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Saturday, 19 November 2022

Early Watt Street


My latest Winnipeg Places post came about after an inquiry all the way from Germany about a photo taken in 1972. The photographer was wondering if the building still stood. It turns out both the building and business are still going strong after more than 65 years in business.

The history of Ebbeling Pharmacy also helps tell the story of the transformation of East Kildonan from a rural municipality into a city.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Chappy's Fish and Chips and Winnipeg's fish and chips glory days

© 2022, Christian Cassidy

While researching the history of 2615 Portage Avenue, I came across the story of a short-lived Winnipeg-based restaurant chain called Chappy’s Authentic English Fish and Chips.

It was created by Richard “Dick” Bolt and Winnipeg-based Controlled Foods International (CFI).**  It was a food service company that operated 67 restaurants in Canada, including 45 A&W franchises and a few called Hickory House. It was also a wholesaler of restaurant supplies and equipment.

The company wanted to create a new restaurant chain that served up something other than burgers. It decided on fish and chips as it was familiar to consumers, made for a simple menu, and had relatively low food costs. It brought in staff and equipment to Winnipeg from the U.K. to work on recipes.

The first two "test stores" opened in early 1969 in Winnipeg and Columbia, South Carolina. Bolt told the Free Press that by the autumn of 1969 it hoped to have 200 restaurants operating on both sides of the border. (Speaking later to national media, he said it wanted 200 restaurants in Canada alone.)

** I have since found out that there may be more of a back story to the creation of the chain which I explain more in the "Chappy's in the U.S.A." section below.

Chappy's in Canada

Original Chappy's at 2615 Portage Avenue (2021 Google Street View)

The first Chappy's was the Winnipeg test store located in a former Salisbury House restaurant at 2615 Portage Avenue at Thompson Street.

The company had just a month to retrofit the building for its needs. For the exterior, the red roof was repainted in bluet and a "small, blue-roofed turret" was added to the roof. (Despite the turret and colour change, It still, though, resembled a Salisbury House from the era.)

The restaurant opened on April 30, 1969, and got thumbs up from the Winnipeg Free Press' "Coffee Chat" columnist Bill Tribilcoe for its simple menu of battered Atlantic cod and store-made chips which came in a small box wrapped in a fake newspaper lining.

December 5, 1969, Winnipeg Tribune

By the end of 1969, in addition to the Portage Avenue at Thompson location, there were Chappy's at 1531 Pembina Highway in Fort Garry and on Pembina Highway at Lorette. Early the following year came 1105 Notre Dame Avenue and 768 Nairn Avenue.

Chappy's were also springing up elsewhere in Canada during this period. By the end of 1969 there were around 26 locations.

The Vancouver Sun reported in August 1969 that Chappy's was coming to B.C. and grand opening ads soon followed for communities such as Vancouver, Langley, and Victoria.

The National Post reported in September 1969 that Chappy's had entered Ontario. Grand opening ads can be found for Toronto, Windsor, Brantford, and Kingston.

Newspaper ads can also be found for restaurants in Calgary and Saskatoon.

January 24, 1970, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1970, CFI moved its headquarters from Winnipeg to Vancouver.

Bolte cited rising corporate taxes and a worsening business climate in Manitoba as reasons for leaving. He also said that there were better opportunities for the restaurant business in the rapidly growing B.C. market.

The move to B.C. coincided with the unravelling of the Chappy's restaurant chain.


January 7, 1971, Winnipeg Tribune


The Winnipeg restaurants began closing one by one. First was the 1531 Pembina Highway location in early 1970. It was the only corporate-run location and struggled while being managed from another province. The four franchise locations closed within a few months of it.

The last Winnipeg location to close was the Pembina Highway at Lorette location in the first week of January 1971. Edward Rost, the franchisee, told the Free Press that his customer base was mainly British ex-pats and they couldn't seem to break through to other segments of the population. He also said that recent news stories about mercury levels in Atlantic fish didn't help to attract new customers.

It is unclear when the remaining Canadian locations closed.

CFI did carry on with its various franchise restaurants, such as A&W. In the late 1970s it added several Old Spaghetti Factory outlets. In the mid-1980s it merged with the company that owned The Keg.


August 13, 1970 Winnipeg Free Press

Local competition may have been another factor in the downfall of Chappy's.

In April 1970, Oliver Chips burst onto the scene with locations at 2027 Portage Avenue, 3053 Ness Avenue, and 1527 Main Street. It was a local chain owned by a consortium headed by Mickey Levine, the general manager of the International Inn.

Levine told a reporter that he thought the fish and chips market could handle more competition and that his chain had an upper hand in that it also served other food items such as chicken, meat pies, and ice cream.

During this time there was also a franchise of the U.S.-based chain H. Salt Esq. operating at Portage Avenue and Clifton Street. It was owned by Winnipeg-based Champs Foods Systems.

By the end of 1972, H. Salt Esq. and Oliver Chips went the way of Chappy's and Winnipeg's fish and chips glory days came to an end.

Since that time, Captain Scott's Fish and Chips, a B.C.-based chain established in 1975, came to Winnipeg around 1977 and had at least two or three stores until they closed around 1980.

In April 2004, Fergie's Fish and Chips opened at The Forks and now has three locations in the city.

Chappy's in the U.S.A.


**Since I originally published this post, I found in the comments section of this Columbia Closings Blog post that the first Chappy's may have opened in 1968 in Columbia, South Carolina, by Larry Merrell, Ray Bass and partners.

If it was 1968, not 1969, it could mean that Bolte or someone else associated with CFI saw it and decided to try and franchise it with these men as U.S. partners. It would explain why Columbia was chosen as the U.S. test market rather than somewhere more accessible from Winnipeg like Minneapolis or Chicago.

On the other hand, it could simply mean that the Columbia restaurant that opened in 1968 was the first U.S. franchise and it opened a few months prior to the first Canadian store.

I will update this post if I hear more information back from the comment poster.


The American arm of Chappy's appears to have fared better than its Canadian counterpart. (Canadian newspaper stories about CFI or the Chappy's only ever mention the U.S. operations in passing, so it is hard to piece together how the chain fared south of the border.)

What I did discover from the limited number of U.S. newspaper archives that I could access is that the Greenville (South Carolina) News reported on June 15, 1969 that local architect James A. Neal had been hired by CFI to design the U.S. restaurants for the chain. Looking at images of former stores at the Columbia Closings blog, the U.S. locations appear to have been smaller than two of the Winnipeg ones, though 1531 Pembina Highway and Nairn Avenue are similar in size, (see below).

A survey of a limited number of American newspaper archives from the late 1960s and early 1970s shows that Chappy's opened in El Paso, Texas in July 1969, Atlanta, Georgia in September 1969, Charlotte, North Carolina in December 1969, and Chicago (Bridgeview), Illinois in 1971. Comments in the Columbia Closing Blog also suggest that there was a store in Denver Colorado circa 1971.

According to the Columbia Closings blog, in its original U.S. market of Columbus, the number of Chappy's grew to five by 1987 and the author notes that "Chappy's Fish & Chips was a constant media presence on the radio" into the 1980s.

It is likely that CFI sold off its American Chappy's operations in the early 1970s to other interests and that is what allowed it to carry on. Stories about CFI in Canadian media from later in the 1970s do not mention Chappy's as one of its chains. (That blog post comment noted above suggests that there were eventually 300 locations in the U.S.)

Winnipeg's remaining Chappy's buildings:

2615 Portage Avenue at Thompson (Google Street View)
The original restaurant, a converted Salisbury House

1531 Pembina Highway at Dumas (Google Street View, 2009)
Corporate-owned, not franchised, and the first to close

525 Pembina Highway at Lorette (Google Street View, 2009)
Franchise-owned and the last to close


768 Nairn Avenue at Chester (Google Street View 2012)


1105 Notre Dame Avenue west of McPhillips (Demolished)

Sunday, 23 October 2022

Southdale Shopping Centre turns 56

Billed as "Metro Winnipeg's first air-conditioned enclosed shopping centre", Southdale Mall opened back on September 1, 1966.

Its original anchor tenants both failed by the end of the century and the indoor mall potion was swallowed up by an additional retail outlet. Still, Southdale Centre as it is now called, survives to this day despite many similar regional malls being knocked down in favour of "power centres".

The history of Southdale Mall is my latest Winnipeg Places blog post.


Wednesday, 12 October 2022

More on Winnipeg's failed numbered street system of the 1890s


My latest column in the Free Press Community Review looks at Winnipeg's failed numbered street system of the 1890s.

Henry Ruttan, Winnipeg's first city engineer, was a former railway engineer and wanted to bring the same perfect order found in railway-planned towns to the city's haphazard street system.

The system was too far along to impose a grid system, but he did have blocks uniformly numbered and decreed that east/west streets be called 'avenues' and north/south ones be called ‘streets’.

Those changes stood the test of time, but his dream of replacing the city's street names with numbers lasted just a couple of years.

Sunday, 25 September 2022

A history of Winnipeg's Carleton Club

 © 2022, Christian Cassidy


Winnipeg's Carleton Club existed for almost a century at two different addresses in the downtown. It wasn't as old, prestigious, or expensive to join, as the Manitoba Club and its history is not that well documented.

Here's a look back at the Carleton Club...


January 30, 1901, Winnipeg Tribune

Manitoba's Carleton Club was established as the Commercial Club in January 1901. "The object of the club is social and friendly" read its initial articles of incorporation. 

There were 25 initial investors who put up $1,000 each to form the club. They included: Mayor John Arbuthnot, the lumber merchant who was also Winnipeg’s mayor at the time; Elisha F. Hutchings, president of Great West Saddlery; Charles H. Cordingley, manager of George Velie Co. Ltd., a wholesale liquor business; Edward Nicholson, wholesale merchant Donald R. Dingwall, president of Dingwall Jewellers  H. William Hutchinson, president of Fairchild Co. Ltd. farm machinery; Frank G. Walsh, district superintendent of Bell Telephones; and Arthur Stewart, manager of the Central Canada Loan and Savings Company.

The club was similar, but not as exclusive or expensive to join, as the Manitoba Club which meant that it attracted another layer of businessmen such as senior managers, bank executives, architects, general managers, and medium-sized business owners. It was a space where they could gather, socialize, and cut business deals.


January 17, 1905, Winnipeg Free Press

The Commercial Club's original clubhouse was a red sandstone building located at 306-308 Main street. A former bank office that had recently been vacated by the CPR executive offices. Graeme George was the club manager. 

The main floor held offices and a reception room described in one paper as having, "rich curtains, beautiful paintings and artistic fresco work on the walls and ceiling." The second floor contained a dining hall and the third floor a billiard room, smoking room, and reading room. 

In June 1901, around 300 members and their wives attended the building's formal opening dinner. 

The club appears to have been a success. Aside from its day-to-day use, the club hosted numerous banquets featuring speakers such as government or railway officials, and played host to visiting delegations from business clubs from other cities who were in Winnipeg to tour its industries.


Carleton Club (centre) in June 1919

In late 1904, the Commercial Club began an extensive renovation of its club. Work was almost done in January 1905 when a major fire struck the building site. Insurance covered most of the damage and the renovations started over.

The clubhouse reopened in late April 1905 after what ended up being $70,000 in work.

The general layout of the building stayed the same. Additions included a ladies' reception room and ladies' dining room on the second floor and a new fourth floor consisting of a "summer apartment" that opened onto a roof garden. 

Another expansion came in December 1929 when the club bought out one of its neighbouring buildings, likely the one to the right in the above photo, for $30,000. It joined the upper floors to create expanded dining and recreational areas and continued to rent the main floor out to retail tenants.


January 12, 1911, Winnipeg Tribune

The shift from Commercial Club to Carleton Club began around 1909 but the application to formally change its corporate name did not come until January 1911. 

There was no explanation in the daily papers for the name change. It was likely to differentiate itself from the (North West) Commercial Travellers Club which began operation in 1907 and to give itself a more exclusive sounding name. (The Carlton Club - without an "e" - was, and is, one of London's most exclusive members-only clubs and even local papers at the time carried stories about meetings and events that happened there.)


August 1, 1974, Winnipeg Tribune

The Carleton Club carried on at this address until 1974 when this block of Main Street from Portage to Graham avenues was expropriated and demolished by the city to make way for the new Trizec / Winnipeg Square development.

Like several of the businesses along the block, the club formally objected to the expropriation at a city hearing. It argued that as a businessman's club its location near Portage and Main was vital to its operations and that a relocation could cause it to "suffer serious and possibly irredeemable damage".

The club lost its fight but it was reported at the time to have been offered around $1.3 million for its property. A newspaper article from 1976 noted that the final arrangements for the settlement had not yet been completed.


November 14, 1975, Winnipeg Tribune

The Carleton Club found another piece of land on Fort Street right across from the Winnipeg Square development and the club took up temporary quarters above the ANAVETS hall on Garry Street.

It turned to Smith Carter Architects to design a new clubhouse that would be nothing like its previous Victorian-era home.

The 37,000 square foot building, (about 7,000 square feet larger than the old one), contained four levels connected by a free-standing circular staircase and elevators.

The basement was set aside for athletics with a gym, health centre, four regulation-sized squash courts, a sauna, and steam rooms. The main floor contained administrative offices, the upper portion of the squash courts and a lounge. The second floor was mainly food service with the kitchen, main dining room, a bar, and banquet room. The top floor contained a games room with billiards tables and private function rooms that were furnished with items from the old building.

At the time construction began on November 13, 1975, the estimated cost of the new building was $2.6 million. Trident Construction was the contractor.

The new Carleton Club opened its doors on March 18, 1977.

Clifford Lecuyer, a senior partner in the accounting firm Price Waterhouse, was the club's president from the time it closed the old facility and reopened din the new one. In April 1977, a new president was elected to start the club's new era. George LaFrance was general manager of the Lafarge Cement subsidiary called McCurdy.

It was during this time that one of the few mentions of the club's membership and dues made the papers.

There were 550 members at the old club and at the new one the number would likely be capped at 750. It was felt that the health centre and racquet courts would drive the increase. (According to a 1978 newspaper article, the membership was nearly 800.)

The club required a buy-in of around $600 plus annual dues. The old dues were $350 which were set to rise to $420 in 1977. (By contrast, a 1979 newspaper article stated that the Manitoba Club required a $500 entry fee with a $675 annual fee.)

The club also became a banquet facility for hire and hosted numerous lunches and business presentations open to non-members. This included the Icelandic Festival's banquet to honour the president of Iceland in 1979 and an Eaton's fashion show featuring its Calvin Klein collection in October 1980.


May 11, 1987, Winnipeg Free Press

 Membership would quickly become a problem on two fronts for the Carleton Club.

One was that it did not allow women to join, though women could come in if escorted by a member.

Despite an early 1980s Manitoba Human Rights Commission ruling about gender discrimination at establishments, clubs and beverage rooms that were men's only had this clause grandfathered into their liquor permits. The issue came up from time to time, such as when a number of city councillors boycotted the welcome to Winnipeg dinner for new chief commissioner Richard Frost held at the Carleton Club in 1989.

Eventually, the tide shifted and in October 1991 the club's membership voted in favour of allowing women as members.

The first woman to join the Carleton Club was Sherri Walsh, a 30-year-old litigation lawyer whose office was located across the street. She said her membership wasn't to make a point about equality, it was just that the club was a convenient place to take clients for lunch or dinner.

The building had washrooms for men and women on the upper floors but there were no women's washrooms or change room in the athletic club in the basement.

The Manitoba Club voted around the same time to do the same and welcomed its first four female members in January 1992.


November 14, 1993, Winnipeg Free Press

Another hit to the membership was the economy.

In the early 1980s a recession began that caused many companies, including banks and law firms, to cut back drastically on the perqs they offered to employees. (One bank had twelve memberships for senior executives which it cut down to four.)

For those who held personal memberships, a federal tax change that decade meant that dues were no longer tax deductible.

The membership crisis impacted many clubs, especially those with an athletic theme like the Carleton Club, Winnipeg Squash Club, and the Winter Club. Some had to turn to hiring membership directors or renting out their facilities to the public for banquets or other special events to bring in additional revenue.

In the case of the Carleton Club, as the recession receded its membership did not rebound. Newspaper stories from various years indicated that it went from a high of over 750 members in 1978 to around 500 in 1991 (when annual dues were $1,215), down to about 350 in 1995.

Club president Fred Florence had to hand over the keys to the club to its mortgage holder, Astra Credit Union, on July 28, 1995. The building's contents were auctioned off in March 1996.

Former Carleton Club building in 2017 (Google Street View)

Tidbits:

Hall-of-famer Charlie Ives was wooed away from the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club to be the pro at the Carleton Club's new squash courts.

Robert Shankland, Victoria Cross recipient and one of the Pine Street Boys, was manager of the club for a few years in the 1930-s. He had been the assistant manager at the St. Charles Country Club.

Other presidents included: Garnet Coulter (1929), John McEachern (1931), J. W. Speirs (1938), L. F. Borrowman (1940), Robert Glass (1947), Roy Haller (1948), C. H. Scott (1951), A. B. Pitcairn (1968), Harry Baxter (1970), Clifford S. Lecuyer (ca. 1974 -1977), J. Paul Marion (1979), , Murray Dickson (1991), Larry Watson (1992). Also: Fred O'Malley, Arthur W. Dowse, Thjomas Payntz, P. D. McKinnon, , , , Gilbert Alexander Muir,  Norman Hurley, Bob Swanlund,

Also see:
280 Fort Street - Winnipeg Architecture Foundation
280 Fort Street - Winnipeg Downtown Places

Monday, 12 September 2022

The Magnus Brown Homestead

 

My latest street names column in the Winnipeg Free Press looks at the old Magnus Brown estate and its subdivision in 1874 which gave us such streets as Magnus, Burrows, Salter and Alfred.

If you want the largest version of the map used in the article, click on the iamge above for the Manitoba Historical Maps Flickr page.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Transit Tom turns 65!

© 2022, Christian Cassidy


The Greater Winnipeg Transit Commission's Transit Tom was introduced in 1957 to convince more Winnipeggers to take the bus and keep riders current on route and fleet information.

The caricature was likely created by
Ruben Herscovitch, a partner in a commercial art silkscreen ad company called JMR Sales Promotions, that did work for the commission.

GWTC bus bench, 1957 (City of Winnipeg Archives)

Transit Tom made his newspaper debut in a series of ads starting on September 7, 1957 though his usage declined in 1971 when the Transit Department of the Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg became the city-owned Winnipeg Transit System.. Every decade or two, his face would make a brief comeback and you can sometimes see handwritten signs at Transit stops signed "T.T."

I wrote a column about the history of Transit Tom in a 2014 Winnipeg Free Press column. There was only so much artwork that I could include, so here are more glimpses of Transit Tom from over the years.

For more transit heritage related images, check out my Flickr album and the Manitoba Transit Heritage Association website.


The initial GWTC ad campaign featuring Tom:

Tom's first ad on September 7, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

 October 5, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

 October 14, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

October 19, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press


 October 21, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

November 16, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

 December 28, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press


January 25, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press


March 29, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press


Later Transit Tom ads:
May 6, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press


 June 14, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

July 10, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

November 22, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

February 1, 1960, Winnipeg Free Press


October 28, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press

December 24, 1962, Winnipeg Free Press

September 6, 1969, Winnipeg Free Press

Other Tom appearances:

Winnipeg's last trolley bus
MTHA Bus Museum Day
The late 1960s remake of Tom (also see)

2010 retro Tom !