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Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Farewell, Telesky Taxidermist

©2020, Christian Cassidy

A long-time name disappeared from the West End's streetscape when the Telesky Taxidermist sign came down in late 2020. The business had called 545 Arlington Street home since 1969, though its roots in the neighbourhood go back further.

Sadly, it was a victim of the U.S. border closure and other tourism industry restrictions imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here's a look back at the history of one of the West End's oldest businesses.

Ron Telesky, undated. (Courtesy: Telesky Taxidermist)

Ronald D. “Ron” Telesky was a Winnipeg Hydro employee and hobby taxidermist who lived with his family at 198 Lipton Street through the 1960s. He opened his first shop in 1966 at 1291 Strathcona Street at Wellington Avenue. John Cherepak, gunsmith, shared the space in its earliest years.  

This was one of three taxidermy shops listed in the street directory that year. The others were Ken Hawkins Taxidermist and Supplies at 1790 Main Street and North American Taxidermists at 1463 Main Street.

At the time, hunting and sport fishing were still a key part of the fabric of Manitoba life. Both daily newspapers had extensive “outdoorsman” sections and columnists such as Stan Bentham of the Winnipeg Free Press and Kit Kitney of the Winnipeg Tribune kept readers informed of the goings on in the industry and the exploits of successful hunters and sport fishers.

Telesky soon needed a larger space and moved to 545 Arlington Street in 1969. His zoning hearing to open the shop and erect a 6 foot by 4 foot illuminated sign over the pavement was heard on October 14, 1969.

The building dates back to 1912 and had been home to a number of short-lived grocery stores before S. H. McLean and Son sheet metal took over in the 1930s. (You can read more about the back history of the building here.)

Telesky at a trade show, undated. (Courtesy: Telesky Taxidermist)

By 1976, Telesky had a staff of eleven who did much of the taxidermy work while his job was more supervisory and handling the paperwork and publicity, including manning booths at numerous trade shows throughout the year. He did admit to a reporter that he still painted the odd fish because it was his favourite thing to do. At the time, the shop mounted around 800 - 1000 fish and produced 600 to 900 skin rugs a year.

Telesky also gave back to the industry by donating prizes to countless raffles, fishing derbies and other sports events. He was also involved on the executives of many industry organizations, including the Manitoba Big Game Association and Manitoba Wildlife Federation.

Through the 1980s and 90s Telesky had a second building, a supplies division, at 868 Arlington Street.

Jim and David Baxter (Courtesy: Telesky Taxidermist)

Ron Telesky died in 1999 and the business was purchased by long-time employee Jim Baxter who tweaked its name from Ron Telesky Taxidermy to Telesky Taxidermist Ltd. Baxter became interested in taxidermy at the age of fourteen and six years later began his career with Hawkins Taxidermists (which closed in 2008.) 

Baxter told Lindor Reynolds in 2010 that earlier in his career he worked on an elk head that was gifted to Prince Phillip and at the time of the interview they were stuffing a walrus destined for a museum in Poland. He noted that due to the rising popularity of 'catch and release' fishing the shop only mounted around 300 fish a year.

Jim Baxter coaxed his brother, David, to join him at Telesky. David was also a taxidermist at Hawkins, though at the time Jim took over the business was working for the railway. He came on board and in 2012 took over the shop from his brother.

Ron Telesky at his shop, Nov. 22, 1975, Winnipeg Tribune

David Baxter admits that the volume of work the shop received has declined in recent years.

The continued popularity of catch and release fishing, for instance, brought that 'fish per year' number down to about 100.

There are also many more regulations in place as to what can be harvested and what can be shipped across borders back to international hunters. This meant a lot of research and paperwork had to be done before the company could even start work on an animal. (On a recent visit to the shop, Baxter showed me a squirrel that was mounted 30 years ago as a bit of a joke. The customer who wanted to take it off his hands when the shop closed had to apply for a wildlife permit before they could bring it home.)

From: www.teleskytaxidermy.com (accessed Dec. 12, 2020)

Baxter's plan was to eventually sell the business and retire, but the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to that. Travel restrictions, particularly on American hunters, have decimated every level of the hunting and sport fishing industry, from guides and outfitters to lodges and even taxidermists. He says,"when they closed the borders, they might as well have said goodbye to the tourism industry."

When it became clear that the restrictions and border closures were going to be in place for the longer term, Baxter made the difficult decision to cut his losses and close the shop. It stopped taking new commissions as of July 1, 2020 and is now shipping those last pieces and selling off the various mounts and skins left over after more than 50 years in business.

Thanks to David Baxter for providing me with a tour and showing some old images related to the business.

545 Arlington Street Winnipeg Places
My photo album of 545 Arlington Street, including recent tour photos !

Ron Telesky obituary

December 23, 1967, Winnipeg Free Press

November 22, 1975, Winnipeg Tribune

February 28, 1976, Winnipeg Free Press

Telesky trade show booth, undated. (Courtesy Telesky Taxidermist)

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Winnipeg's Great Butter Heist of 1948

©2021, Christian Cassidy

On the night of Monday, February 23rd, 1948, robbers broke into the Standard Dairies plant at 121 Salter Street at Flora Avenue by snapping the padlock off the shipping room door. They approached the safe, broke the dial off, and attempted to punch out the tumbler mechanism. When that didn’t work they set their sights on another valuable, though bulkier, plan B.

Standard Dairies produced milk, cream and butter at this factory. The enterprising thieves stole 931 pounds of butter, most wrapped in one-pound packages. They left behind another 4,000 pounds in the freezer room.

It may seem an odd commodity to steal, but butter was strictly rationed during the war which created grey and black markets. As the post-war supply chain was still sorting itself out the price of the staple remained high at about 70 cents per pound wholesale. This made it a target for theft across the country. (Around the same time there was a heist of $3,400 worth of butter in Montreal.)

February 24, 1948, Winnipeg Tribune

The dairy's night delivery man arrived at the building around midnight to find the broken lock and contacted police. They had little to go on as there were no witnesses -  a vehicle coming and going from a commercial dairy was so commonplace that nobody paid attention. A heavy snowfall that evening covered up tire tracks that may have yielded a clue as to what type of vehicle it was. 

It seems the thieves had given police the slip (!) until an apparent Good Samaritan named John Buketa contacted the dairy looking for a reward.

713 McPhillips as it appeared in 2007 (Google Street View)

John Buketa worked for the family business, Buketa's Snack Bar at 713 McPhillips Street, along with his parents, Leon and Mary, who opened the store in the 1920s. They all lived in the residence at the back.

The family was known to police. 

In February 1937, John and his father were arrested as part of "a gang of alleged shopbreakers" that hit several businesses across the city. Stolen merchandise such as cigarettes were sold at the Buketa's store. (The pair went on trial in March for receiving stolen goods, though papers don't seem to have reported on the outcome.)

In August 1941, John Buketa was fined $100 and lost his driving license for the remainder of the year after the hit and run of a 14-year-old boy on his bicycle. Leon was charged and fined in October 1941 for selling liquor illegally.

February 27, 1948, Winnipeg Free Press

Three days after the robbery, Buketa contacted the dairy asking if there was a reward for the person who found the butter. The dairy notified the police and the McPhillips Street store was raided later that day. They found 615 pounds of butter, retail value of around $650, stashed in a shed attached to the residence. It was still in the Standard Dairies packaging.

The story Buketa gave the police was that he was walking his dog along McPhillips Street the night of the robbery when he noticed two men get out of a van and unload something behind a woodpile near Jarvis Street. He waited until they were finished then went to check it out and found the butter. He went back home to get a toboggan and brought the stash home.

As for the three day delay, Buketa said he wasn't sure if he should call the police and eventually decided to ask the dairy if it was offering a reward.

The police were having none of it and arrested him.

March 16, 1948, Winnipeg Tribune

Buketa appeared in police court the next day and was remanded until his trial the following month. No charge was formally laid against him. Police had him on possession of stolen goods, but their investigation continued into whether or not he was one of the robbers.

The butter theft trail took place on March 16, 1948 in front of Magistrate M. H. Garton. Buketa, who was charged with receiving stolen goods, decided to represent himself.

Buketa stuck to his original story about finding the butter behind a woodpile. Detectives who examined the woodpile said there was no evidence - tire tracks, footprints, etc. - to suggest that the area around the woodpile had been accessed recently.

Buketa told the court, "The next day I read in the papers that the Standard Dairy had been broken into and 940 pounds of butter stolen. I didn't know whether to turn in the butter to the police or not. I though the dairy might offer a reward for it."

Magistrate Garton was unsympathetic and at the end of the trail said to Buketa, "This is the same old story. If there were no receivers there would be no thieves. Receiving is considered a more heinous offence than stealing. I sentence you to six months hard labour."

October 22, 1988, Winnipeg Free Press

After jail, Buketa went back to work at the family store and did not make the local newspapers again. Mary died at the residence in February 1961 and Leon died there in May 1962.  John then sold the business and the building became home to McPhillips Heating and Appliance.

The 1965 street directory, the last one that is available online, shows John Buketa living on Pritchard Avenue and a "student", presumably an apprentice, at Lansdowne Service Station at 1345 McPhillips. He eventually moved to Alberta and after his death in 1922 the Public Trustee of Alberta placed ads in the Winnipeg Free Press looking for next of kin.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Winnipeg's progressive theatre company of the 1930s and 40s.

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

October 1, 1936, Winnipeg Free Press

The Winnipeg New Theatre company existed from 1936 to circa 1942. Its roots were in the left-wing Workers Theatre Movement that began in Europe soon after the First World War and spread to North America and throughout the British Empire. It brought blunt and plainspoken calls for social justice and an anti-war message to mainstream Winnipeg theatregoers.

The company was organized after members of the city's Progressive Arts Club decided to put on Irwin Shaw’s new anti-war play, Bury the Dead. Members realized they were too small to mount such a production on their own, so they called on others in the arts community to help. The result was a new organization called the New Theatre created in August 1936. It was made up mostly of performers in their late teens and early 20s and its purpose was “the production of modern plays dealing with vital, present day problems."

Bury the Dead was staged for a week in October 1936 at the Orpheum Theatre. Directed by Charles "Christy" Dunbar, it featured a large cast made up of George Werier, Alex Nelson, Sydney Cohen, Alfred Richmond, Max Goody, Max Litvok, Gable Charach, Daver Robertson, Edward Parker, Bernard Dubovski, Nick Elendik, Abe Padolsky, Jack Bristow, Earl Levin, Max Jenning and Norval Gray.

Frank Morriss, the Free Press' entertainment critic, noted "...the bitter nature of the play attract(ed) a mixed reception from a fairly large audience." Despite some lighting issues and rough spots in dialogue, he said the cast "performed valiantly and well .... there was a passionate sincerity to their work and much of it was striking". The blunt language of the play, he warned, was more than likely to shock many theatregoers, but he concluded that "Bury the Dead is well worth the attention of thinking citizens."

Alfred McGinley, the Tribune's entertainment editor, also recommended it. He called it a difficult play and congratulated the players for "giving an earnest, sincere performance."

January 15, 1937, Winnipeg Tribune

Satisfied with the outcome of Bury The Dead, the company soon announced its next play would be We the People by playwright Elmer Wright with performance dates to be confirmed. As they were working on rehearsals a strange controversy came up.

The company was accused of being "communistic" by school trustee William Scraba. It started out as a wider rant at a school board meeting alleging communist activities were taking place inside St. John's High School. When asked to clarify his statement, one example he cited was an editorial by the principal in an edition of the Student Review urging students to take note of the New Theatre and its work.

There were, of course, communist and socialist roots in the New Theatre Movement in general, including Winnipeg's New Theatre and its predecessor, the Progressive Arts Club. One of its founding members, and at times a director and president of the board, was Joe Zuken who was a member of the Communist Party and served on Winnipeg’s city council under the Communist banner from 1962 to 1983.

Some came to the defence of the New Theatre in letters to the editor by accusing Scraba of seeing the Communist 'bogeyman' wherever he looked and pointing out that the theme of their first play was staunchly anti-war, which made some people uncomfortable but was not “communist.”

January 23, 1937, Winnipeg Tribune

The New Theatre does not appear to have mounted any public comeback at Scraba and his complaint and it surprisingly ended up in the ouster of New Theatre director Charles Dunbar at a January meeting of their board. The vote was 24 to 4. Given the makeup of the company and the fact that progressives were always going to make up their core audience, it makes me think that there may have been more than Scraba's complaint at play - they were obviously quite happy to jettison Dunbar.

The plan to stage We the People went with Dunbar. The company instead chose It Can't Happen Here, a dramatization of Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel of the same name, at the Walker Theatre from May 20 - 22, 1937. It too, received generally good reviews.

With that, the curtain came down on the New Theatre's inaugural season.

February 3, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune

The 1937 - 38 season began with a double-bill of plays in December 1937 directed by Joe Zuken: Sit Down by William B. Titus, and Waiting at Madrid by John Loftus.

The New Theatre also entered Waiting at Madrid in the annual Dominion Drama Festival - Manitoba Region which took place each February or March. It was the gateway to the Dominion Drama Festival later in the spring.

The festival version of the play was also directed by Zuken and starred Fred Novalansky, Arthur Cooper, Gordon Burwash, George Werier and Ruth Popeski. It didn't win any awards and the national judge, while he commended some of the acting, found fault with the direction and lighting.

Still, the play won accolades from some corners. Alfred McGinley, the Tribune's entertainment editor,  wrote that the company "showed progress with Waiting at Madrid. Not the best choice of play, but remarkably well done, the talented players won many friends by their work."

The company finished their season with Ernst Toller's No More Peace at the Orpheum Theatre in May 1938.

March 2, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune

After another winter season, the New Theatre entered the following year's drama festival with Rehearsal by Albert Maltz. It was described by one reviewer as "An unusual labour play boasting such bourgeois qualities as love interest and humour". It was directed by Mercer McLeod and performed at the Walker Theatre on March 4, 1939.

The performance was well received and Rehearsal ended up winning best play. Gordon Burwash and Frances Goffman won best actor and actress, respectively.

Frank Morriss of the Free Press wrote, "The drama festival went along politely and amiably at the Walker Theatre last weekend - that is, it did until the Winnipeg New Theatre launched a dramatic bombshell straight into the lap of an unsuspecting audience." He described the play as a cry for social justice and concluded that "...the Winnipeg amateur stage has not experienced in recent memory a more spin-tingling 30 minutes of theatre."

The New Theatre went on to the Dominion Drama Festival finals in London, Ontario in May 1939 and Rehearsal was the runner-up best English language play.

Soon after their return from London, the Tribune carried a feature about the company noting that less than three years earlier its first play attracted about 50 people, mostly United College Students, and now it was the toast of the town with "several hundred" subscribers.

February 3, 1940, Winnipeg Tribune

The New Theatre did not mount a large-scale production for the remainder of 1939, instead its members concentrated on drama classes, small dramatic revues, and readings at their studio.

In October 1939, the company hired its first full-time artistic director. Max Glandbard was from Philadelphia and according to Joe Zuken's autobiography he hitchhiked to Winnipeg to take the $15 a week position. In November, members cut the ribbon on a new studio space in the Duffin Block, (before the 1956 fire that reduced it to a single storey).

With a new director and new studio, the company began working on their next feature: Volpone by Ben Jonson. The play dates back to 1605, so Glandbard took on double duties of directing and modernizing the language. The three-hour play with two ten minute intermissions was staged at the Winnipeg Auditorium on February 2 and 3, 1940. Amongst the cast was Joe Zuken in the eponymous role.

The play was well received. Frank Morriss of the Free Press wrote: "The production had a glitter, bite and a very real understanding of the robust treatment that Jonson's loveless comedy needs."

The 1939 - 40 season ended in May 1940 with a triple bill of one act plays at the Playhouse: Informer by Bertold Brecht, Lo, the People by James Macauley, and Plant the Sun by Ben Bengal. This would be director Glandbard's farewell performance.

Joe Zuken, president of the New Theatre, announced at the company's year-end meeting that the season had been its most successful and it was able to pay all of its bills. This was in large part due to the decision to host classes and smaller events at their studio which earned the money to offset the cost of full-scale productions.

Max Glandbard, left, and Robert Orchard

The 1940 - 41 season brought a new director named Robert Orchard. The company continued to concentrate on revues, lectures and classes. One of their major productions, a January 1941 musical comedy revue at the Dominion Theatre called Off the Record, was panned by critics from both newspapers.

Ed Parker of the Tribune, who had a hand in forming the company, wrote in a January 1941 column that, "the Winnipeg New Theatre has changed character to such an extent that has become a sort of adult educational and entertainment centre lacking the quality of a small but concentrated acting unit". He went on to note that many of the actors who were involved in Rehearsal had drifted away from the company and advised that to get back to being a meaningful presence in the city's dramatic community it needed "nothing short of a total reorganization."

The new Theatre's next play in April 1941 was The Six Men of Dorset, which included Roland Penner in the cast. Parker called Penner's work outstanding and wrote that the labour-themed play "was going back to the original social protest theme of its organization."

January 23, 1942, Winnipeg Tribune

The New Theatre's next major work came in January 1942. Professor Mamlock was a Nazi-era play written by Freidrich Wolf, directed by Orchard, and performed by Mary Madden, Mary Gordon, Ruth Popeski, Louis Bassman, Howard Maden and Ben Chud. It was held at the company's new studio space at 328 Smith Street.

The play received good reviews. The Free Press' Morriss wrote, "Professor Mamlock can be ranked as one of the finest efforts by the New Theatre" with its effective setting and sincerity of the acting. A Tribune review called Bassman's performance "remarkable" and the play worth seeing.

The Winnipeg Council for Allied Victory picked up the play for a one-night special engagement at the Winnipeg Auditorium with proceeds going to Red Cross' Hong Kong P.O.W. fund.

The New Theatre decided at the last minute to switch its entry for in the April 1942 Winnipeg District Drama Festival to Mamlock and it paid off. The adjudicator, a guest judge from the U.S. National Theatre, found the the production "outstanding in setting and grouping". Bassman took home the best actor award.

May 9, 1942, Winnipeg Free Press

In mid-April 1942 came a reading of the Greek play Euripides - The Trojan Women in front of 50 people at their studio, then the company prepared for its season finale production of New Walls of China in May.

The company offered a preview of New Walls of China, directed by Orchard, at their Smith Street studio on May 10 and then the play does not seem to have been performed again until June 13, 1942, again at their studio, sponsored by the Winnipeg Branch of the Labour Youth Federation.

In August, at a Labour Youth Federation meeting, the company put on a brief comedy and musical skit and that is the last newspaper mention of Winnipeg's New Theatre.

What happened to the company is not clear.

It may, like many other organizations, have disbanded in the "fog of war" as company members enlisted or took on war-related volunteer activities. Some groups also found that as the war dragged on, their audiences and patrons disappeared as they had had other places to channel their spare time and money.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

623 Simcoe Street fire


Another little West End house has burned down. Thankfully, it was already vacant and there were no injuries.

I hate to see an old house go, particularly small houses like these. They were the "workerscottages" of the West End where labourers and others with lower paying jobs could afford to raise their families.

I looked into the history of 623 Simcoe Street. You can find it at my Winnipeg Places blog.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Celebrating Manitoba's Black History

Over the years, I have written a number of blog posts and columns highlighting prominent people and places in the history of Manitoba's Black community. Here they are all in one place!

At the Black History Manitoba website you can find out more about upcoming events and projects.

Percy Haynes
is one of my favourite personalities from Winnipeg's past. He was a star athlete, celebrated musician, the first Black to serve in the Royal Canadian Navy, and an all-around community leader. He is best remembered for Haynes' Chicken Shack, the long-time Lulu Street restaurant / night spot that played host to the likes of Harry Belafonte and Oscar Peterson.

- Percy Haynes West End Dumplings (an expanded version in the Free Press)
257 Lulu Street Winnipeg Places
Farewell to 257 Lulu Street West End Dumplings

Billy Beal was a renaissance man who settled in the Swan River region in 1906. He was the long-time secretary of the local school division, an amateur astronomer, the doctor's helper, and ran the region's first library using his own vast collection of books.

- Swan River's Billy Beal (an expanded version in the Free Press)
- Every inch a Gentleman Winnipeg Free Press
- On the trail of Billy Beal West End Dumplings

George Beckford seemed reluctant to become a railway porter, one of the few jobs dominated by Blacks in early Winnipeg. In the end, he spent 34 years with the CNR and became a respected local labour leader.

- Labour Leader George Beckford
- Longtime porter became labour leader, pillar of black community Winnipeg Free Press

Reverend Dr. Joseph T. Hill was a southern American preacher who spent many summers as a popular guest preacher at predominantly White churches in Winnipeg in the 1920 and 1940s. He is credited with founding Pilgrim Baptist, Winnipeg's first Black church.

- Rev. J. T. Hill, his Winnipeg summers, and the founding of Pilgrim Baptist Church

Winnipeg's Aaron Black Jr. is often overlooked when celebrating early Black hockey pioneers largely becasue he spent his career in the WHA, not the NHL. He is considered the second Black professional hockey player and the first to score a hat trick at the pro level.

- Aaron Black Jr.: The second Black professional hockey player

Photographer L. B. Foote took this photo of the Railway Porters' Band of Winnipeg on the front steps of the Bank of Montreal Building at Portage and Main in 1922. I was curious to find out the back story of what turned out to be a short-lived part of Winnipeg's musical history.

Behind the Photo: Railway Porters' Band of Winnipeg West End Dumplings

The nondescript Craig Block on Main Street is one of the few remaining buildings directly associated with Winnipeg's early Black community. In 1922, it became home of the locally organized Order of Sleeping Car Porters which some believe is the first Black union in North America. Other Black organizations joined it and the building became a community hub.

- Craig Block, 795 Main Street Winnipeg Places

Many Black celebrities have dropped in on Winnipeg over the decades. Here is the back story of some of these visits.

- Duke Ellington, Omar Williams, and their Banning St. jam session West End Dumplings
- The day Sammy Davis Jr. came to town West End Dumplings

- Jesse Owens at Osborne Stadium (an expanded version in the Free Press)

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

More on the life of Winnifred G. Goulding

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

I came across the name Winnifred G. Goulding back when I was compiling names for my series on Manitobans who died on the front lines of the 1918 - 1919 influenza pandemic.

After writing that brief biography I felt the need to dig into her story a little deeper. Perhaps it was because she died so far from her family in an isolated prairie town, or that she was here attending medical college which was uncommon for women in the 1910s.

Thanks to a little story in the Regina Leader Post and a photo from the Western Canada Pictorial Index, (above), I was able to track down  more details about her life.

Here's a more complete biography of Winnifred G. Goulding.

Census of the Northwest Provinces, 1906, Library and Archives Canada

Winnifred Goulding was born in Ontario in August 1894 to Thomas and Letitia Goulding. She was the eldest of what would be eventually be a family of five daughters and one son. They moved West around 1903 and settled in the village of Sintaluta in the Qu'Appelle District of Saskatchewan where Thomas worked as a telegrapher for the CPR.

The city of Regina was a big part of Goulding's life.

She graduated from Regina Collegiate Institute at the end of the 1910 - 11 school year and won a $25 award for having the second highest mark in mathematics. From there, she attended the Regina Normal School to receive her teacher's certificate and went back to rural Saskatchewan to practice. The 1916 census finds the 21-year-old teaching in Moose Mountain, Saskatchewan. She also taught at Indian Head.

A 1918 Regina Leader Post story published after her death noted that Goulding had “spent the summer months here for the last half dozen years.” One of the locations may have been with her sister Irene who in 1915 -16 worked for the Royal Bank and lived at a rented room in a house owned by the Jackson family at 2324 Scarth Street.

Teaching was not the life Goulding wanted. She was accepted to medical school at the Manitoba Medical College for the 1917 - 1918 school year. A notation with her photo in the Thorlakson Manitoba Medical College Photo Collection indicates that she would have been class of 1922.

Goulding moved into Manitoba Lodge at 437 Ellice Avenue at Kennedy Street. It was a residence for around ten female students affiliated with the neighbouring Manitoba College. (It became the rectory when the building became St. Paul's College a decade later.)

The Medical College building, located on Bannatyne Street where it is today, was just a few minutes away for Goulding by omnibus or the Sherbrook Street street car line.

Manitoba Medical College Women's Basketball Team, 1917-1918 (U of M Archives)

By all accounts Goulding had a very successful first year.

Goulding became captain of the 1917 -18 Medical College Women's basketball team - which sported awesome uniforms - and was a member of the Ek-o-le-la Society, a university women's sports club. (Unfortunately, the 1917-18 Brown and Gold yearbook is among the handful not scanned in the U of M's archive of 100+ years of the years of the book, so other achievements or activities are not known.)

The 1918 Leader Post article referred to above noted that Goulding's spring exams marks were second only to that of the gold medallist.

Goulding returned from another summer in Regina to start her second year at college only to have it postponed in October when the influenza pandemic reached Winnipeg.

The university, including the medical college, closed in late October. The college became the headquarters of the V.A.D. volunteer nurse's bureau which was responsible for recruiting and training hundreds of women to care for flu-stricken patients in their homes.

Gladstone in the 1910s. (Peel's Prairie History)

Goulding did not go to her parents, who had been transferred to Huxley, Alberta, or her sister, who had been transferred to the Govan, Saskatchewan branch of the Royal Bank. Instead, she chose to go with medical college classmate Ada Wilson to her family home at Gladstone, Manitoba. 

The Gladstone Age newspaper gave a sense of what life was like around Gladstone during the epidemic in a November 1918 story titled, "No Influenza Here". It credited the "prompt and energetic actions" of town council and the local health officer, Dr. Warner, for keeping the disease outside town limits.

It felt that the district's strict quarantine measures, including business, school and church closures, "saved as much illness and possibly several valuable lives as well", but warned that there were cases of influenza in the countryside around Gladstone, so townspeople shouldn't let their guard down no matter how restless they were becoming with the restrictions.

What Wilson and Goulding did, flee infected Winnipeg to the disease-free countryside, was frowned upon in small communities. It is perhaps because of this that Goulding offered her services as a volunteer nurse at the town's emergency isolation hospital.

November 23, 1918, Regina Leader Post

According to the Gladstone centennial history book, Golding was assigned to look after a sick family of ten people in Berton, Manitoba. The hamlet itself is not on modern maps but Berton School was located 20 km southwest of Gladstone by road.

It was while tending to this family that Goulding contracted the disease and was admitted to the isolation hospital. She died after a week's illness on Saturday, November 16, 1918 at the age of 24.

The November 18, 1918 Winnipeg Free Press carried a brief story obviously written by someone from the town that noted Goulding was the first death at Gladstone's emergency hospital and that, "The circumstances of her death are very pathetic and have aroused the deepest sympathy of the entire community".

Goulding's parents had been called to her bedside but did not make it on time. The Govan Prairie News noted that Irene Goulding left for Gladstone the morning of her sister's death. (Their lateness may have been due in part to the fact that train service on some prairie lines had been scaled back either due to regional public health orders or the large reduction in passenger traffic.)

Goulding' body returned with her parents to Alberta and was buried in Calgary's Union Cemetery. In later years she would be joined by her mother and father.

When classes resumed at the medical College on Thursday,  November 25, 1918, it was without Goulding. Her death, like most who died fighting the flu battle, had been largely forgotten.

In Gladstone, the article noted above about the town being 'flu free' was written two weeks after Golding's death and does not mention her as a victim.

The Manitoban resumed publication with its  December 1, 1918 edition. There was only a brief reference in a larger story in its women's section about what some students did to fight the flu during the break: “The members of the Ek-o-le-la Socity deeply regretted to hear that Miss Winnifred Goulding, while doing heroic work in nursing the ‘flu’ victims, was fatally taken with the dread disease. We wish to extend to her parents and her fellow students our deepest sympathy.”

1919 - 1920 Brown and Gold yearbook, U of M Archives

What happened to Goulding's classmate? 

Ada Wilson returned to the college when it reopened and went on to receive her medical degree in 1922. She was one of just two women to graduate from medicine that year, (the other, Anne Wiegerinck, was an international student who transferred to the Manitoba Medical College from Holland in the third year).

You can read more about her later life in this blog post at St. Vincent Memories.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Winnipeg Actress Dorothy Patrick

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Undated publicity still (Source)

I've written about a number of Winnipeg's most famous actresses from yesteryear, including Carla Lehmann, Deanna Durbin, and Marjorie Guthrie (Marjorie White). Another is Dorothy Patrick who had a moderately successful acting career from 1944 to 1956.

Patrick's path to Hollywood wasn't as straightforward as some. She started off modelling and became a single mother of two boys before she got her big break.

The Davis' in the 1926 Census of the Prairie Provinces (Library and Archives Canada)

Dorothea Wilma Davis was born at St. Boniface Hospital on June 3, 1921 to Richard and Eva Davis. Her father was a trainman, eventually becoming a conductor, for the CNR.

Growing up in Winnipeg, Davis attended Mulvey and Isbister schools before going on to Kelvin Technical High School. At the time of the 1926 census the family lived at the Spadina Court apartments on St. Mary Avenue, (now demolished), by 1933 they were at suite 16 of the Astoria Apartments at 445 Kennedy Street, and in 1937 they called suite 3 of the the Mall Plaza Apartments home.

Davis was a model from an early age. Her mother said in a 1939 Winnipeg Tribune interview, "She modelled from the time she was a little girl. She was always keen on it." The work was primarily at local department store fashion shows and for mail order catalogues. She won a beauty contest at around age 13 at the annual caterers' picnic at Grand Beach.

Davis also took dance lessons at the Fleurette McCuaig dance studio on Smith Street.

August 17, 1937, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1937, the 17-year-old Davis and her mother decided to go to New York to further her modelling career. She was soon taken on by the influential John Powers Inc. whose stable of top models were referred to as the Powers Girls. She also took dramatic lessons and got some small parts on stage.

A radio show called Gateway to Hollywood came to New York in early 1938. Hosted by Jesse Lasky, it was similar to American Idol where contestants performed every week for a panel of judges, mostly agents and studio execs, to reach the final of their city’s heat. The city finalists then went up against each other with the eventual winner receiving a contract with RKO Pictures.

Davis entered the contest "on a lark" and ended up as the female winner of the New York series. She decided not to go onto the intra-city heats because of her upcoming marriage.

The Daily Item, (Sunbury, Pennsylvania), April 13, 1939

Davis met Lynn Patrick not long after arriving in New York. The Victoria, B. C. native played for the New York Rangers and was the son of team general manager Lester Patrick.

The two married on April 8, 1939 in New York and on March 7, 1940 had a son, Lester Lee Patrick. To cap off what was a pretty impressive year for him, a week after his first wedding anniversary Patrick hoisted the Stanley Cup in what would be the Rangers' last championship victory until 1994.

For Dorothy Patrick, (she changed her first name after moving to New York), the birth of Lester was a difficult one. Ten days later, she was still ill and Rangers centre Neil Colville went to her hospital to provide blood for a transfusion. Her father-in-law announced that night that her health had immediately started to improve.

Dorothy was well enough to travel back to Winnipeg in August with baby in tow for a family visit with her parents, maternal grandparents (the Johnstone's), and a maternal aunt, uncle, and cousin.

The Patrick marriage would not last. Dorothy was granted a divorce on August 17, 1942 on the grounds of "extreme cruelty" and was awarded custody of Lester. She soon remarried dentist Sterling Treveling Bowen and had a second son, Terrence, in 1944.

Lobby display ca. 1946 (City of Winnipeg Archives, i02313)

Patrick then decided to move to Hollywood with her mother to take another shot at acting. Her father stayed in Winnipeg working for the CNR and it is unclear if her husband joined them, (they divorced in 1948.)

A March 1945 article in the Winnipeg Free Press written by Marion Epton said that Patrick was acting in an amateur Hollywood theatre group play when discovered by scouts and signed a contract with MGM. At the time of the article, Patrick lived in a little house near the studio with her mother and her recently widowed grandmother, Hannah Johnstone, who had come from Winnipeg for an extended stay. The women looked after the boys, aged five and one, whilst Patrick was working.

Patrick's first credited film role was also her first film for MGM. Boys Ranch, was filmed in the autumn of 1945. It and her second film, Til the Clouds Roll By, were both released in 1946.

The Canadian premiere of Boys Ranch took place on July 19, 1946 at the Metropolitan Theatre in Winnipeg. Before the show, Patrick was interviewed over the phone by Frank Morriss, the Free Press' entertainment editor, and the conversation was carried on loudspeakers throughout the theatre. She thanked the audience, which included some family members, for their support.

MGM still for The Mighty McGurk, 1947 (source)

Frank Morriss visited Patrick in Los Angeles in August 1947.  By this time she had already signed an extension to her MGM contract and lived with her mother and sons in Culver City, California. Patrick told Morriss she was determined to make a living as an actress, "I'm going to be a good actress. It means a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice, but I intend to make it."

One of the distractions she said she would avoid was marriage, a sign that she had separated from Bowen.

Two or three Patrick films were released each year by MGM for the remainder of the 1940s. Though most would be considered "B movie" fare, she got to work with the likes of Wallace Beery in both The Mighty McGurk (1947) and Alias as a Gentleman (1948), and Robert Taylor in High Wall (1947).  (For filmography.)

The early 1950s saw Patrick appear in a lot more films, around ten in 1951 and the same again in1953, but among them were a number of uncredited roles, including as an usherette in MGM's Singing in the Rain (1953). She had a lead role in Columbia's The Outlaw Stallion (1954), but the quality of her MGM fare appeared was unimpressive with small roles in Torch Song (1953), a widely panned film with Joan Crawford, and a bit part in Panther Squadron 8 (1954).

Patrick then turned her attention to television and made a number of single episode appearances in various dramas. According to Patrick's Imdb filmography her last credited movie role was a bit part in United Artist's The Peacemakers (1956) and her last credited TV role was an episode of the The People's Choice in 1956.

March 12, 1946, Winnipeg Free Press

What happened to Patrick's career?

Looking at the last few years of her career it is clear that she had not made the breakthrough into landing leading roles in smaller films or smaller roles in big films and she likely struggled to get meaningful work without a studio contract during the dismantling of Hollywood's studio system.

A landmark American judicial ruling in 1949 forced film studios to start selling off their respective theatre chains. Without the need to churn out a steady stream of "B movies" and other small features to fill their screens on a weekly basis there was no need for the actors who starred in them. Hundreds of contract performers were let go in the early 1950s.

For MGM, which was experiencing financial difficulties, the change meant dropping even their  expensive top box office stars from their contracts. By the end of the 1950s MGM had no actors under contract.

According to the brief obituary that appeared in the L.A. Times and AP wire service, Patrick retired from acting in 1956 to raise her family. (She remarried in 1955 to third husband, J. Hugh Davis. They divorced in 1963 and she was married for a fourth and final time in 1976 to Harold Hammerman.)

Patrick's Wikipedia entry says she did some local theatre acting in the 1960s and was for a time a real estate agent in Beverley Hills.

Dorothy Wilma Patrick died on May 31, 1987 at the age of 65 from complications due to cancer and was interred at Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California.

Determined Lady Macleans, May 15, 1946
(Note that the reporter uses 1923, not 1921, as Patrick's birth year which puts her off by a couple of years throughout the article. This was likely Patrick's "studio birthday"; it wasn't uncommon for studios to shave a couple of years off the age of their female stars to make them seem younger than they were. Pre-fame articles and the 1926 census clearly show she was born in 1921.)

Patrick sings Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? from New Orleans (1947)