Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Halters of Winnipeg (Part 1)

When I research a building I often come across interesting people or families whose contributions to Manitoba have been forgotten. Some examples are the Gensers, Kelly House owners Micheal Kelly and Fred Cadham, Ralph Brown etc.

Halter Building
The Halter Building, an unassuming structure that houses the Women's Health Clinic on Graham Avenue, introduced me to the Halter Family and a number of pioneers and colourful characters from Manitoba's past. The building was built in 1960 for Aubrey Halter and Nola Brown-Halter.

Before I talk about the couple, I have to back-up to some early Manitoba history.

The Halters, Maurice and Rhoda (nee Lechtzier), were a pioneer family. Rhoda's family came from Russia to Saskatchewan in the 1880's as part of the New Jerusalem Settlement near Estevan but soon moved on to Winnipeg. Rhoda, born April 29, 1883, is credited with being the first Jewish girl born - and to survive - in Western Canada.

Maurice and Rhoda married in Winnipeg in 1904 and had four children: daughter Rosetta and sons Cyril, Aubrey, and Sydney. Two of their children, Aubrey and Sydney, remained in Winnipeg and made a mark on our community.

I wrote earlier about Sydney Halter. Born in Winnipeg on April 18, 1904, he graduated from law at the University of Manitoba in 1927. Halter is most remembered for his contribution to Canadian sport, including being the first commissioner of the CFL.

Aubrey J. Halter was born July 10, 1918. Like his older brother, Aubrey attended law at University of Manitoba graduating in 1944 with honours. His passion outside of the law was the arts. Aubrey studied and created fine art while at university and was a noted collector and patron of the arts throughout his life.

Soon after graduating, Aubrey was on the board of The Little Theatre. Thanks in part
Aubrey's involvement and financial assistance, they merged with Theatre 77 In 1957 to become the Manitoba Theatre Centre.

While on his way to becoming one of the era's more prominent lawyers, Aubrey was also noted for being the most stylish man in the city. he was always impeccably turned-out in suits rumoured to be imported from Savile Row and sporting his trademark pompadour. The late Harold Buchwald commented in a 2005 Free Press column that Aubrey was 'a true bon vivant' and one of the most colourful characters he had ever met.

Nola Brown was the daughter of Francis Roy Brown, a member of the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame and who the Free Press called "one of Western Canada's colourful aviation pioneers". (He is often mistaken for the Roy Brown who shot down The Red Baron).

A champion cyclist when WWI broke, Brown enlisted in the cycling corps at the age of 17. He soon transferred to the Air Force and begin his life-long passion for flying. Roy married a war bride, Diana Peveret, and the couple returned to Manitoba in 1923. They soon headed to north country where Nola was born on June 14, 1928.

In Roy's 37 year flying career he amassed 15,000 flying hours. During World War II he tested 2,575 planes for pilots-in-training around the province. He made flying a family affair when he took his wife and daughter over the Rocky Mountains by plane in 1931 making them the first known women to fly over the Rocky Mountains !

In his later years, Brown hung up his wings and in 1953 became MLA for Rupertsland. He died November 30, 1960.

Growing up in the rugged north with a father often in transit gave Nola an independent streak. She was a feminist and business woman with a love for art and literature. By the 1950's she was living in Winnipeg.

The Halters of Winnipeg Series:
Part 2: Syd Halter, the Man Who Pulled the CFL Together
Part 3: Nola and Aubrey Halter

Image sources:
- 1904 wedding photo: Jewish Heritage Centre newsletter (2004)
- R. Halter obit: Winnipeg Free Press, Feb 20, 1973
- F. R. Brown: Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame entry
- Halter Family: personal collection of Dr. R. Halter (used with permission)


John Dobbin said...

Good story. I believe you mean Savile Row.

Christian Cassidy said...

Thanks ! Correction noted !

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