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Sunday, 2 January 2022

Winnipeg's last known streetcar operator has passed away

Sad news that Brian K. Darragh passed away on December 20th at the age of 93.

Darragh was a long-time employee of Winnipeg Transit and believed to be Winnipeg's last streetcar operator. He drove them during their lat 17 months of service.

Darragh was passionate about streetcars and took his collection of great stories and memorabilia and turned them into a book called The Streetcars of Winnipeg: Our Forgotten Heritage.

I had a chance to meet Darragh a couple of times at talks he gave related to the Streetcar 356 Rehabilitation Project. I also interviewed him for my radio show back in March 2015.

Thanks for all the great stories and for keeping the memory of Winnipeg's streetcars alive!


- Brian K. Darrah's streetcar website

- My March 22, 2015 interview with Darrah on my former UMFM radio show, West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition with co-host Kerri Salki. (He's the first 30 minutes of the show.)

- Remembering the streetcars of a bygone era - Canstar Community News

Another West End apartment block lost

Sadly, another apartment block on Sherbrook Street in the West End has been destroyed by fire. It appears everyone made it out safely.

The Ferndale was once home to E. Cora Hind and an award-winning militia nurse. Here's a look back at its history.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

The most viewed blog posts of 2021

October 25, 1914, Winnipeg Tribune

At the end of each year, I like to look back and see what the most viewed posts were on my two main blogs. As you can see, some of them date back many years.

It is not clear why some posts spring back to life. It may be that another website or a media outlet has referred to it. For some, like Len Fairchuk or the Budweiser clydesdales, they have a constant interest and end up in or near my top ten every year.

Here's a look back at what people were reading in 2021!


1. West End Street Oddities: How many lanes does Arlington Street have?  (April 2021) 

2. A history of the Wolseley bus  (April 2021)

3. A belated bye-bye to Blue Ribbon Tea (April 2017)

4. John Rudy, the last resident of Elmwood's Tin Town (December 2018)

5. The Castle of College Avenue (Part 1): The Biollo Family (July 2011)

6. Budweiser's Clydesdales & their Winnipeg origin (February 2012)

7. Farewell to LaSalle’s Grain Elevator (August 2020)

8. Farewell, Telesky Taxidermist (February 2021)

9. The Toronto Street hideout of "Bloody Jack" is for sale! (April 2015)

10. Remembering Len Fairchuk and TV’ The Western Hour (April 2019)


1. 1763 Henderson Highway - Toro's Driving Range / Nor-Villa Motor Hotel (December 2021)

2. 701 Ellice Avenue - Discount Everything (April 2021)

3. 802 Main Street - Beveridge Block / Selkirk Hotel (R.I.P.) (August 2021)

4. 500 Selkirk Avenue - The Donut House (April 2019)

5. 623 Simcoe Street - Private residence (R.I.P.) (February 2021)

6. 94 Cathedral Avenue - Former Polson residence (September 2021)

7. Winnipeg Art Gallery (September 2009)

8. 257 Lulu Street - Haynes' Chicken Shack (September 2017)

9. 546 Sherburn Street - Crecent Creamery Dairy (R.I.P.) (November 2021)

10. 415 Graham Avenue - Lonely House (March 2018)

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Farewell, Brunkild Hotel (1922 - 2021)

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Sadly, the circa 1922 Brunkild Hotel won't make it to see the century mark as it was demolished earlier this month.

The hotel was closed by health inspectors in late 2016 and fell into disrepair. According to commentary on Twitter, the pipes burst causing water damage to the building and an arson during a subsequent renovation attempt sealed its fate.

The Poersch's in 1967 (Nov 14, 1967, Winnipeg Free Press)

According to Hugging the Meridian, a community history book, the hotel was built in 1922. Prior to that, folks visiting the area could stay in one of a couple of rooms above the general store of William Poersch. Poersch was the founder of the community having settled many families from his native Prussia (Germany) in the region.

The first proprietor of the hotel was  Herman Karl Poersch and wife, Helena. Like William, his cousin,  Herman came to Canada from Germany as a young man. The couple married in 1907 in Morden and farmed in the district before coming to Brunkild.

The couple moved to Winnipeg in the 1950s. Helena died in 1976. Herman in 1977.

When war broke out, there were plenty of young farmers and farmhands in the Brunkild area who enlisted. One of them was Russell Terres Zdan whose parents, Peter and Millie Zdan, were proprietors of the Brunkild Hotel in the 1940s.

Zdan was a gunner with 428 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, when his plane was shot down in August 1943. He was listed as missing and later presumed dead. (For a longer bio of Zdan and more about his mission, see his International Bomber Command Centre Losses Database page.)

More images. (Also see my Brunkild and Brunkild Hotel Flickr album)

Brunkild Hotel, bottom right. (Source: unknown - perhaps an old postcard?)

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Winnipeg Christmas Traditions presentation now online

On December 15, 2021, I teamed up with the Manitoba Historical Society to do a 30-minute online presentation about the history of Winnipeg Christmas traditions, such as the city hall Christmas tree,  our downtown Christmas lights, Eaton's and "Your Pet, Juliette"!

The temporary recording posted was watched 312 times in five days, so we decided to re-record it with better audio and no interruptions. The presentation an be seen at the MHS' YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ9qENsQ1dQ


Monday, 13 December 2021

Winnipeg Christmas Traditions online presentation

Join me for a free, 40-minute online presentation about the history of some Winnipeg Christmas traditions, such as the city hall Christmas tree and our downtown Christmas lights. Also, Eaton's at Christmas and "Your Pet, Juliette"!

December 15, 2021 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. To register, click this link.

(Someone asked about live presentations. I am doing some, but for area seniors' homes and they are not open to the public due to COVID restrictions. I haven't found a third-party venue at which to do a live, general public version.)

Sunday, 28 November 2021

The 2021 Local History Buff's Christmas Gift Guide


Here is my twelfth annual Christmas gift guide for the local history buff in your life!


A must for any history buff on history buff's gift list are books, of course! Here is a list of some great local history titles. Those with a "**" indicate that they are new for 2021. Also, see the list of 2020 Margaret McWilliams Awards nominees.

Please support local and independent bookstores! Locally, we have McNally Robinson, Chapters, and many used book stores, such as Bison Books and Burton Lysecki, where you will find gently used and out-of-print local history titles.

** Ghost Signs: An Exchange District Walking Tour tells the story behind the mostly long-forgotten companies or products that these signs advertise. Coming soon - just in time for Christmas (Winnipeg Architectural Foundation)

** Mosienko: The Man Who Caught Lightning in a Bottle tells the story of a Manitoba legend, from his childhood spent skating on the rinks of Winnipeg's North End in the 1920s and 30s to his illustrious fourteen-year NHL career to his return to Winnipeg to play with the Winnipeg Warriors to his post-retirement career as the owner of the iconic Mosienko Bowling Lanes. See video of the book launch here. (Great Plains Publications, McNally Robinson, Chapters)

** Heart of Gold: A History of Winnipeg Music is the latest release by music historian John Einarson. It looks at the background of all genres of the music scene in Winnipeg and their influence nationally and beyond. See an interview with the author here. (Order online)

** Authorized Heritage: Place, Memory, and Historic Sites in Prairie Canada analyses the history of commemoration at heritage sites across western Canada and argues that heritage narratives are almost always based on national messages that commonly reflect colonial perceptions of the past. See the virtual book launch. (U of M Press, McNally Robinson)

** Faces & Places: Trailblazing Women of Manitoba Walking Tour Guide by the Nellie McClung Foundation promotes visiting the places, seeing the faces and remembering the stories of Manitoba women who have made history. (McNally Robinson, Golden Boy Gift Shop)

Broken Ribs & Popcorn explores how the Winnipeg Jets 1.0 became the best team in the NHL's most offensive era to not win the Stanley Cup. Here's an interview with the author. (McNally Robinson, Chapters)

The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent by Darren Bernhardt explores some of the lesser known aspects of Manitoba's history. (Great Plains, McNally Robinson, Chapters)

Did You See Us?  Reunion, Remembrance, and Reclamation at an Urban Indian Residential School offers first-hand accounts of life at the the Assiniboia Indian Residential School in Winnipeg (U of M Press)

Treasures of Winnipeg's Historic Exchange is a book of modern photos of some of Winnipeg's oldest architectural gems by George J Mitchell. (McNally, Chapters)

Old Winnipeg: A History in Pictures
from Christine Hanlon contains 140 photos showing the city the way it was. Here's an interview with the author on the Manitobaville podcast. (McNally Robinson, Chapters)

The Golden Boy in the case of the Missing Cube (bilingual) is the latest book released by the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation illustrated by Kaj Hasselriis. Follow the Golden Boy on an adventure! (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, Golden Boy Gift Shop, McNally)

Influenza 1918: Disease, Death and Struggle in Winnipeg by Esyllt Jones was published back in 2007 but, given the current COVID-19 situation, it might make for interesting reading about the city's struggle with the influenza pandemic of 1918 -19. (McNally Robinson, Chapters)

Jim Blanchard is back with the third instalment of his series on Winnipeg's history. He's taken us through the boom of 1912, the turbulence of World War I and now the uncertain 1920s. (U of M Press, McNally, Chapters)

David Spector's Assiniboine Park: Designing and Developing a People's Playground is the dfirinitve book on the sometimes controversial history of Winnipeg's favourite park. My review. (Great Plains, McNally, Chapters)
Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba This nearly 500 page book tells the story of the small but influential Jewish community of Winnipeg. (McNally, Jewish Heritage Centre)

Gordon Goldsborough is back with MORE Abandoned Manitoba. This time, he focuses more on the history of abandoned structures in rural Manitoba. (Great Plains, McNally, Chapters)

North East Winnipeg Area History part one and two are limited-run books produced by the North East Winnipeg Historical Society that explores the history of Elmwood, East Kildonan and North Kildonan. (Volume I at McNally, Volume 2 at McNally)

Rooster Town is the story of the life and death of this largely Metis community that stood near where the Grant Park Shopping Centre is now. Companion pieces about the research that went into this book can be found here and here.  (U of M Press, McNally, Chapters)

Memories of the Moonlight Special and Grand Beach Train Era takes you back to the firsts half of the 20th century when trains brought eager tourists to these resort beach communities. (Borealis Press, McNally)

In Snacks: A Canadian Food History Janis Thiessen tells the back story of Canadian party favourites such as Old Dutch Potato Chips, Hawkins Cheezies and Ganong chocolates. (U of M Press, McNally Robinson)

Jeffrey Thorsteinson (architectural historian) and Brennan Smith (art historian) team up in Green Blankstein Russell and Associates: An Architectural Legacy. This local company went on to become one of Canada's preeminent modernist architecture firms of the 1950s and 60s. (WAF shop, McNally, Chapters)

Bryan Scott and Bartley Kives are back with their second installment of unique photos and commentary. (See below for their first offering.) Stuck in the Middle 2 ventures where Stuck in the Middle didn’t: outside the Perimeter. (Great Plains, McNally, Chapters)

Photographer John Paskievich revisits the places he photographed in the 1970s – 1990s for his book in his book The North End in The North End Revisited.  (U of M Press, McNally Robinson, Chapters)

The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation continues to add items to its bookshelf. Check out the Colour Your City colouring book featuring dozens of Winnipeg's best known buildings. There is also a new children's guide called Exchange Marks the Spot and their ever-growing collection of illustrated walking tour pocket books as well.

Check out their online shop or storefront office in the Exchange District.

Gary Moir looks back at the radio stations and personalities that brought Manitobans together in the fun times and periods of crisis in On the Air: The Golden Age of Manitoba Radio. (Great Plains, McNally)

Take a walk on Winnipeg's wild side with Haunted Winnipeg. Nine stories about some of Winnipeg's best known buildings and the creepy things that go on inside them at night. (Great Plains, McNally)

Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story is the latest graphic novel by David Alexander Robertson recounting the story of a dark chapter in our province's history. Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson. (Portage and Main Press, McNally, Chapters)

You can never go wrong with Winnie the Pooh! here's the latest book written about the real-life bear! (Amazon, Chapters, McNally) Also, check out this review in The Guardian.

More Winnie in Winnie the Bear. Read more about the book at the accompanying website. (McNally)

Portage and Main Press' Tales from Big Spirit series of graphic novels tell the stories of key Indigenous figures in history, including Tommy Prince, Gabriel Dumont and Thanadelthur. (Portage and Main Press, McNally Robinson)

Brian Darragh, one of Winnipeg's last streetcar operators, put together this look back at our forgotten streetcar heritage. Check out the accompanying website. (McNally, Friesen's)

The Patriotic Consensus  Unity, Morale, and the Second World War in Winnipeg by Dr.  Jody Perrun takes a look at what it was like in Winnipeg while World War II raged overseas. Hear my interview with the author. (McNally, Amazon)

This is from 2013, but a book every Winnipegger should own. Imagining Winnipeg a collection of some of L. B. Foote's most interesting photographs of early Winnipeg, many never before published. (U of M Press, McNally, Chapters)

Also from 2013 is 300 Years of Beer: An Illustrated Guide to Brewing in Manitoba. Meticulously researched and full of many never before seen images of breweries and beer memorabilia from locations across Manitoba. (Great Plains, McNally, AmazonOut of print - check the used bookstores!

Still around is Russ Gourluck's 2012 offering: Silver Screens on the Prairies. Be sure to check out his previous works and pick them up before they're out of print. The Mosaic Village: An Illustrated History of Winnipeg’s North End and his books on the Winnipeg Tribune, Eaton's and Portage Avenue. (Great Plains, McNally) Out of print - check the used bookstores!


Prairie History is the quarterly journal of the Manitoba Historical Society. Single copies can be purchased at McNally Robinson or get it free with your membership in the MHS. Launched in 2020, it replaces the journal Manitoba History. For back issues of both contact the MHS office.

No more snickering because The Beaver is now called Canada's History Magazine. Canada's History Society also publish Kayak: Canadian History for Kids. Both are produced right here in Winnipeg and you can order gift subscriptions through the links above.

Also, check out their Pierre Burton beaver bow ties and other items in their online shop.


It's Winnipeg. It's winter. It's gonna get cold. Who wouldn't want an HBC blanket? If that is a little pricey for you, HBC has a range of products bearing their stripes, from mugs and teapots to socks and toques.


Many museums have their own shops where you're sure to find something unique. Due to ongoing COVID restrictions and seasonal closures it is best to contact the museums first to check out their hours.

Here are links to some of them: St. Boniface Museum - Manitoba Museum - Daly House (Brandon) -
Mennonite Heritage Village (Steinbach) - New Iceland Heritage Museum (Gimli)

The Winnipeg Art Gallery has a new, 2,520 square foot gift shop featuring unique books, jewellery, artwork and mugs.

The gift shop at Dalnavert Museum has a selection of books, jewellery and artwork.

Besides their book collection, the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation has a wide selection of merchandise featuring iconic Winnipeg buildings, such as pins, fridge magnets, mugs, tea towels and more. These are available online or at their Exchange District office.

The St. Boniface Museum Boutique has a wide range of items, including Metis flags, mugs, voyageur sashes, toques, and replica Red River carts.

The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada's Windsock Gift Shop has clothing, toys, models, books and more that celebrate our aviation heritage.

The Golden Boy Gift Shop at the Manitoba Legislature celebrates everything Manitoba. From Manitoba crested glasses and mugs to Golden Boy scarves and toques.


From artist Kristina Dimitrova you can buy prints of maps for your favourite neighbourhood, small town, provincial park or lake. She also has watercolours of city streetscapes, including the gone but not forgotten Winnipeg Arena. Contactless pickup is available.

Elaina El's beautiful paintings capture iconic Winnipeg streetscapes.

Heritage Winnipeg also has an online store that includes a collection of prints by Robert J. Sweeney.

Grain elevators are quickly disappearing from Manitoba's rural landscape. Artist Dunc Malcolm captures many of them in his collection of prints. 

From our finest buildings to our grungiest back lanes, Winnipeg photographer Bryan Scott (Winnipeg Love/Hate) has captured them all and his work can be seen displayed around the city. You can order prints of your favourites here.


The St. Vital Museum's 2022 calendar is now available for just $5.  For more information.

How about a stay in one of the city's oldest hotels? The Hotel Fort Garry still oozes the charm of early 20th century railway hotels and offers packages. It's pet friendly, too ! Dress up old school and make a weekend of it.

Take home a bit of Manitoba's cinematic history with posters, books, and DVDs from the online shop at Cinematheque. Be sure to check out  On the Trail of the Far Fur Country.

Aside from their shop, the Manitoba Museum also invites you to adopt an artefact from their collection. It costs between $35 and $500, depending on the object, and you can switch it up year after year!


I fall else fails, remember that most museums and heritage groups run on shoestring budgets. This year has been particularly hard due to COVID-related closures and cancelled fundraising events. Why not buy someone a membership or make a donation on their behalf ?

You can find a complete list of Manitoba museums here. Some deserving groups:

Heritage Winnipeg - Manitoba Historical SocietyDaly House Museum (Brandon) - Dunnottar Station Museum - St. Vital Historical Society - Swan Valley Historical Museum - Dalnavert Museum - Manitoba Transit Heritage Association - Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada - Settlers Rails and Trails Museum (Argyle)- Musée St. Joseph MuseumWinnipeg Railway Museum - Margaret Laurence Home (Neepawa) - Rivers Train Station Restoration Project - Winnipeg Fire Fighters Museum - Beautiful Plains Museum (Neepawa) - Marine Museum of Manitoba (Selkirk)  Transcona Historical Museum - Heritage North Museum (Thompson)  Winnipeg Streetcar 356 Restoration Project - Manitoba Sports Hall of FameWinnipegosis Railway Station Restoration Project - Manitoba Agricultural Museum (Austin) - Fort la Reine Museum (Portage) -  Winnipeg Railway Museum - Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre - New Iceland Heritage Museum