The Holiday season is upon us and among the new titles that have arrived in the Local History Room collection, we have a very special treat for history fans.
The Holiday season is upon us and among the new titles that have arrived in the Local History Room collection, we have a very special treat for history fans.
It’s time to take a look at the Local History Room’s recent arrivals, and there are great picks to choose from.
First, Wish you were here : hand-tinted postcards from Winnipeg’s halcyon days by author and photographer Stan Milosevic is a treat for readers who delight in going through books of historical photography. Stan has collected historical postcards of Winnipeg for years and he shares a portion of it in this book with a selection that illustrates the city as it was around the turn of the 20th century.
Winnipeggers have had a long and strong relationship with public transit and for many years, until they were discontinued in 1955, its presence was embodied by streetcars. Our forgotten heritage : the streetcars of Winnipeg is not the first book ever published on the subject but it is one of the better illustrated and full of details. This partly due to the fact that the book’s author, Brian Darragh, was a streetcar operator himself and wanted to share his experiences and the importance of streetcars to the growth of Winnipeg, especially before the first city buses appeared here after the First World War. His added personal observations and anecdotes make this a strong recommended read.
Notable trials from Manitoba’s legal history by Norm Larsen is the story of 15 trials that took place in the province within the span of a century, starting in 1845 with a murder trial where a man was convicted and executed in a matter of days, to the case of a man who was tried three times in twenty years for murder only to be finally declared innocent in the 1980s. Cases of national importance are also covered, such as the trial of Louis Riel’s government in the murder of Thomas Scott and the trial of the 1919 General Strike leaders, which is interesting because that aspect of the strike has gotten very little coverage in the history books. Each trial included says something about the legal context of its time; we see the evolution of legal justice from frontier society to present issues.
Winnipeg in the decade before the Second World War is the focus of Premonitions of War by Robert Young. The author dedicates his book to “the memory of those who warned”, and it is notable that the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper, led by John Dafoe and his editorial team, was an early and isolated voice warning of the rise of Fascism, often running against the grain of those who preferred appeasement to confrontation in order to avoid war. The book benefits from good illustrations and original content from the pages of the Free Press, including political cartoons and even advertising of the time. It also covers other stories that were popular with Winnipeg readers like the Dust Bowl, the coronation and visit of the new British King or the Olympic Games.
Farblonget in the Wilds of North Winnipeg is the biography of WWII veteran Winnipeg Free Press writer Wilfred Mindess told in a series of humorous vignettes filled with his personal experiences during the Great Depression, the war, the flood of 1950, and all the places he visited as a “newsman”. It’s a fun, light read and a good reminder that the Local History Room makes stories from ordinary Manitobans like this one available to all.
Finally, an overdue book about one of Winnipeg’s local celebrities with Dancing Gabe: One Step at a Time by Daniel Perron. Gabriel Langlois had been a fixture of Winnipeg’s sporting scene long before he was christened Dancing Gabe in 1991 when Winnipeg Jets executive Mike O’Hearn spotted him energising the crowd with his dance moves and presented him with a jersey. The author was put in touch with Gabriel’s older brother and the idea to do a biographic work about the life of a superfan who is much more than that, and the many people who helped him on his journey after being diagnosed with autism as young child.
Come visit the Local History Room in its new location on the 4th floor of the Millennium Library to look at these, and other, great new titles.
April 28 was the launch of Inspiring Ideas, a project designed to help lead the Winnipeg Public Library into its next five years. The Library is looking for direction from the public for its Strategic Plan, to be in place by the end of 2014. You can help by checking out the project website, http://inspiringideas.wpl.winnipeg.ca. Please consider filling out this short survey ( http://inspiringideas.wpl.winnipeg.ca/survey ) for a chance to win an iPad Mini!
The launch, held at the newly-renovated Metropolitan Theatre, was itself inspiring. Spoken word artist Nereo set the tone with a forward-thinking, captivating performance which enthralled the audience. “Set your imagination free” was the message he spun from mere words into spell-binding images you could hear and almost see. With this opening performance, the morning’s events were bound to engage the audience.
The launch continued its momentum with life-long library supporter Councillor Brian Mayes’ thoughtful words on the many strengths and far-reaching effects of libraries, as well the importance of community involvement in planning the future of these public spaces. Councillor Mayes also revealed that one of his local libraries was not actually a branch of the City system, but his sons’ bedroom, where books were organized and ordered, and for which the Councillor required a library card!
Keynote speaker Ken Roberts gave the audience a taste of the future of libraries. Ken has traveled the world consulting and working with library stakeholders. Through pictures and words Ken forecasted the changing needs and corresponding roles that the Winnipeg Public Library will fill. Ken inspired the audience to think about what they would like to see their local library become. The days of book repo sitories are long over. Libraries are seeking and finding creative ways to reach out to communities: using their library spaces for collaborative imaginative projects as well as information sharing. Building spaces that have a strong street presence. Giving free access to a new generation of electronic books. No longer content to wait for the public to come to them, the Library is going to the Public.
The morning’s speakers w ere introduced by Manager of Library Services Rick Walker, tireless champion of new and innovative library initiatives. The audience was encouraged to share their ideas in a variety of ways, by writing or drawing them out on a large mural, by posting them on a white board, by displaying them in pictures via a photo booth, and by filling out the online (or paper) survey.
The Winnipeg Public Library wants to hear from you!
“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” Andrew Carnegie
Born into meagre circumstances, Andrew Carnegie built a massive steel empire with hard work and diligence. Wanting to give back, Carnegie began funding public libraries with the intent that they be “Free to All ”. There are still two Carnegie branches in Winnipeg — St. John’s and Cornish. The Carnegie Library on William closed in 1994.
Inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries, Todd Bol erected a small red wooden box in the shape of a schoolhouse in his front yard in Hudson, Wisconsin. Bol mounted a sign that invited passersby to “take one and return one” of the two dozen books shelved within. Soon neighbours were meeting not only to browse his book trading post, but to chat.
His library proved to be such a success that Todd contacted Rick Brooks at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the two decided to promote tiny libraries on a larger scale. It mushroomed into the Little Free Library grassroots organization and as of January 2014 there are more than 12,000 LFLs worldwide, including a handful in Winnipeg.
The newest LFL in Winnipeg is a warming hut on the Red River Mutual Trail (which set the Guinness World Record in 2008 for longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world). Despite temperatures colder than Mars, walkers, skaters, and skiers embrace the winter on this “Champs-Élysées of the prairies”.
The river trail is also the setting for an international competition that invites architects to submit designs for warming huts. Last year local architect David Penner was involved in the Little Free Library design competition, a partnership of StorefrontMB, Culture Days, and Winnipeg Public Library. Thrilled by the unique and creative submissions, he was spurred on to design his own Little Free Library. With a vision of the traditional Manitoba ice fishing shack in mind, his team created a minimalist expression of a shanty, what he calls “a miniature environment of the fantastical”. Penner likens the ice fishing shack to a reading room and imagines the fisherman leafing through a Field and Stream magazine while waiting for that elusive tug on the line.
Constructed out of a red membrane on a metal frame and housing a simple white book case, the Little Red Library is stocked with books from garage sales and donations from book lovers. Like the books it houses, the library kindles thought, sparks the imagination, and is a catalyst for community involvement. Winnipeggers can swap a title or two from their own collection, meet to share their favourite books, and discuss ideas after a skate or ski on the river trail.
Stocked with everything from Anna Karenina to Curious George, the collection changes daily according to the serendipity of the day’s trades. It’s open 24 /7, so bring a flashlight if you plan to browse at midnight. No library card is required. But hurry – this pop up library located on the Assiniboine River at the foot of Hugo Avenue will last only as long as the ice beneath it.
The Winnipeg Public Library has partnered with the University of Alberta to digitize and provide access to our collection of Henderson’s Directories. Currently, the University of Alberta has most of the Henderson’s Directories from 1880-1965 available on their digital repository. The Directories can be searched, and viewed in a number of formats. Last month, we began linking to these from PastForward. The links to the Henderson’s Directories on PastForward are also available on the Library catalogue. This is great news for those who cannot come to the Millennium Library to consult the print or microfilm editions of the directories, which are still available to the public for research on the 3rd floor.
For those who are not aware of the Henderson Directories: they are similar to regular telephone directories, but in addition to listing residents alphabetically by name along with their address, they also record the person’s profession. A separate listing by street name and address is also included which makes it possible to have a detailed yearly portrait of who lived where in the city. It is no wonder why these directories have remained among the most popular items in the Local History Room.
This is a good place to highlight some new additions to the Local History collection. Apart from its historical fort, the northern community of Churchill is mostly known for being the polar bear capital of the world. In 2008, a Californian author concerned with their potentially dwindling numbers, along with his wife and three children, decided to have a closer look and moved to Churchill in order to observe and study polar bears in their natural environment. The book Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye by Zach Unger is not just about the auhor’s findings but also about his own family’s experiences in settling into this alien environment and an outsider’s view of the locals.
Local author and beer aficionado Bill Wright’s 300 Years of Beer: An Illustrated History of Brewing in Manitoba covers a relatively unknown aspect of our province’s history. Brewing existed in the Red River colony as soon as Europeans came to settle in the area and names like Patrick Shea and E.L. Drewry rose to supremacy in the Manitoba’s beer business for most of the first half of the 20th century. The history is fun to read and the illustrations of historical artifacts and posters (many praising beer as a product with an infinite number of health benefits for everyone) really add to the enjoyment of this book.
For those interested in topics closer to home, there have been a couple of recent arrivals, both dealing with Winnipeg neighborhoods. Wolseley Stories by Laina Hughes is about my neighborhood, so I enjoyed this short-but-sweet read where residents describe their experiences and perceptions living in the granola belt. Mentions of the Wolseley Elm saga and the Happyland Park add to the contemporary accounts.
North End Love Songs by Katherena Vermette is a work of poetry about the North End’s residents but speaks to universal themes of the human condition. The poems express the pains, the joys, the ordinary lives of North Enders, how they see themselves and how the outside world see them. The author often uses birds as symbols of people’s strengths and frailties.
Winnipeg has its share of eccentric and colorful characters, and one who was very well-known a few decades earlier was Bertha Rand, Winnipeg’s own “cat lady.” She made quite a few headlines and fought against city hall, was even jailed for a brief time for the right to keep caring for her cats in her home (which numbered at times between 30 and 65 by some estimates). A recent addition to our collection is Maureen Hunter’s The Queen of Queen Street which tells about her life in the form of a play. It is not light reading; Brenda’s life was far from idyllic as she struggled with mental illness and severe poverty, but it is certainly humanising.
Last Friday morning I arrived at work at Millennium Library bruised, sweaty, exhausted, but, overall, riding high on endorphins. I’d been up since five a.m. with a bunch of other members of the Winnipeg Roller Derby League, drilling and skating in a mock scrimmage for a live morning TV broadcast. Despite the early hour, and the fact that we’d all been at another two-hour practice less than 12 hours before, we were a pretty chipper, boisterous group, mostly because we were all doing what we love: hitting, sweating, and living roller derby.
Modern roller derby is quite different from the staged “sports entertainment” shows on TV in the 80s and 90s, with stars like Gwen Skinny Minnie Miller, plenty of over-the-top action and WWE-like pre-scripted outcomes. Modern roller derby is grassroots; it’s still full-contact, and the larger-than-life characters and edgy player names still dominate, but it’s low-budget, run by the players, and above all, it’s a real sport. The hits are real, but if you take someone down illegally, you’re going to the penalty box.
If you’re interested in exploring this burgeoning sport, check out a few of the resources available on our library shelves:
Basically a running-away-to-join-the-circus story; a young teen stuck in small-town Texas finds kinship and acceptance among the bold, tattooed personalities in the roller derby league in nearby Austin. A lot of people first heard about modern roller derby in the Ellen Page/Drew Barrymore movie Whip It, the screenplay for which Cross wrote around the same time she penned Derby Girl (later retitled Whip It to match the movie). Cross brought true-to-life experience to the page, having skated under the name Maggie Mayhem for the LA Derby Dolls. There may be some Hollywood-style liberties taken in the movie but, pretty much every derby girl who sees it agrees, they got the part about kinship and sisterhood just right. When you join a roller derby league, you join a family.
Talking Derby: Stories From a Life on Eight Wheels by Kate “Pain Eyre” Hargreaves
A series of short vignettes and day-in-the-life-of moments from Pain Eyre’s life on the derby track with the Border City Brawlers in Windsor, ON. Most of the stories are short, terse and whip-sharp — just like derby!
Down and Derby: The Insider’s Guide to Roller Derby by Alex “Axles of Evil” Cohen and Jennifer “Kasey Bomber” Barbee
If you’re looking for a less anecdotal, and more factual, run-down of the derby world, check out this insider’s guide. Both authors skated with the LA Derby Dolls & worked on training Hollywood actresses for Whip It. Some of the rules might be a bit out of date, given that the WFDTA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) rules recently underwent a major overhaul, but the basics still hold true.
And finally, if you’re looking for something a bit fun, we’ve also got Joelle Charbonneau’s Skating On the Edge. It’s the third volume in a series of mysteries featuring small-town roller rink owner Rebecca Robbins. In this volume, Robbins asks derby girl Sherlene-n-Mean to fill in for her in the dunk tank at the local fair, but Sherlene ends up electrocuted. You better believe they figure out whodunit, because there’s one thing that’s certain: if you take out a derby girl, her teammates will be coming for you. See you on the track!
–Sophie “The Scufflepuff”
I recently took over the PastForward project at the Winnipeg Public Library. If you aren’t familiar with it yet, PastForward is our “digital repository”; a system and website where we can preserve and provide public access to historical documents, photographs, audio recordings, and videos (among other things). With an information technology background, I had come to the Library already interested in digitization projects from a technical point of view. What I didn’t realise is just how much I would love researching Winnipeg’s past!
So far, most of the time I’ve spent on PastForward has been adding descriptive information to scans of postcards from the Rob McInnes Postcard Collection. We call this information “metadata” and we create it so that people can find what the metadata describes. For example, the senders and recipients of used postcards are described in their metadata. So, for example, if you were researching your family tree, the sender metadata might allow you to find a postcard one of your ancestors wrote, which you could then read on PastForward or print for yourself.
Most of the postcards I’ve worked with are from the early 1900’s. Born and raised in Winnipeg, I’d learned as a child that our city was, and still is, a transportation hub. What I hadn’t appreciated was just what a booming, exciting place it had been before air and automobile travel superseded riverboats and railways. Many travelers would stop in Winnipeg on their way to their destinations and send a card back home to let their loved ones know that they were safe. A number of these travelers would comment on what a fine and exciting city this was.
There have been a number of surreal moments in this work, such as discovering this photograph of an, as yet unidentified, City business that apparently was a bizarre hybrid of gun, music, and jewelry stores; with signs advertising, “Guns for rent” and “Watch repairing done here.” I’m not sure what it means that the violins, guitars, and accordion are kept behind glass, while the long guns hang outside the shop windows.
There was also Happyland, an amusement park in what is now Wolseley, from which elephants and other circus animals escaped and roamed the City’s streets not once, but twice! In a scene reminiscent of 12
Monkeys, on a stormy night in 1907 future Mayor, “Richard ‘Dick’ D. Waugh’s hired man was awoken in the early morning hours by the family dog’s incessant barking. According to the article, an enormous brown dog was trying to join the Waugh dog in its kennel. ‘The man gave him a kick and was greeted with a roar that could be heard all over the neighbourhood. Taking a closer look he saw the head of a fine lion with toothless gums snarling at him.’” (Cherney, Part 1, Part 2). The lion tamer later retrieved the beast which had lain down on the Mayor’s steps.
I’ve also been linking the scanned postcards in PastForward to Google’s Streetview images. Sometimes it’s eerie how little things have changed as in this postcard of the Union Bank Tower…
…or this one (below) of the duck pond at Assiniboine (née City) Park. The family in the latter seems like ghosts, haunting the pond. Saddest, though, are when I find a parking lot where a beautiful building once was.
I consider myself lucky to have been able to work on this project. I’ve always considered myself a Winnipegger, but I’m not sure I was ever so proud of my home until now.
Comment on PastForward and help us out by adding what you know about the history of our City and its people!
If you’re heading out to the 40th Winnipeg Folk Festival this weekend you’re not alone – there should be about 10,000 people right behind you heading to Birds Hill Provincial Park (although quite a few of them will be up there already getting their feet dirty in the campground).
Each year when Folk Fest rolls around we try to make sure we’ve got good artist representation in our libraries so that it’s possible for everyone to bring the festival home with them. And I have to say, this year’s list of holdings is pretty impressive! If you want the WHOLE LIST, we’ve got that for you – we’ve made a special catalogue collection called Winnipeg Folk Festival Performers – 2013 to make it easy to browse the artists in one-shot.
|Winnipeg Folk Festival Performers – 2013 – Complete List|
Have fun at the festival!