Monthly Archives: March 2012

Between Dog and Wolf – Entre chien et loup

This eerie, see-through sculpture in fiery autumn colors titled Between Dog and Wolf caught my attention when I was walking by the old St. Boniface City Hall building on Provencher Boulevard last week.  It is by well-known Canadian artist Joe Fafard. I had been to a Fafard exhibit at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon and had seen some of Fafard’s pieces at the Mayberry Gallery here in Winnipeg, but this sculpture was very different. Unveiled in May 26, 2011 Between Dog and Wolf is one of the pieces in the St. Boniface Sculpture Garden which opened in June of 2008 as part of the St. Boniface centennial celebrations. St. Boniface, for those unfamiliar with Winnipeg, would be considered the city’s French Quarter. 

The phrase between dog and wolf in French is entre chien et loup. It first became popular in the 13th century and describes a time of day in the morning or evening when the dim light makes it impossible to distinguish between a dog and a wolf. Fafard has created his sculpture in such a way that it looks almost ghostly, in fact I kept trying to focus my camera to get a better shot because my photos seemed a little blurry. If you look closely at the empty cut out spaces in the piece, as well as the bronze shapes they leave, you can see all kinds of silhouettes and outlines–a church steeple, a man’s face, a woman carrying a basket, angels, birds, a cocoon and tree branches. I’m sure each viewer can pick out their own unique images much like finding pictures in clouds or rock formations. 

 One translator says the phrase entre chien et loup has a much less literal meaning as well. It can be used to express the sometimes blurry line between the safe and familiar and the unknown and dangerous, between the domestic and the wild. It expresses the uncertainty between hope and fear. I suspect that living in a entre chien et loup kind of space at least some of the time, whether by necessity or choice, might not always be comfortable but it certainly makes our lives much more interesting. I wonder if we don’t learn the most when we are in entre chien et loup situations and places. 


This photo of Between Dog and Wolf   from the publication La Libertemakes me want to go back and take photos of the sculpture in another season.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like to read about the other pieces of art in the St. Boniface Sculpture Garden……..

What is It?

La Promise

Volte

Categories: Sculptures, St. Boniface | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Aren’t You Scared to Live in Winnipeg’s Exchange District?

My husband Dave and I made a deliberate decision to live downtown in Winnipeg’s Exchange District when we moved back to Canada from Hong Kong in July. One reason was because we wanted to manage with one car and living right down town would make it easier to walk places or take the bus.

We love theatre, movies, concerts, museums, sports and art galleries and so living within a few blocks of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, many cinemas, the Centennial Concert Hall, the Warehouse Theatre,the Winnipeg Art Gallery, The MTS arena and the Goldeyes Stadium was very appealing. We are also an easy walk from the river paths, shops and restaurants of The Forks and Winnipeg’s nearly completed Human Rights Museum. Within two blocks of our home I can access the overhead and underground walkway system which allows me to stay indoors and walk to the Winnipeg Millennium Library, Portage Place, the Bay, the MTS Centre, the Winnipeg Post Office, the YMCA and the University of Winnipeg. We are within a few blocks of Winnipeg’s China Town where we have already discovered at least one small shop that serves Won Ton Mein almost the way we remember it in Hong Kong.

I was surprised therefore when so many people asked me how I could live in the Exchange District. Wasn’t I scared? I admit there are shootings and robberies in our area, but these happen every where in Winnipeg. I know many people in the suburbs who’ve had their cars broken into while they were sitting right on their driveways.

The bar Alive across the street is hopping till the wee hours and the busy Hermanos Restaurant in my building is open till well past midnight, which means there are always lots of people out and about, and so I feel safe even if I do come home at a later hour. By 7:00 in the morning on a weekday the streets are already alive with cars and pedestrians hurrying to their downtown offices.  On the weekends the Ashdown Warehouse employs a security guard who is on duty all evening and night. He makes sure only tenants and their guests are in our building. Almost every time I go for a walk in our area I see one or two or even more Down Town Watch ambassadors in their easy to spot red uniforms, or police officers in cars or on foot, or security teams from various businesses and malls. I think our area is probably more closely monitored by security people than most in the city.

Last week within one day four different people commented on the dangers of living in the Exchange.  “Wouldn’t you be happier living in an area like Lindenwoods or Bridgewater Forest?” suggested one person.  A friend told my husband he’d love to live in the area we do but his wife would just be way too scared. “I have a relative who is a police officer and he says down town Winnipeg is even more dangerous than the media reports,” someone said. Hearing these kind of things repeatedly does give one pause, but isn’t enough to make me want to move anywhere else. 

There are too many pluses to living in The Exchange, to even consider exchanging our home here for one somewhere else in the city. I think if you take sensible precautions it is no more dangerous a place to live than anywhere else in Winnipeg. There are more and more residential spaces being built in down town Winnipeg all the time. The more people who move here and make their homes in apartments and condominiums here the safer the area will be. 

Maybe I need to start asking people why they live in the suburbs when they could be living in The Exchange down town. 

 

 

Categories: Exchange District | Tags: | 6 Comments

The Flying Bandit

I’m taking a course with Roland Penner a well-known Manitoba lawyer. Our class is called Winnipeg Fact or Fiction. In my first post about the course I wrote about the Winnipeg Strike. Our second class was about a famous Winnipeg criminal, Kenneth Leishman. Roland was intimately familiar with his case because he defended Leishman’s accomplice Harry Backlin in court. Although Leishman’s story honestly sounds like fiction, Roland gave us a good factual account of what actually happened. 

March 3 of 1966 Ken Leishman masterminded the theft of nearly $400,000 in gold bars from the Winnipeg International Airport and he almost got away with it. The gold was coming into Winnipeg from Red Lake, en route to the mint in Ottawa and Ken knew it had no police protection as it was moved from the plane to the airport. He took advantage of this and posing as an Air Canada driver intercepted the gold and drove away with it.

Harry Backlin, a lawyer Ken had known in prison was part of the scheme. He was on a planned holiday in California so it would look like he wasn’t involved. On his return from the United States Backlin was going to take the gold to Hong Kong and sell it. Ken went to Harry’s house right after the heist and told Harry’s mother-in-law who had not gone to California, that he was Harry’s friend and was going to store some moose meat in his freezer. That’s where he stashed the gold, planning to pick it up the next day and take it to his uncle’s farm in Treherne. 

Unfortunately for Ken a huge blizzard hit Winnipeg that night and he couldn’t get out of the city in the morning. In desperation he hid the gold in the snow banks in Harry’s backyard, which made Harry pretty upset when he arrived home. Harry’s plans to go to Hong Kong were thwarted when there was a problem with his passport so Ken decided to go to Hong Kong to sell the gold himself. He sawed off a piece of gold to take to Hong Kong in his briefcase as a sample to sell. However Ken needed a small pox vaccination to go to Hong Kong. Harry arranged one with a friend who was a doctor. There was supposed to be a seven-day waiting period after a vaccination but Ken convinced the doctor to lie and put the wrong date on the vaccination form so he could leave Canada right away. The doctor feeling guilty confessed what he’d done to a friend who was a police officer. The police officer recognized Ken’s name. Ken had been high on the police list of suspects for the gold robbery because of his previous criminal activity.  The RCMP made plans to arrest Ken in the Vancouver airport when he arrived there on his way to Hong Kong. Ken managed to get out of the airport long enough to get rid of the gold in his briefcase before he was arrested. It was never found. 

Ken made the mistake of explaining the robbery in detail to the man sharing his cell in Vancouver. He was an RCMP agent incarcerated with Ken for the purpose of extracting incriminating information. After Ken’s Vancouver jail house confession the gold was dug up from Harry’s backyard and Ken was sent to jail in Headingly, Manitoba to await trial. 

Unbelievably Ken managed to escape from Headingly, was recaptured in Indiana and sent to the Vaughn Street Detention Centre and he escaped from there too. Finally he was tried, convicted and sent to prison for twelve years, however he managed to get out of prison after just eight years for good behavior. 

Following his prison release Ken and his wife Elva and their seven children moved to Red Lake where they opened a store and Ken became a pillar of the community, even serving as president of the Red Lake Chamber of Commerce. 

Ken, a former pilot began flying mercy flights taking people from northern communities to hospitals. In 1979 while flying one of these mercy flights his plane went missing. It took almost five months of searching but remains of the aircraft and human bodies were eventually found. 

My course with Roland Penner is called Winnipeg Fact and Fiction and for each event in Winnipeg history we study, Roland recommends several fictional accounts. I read Heather Robertson’s The Flying Bandit. It is fiction, because Heather invents conversation and actions and scenes, but she does stick very closely to the actual events that happened. 

I liked the book because I learned lots more about Ken Leishman’s personal life. He had a difficult childhood. His parents divorced. He was in a series of foster homes and lived for a while with very strict and unaffectionate grandparents. I truly admired his wife Elva ( the photo is their wedding picture) who stuck with him through everything and raised their seven children. I also learned about the crimes Ken had committed before the gold heist– two bank robberies and a break and enter at a furniture store so he could furnish an apartment to bring Elva home to after their wedding.  Ken was very successful for a time at selling Queen Anne cookware door to door. I can remember a salesman coming to our home to do a pitch for that cookware for my Mom. 

Something interesting I learned from reading the book was that when Ken escaped from Headingly Jail in September of 1966 he went to Steinbach, where my family was living at the time, and stole a plane from Abe Loewen, a pharmacist my father knew well, since Dad was a doctor in Steinbach. Ken and three other Headingly escapees flew the plane to Gary Indiana before they were arrested. 

Heather does a good job of helping us get to know Ken as a person. He truly believed he could get away with his crimes. He was a ‘nice’ man –polite, friendly, dressed neatly and fashionably, was faithful to his wife, loved his children, wrote poetry and secretly reveled in the fame his crimes brought him. 

I’ve just started reading Bandit, a novel about Kenneth Leishman written by Wayne Tefs. It has been nominated for five Manitoba book awards. I am sure to learn some new things about one of Winnipeg’s most famous criminal from reading it. 

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Connections At All Saints Church

Yesterday I attended All Saints Anglican church at the corner of Broadway and Osborne in Winnipeg. I had heard the music at the services was excellent as indeed it was, led by Dietrich Bartel the Dean of Music at my alma mater Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). Dr. Bartel conducted the choir and played the church’s grand pipe organ with masterful flair.

I recognized a couple Mennonite singers in the choir, one a former CMU classmate of mine.  The choir members nearly outnumbered the congregation. About 50 people were in attendance, and they seemed lost in the grand sanctuary with its high ceilings and endless rows of polished  dark hard-backed wood pews.  When it was time for the children’s story three young girls came forward. To celebrate the lovely spring weather in Winnipeg this weekend, the trio of smiling young ladies handed out colorful tulips to all the women in the congregation. One girl was from a Chinese family, a nice reminder of my six years living in Hong Kong. 

 The service at All Saints was led by pastor Edmund Laldin. Later talking to some of the congregants they told me he was fairly new to the church. Rev. Laldin is from Pakistan and is a former pastor of a Lutheran church which is perhaps why some of the liturgy choices he made sounded familiar to me, since we attended a Lutheran church when we lived in Hong Kong. 

This old car was parked just outside the church, a fitting reminder of just how old All Saints actually is. According to an article by James Hartman called The Churches of Early Winnipeg All Saints was founded in 1883 by Winnipeg residents who were looking for a more ritualistic service than was available in other churches. They wanted a greater emphasis on good quality music. The church was at the centre of a scandal almost immediately as the writer of a  letter to the editor of  a Winnipeg newspaper accused the church of immoral behavior. They had apparently conducted a raffle for a quilt to raise money for their pipe organ. The writer said this was illegal gambling and the church should be called All Sinners Church not All Saints. 

Here’s how All Saints looked in 1886. The wood frame building in English Gothic style could seat 450 people.

Dozens of plaques like this one in the church indicate the congregation’s strong link to the military community. All Saints was initially nicknamed the Garrison Church because the barracks for the Royal Canadian Dragoons was just across the street and the soldiers stationed there often marched in parade to services at All Saints on Sunday mornings. 

There are many beautiful stained glass windows in the church, like this one of the Last Supper.  A number of these have been donated to All Saints in memory of fallen soldiers. 

I was surprised to look up and see this flag with Chinese lettering saying Hong Kong Veterans hanging from the church’s ceiling. I knew there was a regiment from Manitoba The Winnipeg Grenadiers who had served in Hong Kong and that many Manitobans had been killed there when Japan attacked Hong Kong the same day they attacked Pearl Harbor. I also knew many more Winnipeg soldiers had died in Japanese prisoner of war camps.

I wrote an article for the Winnipeg Free Press about visiting the Sai Wan War cemetery where these Winnipeg soldiers are buried in Hong Kong.

I also had a Sai Wan piece in Imprint a magazine project of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing group of which I was a member. 

Later when an All Saints congregation member saw me examining  a plaque that paid tribute to the Hong Kong Veterans he said the survivors of the Winnipeg Grenadiers had met annually in their church for many years, holding a memorial service and meal. Of course by now virtually all of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who served in Hong Kong will have passed away. 

All Saints was a very friendly congregation to visit. Before the service a woman helped me find the right liturgical book and hymn book I would need. During the ‘passing of the peace’ many people shook hands with me. After the service quite a number of smiling congregation members introduced themselves and invited me to stay for coffee. 

The All Saints Church is steeped in history, has beautiful art, a welcoming congregation and more personal Winnipeg and Hong Kong connections for me than I realized.

You might want to check out this Free Press article about the stained glass art at All Saints Anglican.  

All Saints Windows Shine to the Glory of God

Categories: Buildings, Churches, Downtown | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Controversial Statue

On Sunday afternoon Dave and I went for a walk in St. Boniface and saw this statue on the St. Boniface College campus. I recognized the statue right away since it had stood on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature for many years. I knew it had caused quite a stir when it was unveiled and that it had been removed from the legislature. I didn’t realize it had been relocated to St. Boniface College where Louis Riel was once a student. 

The statue really has two parts. The first part is the 12 foot high cement sculpture of Louis Riel, the Metis founder of Manitoba. It was created by retired firefighter and artist Marcien Lemay.The second part of the art piece are two 30 foot high half cylinder shells that bracket the sculpture and have Riel’s name and a quote from him etched into them. The shells were made by architect Etienne Gaboury a distant relative of Louis Riel’s. 

 Artist Lemay said Louis Riel was a controversial historical figure so he wanted to create a controversial statue. He made Louis Riel’s face contorted in anguish. His body is naked and twisted. He wanted to show Riel as a martyr who suffered for his people. It is true that Louis Riel was controverisal.He spent time in a mental institution. He had some very strange fanatical religious prophesies. The Canadian government labeled him a rebel and a murderer, sent him into exile and eventually hung him.

On the other hand he is officially recognized as the founder of Manitoba. He was an educated spokesperson for the Metis people and fought valiantly and eloquently for their property rights. He was elected to the Canadian Parliament three times and Manitoba has an annual public holiday in his honor.

 Louis Riel’s name is in big letters on the bracketing walls of the artwork and near their bottom is this quote……..”Yes I have done my duty. During my life I have aimed at practical results. I hope that after I die my spirit will bring practical results. I know that through the grace of God I am the founder of Manitoba.”

 The statue caused a great deal of controversy when it was unveiled in 1970. Some people thought it was ridiculous to spend $35,000 on a statue of someone who “was unbalanced mentally and who influenced and inflamed the Metis to go on the war path.” The Metis community said, “The statue is an insult to Louis Riel and the Metis people. It is horrible- him standing there stark naked looking leery, when throughout his life and even at his execution he carried himself like a statesman.”

The statue stood at the legislature for 24 years and was attacked by vandals on many occasions. They spray painted and defaced the statue and at one point even cut off Riel’s penis.

 Finally in 1994 the statue was taken down at the Legislative grounds and a new one was put up in its place. Lemay and Gaboury’s statue was moved to St. Boniface College where it was unveiled in 1996.


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A Graphic Louis Riel

Categories: Famous Citizens, St. Boniface, Statues | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The 1919 Winnipeg Strike- Fact and Fiction

I am taking a course at the McNally Robinson community classroom from Roland Penner, a former dean of the University of Manitoba law school and the province’s Attorney General in the 1980’s. The course is called Winnipeg History- Fact and Fiction. In each class Roland gives a quick overview of an event in Winnipeg’s history and then introduces us to novels which have been written about those events. I decided I would try to read one novel about each event. 

In our first class we looked at the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. For six weeks beginning in May more than 30,000 Winnipeg workers walked off the job. The strike was the product of poor working conditions, unemployment–especially in the case of returning World War I soldiers, the economic recession and the activity of union organizers.  The strikers wanted an eight-hour work day, collective bargaining and a living wage. 

The strike virtually brought the city to a stand still. Work stopped at the railway yards and factories. Winnipeg had no mail, streetcars, taxis, newspapers, telegrams, telephones, gasoline, or milk delivery. Most restaurants, stores, and even barber shops closed. Police, fire fighters, and employees of the water works joined the strike. 

The strike leaders were arrested and imprisoned and the strike ended on June 21,1919 when a contingent of Royal Northwest Canadian Mounted Police charged a group of strikers, killing two and injuring many others. 

The novel I read about the strike was Fox by Margaret Sweatman. There is a rather elegant and obviously wealthy young woman on the cover. Her name is Eleanor and it is basically through her eyes and that of her upper class friends and family that we view the strike.  Eleanor leads a very privileged existence and knows little about the lives of Winnipeg’s working class. However when she begins a romantic relationship with a book store owner who is a strike supporter, her eyes are opened to the working conditions of Winnipeg’s lower class as well as the suffering they experience as a result of the strike. 

Although it is clear author Margaret Sweatman’s sympathies lie with the strikers, interestingly her grandfather Travers Sweatman was one of the company of 1000– a group of Winnipeg citizens who banded together to bring about the unconditional defeat of the strike. They hired 2000 militia men to take the place of the striking police and discouraged all attempts to try to find a peaceful negotiated settlement with the strikers. Margaret’s grandfather was an attorney who helped in the legal prosecution of the strike organizers. One wonders if writing her novel was a way for Sweatman to do penance for the sins of her grandfather.

I was glad I knew some general information about the Winnipeg Strike before I read Fox. I think I would have been pretty confused otherwise, since Sweatman doesn’t provide a straight forward narrative but rather a kind of crazy jumble of newspaper articles, lists, headlines, stories, letters, poems and journal entries. She does a nice job of juxtapositiong events–a high society wedding is described right after we read that the strike leaders have been arrested– while Eleanor is hosting a tobogganing party the union leaders are meeting illegally at the Walker Theatre. Margaret shows what widely disparate economic and social class distinctions existed in Winnipeg at the time of the strike. 

Can anyone recommend other novels about the Winnipeg Strike?

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A Graphic Louis Riel

On February 24th when we celebrated Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, I realized I had done any number of blog posts that involved Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba.  When I visited the Grey Nuns’ Convent I found out Louis Riel was a student at a school run by the nuns and one of the sisters traveled to Montreal with him so he could attend college there. I have since learned as well that Louis Riel’s sister Sara joined the order of Grey Nuns in the 1860’s and remained a serving sister till her death of tuberculosis in 1883.

When I wrote a post about James Ashdown who built the warehouse which houses my condo in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, I noted that Louis Riel had imprisoned Mr. Ashdown for 59 days because he voiced resistance to Louis’ take over of the Red River Settlement. 

I did a post about Joseph Royal and the park named after him at the foot of the Provencher Bridge.  I wrote about how Joseph had argued for Louis Riel’s amnesty and had defended two of Louis’ compatriots who were accused of the murder of Thomas Scott. 

I explored the life of A. G. Bannatyne in  a post since I live on Bannatyne Avenue. Mr. Bannatyne acted as a mediator between Louis Riel’s provisional government and the Canadian government. I noted that Louis Riel even wrote a poem about Annie Bannatyne, A.G’s wife. 

In my post about the Provencher Bridge I said that the pedestrian walkway on the structure was called Esplanade Riel in honor of Louis Riel. 

I realized I had written quite a bit about Louis Riel, but how much did I actually know about him? My last Canadian history course was in high school and I had never read a book about Louis Riel. I decided it was time to remedy that. I didn’t have time however to read some thick tome about the founder of my province so I decided to get Chester Brown’s Louis Riel- A Comic Strip Biography from the library. I had introduced my high school students to a couple graphic novels and I knew they were a good way to tell a story. 

Although I was a little disappointed that the book didn’t deal with Louis’ childhood it did provide a good overview of his life from the time just before the Riel Rebellion/ Resistance till Louis’ execution. The book was easy to read and I finished it in a day. I learned that Louis Riel was  elected to Canada’s Parliament three times while he was a wanted criminal and in exile in the United States. 

I learned quite a bit more about the role Canadian prime minister Sir John A McDonald had in the resistance movements in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan that Louis was involved in.  Brown depicts Sir John A as mean-spirited, self -serving and willing to sacrifice anything to get his railway built across Canada. 

I learned quite a bit more about the relationship between Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was more of a pragmatist than Riel and more interested in violent resistance. If you want to know more about Riel and Dumont listen to this excellent interview with Joseph Boyden who has written a book about the two men. 

I also learned what a deeply religious person Louis was and how that influenced his decisions. 

Chester Brown’s graphic comic gave a good overview of Louis’ life. Since Riel plays such a prominent role in the history of the province of Manitoba and in the history of Winnipeg it is good for me to know more about him.

I am currently reading Louis Riel-Firebrand by Sharon Stewart to learn more about Riel’s childhood and personality. 

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A Controversial Statue

Categories: Famous Citizens, Literature | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Carol Shields

Today is International Women’s Day so I thought today I should do a post about a Winnipeg woman who really put our city on the map. I don’t think I realized the scope of Carol Shields reputation till I moved to Hong Kong in the fall of 2003 just after the Pulitzer Prize winning author had died of cancer. 

“Did you know Carol Shields?” I was asked that question in an almost reverential whisper in a Hong Kong bookstore. A few weeks after I’d moved to Hong Kong nearly ten years ago I used my Canadian credit card to pay for some novels at Page One, a well-known chain of Asian book stores. The clerk who handled the transaction wondered where I came from in Canada. “I live in Manitoba, close to the city of Winnipeg”, I told him. The clerk immediately asked if I knew Carol Shields.  I said I’d never spoken to Ms. Shields, but I had seen her in person at a book reading, attended a performance of a play she’d written, and I had read almost all of her work. The Hong Kong clerk led me to a table covered with black velvet near the front of the store. It featured a display of Shield’s books arranged around her photograph. “She was a fine author”. His voice resonated with genuine regret as he continued,” I was so sad when I heard she had died”.


Carol Shields the author of novels, non-fiction, plays and poetry wasn’t born in Winnipeg or even Canada, but in Oak Park Illinois. I visited Oak Park in November which was, by the way, also the home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Carol may not have been born in Winnipeg but she lived here from 1980-2000, was a professor at the University of Winnipeg and the chancellor of the University of Winnipeg. Winnipeg serves as a setting in some of her novels. 


The first book of Carol’s I read was Swann. I was fascinated by the way a person’s reputation and life story can be shaped, distorted and embellished posthumously by people who have never even met them. (This same theme is elegantly explored in a novel I just finished The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst). However Swann opened my mind to the idea for the first time and it had me rethinking my blithe assumptions about all kinds of historical figures. 

I read almost all of Carol’s books after that, but admit I kept a soft spot for Swann, even though it isn’t one of her more well-known works. Stone Diaries her Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of Daisy Flett, a very ordinary woman, whose life was really anything but ordinary. I remember the first time I read it, my favorite thing about the book were the photographs Carol included. I was so curious about her choice of photos and examined them for a long time. But because the book was fictional the photos were too, and so somehow they didn’t prevent me from imagining the characters looking exactly the way I wanted them to. 

I think Carol Shields is a good Winnipeg citizen to feature on International Woman’s Day because in interviews she often talked about how important her role as a mother of five children was in her life. She says she could never have written a novel if she hadn’t been a mother first. Near the end of her life when she was asked about her legacy she said her writing wasn’t her legacy, her children were. 

I took a photo of this bronze statue of Carol for my post about the Millennium Library. The library has an auditorium named after Carol. A replica of this statue can also be seen on the Winnipeg Citizen Walk of Fame in Assiniboine Park. 

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Mr. Eaton

This statue of Timothy Eaton is in the concourse of the MTS Centre where the Winnipeg Jets play hockey. I remember this statue well. Years ago it was located on the main floor in the old Eaton’s Store which stood on the very same spot where the MTS Centre is now. When my family came into Winnipeg from Steinbach to shop, we would often argree to rendezvous at a certain time at Mr. Eaton’s statue. The Eaton’s store went bankrupt in 1999 and eventually arrangements were made to declare the statue a part of Manitoba’s provincial history and preserve it in the MTS Centre.
Timothy Eaton came to Canada from Ireland and built a retail empire with large department stores both in Toronto and Winnipeg. Mr. Eaton also had a nation wide mail order business. I remember how excited I was as a little girl when the Eatons’ catalogue came out, especially the Christmas edition. We looked through it so many times picking out the things we dreamed about getting for Christmas. My mother remembers longing for an Eaton’s Beauty Doll for Christmas, a special line of dolls produced each year by Eatons. 

This statue was a gift to the Eaton family from the Eatons’ employees. It was presented to Timothy Eaton’s widow Margaret and his son John in 1919 on the occasion of the store’s 50th anniversary. The employees wanted to show their gratitude for the company’s generosity during World War I. All Eatons’ employees who enlisted in the army were promised their jobs back after the war. Married employees received their full Eaton’s salary during the war, and single men half their salary. Eaton’s sent their military employees care packages of chocolate, coffee, socks and other store products during the war. The company had many lucrative government contracts because of the war but donated all their profits from these contracts to the war effort. Apparently Mr. Eaton was also one of the first to close his business at 1 pm. on Saturday, instead of 6 pm. to give workers more time off. 

The 3,500 pound statue was made by Ivor Lewis, a Welshman who worked in the Eaton’s advertising department. It was officially unveiled on December 8,1919. The Eaton’s Choral Society sang O Canada.  John Eaton, Timothy’s son,  had a cold so his wife Flora read his speech in which he thanked the employees for their kind gift. A replica was placed in the Eaton’s Store in Toronto. It is now in the Royal Ontario Museum. 

This photo shows John and Margaret Eaton arriving at the store for the anniversary celebrationsAlthough I am sure many Eaton’s workers did appreciate their employer enough to donate money for a massive statue, I am also a little skeptical about the whole thing, because I know that during the Winnipeg Labor Strike in June of 1919, just six months before the presentation of the statue, Eatons tried to bribe their workers with a $4.00 a week raise so they wouldn’t go on strike. Despite this 500 of them walked off the job. Eatons also supplied the horses and baseball bats for the special police forces established to deal with the strikers. 

I need to go back and visit the statue again. I’ve learned it is good luck to rub the left foot of the Timothy Eaton statue. I’m going to do that the very next time I walk by. 

Categories: Downtown, Famous Citizens, Statues | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Skating the Red River

This morning Dave and I skated down the Red River. During years when there are optimal weather conditions this icy path is the longest skating rink in the world. The path starts at The Forks where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet. Traders, First Nations people, settlers and hunters have been meeting at The Forks for 6000 years. 

 We met our friend Les at The Forks. He has skated this river pathway many times and was our guide. Les normally skates this route at a much faster pace but he was patient with me. I hadn’t skated in over a decade and my old skates–still from my high school days– were a little tight and pinched my feet.  I was nervous about falling because with our warming weather conditions the ice has quite a few cracks, potholes and bumps. However I managed to stay upright traveling both ways along the river. 

One of the interesting things about skating down the Red River is checking out all the unique warming huts along the route where skaters can stop to rest, get out of the wind or re-lace their skates. These huts are the result of an annual international competition which has had up to 140 entries.  This hut is called Wind Catcher and was designed by Tina Soli and Luca Roncoroni from Norway. 

The designers said they wanted to create a kind of ‘hole in the wall’ piece that inspired curiosity with strong bright colors that contrasted with the white winter background. 

This hut was created by a quartet of designers from New York and is called Rope Pavilion. It has a birchwood frame and is woven with manila rope.

Here’s a uniquely shaped structure called Hot Hut created by students from the University of Manitoba. It is made of high density foam. 

Fir Hut was designed by Richard Kroeker. He was inspired by aboriginal designs and techniques. The Mi’kmaq people of Atlantic Canada taught Richard the art of thatching balsam fir. 

Five Hole was the name of this hut, the main attraction of the river ice path this year but unfortunately all that is left is the frame since it was made of ice blocks and the weather has been so warm most have melted. 

A photo of the hut appeared in a Macleans magazine article.  It was designed by the Gehry Design firm from Los Angeles and was made to look like an abstract igloo. Gehry Design was founded by Frank Gehry the famous architect who designed the Guggenheim Museum. 

This hut looked like it was covered in aluminum foil. 

Twelve students from Kelvin High School’s design drafting course created this hut. 

It was a balmy winter morning today just right for a river skate adventure. A little sunshine would have made it even nicer. I really enjoyed my skate although I think new blades may be in order before I try the route again.

Check out this very entertaining video excerpt from Rick Mercer’s show about skating at The Forks. 

Categories: Sports, The Forks | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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