Tag Archives: Winnipeg

What’s New in the New Local History Room

jacket_med

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.

  Farblonguet

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.

Louis-Philippe

Advertisements

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!

14054973665_e46f28d98a_z

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!

Irmy

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”.

icefishingshack

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.

Jane

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!

Kyle

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.

Louis-Philippe

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!

Mike

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).

cds

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

 

cds2

Have fun at the festival!

-Sophie

Celebrating Indigenous Literature in Manitoba

Centering Anishinaabeg Stories

Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko begins her book Ceremony by saying “If you don’t have the stories, you don’t have anything.”  Stories have the power to heal, to shape worldviews, to share information, pass on cultural teachings as well as to entertain.  Silko’s book was cited as one of the most important books in contemporary literature by renowned Native American author Sherman Alexie.   In the brand-new book Centering Anishinaabeg Studies, Anishinaabeg people’s stories are seen as having the answers to many issues experienced in communities and the world, they are “vessels of knowledge.”

June 21st is National Aboriginal Solidarity Day in Canada.  People across the country will be attending festivals.  Here in Winnipeg, there is a street festival on Selkirk Avenue (look for us!) in the vibrant North End and on Saturday – an all day festival at the Forks.  Earlier this spring Winnipeg Public Library saw the opening of the new Aboriginal Resources Area at the Millennium branch and on June 18th we celebrated Indigenous literature with the Aboriginal Writers Collective in honour of National Aboriginal Solidarity Day.  The celebration was a hit.  In case you didn’t know – there are so many talented writers in our community!

Below, I have included a selection of some suggested literature by Aboriginal authors who hail from Manitoba.

In Search of April Raintree This list would be severely lacking if this book wasn’t suggested. Beatrice Mosionier’s beautifully written story of two sisters who are taken from their parents by social services is one of our most requested books when we do community outreach.

7 Generations, a Plains Cree Saga If you haven’t heard of this graphic novel get yourself to the library and pick it up!  David Alexander Robertson and Scott Henderson have created graphic story of a young Aboriginal person who learns the story of his ancestors.

Kiss of the Fur Queen

Kiss of the Fur Queen A few years ago I met a woman who traveled to Manitoba from California after finding this book in a used bookstore.  She was seeking the author, Thomson Highway, and on her way to visit The Pas which is featured in the novel.  This is the kind of impact this book can have.  It is a powerful story of survival and the coming of age of two remarkable brothers who were forced to attend residential school.

Bone Memory  In 2004 the Aboriginal Writers collective put out this chapbook highlighting the work of different members of the collective.  We are looking forward to their next chapbook – being launched in the fall!

This is a small northern town

This is a Small Northern Town This book is a collection of poems by Cree writer Rosanna Deerchild centering on the experience of growing up as a girl in a small divided Northern Manitoba town.

Wolf and Shadows   Duncan Mercredi is one of the founding members of the Aboriginal Writers Collective and a poet in his own right.  This is one of his collections of poetry which confront the tensions between traditional knowledge and urban living.

All My Best

Joe From Winnipeg: All My Best Ian Ross, creator of the popular radio personality Joe from Winnipeg, put some of his favourite commentaries in this book.  It is a humourous take on some of those everyday issues we all wonder about including little dogs with nail polish.

Manitowapow  This book, edited by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and Warren Cariou, was the On the Same Page winner this year.  It is full of incredible gems by Indigenous leaders, authors, activists and academics from the province of Manitoba.  Some of the stories were written a long time ago and some are more contemporary but they tell the (often untold) story of this place we call Manitoba.

Halfbreed

Halfbreed  Maria Campbell spent a year as a writer in residence at the University of Winnipeg which of course makes her a honourary Winnipegger! Her memoir is still taught in schools and details the racism and sexism she experienced as a Metis woman.

Brothers in Arms  Among the various children’s books Jordan Wheeler has written (check them out in our Children’s section!) the three stories in this book are a recommended read for teens and adults.  They are the stories of two brothers and their experiences, struggles and successes as First Nations men.

I Knew Two Metis Women Gregory Scofield looks at the life of his mother and his adopted aunty through this collection of poems – a poetic biography.

Winnipeg Public Library’s collection of literature by Indigenous writers is growing and this list really only taps the surface of a huge number of titles which cross all genres, formats and defy all expectations!  Happy reading.

Kim

A Wolseley Story

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 storiesWolseley 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.

WP12751 (1)

Class photo of all women in school uniforms from the Wolseley area’s Gordon Bell High School, 1934, part of Winnipeg Public Library’s PastForward postcard collection.

 
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