Tag Archives: Winnipeg

1919: Not only the year of the Winnipeg General Strike

For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it.

Marcus Samuelsson

April 6th 2019 marks the 100 year anniversary of clean water from Shoal Lake first flowing out of the taps in Winnipeg homes. The postcard below from the Rob McInnes Postcard Collection features the intake of the Shoal Lake Aqueduct near the Manitoba-Ontario border.

The aqueduct was built by the Greater Winnipeg Water District between 1914 and 1918 and still serves Winnipeg today. Using gravity, it moves water through approximately 135 kilometers of concrete conduit from Shoal Lake to the Deacon Reservoir just east of the city; a pressurized system then distributes water throughout Winnipeg. Just imagine how this would have changed the lives of Winnipeggers 100 years ago.

In the early days, water from the Red and Assiniboine Rivers was simply taken and carried in barrels by horse-drawn wagon. Then, from the early 1880s until 1898 The Winnipeg Water Works Company supplied and distributed water; its source was the Assiniboine River, just downstream from the Maryland Bridge.

After the City bought out the Water Works Company, water was supplied by an artesian well system from 1899 but it only provided a limited supply. Contaminated river water from the Assiniboine was still used for emergencies like fires. The problem was, after pumping river water into the mains, illness would follow. There was a typhoid fever epidemic in 1904 and clean water became a priority for Winnipeg’s growth.

Although the well system was expanded it simply couldn’t keep up with the city’s rapid expansion and the search for a source of clear, soft water began. Shoal Lake was chosen for its high quality water, despite its distance from Winnipeg and the cost of the project. Fortunately, because of Winnipeg’s boom around the time the aqueduct project began, it was built large to serve the future “Chicago of the North” which is how the system is still able to serve our city.

For a variety of Winnipeg postcards, many from the early 1900s, browse PastForward, our digital public history. Visit the Local History Room on the fourth floor to see some of the original documents relating to the construction of the aqueduct.

While Winnipeggers are fortunate to have clean water to drink, the building of the aqueduct has had some unfortunate consequences for members of another community. Shoal Lake 40 First Nation is located on a peninsula that was cut off from the mainland in order to divert the murkier waters of the Falcon River away from the aqueduct’s intake. Shoal Lake residents received a running water system in the 1990s but experienced a cryptosporidiosis outbreak shortly thereafter. Having no roads made it very difficult to organize the completion of a necessary water treatment plant.

18 years is a very long time to be under a boil-water advisory but steps are being taken to connect Shoal Lake 40 to the mainland. Two all-season bridges have been completed and construction of Freedom Road has reached the Trans-Canada Highway to allow community members to safely access goods and services. The community is now raising awareness of the need for clean water. Drinking bottled water should only be a short term solution and the Canadian Government has pledged to end long-term drinking water advisories on First Nations reserves by March 2021 (click the link to see the progress so far).

If you would like to learn more about Shoal Lake 40 First Nation and their history surrounding the Winnipeg Aqueduct, check out Adele Perry’s book Aqueduct: Colonialism, Resources, and the Histories We Remember.

~ Christy

What’s New in the Local History Room?

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.

Cover image for Manitoba at Christmas : holiday memories in the keystone province

is an anthology of stories from by and all about how Christmas was celebrated by Manitobans from the earliest Christmas recorded in the days of exploration before the establishment of the Red River colony to the 21st century.  From simple rituals, like a toast while sharing memories of absent families in pioneer times, the observance of Christmas evolved and grew more elaborate as the years passed and different cultures added their own traditions: church services, family reunions, ever-growing street parades and decorated storefronts.  The sights, sounds and smells of Manitoba at Christmas left happy memories which one can re-visit in the pages of this book: visiting Toyland at the Eaton’s store, sharing letters and stories with family in rural Manitoba on Christmas morning, or preparing a concert at a school to be attended by Fraserwood’s entire community.  In darker times, it was a time to hold on to hope: Margaret Owen, one of the featured authors, talks about how during the Christmas of 1941, her family waited to hear news about her father, a POW for several years after being captured during the defence of Hong Kong.  In addition to fun anecdotes, personal stories, great historical photographs and illustrations, the book also contains holiday recipes, for example a vinarterta, a traditional Icelandic layered Christmas cake .
Golden Boys
Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the NHL, Ty Dilello’s Golden boys : the Top 50 Manitoba Hockey Players of All Time, offers us a look at fifty players that have shaped the history of hockey in Manitoba. Featuring detailed biographies that were extensively researched, interviews both past and present, rare photographs and never-been-told-before stories, this is a must for both fans of local sports or those interested in Manitoba’s history in general.  While some of the names included are obvious choices: greats like Jonathan Toews, Andy Bathgate, Ron Hextall and Bobby Clarke, this is also valuable if you are curious about less-well known players like Bones Raleigh (his poetry was reviewed in the New York Times) or Dan Bain (he played and won some of the earliest Stanley Cups in the 19th century), or Terry Sawchuk (best goaler and crowned #1 player overall by Dilello).
agassiz cover

Were you aware that not too long ago, existed a lake so large it could easily have swallowed our present Great Lakes?  Lake Agassiz was an enormous glacial lake that covered a large chunk of the North American landscape between 14,000 and 8,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age.  This is the story that Bill Redekop wanted to explore when he started writing Lake Agassiz: the Rise and Demise of the World’s Greatest Lake.  Born of the melting ice that had covered North America for millennia, Lake Agassiz was a force of nature for 6,000 years. Its story is one of superlatives: inconceivable tsunamis that bored through solid rock; tributary torrents that gouged huge valleys, and colossal outpourings that created a mini-ice age in Europe.  The book is extensively researched and shows readers the “footprint” that Lake Agassiz left all over the prairie provinces (as well as some American states): from remnants of beaches nowhere near bodies of water, to valleys that were formed by retreating glaciers and left as remnants Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba, and Lake Winnipegosis as we know them today.

Cover image for Out of old Manitoba kitchens
Out of Old Manitoba kitchens by Christine Hanlon is the story of the people and the food they prepared by melding recipes, photographs and narratives of its earliest cooks, including the Indigenous people, Selkirk Settlers and first homesteaders. From wild rice to perogies, smoked goldeye to tourtière, one can find a blend of pioneer cuisine dating back to the fur trade and beyond. See how wave after wave of immigration brought with them their own recipes.  This book is a great read for those who enjoy history, good food, and memories of food prepared on the campfire, the hearth and the cast iron stove, from the trails of the buffalo hunt to the outdoor kitchens of the early settlers.
Cover image for The North End revisited
Finally, John Paskievich’s excellent photography book has just been re-published with an extra 80 photographs chronicling the history and transformation of his native neighbourhood from the 1970’s up to the present.  The North End Revisited also contains interviews with the author exploring different aspects of his work  in chronicling the stories of ordinary Winnipeggers from a very special community.
In the fun read  Snacks: A Canadian Food Historylocal historian Janis Thiessen profiles several iconic Canadian snack food companies, including Old Dutch Potato Chips, Hawkins Cheezies, and chocolatier Ganong.  These companies have developed in distinctive ways, reflecting the unique stories of their founders and their intense connection to specific places.  These stories of salty or sweet confections also reveal a history that is at odds with popular notions of ‘junk food.’  Through over 60 interviews and archival research, Thiessen uncovers the roots of our deep loyalties to different snack foods, what it means to be an independent snack food producer, and the often-quirky ways snacks have been created and marketed, like the “Kids Bids” local TV program where children bid for prizes using empty Old Dutch chips bags.

What’s New in the New Local History Room


It’s time to take a look at the Local History Room’s recent arrivals, and there are great picks to choose from.

FirstWish 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.

Cover image for Our forgotten heritage : the streetcars of Winnipeg

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.


Inspiring Ideas!

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!

14055416984_57e97f763d_zThe 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 14054988455_3bb4d41975_zere 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.

Here’s where YOU are able to get involved! Check out the Inspiring Ideas Survey  and the Inspiring Ideas website.

The Winnipeg Public Library wants to hear from you!


Library on Ice

carnegie   “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.

LFL  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.

LFLconceptdrawing  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.


2013’s Winnipeg Books About Winnipeg

Winnipeg is known as a cultural capital – we have a great arts scene, including a solid literary core.  While the pursuits of fiction writers in Winnipeg have been looked at before, I am going to take a look at the great non-fiction books that were put out in 2013 about Winnipeg by Winnipeggers.

What I have always enjoyed about Winnipeg is that we’re good at taking a long, hard look at ourselves.  It might not always be pleasant and it might not always make us look good.  It might uncover major issues going on in the city.  But it makes our city better.

One of the best books I read about Winnipeg in 2013 was “Indians wear Red”: colonialism, resistance, and aboriginal street gangs  by Elizabeth Cormack, Jim Sliver, Larry Morrissette, and Lawrence Deane.  It is a critical look at the gang culture in Winnipeg, but it looks at it in a way not to vilify the gang members but to contextualize the life they live in.  It looks at effects that colonialism, neo-liberalism and economics have had on the proliferation of gangs. (Side note: I would recommend the other books by both Elizabeth Cormack and Jim Silver, too). It is essential that we take a hard look at these issues instead of sweeping them under the rug, acting like they do not exist or hoping they take care of themselves.

One member of the Winnipeg family that exposed Winnipeggers to issues in their city, even if they didn’t want to look, was Nick Ternette.  Sadly, Nick died in 2013 but what came out of that was a great autobiography that he finished before he died.  It is called Rebel Without a Pause and outlines Nick’s fights to get the issues of the poor and the disabled into the mainstream Winnipeg thought and his constant fight to make Winnipeg a better city.

wolseley storiesAnother great story put out this year about Winnipeg by a Winnipegger was Wolseley Stories by Laina Hughes.  Unlike the other books, it doesn’t provide a critique of Winnipeg, but instead looks at the history of Wolseley and the stories of the people who live in it.  Hughes said she wanted to write the book to get to know the people who lived in her house 100 years ago.

I think this is the best way to learn the history of the area you live in is to find out the history of your house or the street you live on (note: This doesn’t work if you live in a new development).  I used the Winnipeg Free Press archive, available in every library, to search my house.  Warning: don’t do this if you’re not ready for the consequences.  I found out that a previous owner of my house died in the house – luckily of natural causes.

In 2014, why not make it a resolution to read Winnipeg books by Winnipeggers in Winnipeg – there are sure to be more great titles on the way!


News from the Local History Room

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.

Front CoverWinnipeg 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.


Doing the Derby

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.

whipit 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:

Derby Girl (book) and Whip It (movie) by Shauna Cross

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”

The Library has a time machine: PastForward

Winnipeg 1912 by Jim Blanchard

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.

SS AlbertaMost 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.

Guns'n'ViolinsThere 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 HappylandCrowd at 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

12 Monkeys

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…

Union Tower, now and then.
…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. Ghosts

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!


Get ready for Folk Fest! Winnipeg Folk Festival holdings at WPL

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!