Tuesday, August 27, 2019

University of Winnipeg - The Early Days

The above picture is from 1926 and shows the present University of Winnipeg Collegiate and behind it Sparling Hall. In the time of the photo, it the building fronting Portage Avenue was Wesley College. The building was built in 1894-95 and is one of the Canada's historic buildings and remains an integral part of the University of Winnipeg campus. The building behind is Sparling Hall but at time of construction was called the Annex. It took the name of J.W. Sparling, the founding principal of Wesley College. He would die the year Sparling Hall was built.

Portage Avenue was not very busy with cars in 1926. The stretch of retail on the north side consisted book stores, pharmacists, hardware stores and the like. Angle parking was the norm on the street. Streetcar lines are in the middle of the road.

Wesley College's founding was 1888 and several students were taught in Grace Church till money was raised and construction began on property that was acquired on Portage Avenue. Manitoba College, Wesley College's some time competitor/sometime partner was founded in 1871 and in 1882, built on Ellice Street, kitty corner to what would be Wesley College 12 years later. Manitoba College would eventually be sold to St. Paul's College when Manitoba finally joined Wesley College. The site presently is home to under utilized research laboratories of the National Research Council built in 1985 with a second lab built later 2006.
The former Manitoba College in 1932 which St. Paul's High school beside. The buildings would gall to the wrecking ball in 1964 after St. Paul's College went to the Fort Garry Campus of the University of Manitoba and St. Paul High School would go to Charleswood. The land thereafter law fallow for decades.
The picture above shows the United College (Manitoba and Wesley Colleges) in 1948 right in the middle along Portage Avenue. The Hudson Bay Company store built in 1926 in seen on the right side. Immediately above on the top of the picture are the grounds of St. Paul's College and St. Paul's High School (formerly Manitoba College).

United College shows an enormous field behind it that was used for a variety of sports such a soccer and football. It also had a baseball diamond.

Here is the field looking northward from Wesley College in the 1920s. Quite the baseball game going going on.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Misericordia Seniors Housing Opposed

Social media lit up in regards to Misericordia proposing seniors housing in its largely vacant education and resource center at 691 Wolseley, directly across from Misercordia Health Centre. The six story Misericordia Education and Resource Centre has been 80% empty ever since the Massage Therapy College of Manitoba decamped to the Clarion Hotel office spaces as Evolve Massage Therapy school. For many years three floors of what used to be the in-house training center for nurses were used by the school. Downstairs has been used by four non-profits, two of which have already found spaces. Health, family and seniors had been the focus of the organizations that operated in the building.

The proposed building seen above would be constructed once the old building is demolished some time in December once all the tenants have left. Thoughts on refurbishing the building were dismissed when the total started to climb northward in terms of bringing the building to code. Electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling as well as accessibility were far from ideal. A study done by Misericordia pegged costs at $7 million.
The 1962 built building is neither distinct nor well utilized for a 60 year old building and yet some people are advocating for its preservation and restoration. The argument for halting the demolition has to be taken in contrast to what will replace the mostly empty six storey building. What is being proposed is an assisted living seniors apartment that has 97 units that start at 20% below market rates for rent. Further, 29 units will be 30% below market rental rates.

Misericordia Corporation, a non-profit will plow all income back into the building. Moreover, it will be connected by skywalk to the hospital itself. The new building appears to attractive and unlike its old counterpart, seems to have a presence to Sherbrook Street. This is important because Sherbrook through fits and starts as been slowly becoming a more people oriented and likely street. Entrances to Sherbrook would go a long way to facilitating more activity.

It seems everything Misericordia does is resisted. The personal care home Misericordia Place was resisted in 2000 by many. Nearly 55 years ago Villa Rosa was opposed. The parkade has been opposed since 1985 but people parking anywhere near the hospital is opposed. The hospital has gone through many changes. The original 1971 construction of the Emergency and ICU was opposed. Later, its closure was opposed. The closure of the Urgent Care was opposed.

It is a very long list of resistance to change. However, a seniors home on an underused building site should not be opposed. One complaint was that climate change suffers when an old building is not revitalized. I am dubious on this as the building does not meet any codes now, is not dense enough and has huge problems on accessibility.

This city needs below market seniors housing in the Wolsely area. It is exactly what is needed and a brilliant addition to the neighbourhood. There are a lot of things to oppose in this city but inexpensive housing is not one of them.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Jerry Lewis Telethon and the Start of CKND 1975

The star in the middle is supposed to represent Winnipeg for the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

It was 44 years ago this week (August 31, 1975 to be exact) that CKND went on the air. A half hour program called Introducing CKND aired at 9 PM and then at 9:30 PM the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon came on the air. At 10 years old I had never really seen a Jerry Lewis film before. We had only gotten cable four years earlier after starting the decade in 1970 with a black and white TV and only two English channels CBWT and CKY.

We got cable in fall of 1971 which brought KTHI, WDAZ and KXJB from Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota. Suddenly a flood of new television programming was flooding in from five English networks and one French network. In 1975 they were joined by two more channels Prairie Public Television and CKND.

CKND was anagram for KCND which broadcast into Winnipeg from Pembina, North Dakota from 1959 to 1975. Izzy Asper and partners bought all the equipment from the station, set up in an old supermarket on St. Mary's, hired 17 of the former owner's staff and on Labour Day weekend went on the air. The 21 1/2 hour MDA Telethon would dominate the airwaves that weekend. There was a lot of excitement and the live performances by so many stars would captivate people the city in a major way.

Our family was home that weekend after camping for a month to Florida. Like most people in the city, we tuned into the new channel. I went to bed after midnight and was up at the crack of dawn fascinated that the same program was soldiering on. And on. The cutaways to local call ins for Winnipeg would not start till a year later so the program pretty much was non-stop Jerry Lewis.

The telethon would be the first time I ever saw Frank Sinatra perform live. I was actually more familiar with Nancy Sinatra (picture below) as her song These Boots Were Made For Walking was played on Winnipeg radio stations and on the Cliffords department store ads. Watching Sinatra perform though with his orchestra was a command performance.
The year 1975, as mentioned, was also the year Prairie Public Television came to Winnipeg. Its starts was less glitzy but together with CKND brought older movies to the screen that the rest of the networks did not. History films like Where Eagles Dare with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton would air on PBS. CKND, on the other hand, would broadcast The Bowery Boys and all the Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin movies.

By the time 1976 came along, many young people were up to speed up on Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and a host of others. The 1st anniversary of CKND would bring another WDA Jerry Lewis Telethon and at the behest of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin would go on the Labour Day show. It would be the first time since 1956 that Lewis and Martin would re-unite.
The 1976 telethon would be the most watched of all the Jerry Lewis broadcasts ever and include the most stations. Families in Winnipeg watched together because many kids by this point were as familiar with the stars as their parents were. CKND featured cutaways to their call center and local celebrities were on and MDA took in the most donations in their new history at the time.

Despite seeing so many Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin movies in the first year of CKND's broadcast, I had felt that Dean Martin was the bigger celebrity and movie star. Although, I was really too young to see it, I was aware of the Dean Martin Show on NBC. To be honest, as a kid I was more happy with the Saturday morning cartoons of the U.S. major networks and Space: 1999 on CBC. As as family we were more likely to watch the Sonny and Cher or Carol Burnett shows.

However, on NBC in 1973, the movie Airport was shown on TV and had the highest ratings ever since Love Story broadcast by ABC the previous year. Our whole family watched Airport which had been released theatrically in 1970. I was probably too young to see it as I was scared about flying after. In my mind though, Dean Martin was a star.

It is no surprise then that when Dean Martin appeared with Jerry Lewis and Frank Sinatra on stage at the 1976 MDA Telethon that it was a huge moment in TV history. It was also a fairly amazing 1st anniversary for CKND as well.

The 1970s was really when cable exploded in Winnipeg. TV might have been around since the mid 1950s but for many families like ours, it was no longer just two channels and black and white.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

My New Bike

Two weeks ago I finally received my Dutch bicycle from Utrecht, Netherlands. It came in a cargo container with a few hundred other bikes that had been abandoned or apprehended in Holland. Park in the wrong place and they can take away your bike and it will cost you 50 Euros to get back. Some people just opt to get an updated bike instead.

The bikes were being refurbished all summer and some were used sent to Winnipeg Folk Festival in exchange for bike mechanic services. My bike had number 1 written on it which I was told meant that it spent the weekend at the music festival as a rental.

The bikes were dispersed by height and by draw. Bikes for a given height were assembled and then numbered. A number would go on the bike and another in your envelope. After arriving in Point Douglas at a lovely fenced park by the warehouse where bikes were repaired, you went to a little table where they matched your name up and you got to pick an envelope.

You were supposed to open your envelope till later but mine opened and fell to the ground right at the table as it was not sealed. I had number 50.  The bikes were stretched out all the way against the fences and every tree and a few hundred people milled about looking at them.

I knew that I could match my number so that's what I looked for. Bikes were mostly black, a few painted other colours. Some had a side kick stand, front bike carrier, back bike carrier and some had all. All bikes were rideable but some looked like they could use some additional upgrades from their new owners.

I think I circled the entire perimeter before I spotted my bike. It was the only one featuring Partridge Family colours in the Mondrian style of contemporary art. I was a bit tickled by it. Some people unaware of how the bike were distributed also eyed the bike as a possible choice. However, I knew the bike was mine.

Once I established the positives of my bike I looked to see what the negatives might be. Those were that it would need a good lock. I wanted it to have lights. I also wanted it to have a basket. For in the house I wanted a stand.

Beer and hotdogs were part of the celebration and we heard about the work that went into bringing the bikes over. Lots of people and hard work made it happen. I transported my bike home and brought it inside and a day or two later took it to Olympia on Portage Avenue for its improvements.

I got my lights, lock and baskets installed and have done a small grocery shop with success and a few rides.

The stand I bought doesn't work. Even with advice from manufacturer, the free standing rack won't hold the bike. I'm looking at returning it and doing without. Disappointing as it cost $50. I'm not sure if it would work for any of the European bikes.

I'm still scared to ride down some roads including the one to my work. Drivers don't care and I don't want to be hurt or killed. I just want to ride my bike. No sidewalk or bike path to my work. Police stop people every week who race up the shoulder at 80 kms. It's inhuman.

Anyway, that's my bike. I hope to get one more rear wheel lock. Some people are saying that I need three locks. Might do that. However, I've been attacked personally so protecting your property still means they can attack you to get it.

Still, doing my best to have some fun, get exercise and be outside. This city can make it tough though.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Viscount Gort, Polo Park and St. James Bridge History

It seems like the Viscount Gort has been under renovations for years. There is scaffolding surrounding it as the last phase of the most recent work continues.The original hotel was built in 1960 just one year after Polo Park was built as an open air mall and two years before a new span was built alongside the St. James Bridge in 1962.

The picture below is the original St. James Bridge heading north just past the Assiniboine River in 1935. The road is Madison Street. The bridge would be a critical link to the north of the city and the communities of St. James and Assiniboia. Much of the area north would have been rural and rustic. The route north would also lead to the Polo Park Racetrack as well as Stevenson Field, Winnipeg's airport.
The picture below is 1935. The St. James Bridge is visible as is Stevenson Field. World War II is only four years away. By 1941 massive construction would take place in support of the war effort including training and manufacturing. The bridge is visible in the top right corner. The Polo Park Racetrack is seen in the center.

The above picture from 1937 shows the St. James bridge two years after its original construction. In
the background is the residential school that would remain open till early 1970s.

The Polo Park Racetrack in 1949 also included a golf course. However, by the early 1950s developers saw all that land in between Winnipeg and St. James an an opportunity to build one of the earliest malls in Canada. No doubt this was to cash in on all the returning service people from World War II starting work and families.
The sale of the golf courses to the city brought immediate construction of very much needed sports facilities. The Winnipeg Stadium was built in 1953 and the Winnipeg Arena was built in 1955.

Below is a picture of the Winnipeg Stadium's baseball diamond in 1959, home to the original Goldeyes but later teams such as the Winnipeg Whips as well.

It was in 1955 that the Winnipeg Arena was built in Polo Park. Although St. James and Assiniboia were just down Portage Avenue, the feeling was that this was truly out in the sticks.

The Winnipeg Stadium was built in 1953 and expanded in 1966 with north side grandstands. The picture below is 1971 before the east side grand stands got an upper deck in 1972. The younger crowds on the west side would have to wait to get their companion upper deck in 1978 with upgraded press boxes.
The picture above was taken in 1959. one year before the Viscount Gort was built. Note the two way traffic headed to the St. James Bridge at the bottom of picture. Ahead is Hydro building in right corner on St. James across from newly built Polo Park.

St. James Bridge 1935
Polo Park Mall 1959
Viscount Gort 1960
St. James Bridge Second Span 1962

The Viscount Gort was named for Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker, 7th Viscount of Gort (Robert Vereker). Verecker would between 1911 and 1917 acquire land that would later become the hotel and Kiltarton Towers.The building would be designed by Roy M Lev, a Winnipeg architect, who was known for designing the Dakota Hotel. The modern cube design with onsite parking was in keeping with the new car culture sweeping North America,

The land was leased by Robert Vereker (Lord Gort) to the Kives family of Winnipeg. Phil Kives built and owned the hotel itself. If the hotel owner name sounds familiar it is because Kives owned K-Tel which went onto fame as an international television merchandiser. Kives continues to own the hotel and now owns the land as well.

The 1959 picture below is the approach to the old St. James Bridge from Portage Avenue. The Viscount Court is not yet built. The Co-Op Building which later became Government Services and now the Herzing School is on the right.
The picture below is 1959. Polo Park is built, the present Blue Cross building is built but the MTS building has not even begun construction. The Viscount Gort in the background is under construction. The second span of St. James bridge has not begun yet.
The picture below is from 1960. Polo Park is complete as is the Viscount Gort. Winnipeg Supply is directly across the street and took over that location in 1959. It is my impression there was another supply business located there prior. Billboard signs were in an abundance directly across from Polo Park. The Paddock restaurant is visible in the lower part of the picture.
The picture below is from 1962 and you imagine the owners of the Viscount Gort must have been thinking: How is this bridge going to affect us?
The picture below is from the Academy in 1962 just before the St. James Bridge second span's was construction.
The picture below is Academy Road in 1962 and shows the approach to the old St. James Bridge. Parked by the signing announcing the bridge work is a Winnipeg Police car and a Town of Tuxedo Police car. The trolley bus lines are seen over the road.
The picture below shows the southbound lane from the St. James Bridge in 1962 as it heads toward Academy Road. Note the Viscount Gort in the background on the far left side in the middle.
The picture below from Portage Avenue shows literally how sleepy the original St. James Bridge was in 1962 before the second span was constructed. The Viscount Gort on the left and Co-Op Building is on the right. It would later become Government Service Building for decades and now is the Herzing School
The picture below in 1962 really shows construction on the second span across over the Assiniboine River. It ran between the rail crossing and the 1935 St. James Bridge span.
The picture below in spring of 1962 shows the completed St. James Bridge second span. The Viscount Gort is seen in the middle on the right side. The river is partially iced over in the picture.

The above picture from 1965 shows how the Viscount Gort would literally be encircled by elements of the St. James Bridge. I'm sure there have been times the city has just wanted that land for its own use but they were a year short in making that happen. Polo Park, the Winnipeg Arena and Winnipeg Stadium were attracting development everywhere in the area and the Viscount was pretty much closest to it.

The picture below of construction of Simpsons-Sears in 1958 at Polo Park.
The pictures below shows Polo Park completed in 1959. Still open air at the time in the middle. So it was more like two strip malls with a roof and anchor stores at the end. The Viscount Gort would not come till the following year in 1960. The second span of the St. James Bridge would not come till 1962.
The Dominion grocer was initially on the north side of Polo Park and Eaton's would only come years later. Doiminion and Loblaw's would eventually go head to head and side by side on the east of the mall when the Eaton's expansion happened.
Polo Park complete in 1959 but the MTS building and the Manitoba Heath Commission building were not built yet. They would be more or less complete same year,
The Polo Park sign was a distinctive feature. The mall could have been called anything but to actually adopt the racetrack name was a stroke of genius. From day one till this very day it remains unique in a country that calls everything centre, plaza and place.
In 1959, Polo Park really changed what the future of Winnipeg would look like. At the time it was a suburban mall but now it is more central. The above pictures show how new and expansive it was on the grounds of the old Polo Park Racetrack.
The picture below is inside the open air Polo Park in 1959. Rain kept people under partial roofs.
A picture of Simpsons-Sears below from 1960. Take a look at the VW bug,
This 1960 picture below Empress looks out toward Portage Avenue. 
A picture below of Polo Park in 1962. The Viscount Gort can be seen on lower left. The MTS phone building, built in 1959 can be seen in upper right. The two spans of St. James Bridge are built at this time. The present Blue Cross building, built in 1959, is partially seen in right corner on Empress.
The picture is Polo Park in 1962 with the Winnipeg Arena and Winnipeg Stadium in the background. Note that there is no through street to Polo Park yet on Ness Avenue yet. 
By 1964, as witnessed by the cars in the parking lot above at Polo Park, the trend towards bigger, longer cars that could travel to the suburbs was well established.
The above pictures in 1964, two years after the bridge was built by a partnership of the province and the feds shows how massive the project was. And there in the middle of it is the Viscount Gort.
The picture above from the River Heights and Tuxedo side of the Assiniboine in 1964. Viscount Gort peaking from top left corner. Kenaston seen heading south from Academy Road. The residential school in the middle of the right of the picture was still very much in operation.

For those on Portage Avenue itself, the Viscount Gort was there right at the turn-offs Route 90. A pictures below from 1964 shortly after the overpass was built.
Below picture looking north on Route 90 taken in 1964. Car is headed southbound towards the St. James Bridge. The Viscount Gort sitting in the middle alongside the road on Portage Avenue where the overpass is seen.
The picture below from 1965 is looking south on Route 90 towards the St. James Bridge. The Viscount Gort is on the left.
The Paddock Restaurant with the horseshoe on top was a reminder that Polo Park had indeed been a racetrack. The unique design of the building and the fabulous interior made the Paddock beloved. This picture in 1965 shows the restaurant and the Viscount Gort behind it along Portage Avenue.
Here are a few more gratuitous pictures of cars at Polo Park in 1964.
Looking down Portage Avenue in 1966. MTS building on the right with new Canadian flag and British flag, possibly from a royal visit that year. Polo Park on the right. Esso sign visible from St. James Street. City buses were a orangey red.
The picture below from 1966 shows the Viscount Gort was the place to go for food and entertainment.
By 1967 to 1969 Polo Park was already expanding with Loblaw's and Dominion going up on the east side of the mall and enclosing Polo Park. The two grocers below under construction in 1967.
The picture above in 1967 shows where the Pancake House originally was.

The picture below from 1967 shows the Portage Avenue overpass. The Co-Op building is still around at this time. It will later be taken over by Government Services.
The picture below in 1969 looks north from the Viscount Gort. The overpass fountain, flowers and grass were lovingly taken care of by the city for years. It has been one area of consistent cuts as witnessed by our poor trees all over the city being cut down.
The picture taken from the Kiltartan Towers in 1969 shows the beautifully maintained grounds of the overpass and the long stretch of Route 90 leading to the airport and Red River Community College.
The stairs leading down from the Viscount Gort to the sidewalk in 1969. For many years there were flowers in all the flowerbeds.
The picture below in 1969 shows very much how the area surrounding the St. James Bridge filled up in addition to the Viscount Gort.
The pictures below also from 1969 shows the landscaping that was on the Academy Road side of the St. James Bridge second span. The city really did care for the site for years.
The picture below in 1970 shows the St. James side where the firehall now stands. The Viscount Gort is top left corner. A pond was on this side.
The picture below from 1972 shows the sundial that graced the front of Polo Park.
The picture below taken from MTS building shows what Polo Park looked like in 1974 when Loblaw's and Dominion were going strong in their new location on the east side of the mall. A corridor separated the two stores and price checkers from each retailer would walk the aisles of the other's store on a daily basis.
The picture below from 1974 is Polo Park with the St. James Tower behind it. The apartment with retail on the first floor was built in 1969. It is unlikely any future tower would be allowed the build as high due to restrictions today on building height.
In 1974 Simpsons-Sears had over 600 employees at Polo Park and was packed most days of the week. Their car center and one time marine sales section on the west side was extremely busy. At just under 300,000 square feet, it was a very competitive with the big department stores and had a very good catalogue.
The picture below from 1977 shows the Viscount Gort with the K-Tel logo on it. For a time the Osborne Village in was known as the K-Tel Hotel as it was owned by the Kives family.
The picture below from 1978 when both east and west sides of Winnipeg Stadium have upper decks. The Polo Park area was the top shopping and recreation spot in Manitoba. The Winnipeg Velodrome built for the 1967 Pan Am Games is seen on the right.
By 1978, the infrastructure of what became Route 90 became the major route the airport and later Red River Community College. The picture below is looking north and taken from Portage Avenue overpass.

Another picture above from 1977. I don't think it can be understated how much landscaping and grounds management the city did around the St. James Bridge expansion. There was stairways, ponds, flower gardens on both sides of the bridge that were lovingly maintained. Most of that has been plowed over today.

As the closest hotel to Winnipeg, the Viscount Gort became the hotel that visiting hockey teams would use when playing at the Winnipeg Arena. It would also be the the place where out of town shoppers might stay when shopping at Polo Park across the street.

The late 1970s saw an explosion of malls built right through to late 1980s. Polo Park expanded to two floors in 1986.
The picture below shows what it all looked like in 1987.
In 2012, the Winnipeg Stadium was demolished after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers moved to Investors Group Field at the University of Manitoba. Six years earlier the Winnipeg Arena was torn down as Winnipeg Jets moved downtown to MTS Centre. Sears is visible in this 2012 picture. Little did they know that five years later in 2017, they too would be slated for closure.
The picture above in 2006 shows the last days of the Winnipeg Arena. By 2013 Polo Park the Canad Inns Stadium would join it too was demolished. The stadium and arena were bulldozed. A Target went up on the stadium site in 2015 and lasted less than a year there. It has new life now has a call center and a Marshals but the area still has not reached its full potential after the carnage in the retail industry.
The St. James Bridge is slated for replacement. The timetable is uncertain. Sears remains unoccupied at Polo Park but the shopping center remains the top location in Manitoba. Meanwhile,
the Viscount Gort is going through its third phase of renovations determined to carry on no matter what.
Many of the pictures came from Manitoba Archives, Winnipeg Archives or collections of pictures over the years by universities and newspapers in the city. Many thanks to the archivists and photographers. Any notations, corrections or credits, please let me know.