Transcona's Hi Neighbour Festival commissioned Sam in the summer of 1968 to be their official mascot. Working from a design by Roger Tychonick, artist Giorgio (George) Barone created him.
Barone was used to working on projects of this scale, Sam being 11 feet tall. He had already created numerous statues for towns around the province using his technique of injecting 'vibrofoam', (a synthetic, air filled foam), into a mold. Once hardened, it was covered in multiple layers of fibreglass cloth then topped off with numerous coats of resin.
November 22, 1966, Winnipeg Free Press
Initially Sam was placed at the south-east corner of Highway 59 (Lagimodiére) and Nairn, in the parking lot of the Crossroads Shopping Centre. Opened in late November 1966, the 17-acre, $3 million, all-weather mall was the shopping mecca of it's day.
Among its 20 stores it boasted a 128,400 sq ft Woolco, more than double the size of other Winnipeg Woolco outlet. The Safeway was the largest food store in Manitoba at 34,000 sq ft. (In comparison to stores today, the Madison Square Safeway is 52,000 sq ft and a 'Super Walmart' is in the 200,000 sq ft range.)
Sam stood tall at this intersection for nearly two decades, eventually chased out by a Chi Chi's Restaurant built in the Crosstown parking lot. His new home was further east on Regent in the parking lot of the Canadian Tire store.
In 1987, after nearly 20 years facing the elements and numerous vandalism attacks - most involving the theft of his cane, it was time for some TLC. "He's had kind of a rough life" Pat Louchuk, then head of the Hi Neighbour Festival, told the Winnipeg Free Press in 1987 at the start of the fundraising drive for his refurbishment.
Presumably it was during this makeover that Sam traded in his barbershop quartet outfit consisting of a green and yellow vest and dickie-bow tie to sport the "corporate look" of a Canadian Tire clerk.
This latest move will send him a kilometre further down Regent to the CanadInn's Transcona parking lot, (to face God knows what indignities the post-bar crowd will foist upon him).
The committee needs financial help. Any of you proud Transconians wanting to contribute, check out the Lance article for details or contact the Hi Neighbour Festival.
UPDATE: Sam did move in November 2009 to his new home on the boulevard of Regent Avenue near Chrisland Street. His refurbishment included a new paint job, returning his outfit to something close to his original attire. He is also now illuminated at night.
Hi Neighbour Sam says hi to new neighbours Canstar, Nov 19, 2009
Hi Neighbour Sam Moves Winnipeg Sun, Oct 9, 2009