In the fall of 2006, I was walking through the neighbourhood of Wolseley. I had recently fled my comfortable apartment on Langside St, where the living situation had become unbearable. With nowhere to go, I hesitantly returned home to the suburbs – where all the houses look the same, and nothing exciting ever happens. Despite this temporary setback, I was already planning my next escape. But where to go? At this point, I had already lived in South Osborne, Osborne Village, as well as (albeit very briefly) West Broadway.
By coincidence, a good friend of mine was also looking for a place to call home. After talking about what we both wanted in an apartment (preferably it would have a sunroom), we decided to team up and find a place. So one sunny afternoon, she and I decided to take a stroll through Wolseley.
At the time, I knew nothing about the neighbourhood. In fact, Wolseley had always been a mystery to me. Being a ‘suburb kid’, I was familiar with the south end of Winnipeg; Windsor Park, Southdale, St Vital, River Park South, and of course Saint Boniface. Supposedly, Wolseley was where the hippies lived. It was close to (but not a part of) downtown, and best of all, it was a short walk away from Osborne Village.
As we walked towards Wolseley Ave, my friend spotted a sign advertising a house for rent. Her excitement was impossible to miss, as she pretty much jumped up in the air while pointing towards the ‘For Rent’ sign.
Fortunately, Lady Luck was smiling on us that afternoon: the real estate agent happen to be on site, which meant we were able to have a look inside of the house. It was an old house which had a gazebo, hardwood floors, a chimney, a deck, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dishwasher, large basement, and… a sunroom!
On October 1st, we moved onto Arlington St, into a house that would be our home for the next two years. This neighbourhood which had once been unknown to me would become as familiar as the paths in suburbia which I had navigated in my youth.
Wolseley Stories is the first book written by Laina Hughes, and while some might describe it as a collection of short stories, it is far more than that. This book is a compilation of personal stories from various individuals who live in Wolseley; furthermore, it offers readers a rare glimpse of the community’s history.
While this is not the first book to be written about Wolseley, it remains an important piece of literature because many of these stories are told by baby-boomers, ‘Generation X’, as well as ‘Generation Y’. This is an accomplishment, because at the moment there are very few writers that have written about the recent history of Winnipeg, specifically this last decade (2000-2010).
Within these 50 pages, the reader is regaled with stories such as falling in love, starting and raising a family, all while living in a truly unique community.
Along the way, we learn about Friends of Omand’s Creek, a community group which opposed the city’s attempt to build a new bridge by the Omand Creek. To some among us, this development may seem like a great idea; however, these individuals were horrified about the idea that their park would be transformed because of rest of the city’s desire to erect something new and shiny.
When I came across the story about ‘The Wolseley Elm,’ I was thrilled to learn about a group of women who in 1957, decided to chain themselves against a tree which was in danger of being torn down because the city had deemed it a traffic hazard. It’s a wonderful tale, and one that reminds us of this neighbourhood’s history of opposing authority.
And since we’re on the subject of history – I’m curious to learn whether anyone knows about Happyland Park. No, not the park in Saint Boniface. Back in 1906, the original Happyland Park stood between Aubrey and Dominion Street and Portage Ave. This park which closed in 1914, featured Japanese tea gardens, a miniature train, as well as a baseball park (Winnipeg Maroons baseball club).
This is one of the many historical gems that the reader finds through out the book.
Not a fan of history? Never fear! As I mentioned earlier, Wolseley Stories features a collection of personal stories. Whether reading “It’s Warmer In Wolseley,” “Halloween On Ruby Street” or “Right In the Neighbourhood,” you will laugh, smile, and quite possibly even relate to the experiences of these Wolseleyites.
There is a warmth to the book that is difficult to describe. Perhaps it’s because the stories are genuine and the characters are real people – people that you might share a beer with at Cousin’s Deli, or unknowingly walk past them while taking a stroll down Westminster Avenue.
In the end, this book is not simply about a community, neighbourhood, or the people who live there. It’s a love story. Laina Hughes has not only taken the time to collect these stories, she spells out her love for Wolseley on every page of the book.
It is a promising start for this local author.
– D.P. Bohémier