Posts Tagged With: leo mol

There is Winnipeg Mennonite Fiction!

He got it wrong! In March I took a course called Winnipeg Fact and Fiction from Roland Penner octogenarian story-teller extraordinaire. One class was about the contributions immigrant families have made to the city.  Penner was right in asserting that immigrants and their children helped put Winnipeg on the map. Just  look at people like ………….

Manitoba Theatre Centre founder John Hirsch who was a war orphan from Hungary

Sculptor Leo Mol who came to Canada from Ukraine in 1948

Politician Stanley Knowles who immigrated to Canada from Los Angeles with his parents in the early 1900s.  Intrepid war hero William Stephenson, Winnipeg’s own James Bond, whose parents were immigrants from Iceland and Scotland. 

and comedian David Steinberg born in Winnipeg to Romanian immigrant parents. 

The purpose of the course Winnipeg Fact and Fiction was to introduce a topic about Winnipeg history and then suggest one or two companion novels that might shed an interesting perspective on that theme.  Our teacher Roland Penner got it wrong when he recommended Fredelle Maynard’s book Raisins and Almonds as his top fiction pick reflecting the Winnipeg immigrant experience.

Raisins and Almonds tells the story of a young girl growing up on the Canadian prairies as the child of Jewish immigrants from Russia. The first problem I have with Roland Penner choosing this book is that it’s not fiction, but Maynard’s memoirs. Secondly, although there are a some pages in the book devoted to life in Winnipeg the majority of the stories are set in the small Canadian prairie towns where Fredelle’s family moved in hopes of finding one where her father’s mercantile business would be successful. 

Someone in the class asked Roland if he could recommend fiction books that would represent the Mennonite immigrant experience in Winnipeg and he said there weren’t any. He claimed since Mennonites settled primarily in the rural areas of Manitoba, if there was any fiction about their immigrant experience it wouldn’t be set in Winnipeg. He was wrong. 

Dora Dueck’s novel This Hidden Thing, winner of last year’s McNally Robinison Book of the Year award, is definitely fiction and is set almost solely in Winnipeg. It tells the story of young Mennonite girls who came to live in Winnipeg to work as maids in the homes of wealthy people in order to help pay the money their families owed to the Canadian Pacific Railway. The CPR had financed loans to make it possible for Mennonites to come to Canada from Ukraine.  Maria, the main character in Dueck’s novel, spends almost her entire life in Winnipeg after immigrating from Ukraine as a teenager.  

Penner is also wrong when he says there weren’t many Mennonite immigrants in Winnipeg. By the 1920’s six Mennonite churches had already been established in the city and by the 1950’s there were 7000 Mennonites living in Winnipeg. 

I’d like to find out if there are any other novels set primarily in Winnipeg that reflect the experience of Mennonite immigrants. 

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Categories: Churches, Literature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Lamb-“Mr. North”

Every morning on my way to the gym to do my work out I pass by this statue of Tom Lamb on the main floor at the Lombard Place entrance of the Richardson Building. Many people rest their belongings on the statue’s base now in winter to give themselves free hands to secure their scarves and hats before stepping out into the snowy cold air. I’ve done it myself. Today I took time to read the plaque on the statue that told me who the pilot in the statue was, and why he merited a bronze likeness by the famed Canadian sculptor Leo Mol.   I was curious to learn more about Tom Lamb.  I found out he’d been born in 1898 in Grand Rapids Manitoba. His British father and mother were Anglican missionaries in the north. His Dad did many different jobs but was primarily a school teacher. He  moved his family to Moose Lake in 1900. 

Although Tom would later be awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Manitoba his formal education ended at grade three. In 1935 he  bought an airplane and learned to fly it so he could go fly fishing in the north. Four years later he had founded Lambair.

The airline hauled fish and furs, trappers and fishermen. They transported Inuit families and equipment for oil rigs. They handled emergency and medical evacuations. The motto of the airline was “Don’t ask us where we fly! Tell us where you want to go.”

Tom, also known as the “Babe Ruth of bush pilots” married Jennie and they had eight children.  The Lamb kids all started flying by sitting behind the steering wheel of a plane on their Dad’s lap in the cockpit. 

Their six sons all became career pilots as well and went into business with their Dad. By 1959 Lambair had logged more than 1,500,000 air miles, owned twenty planes and employed 40 pilots. In 1960 Tom, who by now had earned the nickname “Mr. North” let his sons take over most of the airline business since he still had his fur trading operation to run, a 7,240 acre cattle ranch to maintain and 24 grandchildren to keep him busy. 


Tom Lamb died in 1969 and his sons kept running the business till 1981. A 1981 Free Press article notes that Lambair is bankrupt and Calm Air is trying to buy the company. Only one of Tom’s  grandchildren, a granddaughter Tracy took up flying. Tom’s son Jack has told the family’s story in his book My Life in the North. 

 Although the Leo Mol statue in the Richardson Building bears the date 1991, the original piece was poured in 1971. There is another copy of  the Tom Lamb statue in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park. A fibre glass version sits in the airport at The Pas and there is another copy in the Canadian embassy in Washington DC. 

Leo Mol said he wanted to show Tom Lamb as a young pilot and he made the propeller in his hands look a bit like a clock because he wanted the statue to take people back in time to the era when Mr. Lamb helped open up the north as an aviation pioneer.

In September of 1977 at a ceremony where Tom Lamb was posthumously admitted to the Honor Roll of the Aviation Council he was lauded as an individualist, humanitarian, multi-skilled, community minded businessman.

Categories: Businesses, Exchange District, Famous Citizens, Statues | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Tree Children

Tree Children is another sculpture within two blocks of my home. It stands just in front of the Richardson Building at the corner of Portage and Main and was installed in 2002.  It was created by Leo Mol, who also crafted the James Bond– William Stephenson statue I wrote about.  I don’t know if kids still climb trees. Maybe it is not considered safe anymore, but this statue shows the adventure of tree climbing.  The four children here are each unique and seem to display a different personality. The way Mol has sculpted them they really could be boys or girls.  The texture of the sculpture is almost ‘clay-like’.  Leo Mol’s father was a potter and when Leo was a child living in Ukraine his first art experiences were working in clay with his Dad. 

This child seems to be in charge and is perched front and center in the main crook of the tree. It looks like it is up to him to decide who gets to play on the tree or not.  

Although the sculpture is called Tree Children, I think the faces of the characters look wise beyond their years and could just as easily belong to adults as well as children.  I see this fellow as being the narrator and organizer of the group’s imaginary play on the tree. 

This child looks a little younger than the others and I think is hesitant about climbing the tree.  She/he may be asking permission first to climb aboard, but may also need some encouragement to swing up into the branches and join the others.  One hand is pointing at the child’s chest as if she’s saying, “Me? You want me to climb the tree?”

This child is the thoughtful one.  She’s up high, looking down, perhaps with a little trepidation, hanging onto the limbs with both hands and sitting, not standing.  Her lone spot up on the high limb gives her a little solitude and a place to think. She has climbed up to her perch carefully and likes it, but she won’t be jumping down out of the tree. She’ll crawl down cautiously. 

This is the brave daring child, hanging on by one hand only, saying “Look at me.”  

I am struck by the fact that none of the children in the sculpture are smiling. They all look rather serious in fact. Was Leo Mol trying to say something about childhood–that children are really just ‘mini-adults’, that even while tree climbing they are serious and thinking about life? 

It is interesting that this sculpture is in the heart of downtown Winnipeg where the only trees aren’t really ones you could climb, and in a place where you expect to see traffic, business people, and stores but not children playing.  

I’d be interested in knowing why the Richardsons chose to put this particular sculpture in front of their building. I’d also be curious to find out what children think about this sculpture. 

There are two other sculptures in the Richardson Plaza by Manitoba artists. You can read about those sculptures in these blog posts………

Seal River Crossing

North Watch

Categories: Exchange District, Sculptures | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

James Bond is From Winnipeg

Ian Fleming the author of the James Bond novels once said,”James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is … William Stephenson.” Walking down Memorial Boulevard this week I photographed this statue of William Stephenson and when I got home I did a little research. I was surprised to find that Stephenson was a Winnipeg native, born right here in the Point Douglas area where I live. He taught math and science at the University of Manitoba and before he died  he bequeathed $100,000 to the University of Winnipeg to fund scholarships for outstanding students. Winnipeg has an official fan club for Stephenson called The Intrepid Society. As part of their agenda they’ve successfully lobbied to have a street in Winnipeg named after their hero and a statue of him installed in CIA headquarters in Washington. DC. A public library in Winnipeg also bears his name.  

As this plaque on his sculpture indicates, William’s code name was Intrepid when he worked for British intelligence in New York during World War II. A book about his life titled A Man Called Intrepid was a best seller and later was turned into  a TV mini-series starring David Niven and Barbara Hershey. 

Orphaned as a young child and then adopted, William was fascinated with Morse code as a teenager and was good at boxing.  He served as a pilot during World War I and was shot down and captured by the Germans. He managed to escape after three months and won several medals for bravery. Stephenson went on to study at Oxford University. 

William accomplished many significant and impressive things in the next couple decades. After teaching at the University of Manitoba he moved to Britain where he invented the process for sending photographs over the wire electronically, purchased a radio manufacturing company that made him a millionaire before he was thirty, and then diversified into film, coal and oil refining, the steel industry, television and aircraft production. He helped to found the British Broadcasting Corporation. (BBC)

He obviously wasn’t looking for a job when Winston Churchill asked him to become the head of British security in New York coordinating counter-espionage efforts together with the Americans. He hired hundreds of people to work for him, many of them Canadians and he paid for their salaries out of his own pocket. He set up a school in Whitby Ontario that trained more than 2000 covert operators including Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books. 

The sculpture of William Stephenson on Memorial Boulevard, was created by renowned Winnipeg sculptor Leo Mol and was unveiled by Princess Anne in 1999.

 I found a clip from the film version of The Man Called Intrepid on You Tube. I’d like to get a copy of the entire thing and watch it. I had no idea the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond came from Winnipeg.

Categories: Downtown, Famous Citizens, Statues | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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