Tuesday, 22 September 2020

A visit to Bowsman, Manitoba

 © 2020, Christian Cassidy

On my recent road trip to Swan River, (more about that in a future post), I dropped into Bowsman, Manitoba on a misty afternoon. It is a pretty little village about 20 kilometres north of Swan River with a 2016 population of 262.

On the surface, it would seem to have a lot going for it with tree-lined residential streets and mix of historic and modern buildings. Its amenities include a post office, curling club, library, newer elementary school, Legion hall, fire department, seniors home, and is about a 15 minute drive from a major town with a regional hospital.

Bowmsan has a proud history. Its Bowman Maroons (1948 - 1953) are in the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame for their stellar performance in the Manitoba - Saskatchewan Baseball League. It was one-time headquarters for the the Burrows Lumber Company and to the Henry Stevens Bank, believed to be the last independent bank in Canada, (more on that in a future blog post !)

There's even a cairn in town to commemorate the "Biffy Burn" of 1967 when locals burned their outhouses en masse to celebrate the centennial and the new sewer system !

Unfortunately, Bowsman is a village in decline. Census data shows that it had a population of 315 in 2006. That dropped by 5 per cent by the time of the 2011 census and by another 12 per cent by 2016.

1st Avenue is the main drag that once faced the railway tracks and its accompanying train station and grain elevators, all long gone. In more recent years, it was home to a TD Bank and a grocery store, also now gone. The Bowsman Hotel is up for sale with its price reduced to $345k.

I feel a bit sad, and even frustrated, when I see a town like Bowsman and imagine what it will look like 20 years from now.

With cities overcrowded and crimey, housing prices out of reach for many, and regular news stories of   people around the world risking their lives to make a fresh start, it seems such a waste to have fully serviced villages like this - and there are many of them - wither away.

I’d bet 150 people would inject a lot of new life to Bowsman and, in return, it would provide them with a great quality of life.

More photos of Bowsman.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Jack Krafchenko revisited


I visited the Winnipeg Police Museum for Doors Open Winnipeg 2020.

This is the wanted poster for "Bloody Jack" Krafchenko, (also spelled Kracenko, Krawchenko). I wrote about Krafchenko's life and death back in 2015 when the Toronto Street apartment block he was caught in was up for sale.

The post and the Winnipeg Police Museum are both definitely worth a visit !

Friday, 11 September 2020

Sally Warnock and Aunt Sally's Farm

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

Aunt Sally's Farm is returning to the Assiniboine Park Zoo!

For those of you too young to remember the attraction, the above postcards will give you an idea of what it was all about. If you went to elementary school in Winnipeg between 1959 and 1986 it surely would have been on your itinerary.

The children's farm was part of multi-year, $2.5 million modernization of the zoo that began in the late 1950s. Preliminary plans for the farm were released by Tom Hodgson, the city's parks manager, in September 1957.

Built on the site of the zoo's original aviaries, the exhibit would include a large picnic hut, a barn with animal enclosures, a wishing well, a miller's wheel and a central lawn area. A miniature train on a half-kilometre-long track wold encircle its perimeter. It would feature a menagerie small animals borrowed from area farms, including geese, goats, donkeys, pigs and sheep, that children could visit up-close and even interact with.

Hodgson requested a $12,000 contribution from the city for phase one of the farm - an amount that the newly established Manitoba Zoological Society would match and then some. The MZS would pay the remaining $50,000 or so to finish the exhibit over time.

Winnipeg Tribune Personalities Collection, U of M Archives (link)

From the start, the plan was to name the farm in honour of Sally Warnock, the city's best-known animals rights campaigner.

Originally from Coleraine, County Derry, N. Ireland, Warnock came to Winnipeg as a young woman in 1911 to visit a brother and ended up staying. She worked as secretary to attorney general Colin Campbell, then during the war she was a secretary with the Canadian Field Comforts Commission, followed by more than a year in the employ of the T. Eaton Company.

Warnock was a founding member of Winnipeg branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, now the Winnipeg Humane Society, in 1919.  In August 1920, she asked to work for the WSPCA as its secretary-manager. Her first day on the job was August 12, 1920 and she remained in that role for the  next 38 years.

The early years of the WSPCA were a tough slog as most people simply didn't understand Warnock's message. To businessmen, her campaigns for better treatment of working horses on the streets or conditions for cattle and sheep at city markets was simply her interfering with their businesses. The plight of stray cats and dogs were seen as inconsequential by the public at large.

A 1928 Winnipeg Tribune editorial that asked people to donate to the WSPCA noted that for most people in the city, "Preoccupation with the woes of animals, they believe, uses up sympathy which should be devoted to the woes of humanity."

Sally Warnock, ca. 1935 (Winnipeg Tribune)

The city provided no financial assistance towards the WSPCA's $5,000 yearly operating budget. To make matters worse, its finance committee deemed the cause not to be a charity, which meant that it could not have a 'tag day' to raise funds on city streets. (A "tag day" allowed supporters to be on city streets and the entrances of shops with donation boxes. In return for their change, people would get a paper tag pinned to their coat, nowadays a sticker, to show their support.)

This left it up to Warnock and the small band of WSPCA members, mostly women, to raise the funds they needed through door-to-door collections, small concerts and teas. (Harriet Walker, co-owner of the Walker Theatre, was a supporter.)

After years of simultaneously battling and wooing city hall and getting the media on her side, Warnock's WSPCA was finally made part of a tag day in 1926 - one where the proceeds got split over numerous organizations. In 1927, the organization was finally able to have a tag day of its own.

The income from an annual tag day put the organization on more solid financial footing and gave its work more credibility in the community.

January 27, 1932, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1931, the WSPCA investigated 10,632 cases of animal cruelty or abandonment. Most had to do with the treatment of sheep, pigs and cattle at local markets, 2,865 cases involved working horses, there were also nearly 2,500 stray cats and 600 stray dogs that were dealt with. Warnock even took on the Assiniboine Park Zoo to task that year for its display of beavers in tiny cages, (Grey Owl even got in on that campaign).

Most complaints came from the public, but Warnock was known for doing her own inspection of horses stopped in the street or walking into markets to check out the conditions. Though animal welfare laws were not strong in those days, she would badger a nearby constable for help or go to city council to insist that action be taken.

Over time, various stories came to light over Warnock' encounters. The time she grabbed a "300 pound man" by the ear at a city market and dragged him to a constable to complain about action he had taken against one of his animals. A train crew that held up their train for hours when a skunk was discovered in the caboose so that it could be humanely rescued, rather than risk the wrath of Warnock after a quick kill. She successfully appealed to the premier during the 1950 flood to have hay delivered by helicopter to stranded horses and cattle.

To say that Warnock's work was her life is not an understatement.

Without a building of its own, animal welfare calls and visits went directly to Warnock's home at 120 Charlotte Street, (now Hargrave Street), and she was on call 24/7. Her property became a menagerie of discarded household pets that she rescued or that were dumped on her doorstep.

In 1936, a new premises for what had become known as the Winnipeg Humane Society was built at 1057 Logan Avenue. (If the address is familiar, it is the present site of the city's Animal Services Department.) Sally Warnock came to be the live-in manager with her dozens of animals in tow.

Attitudes towards animal welfare began to change in the 1940s and 1950s and Warnock's campaign had become a cause celebre amongst media types, politicians and some business leaders who now openly supported her and the organization.

The Manitoba Zoological Society, established in 1956, made Warnock its first honourary life member, "In recognition and appreciation of a dedicated and life-long devotion to the succour and protection of animals and birds." As she was known for inviting children into her house and yard to show them her animals and preach respect for then, the group decided that their children's farm at the zoo would be named "Aunt Sally's Farm".

August 18, 1958, Winnipeg Tribune

Sadly, Warnock would not get to see Aunt Sally's Farm. She died in her sleep on August 16, 1958, not long before construction was to get underway. Always secretive about her age, it was believed she was in her late seventies to late eighties when she died.

Warnock's coffin lay in state at city hall before being delivered under the escort of an RCMP and city police officer in dress uniform to St. Stephens - Broadway United Church. There, hundreds of friends, officials, and even a few animals, attended her farewell.

The Winnipeg Tribune wrote at the time of her death, "Sally Warnock was a Winnipeg institution, one of the most colourful, interesting personalities in these parts. Any little trouble or major tragedy of the animal world was her special concern."

September 5, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

Construction got under way on Aunt Sally's Farm in late 1958 with the expectation that it would open in mid-summer 1959. That June, the children of Inkster School were invited for a tour so that staff could test out the facilities and evaluate the children's reaction.

The farm officially opened on August 8th, 1959. Mayor Stephen Juba and an unnamed goat worked together to respectively cut and eat the ribbon in front of 500 onlookers.

When the farm closed on Labour Day 1959, Zoological Society staff took time to examine the attendance figures and to their surprise found that many more adults paid to visit Aunt sally's Farm than children. (These were the days when many families had three or four kids, so the ratio was expected to be overwhelmingly children's admissions.)  There were 18,806 children's visits at ten cents each and 27,376 adults at 25 cents each. Another 11,573 children came on school trips.

It was estimated that Aunt Sally's Farm would raise $2,700 at the gate in its first, abbreviated summer.  It ended up raising $9,000.

Aunt Sally's Farm's last summer appears to have been 1986. The following year, designs for a new children's attraction, The Kinsmen Discovery Centre, were approved. (It may have received a reprieve for another year, though, as a Free Press article in 1988 mentions the farm still being there whilst construction of the Discovery Centre was taking place - though it may have been just the abandoned site.)


The Assiniboine Park Conservancy announced on September 8, 2020 that a new Aunt sally's Farm will open in the Spring of 2021.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Salvation Army architect Gideon Miller

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

With the exception of a some federal Department of Public Works employees, few architects have had the same national impact as Gideon Miller, the in-house architect for the Salvation Army from 1906 - 1931.

Miller was the son of a Paris, Ontario businessman who joined the Salvation Army as a teenager in the 1880s. He worked his way up the ranks at various southern Ontario postings.

The organization had a Property Division in the early 1900s made up of two members. They noticed that Miller was very adept at repairs and small building projects and he was asked to join the department in 1902. He was put to work right away with a small extension to a Toronto hospital and building homes.

Miller spent much of his downtime drafting building plans to hone his skills. He then took an architecture course by correspondence. It was said that he passed with marks averaging 96 out of 100.

After a few smaller projects, Miller found the confidence to start submitting plans for more substantial structures to his superiors. Realizing the cost savings for the organization if it could design its buildings in-house, they gave Miller the opportunity to prove himself.

Miller designed a three-storey men's hostel in Toronto, then worked on the new Grace Hospital in Winnipeg under senior architect W. Woodward.

The plans were drawn up in 1905 for this three-storey with full basement, brick building with stone trim. It extended 150 feet along Arlington Street on what had been part of a golf course. It opened in May 1906.

The building was seen as state-of-the-art for its time. It featured multiple balconies to allow patients to get fresh air, dumb waiters to transport supplies and a self-contained laundry in the basement. The wards could hold up to 140 women and girls.

Within a couple of years, Miller was designing his solo projects, including hostels, citadels, hospitals and colleges from Newfoundland to British Columbia. A partial list of his buildings can be found here, though it should be noted that Salvation Army buildings were often noted in newspapers as being designed "by the Salvation Army", not accredited to Miller, so the true extent of his work will likely never be known. (Also see, Vancouver, Peterborough, and the Empress of Ireland Monument at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.)

Miller, for instance, came to Winnipeg in July 1909 and April 1910 with a group of Salvation Army executives to discuss expansion plans for the prairies and Northwestern Ontario. Numerous local buildings were constructed as a result of these meetings, including an extension to the main citadel on Rupert Avenue, new citadels on Aikins Street, Pritchard Avenue and Queen Street in St. James, the Kildonan Industrial Home (1911) and a three-storey hostel for men.

The Grace Hospital was also expanded to the west along Preston Avenue in 1911 and 1927 from Miller's designs.

In 1926, Miller was given the rank of Colonel and made the Chief Secretary for the organization's Canada West Territory.

Miller and his wife retired from active service in 1931 to Highland Creek, Ontario. Mrs. Miller died in 1935. Gideon Miller died in 1949.

Gideon Miller, Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada
S. A. Officers coming April 7, 1910, Manitoba Free Press
Cmndr. Coombs Discusses Plans of Salvation Army, April 9, 1910, Winnipeg Tribune
New Army Buildings, April 28, 1910, Manitoba Free Press
How Maj. Miller signed his candidate's forms, December 3, 1910, The War Cry
Builder of Citadels and Souls, February 21, 1959, The War Cry

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

A look back at Dominion Express in Winnipeg

I recently went on a tour that included Patent 5 Distillery at 108 Alexander Avenue in the East Exchange area.

The building was constructed starting in 1904 as the stables for Dominion Express Ltd., the CPR's cartage and delivery company. Horses were upstairs with the sleds and wagons downstairs. It was expanded again in 1909, 1913, and 1946. The latter gave it a new entrance on Pacific Avenue.

When the company switched from horses to motorized trucks in 1926, the building became a truck garage until the late 1960s.

You can read more about the history of the building and Dominion Express' Winnipeg history at my Winnipeg Downtown Places post.

Patent 5 Distillery, the first (legal) distillery in Winnipeg since Radinger and Erb in the 1870s - 1880s, set up shop in 2,600 square feet of the building in 2019 and right now produce vodka and gin with whisky on the way.

A neat feature of its taproom is that Patent 5 rescued the bar, stained glass doors, chandeliers, and other features from the St. Regis Hotel, which gives the cozy room the feel that it has been there for a century.

It is definitely worth checking out for the ambience and a unique cocktail !

For more pictures, inside and out.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Newman Street: The little street that went to war

© 2020, Christian Cassidy
Newman St., Dec. 4, 1943, Winnipeg Tribune

Pine Street, now Valour Road, is probably the most famous "wartime street" in the city. It, of course, was renamed after three men who once lived on it earned Victoria Crosses in World War I.

Just four blocks east on Portage Avenue is another street that has a great story to tell.

Newman Street is barely a block long and stretches from Portage Avenue to Wolseley Avenue. It had just 51 houses on it and by the end of 1943 had sent 31 of its sons off to war.

I found out about Newman Street in a December 4, 1943 column by Winnipeg Tribune columnist Lillian Gibbons. You can read her full column above.

As you can imagine, this created a strong bond between neighbours.

A Newman Street Neighbours club was formed to provide support to each other. Local children held events to raise money for charities like the Red Cross. At the convenience store at Portage and Newman you could pick up forms to buy war bonds.

The faces of Newman Street

It is impossible to say how many of the Newman Street men died or were seriously wounded as there was no follow up article about them. The daily death and injury rolls released by the War Office didn't usually include street addresses - it was up to local papers to insert the details. (Besides, some of the men did not still live on Newman Street, their parents did.)

For what it is worth, I could find no soldiers' obituaries that mention Newman Street.

The Hendersons
July 6, 1942, Winnipeg Tribune

One of the stranger wartime watches on Newman Street involved missionaries, not soldiers.

Alfred George (A. G.) Henderson and his wife, Allison, were missionaries. He was a doctor and she a nurse. The couple were en route to a medical posting in the Belgian Congo aboard the Egyptian ship, S S Zimzam, in April 1941, when a German raider captured it, took the passengers prisoner, and scuttled the ship.

Mrs. Henderson was formerly Allison Jamieson of 508 Newman Street. The Jamiesons still lived at the street and received word in early June that the Zimzam's passengers had been sent to France and would be interred in prison for the remainder of the war. A U.S. consulate official was able to ascertain that Dr. and Mrs. Henderson were alive and well after their arrival.

In June 1942, Mrs. Henderson was part of an "exchange of nationals" prisoner release that saw ten Canadian women released from German jails. Six were from the Zimzam. (Another Manitoba woman released in the exchange was Dr. Isabella McTavish of Newdale, Manitoba.)

The capture of the Zimzam was international news and Mrs. Henderson, who returned home to live with her parents for a year or so after her release, related her ordeal at numerous speaking engagements.

As for Dr. Henderson, he was transferred to different facilities over the years. He escaped from a prison camp at Belfort, France with 15 other men in January 1943 and they managed to cross the border into Switzerland.

According to Henderson, conditions in the refugee camp they were placed in were as bad as the prison camp as Switzerland, being a non-noncombatant, did not have the Red Cross on its soil to provide care packages and other services. It wasn't until he was recruited to be a doctor for some wounded British soldiers that his conditions improved somewhat.

When the border into France reopened in October 1944, the British left and he went with them.

Dr. Henderson had reached Montreal by late November. Mrs. Henderson, who was continuing her medical studies in the U.S., went to meet him there.

John Edelson
March 9, 1942, Winnipeg Tribune

One of the men whose name came up in several daily war lists issued from Ottawa was John Edelson of 503 Newman Street.

Edelson was born in 1917 and grew up on Newman Street with his parents, Maurice and Margaret, and two siblings. He attended Wolseley, Isaac Brock and Gordon Bell schools. He joined the Dominion Bank as a clerk in 1935 and was a member of the Winnipeg Canoe Club.

Edelson was single and still living at home when he enlisted with the R.C.A.F. in 1941. He attended No. 7 Bombing and Gunnery School near Dauphin and received is air observer badge in December 1941.

His parents notified the Winnipeg Tribune in early March 1942 that Sgt. Observer Edelson had arrived safely overseas.

February 12, 1943, Winnipeg Free Press

On January 17, 1943, Edelson appeared on the daily war list as “missing in action” after his plane was shot down on a bombing mission over Berlin. It wasn’t until a month later that he was noted as “previously reported as missing, now prisoner of war” section. It turns out that a German spotlight tracked his parachute as he came down to earth and was captured. The International Red Cross found him at a German POW camp and notified Canadian authorities.

The Edelsons likely found comfort with members of the Neighbours Club, particularly with the Boyds at number 500. Of their three sons who were serving, Robert S. Boyd, was being held prisoner in Hong Kong. Margaret Edelson also became the vice president of the Winnipeg branch of the POW Relatives’ Association.

May 25, 1945, Winnipeg Free Press

On the daily war list of May 4, 1945, Edelson was reported as "Previously Prisoner, Now Safe in U.K.". He was one of 130 R.C.A.F. prisoners of war repatriated from their German prison camp.

Edelson returned to Winnipeg and began working for Stephen's Paint and married Lois. According to his obituary, he was transferred to their Calgary office in 1954 before going on to have a career with Investors.

John Edelson died at Calgary in January 2011 at the age of 94.

Robert S. Boyd of 500 Newman Street also survived his time in a Japanese POW camp.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Farewell to Brandon's Casa Blanca Motor Lodge

 © 2020, Christian Cassidy

Another thing I noticed during my recent visit to Brandon is that the Casa Blanca Motor Lodge at 2728 Victoria Avenue is no more!

A decade or more ago, I used to travel to Brandon a fair bit for work and usually stayed on for a couple of days to visit friends. The clean, friendly, reasonably-priced "Casa" was my home away from home.

It had been on and off the market for some time. It was listed again in 2017 for $1.39 million and sold that summer for $1.25 million. (The property includes the restaurant land.) It was torn down earlier this year.

Here's look back at the Casa Blanca's 64-year history.

November 19, 1955, Brandon Sun

Theodore (Ted) and and Sigard Nestibo of the village of Goodlands, R.M. of Brenda, took out a $40,000 building permit for a ten-unit, 200-foot long motel in June 1955. The Starlight Motel opened at 2728 Victoria Avenue in November 1955.

At the time, the eastern portion of Victoria Avenue was being transformed from just another dusty highway out of town with a few motels and gas stations, into the gateway to Brandon's new suburban development. Landmark commercial buildings such at the CKX TV studios opened on it in 1957.

The Nestibos were well known curlers in the region and would have had first-hand knowledge of the need for accommodations in Brandon as they often found themselves there for league play and bonspiels.

The family did not relocate to Brandon. Instead, they hired Albert Sorenson, also from Goodlands, to manage the business. He and his wife moved there in 1955.

February 28, 1959, Brandon Sun

Business was good as the city grew around the motel.

In the autumn of 1958, the Nestibos took out another building permit to add six more units and gave the rest of the motel a revamp to appeal to urban travellers on a budget. Harry Kozak of Brandon was the carpenter who did most of the above ground work.

The newly renovated Starlight, which also boasted a large landscaped lot and plenty of parking, opened in February 1959.

It is unclear when the Nestibos sold the motel. In a 1963 newspaper ad it was Jack and Shirley Green who welcomed guests.

The next owners came in the mid-1960s after Roland and Annette Castonguay sold their farm in the RM of Cornwallis and relocated to Brandon.

They were very involved in regional tourism. Roland for a time was president of the south west  branch of the Manitoba Tourist Association. In 1968, he was given the MTA's "member of the year award" for his work.

In 1973, the Casonguay's Starlight Hotel Ltd. got a permit to erect a three-storey, twelve-unit apartment block up the road at the north east corner of McDiarmid Drive and McTavish Avenue, which they called the rolling Hills Apartments. (It is likely what is now known as the Rosedale Apartments at 600 McDiarmid.)

The Casonguays sold the motel and managed the apartment for a year or so before selling up and retiring to B.C..

The next owners come in quick succession.

Art and Irene Black owned the Starlight until July 1975, then sold it to Rick and Ruth Frenceschilli. The Frenceschillis stayed only a year before buying the Sunset Motel in Creston, B.C. and moving on. The next owners were Orest and Fran Parchaluk. They sold it in 1980 to Tony and Torres.

The trail of owners ends there. By this time, newspapers didn't report on things like the change of ownership at a small motel and the Starlight rarely advertised, so owners names can't be gleaned from ads.

The name Casa Blanca Motor Lodge was in place by 1985 as it was mentioned in passing in a Brandon Sun story in January of that year.

The Casa Blanca closed in 2019 and was demolished in January - February 2020. There are no redevelopment plans for the site as yet.

Parts of the Casa Blanca will live on in other building projects. Before it was demolished, it was stripped of some building materials and furnishings that were donated to the CMHC Building Re-Fit Store.

If you have more information about the history of the Casa Blanca, please let me know !