Category: neighbourhoods

THE 1918 INFLUENZA OUTBREAK

THE 1918 INFLUENZA OUTBREAK

The Spanish Flu Panics Canada

By George Siamandas

 

Is today’s swine flu an echo of the savage Spanish flu that struck the world in 1918? That fall, as our troops returned from WW1, they brought home a silent killer that would afflict one in six Canadians, killing 30,000-50,000 during the winter of 1918. Such pandemics had visited before. In 1889-90 flu affected 40% of the globe.

The Spanish flu hit Canada Sept 9, killing 9 American soldiers in Quebec City. On the same day 400 students in a Quebec College fell ill. By Oct 9, Brantford Ontario reported 2,500,cases. The flu then raged across the prairies. As the troop trains headed west, during that dreadful October, soldiers brought home the disease to their towns, villages and farms. Tens of thousands fell ill. By early October as the death toll mounted communities started to ban public gatherings. Schools, colleges, and universities closed. Across the country most church bells did not ring on Sundays. But Father Trasiuk of Hamilton’s Stanislaus Church, had defied the ban, and was fined $25.

Hudson Bay stores remained open but for the protection of customers, staff wore masks. So did employees of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and telephone workers. In more than 100 prairie towns, passengers were not allowed to de-train unless they promised to stay put for the duration of the epidemic. Some towns like Lethbridge and Drumheller threw up a total quarantine.

 

HARDEST HIT

The most vulnerable were healthy 20-30 year olds, the dangerous age according to the Regina Leader. Their symptoms? A cold that turned into flu. Temperatures of 105. Dreadful aches. And then pneumonia where victims suffocated in their own secretions. Some, bleeding from the nose. At the greatest risk were pregnant women who miscarried and almost always died.

 

ABORIGINALS PERISHED IN HIGH NUMBERS

The flu scorched its way through northern communities devastating aboriginal populations. Amongst aboriginals living in tepees and log cabins in the Peace River district, 85% died.

Some became desperate for medical attention. An aboriginal woman whose husband had died, paddled 33 miles down the Kapuskasing River, with a 6 mile portage to find a doctor for her two children. At the Indian Village of Sand Point, near Lake Nipigon, 58 out of 70 were sick. Luckily, only five died. But according to the custom of the day, Indian caskets were painted black, while white victims had their caskets covered in white cloth.

In Calgary they ran out of coffins. And in many rural areas, with no time to bury the dead, corpses were placed on the roofs of their owners’ log cabins, out of reach of animals till spring.

 

EVEN THE HEROES

After years at the front, returning soldiers could not embrace their loved ones. Anxious wives would meet husbands at the station unable to touch them, or even get near. One, who did, died, shortly after their reunion. Another case poignantly brought home the flu’s cruel irony. Airman Alan McLeod of Stonewall, Manitoba became at 18, Canada’s youngest Victoria Cross winner. Days after returning to his home town, this young hero, who had shot down three enemy planes and survived a burning plane crash, did not survive the silent killer.

 

MEDICINE IS POWERLESS

At the peak of the epidemic some doctors saw 80 patients a day and one averaged 58 house calls daily. Few charged for their services. Dr James Colliers practising in Vernon River PEI would take his daughters with him on housecalls so they could do the sweeping or wash dishes. Meanwhile scientists looked desperately for a cure. Winnipeggers Major Dr FT Cadham of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and Doctor Gordon Bell, frantically worked for a vaccine, and found some success. Dr Cadham reported to a national medical conference in 1918 that of their test sample of 528 soldiers admitted to a Winnipeg hospital, no soldier who had taken two doses of the vaccine died. When word got out, Dr Cadham needed a police escort, so desperate were citizens to get the vaccine.

 

COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS

In 1918 almost everyone was nursed at home. People helped their neighbours in whatever way they could. Women volunteered as nurses. Service club members cooked meals in church kitchens and boy scouts delivered the meals. In Ontario the thousands of women volunteers became known as the Sisters of Service. Throughout the country Christmas dinner celebrations were held to thank the volunteers. But there was a sour side too. In Calgary some women posed as private nurses charging as much as $25 per day, while real nurses worked two shifts for only $2. Meanwhile, druggists in Vancouver boosted the price of camphor used as a disinfectant from 60 cents pound to $6.50. Masks sold for a nickel. Preventive measures included bags of camphor, or garlic. At Toronto’s Union Station, tin drinking cups were replaced by disposable paper ones. Cinnamon, tobacco, alcohol and goose grease and turpentine mixtures were touted as cures.

 

THE AFTERMATH

Scarcely a family escaped being touched by the flu. Almost everyone lost a mother, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, or a dad. Thousands were left orphans. Others survived to suffer a lifetime of heart and respiratory problems. In 1918, with no national preparedness in place, all the effort had been at the grass roots level. In 1919 the federal govt finally established a health dept. Hospitals were built. Public health improved.

 

FLU’S ORIGIN

And where did it start? I remains unclear. The Spanish flu is thought to have originated in burning pile of manure at Fort Riley Kansas in March 1918. American troops got sick, subsequently taking it to Europe. It got tagged the Spanish flu because Spain was first to get hit hard and without censorship, the first country to admit it had an epidemic. By the time it was over, influenza had killed 20-30M worldwide. But its cause remained a mystery. In 1933 a British doctor successfully isolated the disease to an airborne virus. Later it was identified as the A type strain. Today the story of the world’s greatest killer is all but forgotten. There is little mention in history books. It’s as if it never happened. But could it happen again? And if it does, are we ready for it? Do we really have an effective vaccine today? And can we develop it quickly enough when needed?

Fort Garry’s Park-Like Wildewood Subdivision

Fort Garry’s Wildewood Subdivision

by George Siamandas

The Fort Garry area which was incorporated as a municipality on April 16, 1912 and the Wildewood area is one of its distinctive residential areas. Fort Garry was initially part of St. Vital and was settled by Metis and Quebecois farmers. These early settlers were Metis boatmen who build their homes close to the river’s edge as it was their best choice in transportation. One of the most famous landowners in the area that later became Wildewood was Ambroise Lepine. But after the Riel incident, many French people left the area and were replaced by Anglophones. Over the years it has completely lost its French origins. Only in the south end at St. Norbert will you see what the early Fort Garry was like.

COLONEL THOMPSON’S PLAN FOR WILDEWOOD

But by 1900 virtually all traces of the Metis heritage of the area was gone. One developer after another tried to develop the land starting with Colonel RM Thompson who in 1908 first introduced the name Wildewood. Thompson’s plan was for a very exclusive area just like was developing then on Wellington Cres. They built roads and Col Thompson had a huge Victorian mansion built at the point of the Red River. Col Thompson went to fight in WW1 and never returned. His house was not fully completed and was not occupied for 17 years and was to be demolished in 1933 after suffering years of vandalism. Finally in 1934, it was bought by Ravenscourt School and renovated to become a boy’s school. But the land continued to bounce back and forth between the City of Winnipeg and the Fort Garry municipality. At one time during the 1930s the city was contemplating making it into a park just like Assiniboine Park. But lack of money saw the city give it back to Fort Garry.

HOW WILDEWOOD PARK CAME ABOUT

Enter Hubert Bird. Bird was the owner of Bird construction. Bird had built aerodromes during WW1 and after the war he started the Bird construction company and built Union Station in Regina, and the Swifts plant in Winnipeg during the 1930s. During WW2 he built half the airfields and barracks in western Canada. During WW2 while flying over Radburn New Jersey, Bird saw an example of a new garden suburb with cul de sacs all built around a central shared park. Bird had seen his model for Wildewood and purchased the land comprising Wildewood.

WW2 had given Bird experience in mass production techniques and he had seen the potential of applying these techniques to reduce housing costs in Wildewood. It had never been done before with housing.

The returning WW2 vets needed affordable housing and Bird gave them 5 house plans to choose from. Bird hired the firm GBR (Still active and building the Jewish Community campus) to design the project. They did market research to find preferences for house features like the preferred number of bedrooms. Almost half wanted storey and a half and most wanted forced air heating. Great West Life agreed to finance the project and scale model for the area was placed at Eatons, the hub of the city at the time.

MASS PRODUCTION OF HOUSING PIONEERED IN WILDEWOOD

Then construction began using assembly line techniques after materials had been procured en masse and brought to the site. Lumber had even been salvaged from grain bins. Panel forms were used for pouring basements, and the exterior walls were prefabed. Specialty crews worked on flooring, shingling, and insulation. A US newspaper featured a bungalow and a storey and a half built in just 58 minutes. The realty firm SS Stevensen handled the sales, and it took only 2 years to sell out. Mature trees were spared preserving the area’s main amenity: its heavily wooded quality. The neighbourhood had to do their own snow removal buy hiring a man and buying a horse drawn plough. Cost per resident was $.50 annually. They also bought their own mosquito fogger.

The area had one of the highest birth rates in the country and some dubbed it Childwood and Fertile Valley. Doug Henning the magician is one.

TUXEDO The Suburb Beautiful

TUXEDO

The Suburb Beautiful

by George Siamandas

DEVELOPER FREDERICK WILLIAM HEUBACH

In 1905 Heubach set up the Tuxedo Park Land Co. He found a collection of Minneapolis based investors who had built great wealth in the grain industry. Over the next year the Tuxedo Park Company bought 3,000 acres from Mary and Archibald Wright and other owners for $450,000. The first home in the area an old farmhouse still stands at the south-east corner of Academy and Wellington Cresc.

On January 24 1913 the town of Tuxedo was incorporated with FW Heubach its original developer becoming its first Mayor. But his plan did not immediately succeed due to competition from the Crescentwood development which was much closer to the city. The Minneapolis investors of the Tuxedo Park Co lost their money. Heubach died before any houses were built. Tuxedo was named after the famous New York suburb called Tuxedo. It had previously been the hunting grounds of the Algonquin Indians and was called Taugh Seeder or Duck Seeder which meant “Place of the Bear.”

MAYOR FINKELSTEIN

Heubach died the following year and was succeeded by FL Finkelstein as mayor. from 1911 Finkelstein with an accounting background became a partner with Heubach and Heubach’s son Claude. Finkelstein would serve as mayor and would go on to run the company successfully into the 1950s. The plan for the town had been designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmstead firm, and it became the city plan in 1911. It had combined residential areas, areas of work in the south including the Canada Cement Plant.

THE FIRST HOMES

The first house was built in 1915 by Raymond Carey on the north corner of Nanton and Park. The area was connected by a mud road that became Nanton Blvd. Carey was fairly isolated and had to get the plows out before he could traverse the mud road through the as yet undeveloped aspen wooded area east of his home. Carey married Heubach’s daughter Claire, Carey, a british architect, had come to Winnipeg in 1909 from Detroit and was well known for his Georgian style homes.

In 1923, Frederick Heubach’s son Claude, built a home at the south corner. Designed and built buy Northwood and Carey. Later Claude Heubach moved to Hosmer to one of the first homes south of Corydon Ave. In the 1920s a series of homes sprung up along the east side of Park Boulevard facing Assiniboine Park.

Many homes were owned by grain industry businessmen. In 1925 the first house was built on Lamont. The site originally reserved for the University became Tuxedo Golf Course. The four room Tuxedo Schoolhouse was built in 1926. Many area street names have changed since the original plan. Tuxedo Blvd was originally called Van Horne.

The plan reserved a strip of land just south of the Agricultural College. It eventually became the Youth centre, commercial and public housing and military land. By 1911 the new plan for Tuxedo was complete. It was anticipated that in time the University of Manitoba would be located at Tuxedo but after 1926 when it located in Fort Garry. There are many famous builders like Frank Lount and the Sparrow Brothers that built the area’s homes.

The 1919 Winnipeg Police Strike

1919 Winnipeg Police Strike

The tale of two Winnipeg Police Chiefs

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

It has only happened once in Winnipeg’s history, a Police Strike, and when it happened 81 years ago June 9, during the six week 1919 general strike, it resulted in the firing of all but 23 members of the police and major changes in the careers of two police chiefs. Despite warnings by the Police Commission in 1917, Winnipeg policemen had formed their own union in July 1918. At a meeting of the trades and labour Council the newly formed union voted in support of the general Strike. Yet they stayed on the job at the request of the strike committee. In effect it replaced the city as their control.

It is thought the policemen having just returned from WW1, where they fought side by side with workers were sympathetic to the aims of the workers. On May 19 Mayor Charles Gray, asked the policemen to sign an agreement not to participate in a sympathy strike. Two hundred and twenty-eight refused and on June 9 all but the 23 who signed loyalty oaths were dismissed from the force. To keep order, a special police force was set up under Major Lyall with members of the Army and the North West Mounted Police. Three thousand “specials’ were hired.

FIRING OF CHIEF MACPHERSON

On June 11, Chief McPherson took the fall for the policemen’s actions and was dismissed. McPherson had been chief from 1911 and a cop since 1903. McPherson had a good record and had been prominent in the successful firebug investigations of 1913. Deputy Chief Chris Newton who had been one of the 23 to sign the loyalty oath replaced the disgraced Chief MacPherson who was never given a satisfactory answer for his dismissal.

Hugh John Macdonald a member of the Police Commission fought against MacPherson’s dismissal. A year later MacPherson was still fighting for compensation and finally received $5,000, a year’s salary and a letter of recommendation. On June 21 the strike got ugly as two strikers were killed by Mounted Specials. By June 26 the strike was over and on June 27 the original policemen began to return to their jobs. Newton noted that 39 men several of whom had been active in the union should not be allowed to return to the force. Those that had stayed on during the strike received bonuses.

CHIEF NEWTON

Chief Newton helped build morale within the dept. He helped organize the Winnipeg City Police Athletic Assoc and later the Police Pipe Band. Twenty five years later, at age 63 after a distinguished 33 year career, Newton would face his own crisis of confidence.

It started with a fight after a traffic incident at the corner of Broadway and Balmoral St.

In June 27 1934 300 pound Winnipeg Police Chief Christopher H Neuton was charged with beating up 145 pound Joe Erlicky closing his eyes shut. The Free Press showed the diminutive Erlicky with his eye closed shut. Neuton had the class to resign. After a circus of a trial Neuton was found guilty of common assault and had to pay a $20 fine.

WINNIPEG’S FIRST POLICE CHIEF

WINNIPEG’S FIRST POLICE CHIEF

The Canadian West’s Itinerant Chief of Police

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

JC INGRAM

Winnipeg’s first chief of police JC Ingram was hired onFebruary 19, 1874. Ingram had come to Manitoba before 1870 and had worked for the provincial police. He was well known as the man that had arrested Ambroise Lepine (Riel’s adjutant general) after the Riel Rebellion. Ingram was 23 years old and was known to be “a good man with his fists.”

He had been one of four applicants. Perhaps the most deciding factor was that Ingram was a good friend of Mayor Francis Cornish. On Feb 24, 1874 a fourth by-law of the city established the Winnipeg Police Dept. Ingram would receive a salary of $750 per year, and a staff of two constables earning $500 per year. By summer the police force had shirts, whistles, batons, and police badges. But curiously, their engraver got the badge insignia all wrong. Instead of a beaver he had drawn a gopher. (For go for people)

But it soon became apparent that moral was not good. Ingram did not get along with his men. In particular they did not like his habit of associating with the ladies of the night. Despite this and conflicts with several aldermen, with Cornish’s support he kept his job. Ingram’s association with prostitutes continued as Winnipeg’s stock of saloons, hotels and red light districts grew. Winnipeg and Barrie Ontario were known as the two wickedest places in Canada.

On June 7, Ingram’s constables conducted a raid on a Sherbrook St brothel. They were barred entry to a second floor room. When they pushed past and gained entry, they found an unclothed Chief Ingram in the company of harlot Ella Lewis. Cornish had lost the 1875 mayoralty and in his place now was William Kennedy. The next day Ingram appeared before Mayor and Magistrate William Kennedy and was fined $8 and suspended. On the 14th Ingram tendered his resignation.

WHAT HAPPENED TO INGRAM

Ingram travelled the west and eventually moved to Calgary where he opened up a hotel and bar. When Calgary set up a police Force in 1885, Ingram became Calgary’s first Chief of Police. But he continued to battle with local authorities and in 1888, left for Rossland BC where once again, he became their first chief of police. After a short stint there, he left to work in a mine were he was blown up in a dynamite explosion in 1905.

2ND CHIEF DAVID MURRAY

On July 1, 1875, David Murray became Winnipeg’s next chief. Murray was a schoolteacher from Nova Scotia. He was a popular handsome man, known for his fine singing voice, which was in high demand at local concerts. Murray now had 5 constables. They worked 11-hour shifts 7 days a week. By November Murray had purchased the famous buffalo coats for $17 a piece, and more equipment including four “wrist snappers,” 3 pistols as well as uniforms for the men.

CRIME REVIEW 1880

Murray would report 749 cases in 1880: 303 were for drunk and disorderly conduct, 212 were for inhabiting, frequenting, or maintaining a house of ill fame, 13 were charged with theft, 14 with assault, and 1 for gambling. In the 212 cases, 177 women listed their occupation as prostitute. While Murray was not accused of associating with prostitutes, future police chief McRae would face the same difficulties as Ingram. Vice was a problem and in 1910 Ingram faced a Royal Commission investigating police toleration of prostitution.

 

TRANSCONA Winnipeg’s Railway Town

TRANSCONA

Winnipeg’s Railway Town

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

Transcaona was built because of the railway shops. And on April 6, 1912 Transcona received its charter. It had been a heady period for businessmen that had enjoyed visions of a second Chicago. Transcona is named for the Transcontinental Railway (TRANS) and (CONA) for Lord Strathcona. It was one of the few places in Manitoba that does not owe its origins to agriculture but to the railway. In 1907 800 acres were acquired for the railway shops. It was soon discovered to be a swamp, part of a natural watercourse running from the Tache municipality to the Red River. As the shops were being built, 4 feet of fill were used to elevate the entire facility. The original town located south of the shops was largely abandoned and a new town was built north for the shops.

MAJOR RAIL CENTRE

There was a wish to create a second national railway at a time when small railways were seeing very difficult days. When the amalgamation finally took place, 3 private, 4 govt and 149 other railways came together to form the Canadian National Railway, complete by 1923. At one time 2,000 found jobs there and the facility was planned to employ 5,000. There was work for trainmen, machinists, blacksmiths, boilermakers, electricians, pipe fitters and upholsterers. Over the years Transcona has had its ups and downs reflecting levels of employment at the shops. Now it employs only 700. It has the second largest Ukrainian community in Winnipeg after the north end. The shop also built locomotives, and No 2747, was the first. Taken out of service in 1960 it has been preserved in a park. Over the years, 37 locomotives were built at the Transcona Shops

BANKRUPTCY

The boom was on. Land that had been selling for 100 per lot was now selling for $100 per front foot. The boom did not last. But hard time in the when rail business was low due to the end of the immigration of settlers to the west and low grain prices. In 1920 Transcona had to face hard facts. Dreams of their future had been unrealistic. When it came time for city council to pay for services it found it had $285,00 in expenditures but only $4,485 in revenues. The town’s affairs were taken over by the province till 1927 when it began to run its own affairs. Till Regent Ave was paved in July 1931, under a depression works program, most Transcona residents would go to the city, Winnipeg, by train.

DUGALD TRAIN WRECK

On Sept 1, 1947, the country’s worst train wreck happened as a train of vacationers returned form Minaki ran into a transcontinental train at the Dugald station a few minutes east of Transcona. It killed 35.