Friday, 9 November 2018

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: William E. Mulhearn of Winnipeg

© 2018, Christian Cassidy

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will remember some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts follow this link.

Top: Perspectives on the Front
Bottom: Attestation Papers

William Edward Mulhearn was a steamfitter by trade. In 1911, he, wife Elsie, and their three young sons, William (b 1904), Eric (b 1906) and Reginald (b 1909), left their native Cheltenham, England and settled in Winnipeg's West End. Here, they had two more children, Violet (b 1911) and Isabel (b 1914).

The family first appears in the Winnipeg Henderson Directory of 1912 as homeowners at 407 Victor Street. Edward is listed as a plate fitter the C. P. R. at the Weston Shops. In 1914, they moved to 465 Lipton Street and in 1915 to 472 Lipton Street.

During this time, Mulhearn's brother, Albert S., also lived with them. He was at first a truck mechanic at the CNR shops and would go on to have a forty year career with that railway.

The Mulhearns in 1916
Nov. 22, 1917, Winnipeg Tribune

William Mulhearn spent ten years with the 1st Gloucestershire Royal Engineers (Volunteers) in his home country and during the First World War enlisted in with the Canadian Engineers on March 6, 1916. He arrived in England on May 29, 1916 aboard the R M S Baltic and was transferred to the 4th Division of the Canadian Engineers as a Sapper. They left for France on August 12, 1916.

On November 30, 1916, Mulhearn was "slightly wounded" and spent a day in hospital before returning to duty. In August 1917, he came down with trench fever and was again hospitalized.

By October 1917, Mulhearn was with the 10th Field Company - Canadian Engineers near Passchendaele, Belgium reinforcing a wall when a shell landed nearby. It killed Mulhearn and Sapper T. V. G. Smith, a Royal Bank clerk from Vancouver. (For background on what Mulhearn's unit was doing there, see: William Mulhearn of Winnipeg - Perspectives on the Front.)

William Edward Mulhearn is buried at the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery in France and is commemorated on the Cheltenham War Memorial in Cheltenham, England and the Soldiers' Relatives / Next of Kin Monument in Winnipeg.

Mulhearn's will and death pay certificate (Source: military file)

The news was devastating for Elsie who was left widowed with five small children to raise. Even the Winnipeg Tribune took the unusual step of publishing a follow-up photograph of the Mulhearns taken shortly before William left for the war noting her plight. (See above)

In late 1919 or early 1920, the family moved again; this time to 541 Banning Street, (472 Lipton appears to have been a rental property with numerous rooms for rent - a type of move that was common for families before the "man of the house" went off to war.)

January 26, 1921, Winnipeg Tribune

Elsie's pain did not end with the death of her husband.

On January 6, 1919, her son, Eric ("Jack"), died at the age of 12. The cause of death is unclear. A later In Memoriam for Jack noted that he "fell asleep" on that date.

Elsie never remarried and her In Memoriams for both her husband and Jack appeared periodically in newspapers into the 1950s.

Bill Mulhearn (source: U of W Archives)

By the time the family moved to Banning Street, William ("Bill") was old enough to work as a clerk at Atlas Assurance Company, then at the Winnipeg Tribune newspaper. He eventually went on to have a 30-year career with Weston's Bakery.

Bill was best known around town as a percussionist. He played the drums, marimbaphone and xylophone in bands and orchestras from the 1920s into the 1950s such as the Royal Canadian Legion Band, the PPCLI Reserves Band (in which he held the rank Band Sargent Major), and he was member of the fledgling Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

September 30, 1919, Winnipeg Tribune

Bill became involved with the War Widows and Widowed Mothers Association in the early 1920s.

This organization was formed at a meeting at the Odd Fellows Temple in 1919 by a group of women who recognized each other from attending various ceremonies and homecomings. They decided to band together in a formal group to comfort and support each other.

Bill acted as the group's musical director, arranging concerts and other shows to entertain members and to raise funds for the organization.

December 8, 1942, Winnipeg Tribune

Elsie's children were grown by the early 1930s and her name began to appear in articles about the War Widows and Widowed Mothers Association.

In 1933, she was elected its vice-president and helped organize and host events for members, such as picture shows, children's concerts and picnics. The Banning Street home was the site of numerous tea parties and executive meetings.

The group's work became more daunting when a new war began and created a new generation of war widows and widowed mothers. Intermixed with social events were drives for women's clothes and baby supplies. Elsie was elected president in 1942 and spent most of the remainder of the war in that role.

Though the group continued on into the mid-1950s, with Elsie serving at least two terms as president, the War Widows and Widowed Mothers Association's role was not as prominent as it had been after the First World War. There were new organizations that took more of a centre stage.

Elsie, who was also a member of St. Matthews Anglican Church, died at her Banning Street home on September 21, 1963. She was 86 years old.

William Mulhearn of Winnipeg - Perspectives on the Front
Cheltenham Gordon Boys Brigade 1890 - 1925 (pdf - page 17)
Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry
Attestation Papers and Military File

Monday, 5 November 2018

Tragic Endings: WIlly Dear of Selkirk

© 2018, Christian Cassidy

Tragic Endings: After more than a decade of blogging and other historical writing I have come across hundreds of stories about Manitobans whose lives were cut short due to tragedy. If they weren't related to the building or event I was researching, I usually put them aside with the hope of someday going back and finding out more about their story. This series will highlight some of those lives cut short.

Information about the deaths comes mainly from newspaper stories of the day as, in most cases, inquest documents, court transcripts and investigators' notes are no longer available. This means that the information I will provide may include the same gaps in coverage or errors in reporting that originally appeared in the papers.

If you have additional information about any of these stories, feel free to contact me at cassidy-at-mts.net

Wilfred "Willy" Dear of Selkirk, Manitoba

Visiting the St. Matthews Anglican cemetery at Cloverdale in the R. M. of St. Andrews last weekend, I came across grave of Wilfred "Willy" Dear. Festooned with hanging flowers, patio lights, balloons, and even a soundtrack, (play video above), it looked and felt more like the scene of a back yard party.

It turns out that October 31st would have been Willy's birthday and the family had come to celebrate it with him forty-five years after his death.

Born October 31, 1955 at Selkirk to Lorne and Margaret Dear, Willy attended Earl Grey, Mapleton and Selkirk Central Junior High schools in Selkirk.

Soon after turning seventeen, Willy and Richard Jehle (20) rented a house at 307 Main Street, Selkirk, (now demolished). By May 1973, Richard's brother, Randy, also seventeen, was living with them.

May 2, 1973, Selkirk Enterprise

At around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 28, 1973 a fire broke out at the house.

Willy was in the bedroom and the first to notice the fire. He ran to the living room to wake the Jehle brothers. In the rush to get out of the small house, the Jehles made it before a rush of air or suction pulled the door closed behind them. When they opened it to get Willy, they found the room filled with thick smoke and flames and could not enter.

According Swampy Bjornson, Selkirk's fire chief at the time, the house was engulfed in flames when his crews arrived at 6:35 a.m. and it took 45 minutes to get the fire under control.

Willy's body was found later that morning in one of the bedrooms.

A police official at the time said that the cause of the fire was likely smoking in bed.

Willy's father, who also died in a tragic accident, is buried next to him.

Lorne Wilfred Dear's tractor was struck by lightning at his farm at Oak Hammock on October 11, 1984. He died later that day in hospital.

Friday, 2 November 2018

West End's Oddson House to be Demolished?

The West End is about to lose another fine home.

The residence at 448 Sherbrook Street near Ellice was constructed in 1905 for Thorstein Oddson, a developer and real estate agent who had a big impact in the early development of the West End, particularly around the Burnell Street area.

The architect was fellow Icelander Paul Melsted Clemens who designed dozens of buildings, especially apartment blocks, for Oddson and other Icelandic developers in Winnipeg.

In recent weeks the house, which sits on a double lot, has been boarded up.

Before it is likely demolished, here is a look back at the history of Oddson House and some of the people who lived there:

Thorstein Oddson's West End West End Dumplings
448 Sherbrook Street Winnipeg Places
My Flickr Album of 448 Sherbrook

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

A look back at the end of Prohibition

Happy Canadian Pot Legalization Day!

A strong believer that "no news is new news", I wondered if there were any comparisons to a century ago when the prohibition on alcohol ended.

My intention was to write a very detailed post about the fears before legalization and the outcomes afterwards, but I simply did not have the time to dig into it as deeply as I wanted to.

Here are some of the things I discovered while dipping my toe into the debate from 1923 that was eerily similar to that of 2018.

July 17, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

There were four main reasons that the provincial government took the plunge into the liquor business in 1923:

1. Prohibition was voted out in a 1921 province-wide referendum. Looking at its options, the provincial government decided that there was no use putting a new Temperance law in place and fighting the public about it.

2. Provinces such as B.C. and Quebec had already gone down the provincial liquor commission route which gave the Manitoba government other jurisdictions to study and learn from.

3. There was lots of profit and tax dollars to be had if illegal producers and distributors were squeezed out.

4. With government controlled sales and distribution the consumption of alcohol could be 'minimized'. (This was a bone thrown to the Temperance movement which was still very strong and threatening to get a liquor ban put back in place.)

Political debate and letters to the editor brought up scenarios of increased crime from drunkenness, people who used liquor "purely for medicinal purposes" through a prescription from their doctor falling through the cracks, and high government markups not actually curbing the black market.

One thing that is different between the two debates is the strong moral leanings against legalization by the Temperance movement and religious organizations which are a shadow of their former selves in today's society.

Winnipeg's first liquor store on Henry Street
Oct 27, 1923, Winnipeg Free Press

The roll out of legalized liquor sales was slow under head liquor commissioner R. D Waugh.

The lawyer and former mayor of Winnipeg was a well-respected citizen. Even former political foes thought he was a good choice for the job which required creating a vast web of regulations and careful attention to detail.

The first liquor store opened in Winnipeg in October 1923 at 425 Henry Street, which was also the MLLC's alcohol warehouse. (Unfortunately, neither newspaper appears to have written about how the first day of legal alcohol sales went.)

Liquor Price List, Oct. 5, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

The first month of sales by the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, MLCC, both through retail outlets in Winnipeg, Brandon and Portage, and to the many thousands of permit holders across the province, such as bars, was impressive.

From September 22 to October 23, 1923, total sales were $239,000, (about $3.5 million in today's dollars.) This netted the commission an profit of about $41,000, (or $600,000 in today's dollars.)

By 1926, the MLLC's gross profit was about $1.1 million for the year and by 1930 had reached $2 million. Profits took a hit during the Depression and were back down to about $1 million per year by 1935.

December 24, 1925, Winnipeg Tribune

The aftermath of legalization is something I didn't get to study in as much detail as I would have liked. Here, though, are a few things I gleaned from newspaper stories:

As for curbing the black market, its hard to say how that went as there were obviously no figures for how much alcohol was being produced before legal sales began. There certainly were still arrests and prosecutions though there did not seem to be a spike.

The MLCC helped its cause by working with Ottawa to strengthen border controls on liquor coming in from the U.S. and even offering a reward in the mid-1920s for tips about illegal importers. 

The Temperance movement predicted a huge increase in cases of public drunkenness and maintained publicly that is what happened after legalization. The numbers don't appear to support their claim.

One newspaper story quotes a source that said the Winnipeg's police chief told him that there were around 1,935 arrests in 1920 and about the same in 1921. In the first 11 months of 1924, the total was only 1,278. (I haven't verified these numbers.)

Interestingly, the number of doctor's prescriptions for alcohol for medicinal purposes dropped by half as soon as liquor stores opened.

The two big takeaways I found when it comes to the legalization of alcohol:

1. Society didn't grind to a halt.

2. The myriad of laws and regulations put in place didn't cover every conceivable circumstance and, nearly a century later, liquor laws are still being retooled to keep up with the times.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: George Bowie of Winnipeg

© 2018, Christian Cassidy

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts follow this link.

Top: Nov 6, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune.
Bottom: Military file

George Bowie's story is unusual in that he enlisted twice to serve in World War One.

Just 15-years-old when the war began, Bowie had served with the Cameron Highlander cadets as a drummer boy. Drummers were important part of a unit. They not only kept time for marching, but also acted as a messenger, helped with the horses and did other minor jobs for the men.

Drummers often followed their units through basic training and stayed behind when they were shipped out of the province on their journey overseas. This is the case with Bowie.

In some cases, though, they did proceed on to Halifax or to England. Even if their unit did not bring their drummer on to France and the front lines these boys found themselves with military training in a community where recruiters were desperately seeking men. By lying on their attestation papers they could simply sign up with another unit.

It was Canada's way of allowing child soldiers to fight in the war. (See this book and my post about Arthur Taylor, another local child soldier.

Vox Wesleyana, January 1913

George Bowie was born in March 1899 in Nairn, Scotland. His family, which included father, George Sr., mother, Margaret, and at least two siblings, came to Winnipeg and eventually settled at 502 Craig Street. His father ran the Scotch Boot Repair store on Portage Avenue near Colony Street.

At age 16, Bowie got a job as in the shipping department of the Christie Grant mail order house that at the time appears to have operated in part of the Fairchild / John Deere Building at 110 Princess Street.

Bowie first enlisted in December 1915 at age of 16 years and 9 months. He was discharged in mid-April 1916 for being underage.

Ten days later, at the age of 17 years and 1 month, he enlisted in St. Vital, presumably at the U of M, with the 196th Battalion. This was nicknamed the "Western Universities Battalion" as it was made up mostly of students from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. (It does not appear that Bowie was yet attending university.)

Bowie was sent to England in November 1916 and assigned to the Young Soldiers Battalion at Camp Bramshott for training and then to the Cameron Highlanders' 43rd Battalion for active service.

26th General Hospital, (Source: British Red Cross)

On October 1, 1918, Bowie received gunshot wounds to the leg and was brought to the 26th General Hospital in Etaples, France. His leg was amputated but he eventually died of his wounds on November 2, 1918. He was 19-years-old.

Bowie is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery.

Attestation Papers and Military Service File

Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry
Great War Project entry

Monday, 8 October 2018

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Peter Campbell of Selkirk / Winnipeg

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts that will look at 100 Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other soldiers, follow this link.

Peter Allan Campbell was born and raised in Selkirk, Manitoba.

The 1901 census shows the 12-year-old Peter had at least 6 siblings ranging in age from 10 to 25 years of age. His father, also named Peter, was a carpenter by trade. There is no mother listed on the document and it is unclear what happened to her.

The family reminded close-knit. By 1908, they they were all living together in Winnipeg at 95 Inkster Boulevard.

Campbell followed in his father's footsteps as a carpenter and by 1916 was working on a farm in Russell, Manitoba.

Camp Hughes, August 1916 (Source)

It was while at the farm that Campbell chose to go to Camp Hughes and enlist with the 179th Overseas Battalion on June 26, 1916. Later, he would be transferred to the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) .

The Camerons fought at both Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge in 1917.

On October 26, 1917 in the early days of their time at the front lines of Vimy, Campbell was reported “missing after action” and presumed deceased.

On June 15, 1918, the Army Council passed an order that: "...this soldier is to be regarded for official purposes as having died on or since the above date."

Peter Allan Campbell was 29-years-old.

Source: Military File

The body of Private Campbell was eventually discovered and he was buried Poelcapelle British Cemetery in Belgium.

Campbel was single and left his possessions to his sister, Janet, back in Winnipeg in a handwritten will, (see above).


Attestation Papers and Military File
Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Farewell, Mac's Milk

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Osborne Street, 2017 (Google Street View) and Sept. 2018 (source)

Couche Tard's rebranding of its Mac's Convenience Stores over to Circle K appears to have finally arrived in Winnipeg as Erin noticed earlier this week in Osborne Village. With it, another familiar name disappears from the local retail landscape after nearly 50 years.

Top: June 17, 1970, Winnipeg Tribune

Mac’s Milk Stores began with just one shop in Toronto in 1962 and by 1970 had grown to 300 Ontario locations. (It changed its corporate name to Mac’s Convenience Stores in the mid-1970s.)

Mac’s entered the Winnipeg market in 1970 by taking over the 13-location Kwik Shop chain created by Jim Penner in the late 1960s. The stores were rebranded and a grand reopening sale celebrating the "marriage" of mascot MacTavish the Cat to a Kwik Shop cat began on June 17, 1970.

The retailer, by this time owned by Ontario dairy company Silverwood Industries, had been contemplating a national expansion for some time and chose Winnipeg as its first target outside of Ontario in order to head off the arrival of 7-Eleven in Western Canada.

The Texas-based 7-Eleven had over 3,000 stores in the U.S. and opened its first Winnipeg location in 1969 at the Westdale Shopping Centre on Roblin Boulevard in Charleswood. Unlike Mac's, 7-Eleven had their stores custom-built with large parking areas so it took longer for it to grow a large presence in the city.

A Winnipeg Mac's store in June 1970

Mac's strength was in its hours: open 9 am to 11 pm, 365 days a week. It carried a wide variety of products but its staples were milk and bread and it even had its own Mac's line of phosphate-free laundry detergent and dish soap.  

The first thirteen stores were corporate owned and overseen by regional manager Ray Pylypiw at Mac's regional headquarters on Barry Street. The plan was to sell another ten as franchises by the end of the year.

Mac's predicted it would have 80 locations in the city by the end of the decade but appears to have peaked in the early 1980s with nearly 30 stores which is about the number 7-Eleven had at the time. By 2000, there were 26 Mac's stores in the city.

A sad fact about the proliferation of late night convenience stores is that they were a target for armed robbers.

In December 1985, Mac's employee Raj Bahri was stabbed to death during a robbery at the Burrows and Keewatin store. The 33 year-old, who left a widow, a two-year-old and a two-week-old child, was relieving his brother early so that he could go to the Mac's corporate Christmas party.

Mac's in 1970 (source), ca. 1980s and 90s, after 2003

In 1999, Alimentation Couche-Tard of Quebec purchased the Mac's chain and replaced MacTavish the cat with their own Hibou, the couche-tard (night owl). Four years later, it acquired the Circle K chain and in 2015 announced that it would begin rebranding its growing collection of retail chains located outside of Quebec under the Circle K banner.