members of the MC4, added later, were Chaim Tannenbaum, Dane Lanken, and Ron Doleman. 

WED: Fast forward more than a decade and you are working on an NFB animated short based on The Log Driver’s Waltz. How did that come about? 

JW: The NFB wanted a bunch of short films that would stimulate a sense of Canadian identity.  Wade’s songs are the most Canadian thing I could think of, and Log Driver seemed suitable for animation.  When we suggested it to Wade, he thought it was a great idea. 

WED: What do you remember of the process of making the film?

JW: The song gave lots of room for fun animation. Three minutes of a guy bouncing around on a log, what could be better?  If it’s fun for the animator, then it will probably be fun for the audience.

WED: The song used in the short is credited to Kate and Anna McGarrigle and the Mountain City Four. Was it recorded especially for the short? Were you were part of the soundtrack as well? 

JW: The song was recorded at the NFB.  I was present for the recording, but I didn’t play or sing. 

WED: The NFB credits say The Log Driver’s Waltz was released in 1979. How long did it take to make the film? 

JW: I think it was about 6 months, but that’s a guess.

WED: The song and film have become a part of Canadiana. People still watch it at the NFB website and share it on social media. As a filmmaker, how does that feel knowing that an animated short you made 40 years ago is still so well loved? 

JW: I’m always surprised how people react to it. I once got a big kiss, but unfortunately it was from a male.   

WED What do you think it is about The Log Driver’s Waltz that has made it a timeless favourite? 

JW: The song is great. I’m glad my efforts brought it to a larger audience.

Log Driver's Waltz NFB.ca
Other John Weldon Films to watch at the NFB website
The Songs of Wade Hemsworth CBC Radio Archives
The Log Driver's Waltz children's book review Quill and Quire
Weldon Alley: Home of John F. Weldon

Canada Vignettes: Essential Canadiana, eh?  - NFB Blog
$1 million film series to show on CBC - Sep 7, 1977, Winnipeg Free Press (CP)
Canada's past to invade small screen before July 1 - May 25, 1978, Winnipeg Tribune (CP)

Friday, 18 October 2019

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Station Open House 2019

Thanks to the major snowfall,  the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Hall Open House was postponed to this Saturday, October 19th. In today's Winnipeg Real Estate News I suggest a few interesting halls that you might want to check out !

For a full list of halls open Noon to 4 pm on Saturday.

Friday, 4 October 2019

The last night at the Winnipeg Hotel

This is the last night for the Winnipeg Hotel. The residences were emptied out as of September 30th and the bar will sling its last moderately cooled beer tonight.

"The Winnipeg" holds a unique place in the city's history. It started out as the Garry Saloon in 1873 and got its liquor licence on November 1st - exactly one week before the City of Winnipeg was incorporated!

Over the years, the building has been added to many times. First were hotel rooms to the back, then two stories above, then another extension to the rear. The name change came in 1881 after original owner Charles Wheeler brought in Thomas Montgomery as a business partner. The two made an extensive expansion of what was then the Garry Hotel and rechristened it the Winnipeg Hotel.

It was purchased by new owners back in 2016, along with the Fortune and MacDonald blocks, but allowed to continue to operate until the Fall of 2019.

It is unclear of the building can salvaged and what its new life will be. The owners won't know for sure until they can get in and start pulling away walls and floors.

An additional sad note is that there are now a few more low income people out of their homes and fighting for the declining number of remaining SRO hotel spaces and rooming house beds in the city.
The bar went out on a high note with karaoke!

Saturday, 28 September 2019

British Home Children in Manitoba

Barnardo Home near Russell, MB, 1899 (source)

September 28, 2019 is British Home Children Day and marks the 150th anniversary of a scheme that rounded up about 100,000 children, most aged 14 and under, and their "deportation" to Canada between 1869 and the mid-1930s. For many, it was a bewildering journey from a life of abject poverty in the U.K. to a life of indentured slavery in homes and farms in Canada*.

A ceremony will be held at the Manitoba Legislature at 7 pm on Sunday, September 29th.

One of the names most closely associated with the scheme in Canada was Thomas Barnardo, an Irish philanthropist. He was responsible for sending about 30,000 of the children, mainly boys, here. They became known as Barnardo's Boys.

(* The U. K. has sent their poor children abroad to colonies for centuries. The countries involved in the 1869 - 1930s wave included Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe.)

The first Barnardo Home set up in Manitoba was at 115 Pacific Avenue in Winnipeg, (now demolished). Finding that city life here was sometimes no different than the life they were "rescued" from back home, Barnardo's charity bought 10,000 acres of land near Russell in 1885.

Barnardo came to visit the site in 1887 and approved the construction of an industrial farm and large house where a number of the boys would live, toil the fields and could be lent out or resettled to neighbouring farms.

After the death of Barnardo in 1905 the organization streamlined and put more of its efforts into prearranging placements for the children rather than warehouse them while looking for spaces. The farm was sold off in 1907 and the Winnipeg home relocated to smaller premises at 75 Bannerman Avenue in the North End. 

The program petered out in the early 1930s with the onset of the Depression.

October 14, 1903, Winnipeg Tribune


British Home Children in Canada Advocacy Association
Uprooted Lives The Canadian Encyclopedia
British Home Children, 1869 - 1932 Library and Archives Canada
British Home Children Canada's History
She never saw her parents again CTV Winnipeg
British Government Apology, 2010

Monday, 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook's Winnipeg History

Iconic travel company Thomas Cook has closed its doors after 178 in years in business. The British-based company had footprint in countries around the world, including here in Canada until 2006.

Here's a look back at Thomas Cook's Winnipeg history.

The company was created in 1841 by Leicestershire cabinet-maker Thomas Cook to organize local train excursions. It began offering tours to Europe starting with the Paris Exposition of 1855 and in the late 1860s added Egypt, North America and various other international locales. (For a more complete history of the company, see this cached view of the history section of the company's website.)

Winnipeggers wanting to book travel or tours with Thomas Cook had to go through the company's New York City office. In 1908, Cook appears to have struck a deal with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway to be authorized ticket agents for its "Cooks Tours". Locals could buy excursions at A. E. Duff, the Grand Trunk Pacific's western travel agency with an office on Portage Avenue, or at the GTP ticket office.

In January 1909, Thomas Cook and Son opened a Canadian head office in Montreal and a network of full travel agents was established in larger cities.

A. E. Duff and the GTP continued on briefly as the agent for Thomas Cook and Sons. In 1913, the city's agents were Alloway and Champion Bank, which had a steamship travel division, and Calder's Travel Shop at 663 Main Street.

February 4, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune

International travel was soon interrupted by the First World War. In February 1918, Canada's deputy postmaster- general announced that the post office and Thomas Cook formalized a partnership it had for delivering mail to an enemy country or one under occupation.

Writers could place their personally addressed letter along with a postal order for 25 cents into a larger envelope addressed to Thomas Cook's Canadian headquarters in Montreal. They would then be forwarded to Cook's London office which would then "undertake the transmission of such correspondence" to the nearest neutral or unoccupied country. From there, if possible, it would be inserted into the occupied country's internal postal service.

Writers were warned that their letters must be of a personal nature only with no mention of military, political or economic issues. The letters also had to be unsealed so that military censors on either end could inspect them.

March 8, 1954, Winnipeg Tribune

Leisure travel started up again at the end of the war and Cook enjoyed a period of prosperity only to be interrupted by a second war.

At the time, Thomas Cook and Son was still British-based but owned by Belgian interests. The British government nationalized the company and made it part of its rail system so that it couldn't be taken over by the Nazis. It was privatized again in the early 1970s.

Winnipeg got its first corporate Thomas Cook and Son travel agency in 1954. It was located at 224 Portage Avenue, the former offices of the Cunard Donaldson travel agency. A decade later it relocated to the Dayton Building at Portage and Hargrave.

Eaton's department store had its own travel division which merged with Thomas Cook Canada Ltd. in 1988. The following year, Thomas Cook had travel agencies in all four Winnipeg Eaton's stores as well as a stand-alone agency at Kenaston Village Mall that opened around 1979.

More changes came in May 1993 when Thomas Cook acquired Marlin Travel and its 265 offices across the country. This brought the total number of Canadian Thomas Cook locations to 350.

The Thomas Cook name was used for its Eaton's locations and corporate sales division whilst the Marlin Travel name was used for its other leisure travel agencies.

The Thomas Cook era came to an end in Canada when Transat, the parent company of Air Transat,  bought out Thomas Cook's Canadian division and its 191 locations for $8.3 million on May 1, 2006.