Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Hats off to Assiniboine Park !

Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

Over the summer I was entertaining an aunt from overseas. It was a great chance to get to those places that one only visits when entertaining visitors, such as the Manitoba Museum, Lower Fort Garry etc.

Most impressive was Assiniboine Park. I have been to the park in recent years but usually to go somewhere specific, not wander around at length. I recall a decade ago that the park was looking its age. A bit tired and worn out.

Children's Garden

The park now boasts a new duck pond / picnic area, a Children's Garden and play area and a Butterfly Conservancy. You can see some of the new construction at the zoo (I assume that's the polar bear exhibit). It's looking more like the gem that it is.

Leo Mol Sculpture Garden
Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

The Leo Mol Sculpture Garden and adjoining English Garden look spectacular. Given the hot, dry summer it must take a lot of work to keep them in such great shape. The advantage is that you can probably still catch them in full bloom this late in the year.

Shards from Royal Alex Hotel

I noticed that the gardens contain a number of building fragments from long-forgotten edifices such as the Royal Alexandra Hotel (above) and the Dominion Post Office.


A friend pointed out that one thing the park is missing is a central concession area and I have to agree. The upscale restaurant and gallery in the Pavilion is great but really makes the building off limits, even as a place to go sit and cool down.

The Pavilion's second floor, then and now

I remember the old main floor concession. It was family friendly and you could grab an ice cream, canned drink, bag of cotton candy or just use the washroom and sit down for a bit.

The upstairs was a restaurant, now home to a gallery. The gallery is nice but does have a lot of dead space. I am not sure how many people visit but in the half hour we were there nobody else came in.

Cricket in the Park

And for the 20th year in a row my vow to read up a bit on the rules of cricket and go catch a few games in-person never panned out. Ah well, there's always next year !

Assiniboine Park Attractions

Monday, 29 August 2011

Great Winnipeg Stadium Moments: Man-Pop (1970)

Winnipeg Stadium
On August 14, 2011 the Winnipeg Stadium, (now Canad-Inns Stadium), turned 58. Barring a major construction setback, this will be the final season for the building. In this series I look back at the history of the Stadium and some of the great moments, football and non-football related, that took place there over the decades !

Source: Led Zeppelin

On August 29, 1970 "Man-Pop", one of Winnipeg's first outdoor rock festival, took place at the Winnipeg Stadium. As pointed out in the comments below, Festival Express, what was supposed to be a five city summer festival tour rolled through town for a July 1, 1970 show, (also see).

ManPop was a home-grown concert, part of the youth festivities for the Manitoba Centennial celebrations. Concerts had been held across province all summer long and Man-Pop was the grand finale. The Centennial Corporation budgeted $230,000 for the event, expecting to make back $100,000 of that through ticket sales.

August 22, 1970, Winnipeg Free Press

In July 1970 the lineup was announced. The show would be held at the Winnipeg Stadium, headlined by Led Zeppelin, who ate up $50,000 of the budget. It also included an impressive mix of local, national and international acts: Iron Butterfly; The Youngbloods; Chilliwack; The Ides Of March; Dianne Heatherington and the Merry-Go-Round; The Mongrels; Next; Justin Tyme; Chopping Block; Sugar & Spice; Hay Market Riot (the local group, not the American version) and Euphoria.

The Centennial Corporation extensively promoted the show in advance, perhaps worried about the dismal ticket sales of the earlier Festival Express, which sold about 4,500 of 35,000 tickets. The expenditure of taxpayer dollars on a rock festival drew the ire of some, though the corporation pointed out that their year-long lineup of programming included not just ManPop, but entertainment form "Mom and Pop", too.

 Chilliwack performs at Stadium before the rain

Fifteen thousand people showed up at noon for the start of the eleven-hour concert, but later in the afternoon disaster struck in the form of a heavy downpour that lasted for over an hour. The field became a muddy pit, the concert's power source was damaged and a number of bands, including Zepplein, has some or all of their equipment destroyed.

Knowing that the festival was a "one-off" and could never be re-booked, Maitland Steinkpopf, chairman of the Centennial Corporation, and his team had an idea: Instead of calling off the concert, move it to the neighbouring Winnipeg Arena.

Organizers scrambled to find replacement equipment for the bands and chairs for the arena floor. Dozens of Winnipeg Transit buses were booked to run concert-goers home in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

August 31, 1970. Winnipeg Free Press

Concert-goers were sent to the Arena but not everyone got a seat as the fire department locked the doors when the capacity reached 14,000 and threatened to cancel the show if any more people were allowed in. Some angry fans broke three of the Arena's windows, but there was little other violence. The Centennial Corporation offered refunds for the couple of thousand people left in the rain.

In what was an organizational triumph, just three hours after the stadium concert ended,  the arena concert began. 

Some bands took it in stride, making do with borrowed equipment and putting on a great show. The headliners, however, were ot as enthusiastic. Mention was made in the media that performer Diane Heatherington had to coax Led Zeppelin to stick around and play their set. If you check out my comments below, an anon who says they worked backstage claims that it went further than that - she had to threaten to publicly shame them on stage into performing.

It worked, and Led Zeppelin, with some equipment borrowed form The Guess Who, took to the stage around 2 a.m. and the concert got out shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

August 26, 1970. Winnipeg Free Press

By most accounts the concert was a success, despite the change in venue and the heat and humidity inside the arena. Most concert goers and bands  realized that it was a case of make the best of the situation or miss out.

In the days after the concert, Led Zeppelin's Robert Plante said that he was unhappy with the makeshift concert:

"Our music demands a great deal of equipment for one thing and the building we were in wasn't too hot on the old acoustics was it?"
September 5, 1970. Winnipeg Free Press

Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones was a little more forgiving, telling Ann Stark, Free Press columnist:

"It was just an unfortunate set of circumstances, we don't blame anybody for it, I think you lot did a pretty good job, what with all the groups pitching in with their equipment and your local sound people, with such short notice. I feel sorry for the cats that lost all their sound system out there in the rain. Their insurance company is going to have a fit when they find out what happened!"
September 5, 1970. Winnipeg Free Press

Police noted that the atmosphere was generally friendly with just 21 arrests, mostly for drug violations amongst minors.The only damage reported were those three Arena windows and the muddy, littered mess at the hastily vacated Winnipeg Stadium, which did get cleaned up in time for a Bomber game the following week.

The expensive headliner Led Zeppelin wasn't the crowd favourite, though.

The show-stealers were six-piece Chicago band Ides of March, riding high on their album Vehicle. They returned later that year to play a sold out show at the U of M gym and two shows at the Concert Hall the following summer.

Man-Pop Manitoba Music MuseumMan-Pop Led Zeppelin Official Site
Dianne Heatherington’s account of Man-Pop (site down)
Ides of March: Man-Pop Festival the pod bay door
Bruce Rathbone's account of Man-Pop

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Great Winnipeg Stadium Moments: Stegall's 138th (2007)

Winnipeg Stadium
On August 14, 2011 the Winnipeg Stadium, (now Canad-Inns Stadium), turned 58. Barring a major construction setback, this will be the final season for the building. In this series I look back at the history of the Stadium and some of the great moments, football and non-football related, over the decades !

On July 27, 2007 the Blue Bombers play the Hamilton Ti-Cats at Canad Inns Stadium.

Mid-way through the second quarter Bomber slotback
Milt Stegall scores career touchdown number 138 from the one yard line. This breaks the CFL record for Most Pass Receiving Touchdowns - All Time once held by both George Reed and Mike Pringle.

It was supposed to be a running play but quarterback Kevin Glenn had to sidestep a Hamilton tackle causing him to pitch the ball forward.

The Bombers went on to win the game. Stegall ended his career with 144 career touchdowns.

Also notable is the fact that Stegall achieved this record at home. Looking back at past Bomber record-breaking moments a vast majority appear to have happened on the road !


Stegall sets Touchdown Record CBC News
Individual Records – Touchdowns CFL.ca
Milt Stegall - Career Stats CFL.ca

Friday, 26 August 2011

Looking back at downtown buildings

For those that don't get over to my Winnipeg Downtown Places blog often, I've been clearing out a lot of draft posts that have been hanging around behind the scenes.

Convocation Hall

Two building histories are of U of W restoration projects that often get forgotten with all the shiny new buildings opened of late. The stately
Wesley Hall and the Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film, which is the former Salvation Army Citadel on Colony Street.

In the Exchange District I take a look at the
Fairchild Building, now home to Fairchild Lofts and the Campbell Brothers and Wilson Building, now home to Penthouse Condominiums.

Old Signs

Crossing to the east side of Main Street there's
110 James Street, most notable for the fading Philco Radio, Refrigerators and Televisions sign painted on the side.

I am working on a new map for the projects. So some day they'll all be plotted in one place.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Happy birthday to TV host and former UMSU president Monty Hall !

Monte Halparin, ca. 1940s and Monty Hall, ca. 1990s.

On August 25, 1921 game show host and television producer Maurice 'Monte' R. Halparin, known to most as Monty Hall, was born in Winnipeg to Rose Rusin and Maurice Halparin.

The Halparins both came to Winnipeg from Russia as young children. Rose was a writer, singer, dancer and teacher. Maurice Sr. was a bookkeeper and entrepreneur, selling meat from a wagon until he could open a small butcher shop in back of a north end delicatessen. Monty's first job was making deliveries for the shop. (In the late 1920s and early 1930s there were four Halparins listed as butchers, so it must have been the family business !)

In 1931 Maurice Sr. opened a meat shop of his own at 1474 Main Street. Soon after, the family, which included sons Monte and Robert, were living at apartment 10B-191 Cathedral Avenue, where they would remain through the 1940s. 

In a 1983 interview with the Canadian Jewish News, Robert recalled that his parents, both cultured people, resented having to work in the butcher shop, but the economic realities of the Depression kept them there.  They made up for it by creating "the fanciest kosher butcher shop in town", wearing their best clothes and keeping the store immaculately clean.

The Manitoban, January 10, 1944

Monty attended St. John's High School and became active in local theatre. He saved up to  attend U of M with the hopes of becoming a doctor, but had to drop out in the first year due to a lack of money. 

When Max Freed, owner of the clothing store next to Halparin’s butcher shop, learned of this, he offered to fund Hall’s education on four conditions: that he kept good grades; that he paid it all back; that he would do the same for someone else one day; and that Freed’s name remained anonymous. (Hall says the latter was the only condition he did not meet as he 'outed' the late Max Freed in his autobiography.)

Back at university, Monty enrolled in the faculty of science He has said in later interviews that his dreams of medical school were dashed because the school's quota of the number of Jewish medical students had already been reached. He chose instead to major in chemistry. 

Monty became active in the Dramatic Society and a popular emcee and singer at campus musicals, dinners and other events. In 1943 he was Senior Stick for the science faculty and president of the Booster Club. The following year parlayed his popularity into victory as UMSU president.

U of M Broadway campus, top, ca. 1954 (Source)
It was a time when important decisions had to be made about the future development of the U of M, much of it land locked in ageing facilities at its campus across from the Legislature. Plans were being developed that would see the old campus abandoned and, over the course of a couple of decades, the remaining faculties relocated to the Fort Garry Campus, home of the Agricultural College. 

Monty agreed with the need for modern facilities, especially laboratories and research space, but did not feel that the Fort Garry site was the best site: “I urgently petition the heads of this institution to give some thoughts towards the election of a completely modern university in the heart of Winnipeg". (Of course, a couple of decades later the U of M’s United College on Portage Avenue would become the independent University of Winnipeg.)

Other items on his agenda was to get student representation on university bodies such as the Senate and to open up the university to the community at large. For the first university open house under his tenure, a day usually reserved for potential students and their parents, he challenged each of them, as well as the current student body, to bring two non-students with them to show them the campus.

CKRC's Monte Halparin !

Monty's talent as an entertainer made him increasingly popular off campus as well. He worked part-time as a CKRC radio host and emceed many charity and troop shows around Manitoba during and after the war. He also produced, acted and sang in local radio and theatre productions.

When he graduated in 1946 with a BSc in Chemistry and Zoology, Monty began working at the Canadian Wheat Board, but knew that entertainment was meant to be his full time career.

Later that year he was off to Toronto to work for CHUM as a host and manager. When he arrived, it was suggested that he simplify his last name, so he chose Hall. His first name 'Monte' became 'Monty' due to a typographical error on the station's promotional material.

In 1949 he began hosting a radio show called 'Who Am I', which ran until 1959 and could be heard locally on CKRC. His radio work led to television projects on the CBC. First was on a three week summer replacement show called 'Floor Show', which featured Canadian bands in a night club-like setting. His first reguaalr hosting gig was on the 1953-54 show Matinee Party, similar to Floor Show, and filmed at Toronto's Eaton's Auditorium.

Winnipeg Free Press, August 21, 1959

Halparin disappeared from the CBC lineup in 1955. In 1959, while back in Winnipeg with his wife and children visiting family, he told Gene Telpner of the Winnipeg Free Press that he was forced to leave Canada when the CBC pulled him from their lineup and offered him no more work. He said that no explanation was given, so he went to New York.
"When the CBC cuts you off, you can't just walk across the street because there is nothing across the street."

So, in the summer of 1955 the Halls moved to New York City, though Monty would continue to commute to Toronto to do the weekly 'Who Am I' until 1959. Within a couple of years, he was making a name for himself as a popular live-event emcee, had a TV news show called 'Byline, Monty Hall' and was featured on numerous quiz shows. 

He created a production company with the hopes of becoming the behind the scenes talent, but the hosting duties kept on coming. From 1960 - 1962 he got one of his first 'lead host' roles in the CBS game show Video Village.

 ca 1974 Winnipeg Free Press ad

The following year, Let's Make a Deal, which Hall co-created, hosted and produced, hit NBC's daytime lineup. Though critics panned the quirky show, they warmed to Hall. In the late 1960s there was speculation in Hollywood that he could get a late night talk show gig to compete with the likes of Johnny Carson.

Though he was always looking for other projects as a producer, he ended up staying on as host of various incarnations of Let's Make a Deal until 1991 - a whopping 4,700 episodes.

Mayor Steven Juba, Monty Hall and Bobby Hull in 1974. (Source)

Hall returned to Winnipeg often to visit family and friends. (In this recent Free Press article he says that he made annual visits.)

In 1974 he made an 'official visit' for the city's centennial year. One of the many events he participated in was as host of the opening concert of the 4th annual Folklorama festival. At a luncheon he received a medal from Mayor Steven Juba on behalf of all Winnipeggers for his community service work. In his acceptance speech he spoke of the immigrants of the North End:

"They came here to build the street railways and the roads ... to develop Winnipeg and make it grow ... to make a contribution to the future. And now one immigrant son is presenting the city's highest award to another immigrant son. I think my wife and family now really understand what Winnipeg means to me."
(Winnipeg Free Press, August 14, 1974)

His last visit was in 2010 to host the 100th anniversary gala of St. John's High School.

Aside from his television work, Hall is also credited with raising over $800m for Variety Clubs, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and other charities. (His brother Robert, who also changed his last name to Hall, became a lawyer in Toronto and in the 1980s was the international chairman of Variety Clubs International.) 

Monty Hall has received an honourary doctorate from the U of M (1987), the Order of Canada (1988); and the the Order of Manitoba (2003). He also has a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Let's Make a Deal official site
Monty Hall Called wdvalgardsonkaffihus.com Blog
How Monty Hall made a deal with fame Toronto Star
Monty Hall University of Manitoba
Monte hall's Best Deal Jewish Journal
Halls always make a good deal Canadian Jewish News (April 7, 1983)

Video Interviews:
CBC TV's "Telescope" (1970)
Archive of American Television
Vision TV's Unscripted

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Brandon's pedestrian mall experiment

Brandon, Manitoba

Last week Brandon began a month long experiment with a summer pedestrian mall in the heart of their downtown.

Those of you who have followed this blog since the early days know that I have a past history with Brandon and a soft spot for its downtown. Despite the fact that most Brandonites have a major hate-on for their city centre, which includes any projects aimed at improving it, there have been a lot of interesting things happening there of late.

The pedestrian portion itself is on Rosser Avenue from 9th Street to 10th Street. Traffic flow has been changed on the two streets to accommodate the new arrangement. From Princess to Pacific both are now one-way traffic with angle parking reintroduced.

city's website details the street changes (and provides a truly horrible, illegible map). The Rosser closure ends after a street party on September 18th but the changes to 9th and 10th remain in place.

Brandon, Manitoba

Though the downtown isn't "there" yet as destination, it has certainly overcome the tide of indifference, neglect and demolition that it faced for decades. They still have a decent inventory of interesting buildings. Many that sat underutilized or abandoned are now in the process of being renovated with housing as a big component. (Heck, they've even got free downtown wi fi !)

Introducing one way streets may be counter intuitive to creating a more walkable downtown (as Grant points out) but I get their desire to jam as much additional parking adjacent to the pedestrian mall as they can, at least at the start. Convincing most Brandonites that they can come downtown and walk around is an unenviable task and doing it with less parking, or the perception that there might be less parking, would be putting holes to your hull.

Former Government Telephones Building, Brandon
Brandon General Museum

If you're whizzing by Brandon on the Trans Canada this summer, take time to stop in and check it out. Other spots of note downtown is the historic train station that is being renovated, their new civic museum and impressive Kristopher Campbell Skateboard Park.
Not in the downtown but a definite must-see is the former Brandon Mental Health Centre site, now partly home to Assiniboine Community College.


eBrandon discussion on downtown
Wrong Direction for downtown streets Brandon Sun blog
Downtown visitors welcome changes on Rosser Brandon Sun
Renaissance Brandon website

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Jack's Battle

Image: Reuters

Like most Canadians I was saddened to hear of the death of Jack Layton.

It took me some time to warm to him but election after election i got to 'know' him better and liked the man and the politician. Given that he returned after each election with a larger caucus, obviously Canadians felt the same.

Jack's last couple of years also had a personal connection for me as his condition mirrored my fathers. Not long before Jack was diagnosed with his first bout of cancer, so was my father. He, too, beat the disease only to have it come back soon after and kill him.

Top image: Canadian Press

In my 2011 campaign wrap-up post I gave a kudos to Jack. Some openly questioned whether he had a campaign fight in him, as if being a cancer survivor and walking with a cane meant that he had to hang up his goals and sit in a care home somewhere.

Instead, he wielded that cane a la Freddy Mercury's mic stand and pulled off an unprecedented victory for his party. To boot, he was the only oppo party leader to even make it back into the House with a seat !

Sadly, when his cancer returned Jack had no more victories in him.
Canada is a poorer place today.

My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Winnipeg's streetcar heritage showing through

If you've been around Osborne and Broadway lately you might have noticed something odd. These are streetcar tracks, some from the cars that ran down the centre of Broadway. They've been uncovered during road resurfacing and will be surfaced over again.




In this photo you can see the original paving stones.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

John A. McDonald dies in Brandon

Brandon's John A. McDonald

December 5, 1945. Winnipeg Evening Tribune.

No, not former Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, but John A. McDonald the long-time Brandon merchant ! He died in Brandon on December 2, 1945 at the age of 81.

While skimming back through McDonald's history looking for a photo to use I came across a cast of characters and businesses that help tell the story of early Brandon.
Here's what I found.

Rosser Avenue ca. 1890 (MHS). See McKee for 1882, 1883 images.

McDonald left his home in Lucknow, Ontario for Manitoba in 1882, eventually settling in the newly incorporated city of Brandon. 

April 15, 1884. Brandon Daily Sun

McDonald's first job was as bookkeeper for the firm of Whitehead and Whitelaw on Rosser Ave., one of Brandon's original businesses.

Thomas Whitehead, who the Brandon Weekly Sun
(July 8, 1886) referred to as “one of the most popular men in the city”, retired back to Ontario in 1886 after nearly four years in Brandon. He sold his share in the company to Mr. Storme, a Portage la Prairie merchant, and the company carried on as Storme and Whitelaw until 1890 when the partnership was dissolved. 

Dr. Fleming (Source)

After Whitelaw's, McDonald went to work for another pioneer, Dr. Alexander Fleming. The Scottish doctor, trained at Glasgow and Harvard, came to Canada and settled first in New Brunswick where he practiced medicine for ten years. In 1867 he married Louisa Biden with whom he had ten children.

In 1881 the Flemings moved Brandon (which must have been quite the trek with ten kids in tow !) and he became the region's first doctor and opened its first pharmacy on Rosser Avenue. That same year he became the first secretary treasurer of the school board and before long was president of the
Manitoba and North West Farmers Co-operative and a member of city council. 

November 27, 1897. Manitoba Free Press

The province was stunned when Fleming died at his Louise Avenue home on the night of  November 26, 1897 from an apparent heart attack. He was only 56 and thought to be in excellent health. Earlier that day he showed no sign of any ill health, having performed surgery and attended an evening church meeting.

Medicine in Manitoba: The story of its beginnings a colleague said of Fleming: "...he did things regardless of hardship. He was practically worshiped by the country people and attempted the most surgery at that time. He was certainly a fellow who was always on duty.” 

Brandon City Guide 1883

Fleming's son John William Fleming was a trained pharmacist who worked with his father for many years and he took over Fleming's Drug Store, (also called Fleming and Sons.) J.W. went on to be mayor of Brandon six times between 1902 and 1911. 

Source: Brandon Daily Sun 

The McDonald family, there were at least two sons and four daughters, settled into their home at 318 11th Street and John A. decided that it was time to get into business for himself. In 1896 he joined with Frank Calvert to create McDonald and Calvert, a men's clothing store, at 341 Rosser at 9th Street. 

McDonald and Calvert on right (McKee Archives)
As the community boomed, so did the business. Thanks to its success the intersection of Rosser and 9th became very desirable, considered the heart of the city's downtown retail district. 

August 1, 1911 (Brandon Daily Sun

On August 1, 1911 it was revealed that the partnership was over; McDonald had been bought out by Calvert. The store closed for renovations and was to reopen on August 5 named simply Frank Calvert's.
August 9, 1911 (Brandon Daily Sun)

A little over a week later the tables turned. After some reflection McDonald realized that he had made a huge mistake by selling out and went back to Calvert offering to buy the business back off of him. Calvert agreed and in late August John A. McDonald, Outfitter to Men and Boys, opened to the public. 

Ad circa 1916

A few months later McDonald took another page out of Frank Calvert's book and got into municipal politics.

In April 1911 Calvert ran and won a city council by-election for Ward 2 but he did not run again in December 1911, (civic elections were held annually back then). John A. McDonald ran for Calvert's old seat and became the new alderman for Ward 2. In just his second year on council, McDonald was chair of the influential finance committee. 

December 8, 1914. Brandon Daily Sun.

In 1914 Mayor Hughes decided not to run again due to poor health. McDonald risked his council seat to run for the top job. There was just one other candidate in the race, fellow small businessman Harry Cater, owner of Brandon Pump and Windmill Works. 

December 8, 1914. Brandon Daily Sun.

Cater was a formidable foe. He ran and lost the previous mayoral race, in part because the Brandon Daily Sun did not support him. Cater spent the year honing his 'man of the people' persona and in 1914 was the Sun's darling candidate. The paper gushed over him while at times openly ridiculed the pro-business platform put forth by McDonald.

Cater beat McDonald and served as Brandon's mayor for 18 of the next 20 years. McDonald, it seems, never tried his hand at politics again.  

Circa 1945 

McDonald's clothing store was doing well. By 1919 the store had expanded to include 837 – 841 Rosser Avenue. Son Angus K. McDonald joined his father in the business and by 1921 the store was renamed John McDonald and Son.

On December 2, 1945 at the age of 81
John A. McDonald died at his home and is buried in Brandon Cemetery.

In 1958 Angus and his wife Hazel retired to a home at 3265 Rosser Avenue. That same year the store, now managed by S. I. Segal, was renovated and expanded so that it could sell women's wear for the first time in its 62 year history.

In 1960 the store was bought by Winnipeg retailer Alex Mitchell and was rechristened Dayton Outfitters. After 64 years the McDonald name disappeared from Rosser Avenue.

This post is copyright Christian Cassidy and may not be reproduced in whole or part without permission of the author.