Monday, 16 July 2018

Coronation Street cast visiting Winnipeg and a look back at Corrie's Canadian history

© 2018, Christian Cassidy


Good news for local Coronation Street fans. For the first time in many years, one of their Canadian cast tours will stop in Winnipeg!

Lisa George and Katie McGlynn, who play Beth Sutherland and Sinead Tinker, will be at the West End Cultural Centre on September 28, 2018. More about the show and ticket sales here.

I thought this would be a great time to look back at some Canadian Coronation Street history !

Opening credits, first episode, Dec. 9, 1960

Coronation Street, produced by Granada Television in Manchester, England, debuted as a regional show on December 9, 1960 and went national in May 1961. For nearly 60 years, it has chronicled the lives of people living in the fictional, working-class town of Weatherfield, part of Greater Manchester.

The question of when exactly Coronation Street first aired in Canada is up for debate. In the 1960s, television stations, even those affiliated with networks, had much greater say in what shows they purchased and aired. It was certainly a local station, not a national network, that introduced it.

Harry Elton in 1970, Ottawa Journal

Most sources that state that the year was 1966, as that was when CBC Toronto began airing the show, but there is at least one other station station that beat it to the punch by many months.

Ottawa’s CJOH, (now CTV Ottawa), began showing Corrie two nights per week in prime time starting on September 7, 1965. It would make sense that this may have been the first station to show it as CJOH had a big Coronation Street connection.

Toronto's Harry Elton was a producer at Granada Television from 1957 - 1963 and is credited with giving screenwriter Tony Warren carte blanche to write a show set in the north of England and then fought to get it on air. That show was Coronation Street.

In 1963, Elton was back in Canada with Ottawa's CJOH as a news anchor and drama producer. Though just an ordinary network affiliate today, CJOH was a leader in Canadian television production from the 1960s to 1980s. Some of its productions attained a national audience, such as You Can't Do That on Television, The Amazing Kreskin and the Galloping Gourmet.

September 25, 1965, Ottawa Journal

Coronation Street wasn't the only soap to debut on CJOH in September 1965.

Milk and Honey, produced by Elton, was a soap chronicling the lives of working class people in inner-city Ottawa and centred around the fictional Olive Grove Cafe. Its 15-minute episodes aired five nights a week after the late local news.

The show, a very low-budget affair panned by critics, only lasted until June 1966. (The only other notable attempt at a Canadian-made, "working-class" soap was CBC's Riverdale, which aired from 1997 - 2000.)

CBWT-Winnipeg, Winnipeg Free Press, July 3, 1967

After Ottawa, it appears Toronto was next in line. According to Marsh, CBLT, (CBC Toronto), purchased 266 episodes of the show in the spring of 1966. These episodes began airing in July 1966.

In October 1966, CBUT, the Vancouver CBC affiliate, began airing Coronation Street five days a week at 1:00 pm.

Winnipeggers finally got to tune into Coronation Street on July 3, 1967. A small article in the Free Press and Tribune gave viewers an outline of the main characters.

Though the show only aired two nights a week in England, CBWT purchased back issues and were able to show it five days a week in the 2:30 - 3:00 pm time slot. (It is unclear how far back in the series the Winnipeg episodes began.)

One audience that was likely to have seen the entire run of Coronation Street were viewers of CBKST, the CBC affiliate in Saskatoon. In May 1971, it purchased 1,144 back episodes of Coronation Street from Granada. It was recognized by the Guinness World Book of Records until at least 2002 as the largest single purchase of television shows in history.

Top: October 16, 1976, Winnipeg Free Press

The early run of Coronation Street in Winnipeg wasn't a smooth and continuous one.

By 1971, CBWT was showing it five days a week but was running out of episodes. It put the show on a summer hiatus to "bank" enough episodes so that it could go return to five daysa  week in the fall.

It appears that in the mid-1970s the show was interfering with local programming, (perhaps an indication that it wasn't the local station buying it anymore, rather it was being fed from Toronto.)

The show went off the air in September 1976 due to "scheduling problems". It returned in October at with two episodes per week at 9:00 a.m. on Monday and Tuesdays.

Bottom: December 29, 1977, Winnipeg Tribune

In late 1977, it was again dropped from the CBWT schedule. Thanks to angry fans who contacted the station, it returned in early January 1978. The new time slot was from noon to 12:30 on Mondays and Tuesdays. The local lunch hour news show had to be shortened to accommodate it.

In December 1981, a couple of angry letters to the editor of the Free Press referenced the fact that the CBC had announced that it was cutting Coronation Street from its lineup due to budget restraints. One writer stated: “maybe we can have a whip-around for the CBC because it is one of the few programs I would pay to see.”

This was either a false rumour or the CBC did an about face because the show never went off the air in Winnipeg. In fact, according to Coronation Street: 25 years, it was around 1981 that Granada sold seven years worth, about 728 episodes, to the CBC to beam across its national network of 42 stations. Two years later, the braodcaster bought another 208 episodes.

In May 1983, what is believed to have been the first cast visit to Canada took place when producer Bill Podmore, Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch), Christopher Quenten (Brian Tilsey), and Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin) visited Toronto to promote the show.

In 1986, CBC Enterprises published Coronation Street: 25 years. It was the republication of a Granada book, so there was no specific CBC or Canadian content, but it was a sign that the show had entrenched itself in the CBC's broadcast schedule.

After a decade on the air it was time to address another issue: the fact that the show was years behind Britain.
To bridge this gap, according to Coronation Street Wiki, in the early 1990s the CBC skipped numerous episodes from 1987 and 1988. It did the same in 2001 with episodes from 1997 and 1998.

It also moved to a five episode a week schedule versus the home broadcaster's two. (In 2009, Granada increased to five episodes per week and to a sixth in 2017.)

In 2004, CBC made a daring move by shifting Coronation Street from daytime to prime time, (where it had always aired on British television.) It was given the 7:30 pm slot and it retained its long-standing Sunday omnibus program from 8 a.m. - 10 a.m..

The show ran five nights per week, bumped up to two episodes a night during a CBC labour dispute around 2009.

By 2010, the show was nearly a year behind, something that was becoming increasingly frustrating to Canadian viewers in a digital world where any fan site or news story about an actor was a major plot spoiler.

A concerted effort was made in 2012 to catch up further with Britain by showing additional episodes and by 2014 Canadian audiences were just two weeks behind. Starting in September 2017, a sixth episode was permanently added weekly CBC schedule and the show is now just a week behind where it will remain.

Here are some Winnipeg-related Coronation Street nuggets I found in local newspapers from past decades.

- On October 3, 1998, CBC Winnipeg hosted a Coronation Street fan event at Eatons. It included the airing of  a not yet seen episode.

- In 2004, the Hotel Fort Garry held a fundraiser in its ballroom. Fans, some in bathrobes, packed the place to have breakfast and watch the Sunday omnibus from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.. Proceeds went to the  Rainbow Society.

- On March 22, 2012, Julia Haworth (Claire Peacock), Charles Lawson (Jim McDonald), Nicholas Cochrane (Andy McDonald ) and Steven Arnold (Ashley Peacock) were touring the country and stopped in Winnipeg at the Playhouse Theatre.

Who watches Coronation Street?

A Globe and Mail article from just after the move to prime time noted that the CBC was attracting about 900,000 viewers. More recent articles indicate that TV viewership is in the 750,000 range and that it is one of the most viewed shows from the CBC website.
From a 2011 article in The Walrus: "...men constitute approximately 40 percent (of viewers), and Sunday broadcasts attract more Canadians in the thirty-five to forty-nine age group than those over fifty."

Also Read:
Coronation Street CBC
Coronation Street at 50 The Globe and Mail
How Coronation Street became and Unlikely Staple of Canadian TV National Post
Craving Corrie The Walrus

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A look back at St. Boniface


My latest Real Estate News column looks back at the history of three St. Boniface landmarks: City Hall; the Tache Avenue surge tank; and the Belgian War Memorial.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

A look back at Steinbach


My latest article in the Real Estate News looks at the history of three Steinbach landmarks. You can check it out here.

Friday, 8 June 2018

My last Free Press column


My column in last Sunday’s Winnipeg Free Press was my last.

I’ve been writing the column since September 2014 and felt it was time to step away so that I could redirect some of the dozens of hours of research and writing time that went into each piece towards other pursuits, including my personal life.

My hat goes off to those in the news industry who deal with the constant drumbeat of deadlines. How people with more demanding ones than I had don’t end up going bat-shit crazy after a couple of years is beyond me.

The goal of my research is to tell the stories of the people, places and events that shaped this province but never made it into the history books. I’m proud to say that I was able to do that in most of my columns, which are now part of a permanent archive for others to read and, hopefully, expand upon. (If my math is correct, there were 64 columns filling 128 broadsheet pages with text and images.)

I want to thank the Winnipeg Free Press, Margo Goodhand at the time, for reaching out to encourage me to write a column and for giving me such a ridiculous amount of space to work with.

Thanks to everyone who read and commented on my columns over the years. My work will continue on my blogs and in other places!


Sunday, 3 June 2018

Pride Week: Remembering former Winnipeg city councillor Charles Spence

Watching coverage of the Pride weekend celebrations, I find myself thinking about a man I wrote about back in December for my Winnipeg Free Press column.

Charles Harold Spence was a rising public figure in Winnipeg in the 1950s and early 1960s with a high-profile job and a seat on city council. He also had a secret: he was gay.

A member of the city's police commission, Spence locked horns numerous times with chief Robert Taft. Their dislike for each other was referred to as a "running public feud" by one reporter.

Spence's public life came to an abrupt end when he was the subject of an all night police surveillance operation on July 1 - 2, 1961. It led to a charge of attempted gross indecency for propositioning a man inside Spence's Ellice Avenue apartment block.

Spence resigned his seat and eventually left town to find work. In 1980 or so he did return to Winnipeg but did not resume any public life and died in 1987 at the age of 62.

It is nice to see so many people, including elected officials, celebrating how far the community has come in the past 50 years. Thankfully, there will be no more Charles Spences.

As for the Spence column, I put many dozens of hours of research into that piece. It hung around in my hard drive for a couple of years while I hoped to find a person or a detailed document pertaining to him. I did not and I know that I only scratched the surface of what had really happened.

Friday, 25 May 2018

2018 Doors Open Winnipeg - Sherbrook Pool

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Kinsmen Sherbrook Pool today for its first-ever appearance at Doors Doors Open Winnipeg. The pool is not part of day two, but check out some of the other 100 or so building and walking tours on offer.

Here are a few links related to the pool....

- My four-part series on the history of the pool written in 2012.

- My Free Press column about the pool written in 2016.

- Select before and after renovation photos of the pool.

- My Flickr album of around 150 photos of the pool.

- Four national record holders who trained at the pool in the 1930s and 1940s: Vivian King; Ethel Gilbert; Catherine Kerr; and Vera Tustin.

- Friends of Sherbrook Pool website and (more up-to-date) Facebook page.

- Kinsmen Sherbrook Pool hours.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Brandon's Fire: a third historic building destroyed

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Panorama of Brandon in the 1920s showing the three sites

On May 19, 2018, fire tore through downtown Brandon, Manitoba destroying three historic buildings. This is a look back at their histories.

They are the Hanbury Hardware Building (1907) at 705 Pacific Avenue, the Massey Harris Building (1913) at 638 Pacific Avenue and the Cockshutt Farm Supplies Building (1946) at 645 Pacific.

Top: As Cockshutt Farm Equipment,, ca. 1955 (McKee Archives)
Bottom: As Collyer's Sales and Service, ca. 2016 (Google Street View)

The Cockshutt Plow Company, later the Cockshutt Farm Equipment Company, was founded in Brantford, Ontario in 1882. It manufactured farm implements such as thrashers, spreaders and plows.

The company had a small sales office and parts depot in Brandon since at least 1905. Five years later, Cockshutt went on a major corporate expansion in the west which meant a much larger facility for the city. 

Top: ca. 1911, McKee Archives
Bottom: September 8, 1910, Brandon Sun

The Brandon Sun of September 8, 1910 noted: “City Engineer Speakman has granted a building permit to the Cockshutt Plow Co for the erection of their new warehouse on Pacific Avenue and Sixth Street.”

The three-storey building cost about $20,000 to construct. It contained a showroom, repair department, sales offices and an extensive parts depot.

December 8, 1948, Brandon Sun

World War II had a major impact on Cockshutt's business. Its factories in Ontario were retooled as aircraft and munitions factories which put a halt to new equipment and parts.

After 1944, they followed how car manufacturers sold and serviced their equipment by finding local dealerships to lease a franchise. In Brandon, that dealer was Brandon Farm Equipment Co. which took over the building in 1945.

On May 25, 1946, there was a fire in a wooden warehouse situated behind the Massey-Harris Building across the street. Burning embers drifted across the street to the Cockshutt property. Both buildings burned to the ground.

Brandon Farm Equipment relocated temporarily to the Brown Block at Princess and 12th Street.

What made the fire particularly awkward was that five days later, George Cockshutt, company president, was arriving in town as part of a western tour to see the company's facilities and to speak to the local Board of Trade.

Cockshutt Farm Equipment, ca. 1955, McKee Archives

Cockshutt Plow, which still owned the building, rebuilt sometime in late 1946 and Brandon Farm Equipment returned to the site. The new building was just a single story but wider than the original structure.

In the early 1950s a couple of dealerships came and went at this address and by 1955 it was simply known as Cockshutt Farm Equipment.  In 1958, Adrian Roy's Roy's Sales and Service was the new dealer.

In 1962, Cockshutt was acquired by the White Motor Company of Cleveland. There was already a dealer for White's line of tractors in town, Lawson's on 9th Avenue. Within a year or two the Roy's / Cockshutt dealership disappeared in favour of Lawson's.

July 11, 1974, Brandon Sun

The building appears to have sat empty for a number of years until divided into three addresses, 545, 601 and 603 Pacific.

The eastern portion of the building, 545 and 601, became a Standard Auto Glass shop in 1973. Through the 1980s and early 1990s it was a Westroc Battery centre. In the 1990s and early 2000s it was home to moccasin maker Fleece Line, before they relocated to Winnipeg.

In 2001, Roddy Batson and Noel Harding opened the Brandon Boxing and Fitness Club on the second floor of the Massey-Harris Building across the street. In 2006, The Massey Manor sent the club packing and they leased the former Fleece Line space.

The club was destroyed in the fire.

June 11, 1976, Brandon Sun

The western portion of the building, 603, was Body Shop Supply Ltd. in the late 1970s, then Rob's Auto Parts store fro 1980 to 1986.

Collyers Sales and Service, the tenant at the time of the fire, traces its roots back to 1967 when Ward Collyer opened Collyer's West End Service, an auto garage, on 26th Street at Victoria. In 1970, the business relocated to 702 Pacific, across the street, and became Collyer's City Centre Service.

In 1977, the company was rebranded Collyer's Sales and Service and in 1986 relocated to 603 Pacific Avenue.

My other Brandon-related posts:

The Strand Theatre's 100th birthday gift West End Dumplings
Taking a Strand Winnipeg Free Press column
Brandon's deadliest blaze Winnipeg Free Press column
Manitoba's Worst Train Disasters: Brandon, 1916 West End Dumplings
Deadly day in Brandon Winnipeg Free Press column
 (also see my updated Winnipeg Free Press column about the tragedy)
Brandon's first WWI Casualty West End Dumplings
Going off the rails Winnipeg Free Press column