Category: Winnipeg Mayors

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.


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.


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.


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.



Just Elected Mayor Juba Does the Right Thing

by George Siamandas

In 1957, a giant triple-trunked elm stood in the centre of Wolseley Avenue and Greenwood St in Winnipeg. It had been planted by a woman resident a hundred years earlier, and as early as the turn of the century, it was considered a traffic hazard. The area’s residents had fought many battles to preserve it even though traffic planners had long wanted to cut it down. In the summer of 1957 the traffic department decided that the Wolseley Elm finally had to go. It was a traffic hazard. The residents thought that on the contrary it was a safety feature as it required traffic to slow down to go around it.


The issue immediately became contentious. The Free Press wrote in an editorial titled “Lay That Buzz Saw Down,” that the “aldermen are asking for trouble, when they chop down city trees, and they invite a torrent of criticism when they eye the one that grows on Wolseley. They really should know better. They say it is a nuisance. The truth is the tree bothers some strange civic clique which abhors individuality and has a passion for unrelenting conformity.” Alderman Crawford retorted “Lets grow a big fat tree right in the middle of Portage and Main.” In response Wolseley residents Mrs Wolfram and Mrs McCord began a fight to save the tree.

Mayor Juba who had just been elected mayor responded to the people’s wishes. On September 19, 1957 the Free Press front page headline read “Wild Women Win-Juba Breaks Law to Save Tree” At nine that morning a convoy of civic vehicles arrived to cut it down. A group of women gathered around the tree with their arms folded in defiance. They are going to have to chop us down too if they want to chop our tree said the women. As the city employee approached the tree with his buzz saw, an old grandmother with an axe shouted out “We don’t think you should do this.” A crowd of three hundred had gathered to support the 12 women that were now guarding the tree. Juba then emerged from the crowd and was convinced by the women to find a way out of it. On the premise of public safety, Juba put an end to that day. Mrs Borrowman kissed the mayor on the cheek and invited him to her place for tea.

The issue immediately captured national TV coverage and McLeans magazine did a big feature on the Wolseley Elm and Mayor Juba. But a few days later vandals poured gasoline on the tree and set it ablaze. Grafts were performed by a University tree expert and the tree revived the following spring. But in June 1958 three university students attacked the tree with saws and a crowbar. They were caught and fined $150 each.

Finally on Halloween October 31, 1958 the Wolseley Elm has seen its last season. At three in the morning residents awakened to two loud explosions. It was like two canon blast said a resident. The street lights were blown out and the tree had been blown up. Police suspected dynamite, but despite an enquiry, the culprits were never found. It was thought to be a KKK like warning, because two months earlier the residents had found a rooster on the tree. A psychiatrist said that people who blow up trees a are not mad at trees but at society. By June of 1960 no signs of life were evident. A kind of death certificate was issued and even Mrs Borrowman agreed that the tree should now come down. She asked for a piece of the tree so that she could have an electric lamp made.

Mayor Juba had emerged a hero in the way he had handled his first controversial issue. He had gone with his instincts. It was the first of many public victories.



By George Siamandas

You will find the Waddell Fountain in the north east corner of Central Park. It is a Gothic style fountain that has drawn Winnipeg visitors for 82 hot Winnipeg summers.

Murray Peterson’s book on Winnipeg Landmarks describes it as an example of “high Victorian architecture” …. a “collection of flying buttresses and pinnacles” with water flowing out of lion’s heads. It’s based on a design of a monument to Sir Walter Scott located in Edinburgh. The Waddells had come to Winnipeg in the 1880s. Mr. Waddell was a local leader of the Temperance movement. The Waddells were married for 25 years but had no children. They lived around the corner from Central Park at 457 Sargent and would go for frequent walks into the new Central Park. It was a very fashionable neighbourhood then. The Park was ringed with fine homes, and it had tennis courts and a bandstand as well as winding paths and gardens. Mrs. Waddell’s gift would complete the park which had once been undesirable low lying land that had required thousands of truckloads of fill.

MRS WADDELL’S DEATH RESULTS IN THIS FOUNTAIN Eighty-eight years ago on January 23, 1908, Mrs. Emily Margaret Waddell passed away. Her will contained an unusual provision. Should her husband remarry, $10,000 from her $56,000 estate was to be used to build a public fountain in Central Park. The will was dated 1904. It is not even clear Thomas knew of the provision. It does not look like Mr WAddell complied right away. Maybe he was just a procrastinator. Her will did not come to light till 1911. The will compelled the city to follow up on the provision of a fountain. By this time husband Thomas Waddell was engaged to be married. He just could not perform. He claimed he was desperately in debt due to some real estate investments that went belly up. It took two years for Waddell to find the money, and finally the Parks Board approved a design by Winnipeg architect John Manuel. It was completed in 1914 and cost $9,722. Ten thousand dollars was a huge amount of money then. It would have built one of the finest houses in Crescentwood. A reporter is noted to have said “A truly remarkable fountain could be erected for this sum.” In fact the Conservatory at Assiniboine Park was built around the same time for $15,000.

A WIFE’S REVENGE OR A TRIBUTE TO THEIR LOVE Mrs Waddell loved the park. But building the fountain was required only if her husband remarried. Assuming she suspected her “beloved husband” would remarry as most husbands did, it suggests a wish to see a monument to their life together in the place she seemed to love. I guess it depends on how you see human nature. It might be interesting to invite your listeners to answer the question. I wonder if any of your listeners know more. Parks seem to hold appeal for gifts even today. For example Leo Mol donated 200 sculptures in 1991 for the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. (June 1991) The other major gift is probably Kathleen Richardson’s donation of the old Richardson property which is now passive park along Wellington crescent. (Jan 19th 1977)

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.


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 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.



The Canadian West’s Itinerant Chief of Police

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas


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.


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.


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.


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.


Margaret Laurence

Margaret Laurence

Drawing From a Dreadful Childhood in Neepawa

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

Jean Margaret Laurence, Manitoba’s distinguished author of “The Stone Angel” and “The Diviners,” was born Jean Margaret Weymiss, on July 18, 1926. Her mother was Verna Simpson, 6th daughter of John Simpson. Margaret’s father was Bob Weymiss, a lawyer who had really wanted to become a carpenter. Her dreadful early life in Neepawa became the source of her writings.


Death was Margaret’s companion in childhood. Margaret lost her mother Verna at age four. Her aunt Margaret returned from Calgary to help care for young Margaret and slept in a back room. After a year of town gossip, her aunt became her next mother. From then on she would call her new mother mum. At age 9 Margaret lost her father. As a little girl she was made to go see her parents’ graves, surrounded by peonies. From then on she hated that flower.


The other major figure in Laurence’s life was her maternal grandfather John Simpson, a successful businessman in Neepawa. He had come from Milton Ontario as a pioneer and had literally walked the 50 miles to Portage La prairie where he got his start. Simpson was a mean, avaricious man who was respected but hated by nearly everyone. He refused to let his wife go shopping with any money, and he later regretted sending Margaret’s mother to Agricultural College as he did not like the idea of paying tuition for her to “learn how to cook.”

After her father died the family had to sell their house and move in with Grandfather Simpson. Margaret later remarked how the house felt like a cage and her grandfather was a tyrant. She was encouraged in everything she did. She felt different from the other children, an outsider. She became an observer of the lives of others. The war took away every boy in her class by grade 12. As a result, all of Margaret’s memories were of Neepawa as a place of death.


At age 17 she won a scholarship to United College and found an opportunity to meet other budding writers. At age 18 she bought a Remington typewriter for $14 and remarked that her typing course taken at age 14 was the best thing she ever did. She stayed at Sparling Hall and ate at a Salisbury House as well as Tony’s. She had coined the name Minewaka in a short story competition run by the Winnipeg Free, Press.


She married Laurence in 1962 at age 21 and they lived for a while at 515 William above Anne and Bill Ross. For a while Margaret worked at a communist newspaper without knowing it and later for the Winnipeg Citizen. Her husband and the Rosses did not get along as he disapproved of their causes. Her husband was interested in 3rd world development work and after a short stint in England he found work on improving the water supply in Somalia. She wrote first about Africa but later after returning to England in 1962, after her divorce. She had two children.

There she began to write about Manawaka (Neepawa). The Stone Angel came out in 1964. In 1974 she returned to Canada living in Lakefield Ontario. She became a heavy smoker and an alcoholic. In later life she did not enjoy the idea of returning to Neepawa even for short trips. On her rare visits, she refused to walk by the old brick house.

This secretive woman who had decided long earlier that “a life without hope is not worth living,” planned the details of her own funeral, including the timing of her death in Jan 5, 1987, during a battle with cancer.

MAYOR R. D. WAUGH The Mayor That Introduced Playgrounds to Winnipeg


The Mayor That Introduced

Playgrounds to Winnipeg

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

Mayor Richard Dean Waugh noted for introducing playgrounds to Winnipeg. Waugh’s efforts resulted in a mass public meeting on May 28, 1908, which led to the opening of Winnipeg’s first playground. Waugh was born in 1868 in Melrose Scotland. He came to Winnipeg in 1883 with his parents after living in Kincardine Ont. for a few years. In Ontario he got an early start working as a purser on steamboat lines.

In 1905 Waugh became a member of the city’s parks Board and its chair in 1907. He worked on a committee that developed cycle paths. Waugh would be a sportsman his entire life and was interested in improving the city’s amenities. He was for good roads and for city beautification. He wanted Winnipeg to become one of the beauty spots of Canada. He was active in curling and head of the Real Estate Exchange.


In 1907 as chair of the Parks Board, Waugh tried to convince council to begin to develop playgrounds as existed in the United States. “Small areas of land fitted with amusement paraphernalia. Skilled instructors with the highest moral training.” City Council refused. In May 1908 a meeting of playground enthusiasts met with Mayor James Ashdown. With Ashdown as the group’s chairman he reviewed how best to reach their goal. Ashdown discouraged them from asking the city once again and instead suggested a voluntary association. During the summer of 1908 a model playground was set up at Central School funded by an $800 grant from the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Council of women. It proved a big success. Seven playgrounds were set up in Winnipeg’s north end in 1909 and by 1920, 20 playgrounds were operating. And for winter play, by 1912, skating rinks were being set up.


Waugh had served several terms on the Board of Control and in 1912 was elected mayor. These were Winnipeg’s glory days with civic growth and prosperity at an unparalleled rate. Waugh proved a popular mayor, but Waugh found that his stint as mayor became an intolerable burden on his private business life. His partner Thompson Beattie who had run the business had perished on the Titanic and now Waugh had to return to private life to rescue his real estate and law business.

Waugh recommended several civic reforms upon leaving. He had seen how being mayor was a full time job. He recommended a 2-year term for mayor and the abolition of a property qualification for those seeking public office. Waugh went to England to help negotiate a loan for Winnipeg, which he discovered, had the best financial reputation of any Canadian City. He also visited his hometown Melrose where he found the towns depleted of young people who had emigrated to Canada. In 1915 Waugh became mayor once again and served till 1916. He left to become head of the new Water District Board. By now Winnipeg’s glory days were nearing an end.

Building Winnipeg’s New City Hall

Building Winnipeg’s New City Hall

Ending 60 Years of Bickering

By George Siamandas


Winnipeg had been slow to renew its ageing gingerbread city hall. As early as 1910 city fathers had planned to replace it but the First World War postponed it. After WW2 there were plans to replace it once again, but it would take another 16 years of studies and planning before they would actually build it. For decades Winnipeg had envied Saskatoon, Edmonton and Vancouver, cities that had finer civic buildings. By the time Juba was elected he was a big proponent of building a new one. And to dramatise the bad condition the old one was in, he took out an insurance policy on himself should the old city hall collapse on him while he was on the job.

But deciding to build it wasn’t easy. Civic voters had twice turned down money by-laws refusing to pay for building another pet project: the Disraeli freeway. A writer in 1957 chided councillors that there was enough paper from research and studies to build the first floor and that they should just get on with building a new one. Finally in 1957 the city was successful in having taxpayers agree to spend $6m on a new city hall. Voters had opted by 79% for a site across from the legislature at the corner of Broadway and Memorial Blvd. A Canada-wide design competition was held in 1958 and 91 proposals were received, some them quite futuristic. Up to date even for the year 2000.

The winning proposal was more conventional and came from Winnipeg’s Green Blankstein and Russell. The plan to build it on Broadway was abandoned, as Premier Roblin persuaded the city to reconsider the location and put it back in the heart of the warehouse district. As a tool of urban renewal, and together with the plans for a new Concert Hall it was seen as a necessary rejuvenating influence for the area.


By now the old 1886 Gingerbread city hall had few supporters. While some called for it to be saved and used as a civic museum, these thoughts were termed the thoughts of “dreamers and idealists.” Alex Clifton-Taylor an architectural critic from England called it “unbelievably ugly” in a Sept 15, 1956 article, and much too small for a city of Winnipeg’s size. Clifton-Taylor observed that the old city hall had been built in the Victorian period, a time in which “artistic taste was low.” And that a “newly rich class (of Winnipeggers) with lots of money and no taste” had built it. Just to check on his credentials, though the Free Press reporter took him to see the legislature, which he liked.


In approving the new city hall, thrifty Winnipeggers had provided for no frills. This was still a prairie town that counted its $6M public dollars carefully. GBR was challenged to create a contemporary Tyndall limestone building over a steel facade with its interior finished in black Quebec granite. And to provide a high level of interior design within.

But clearly there had been no money to pursue the cautionary note at the bottom of the city’s report recommending the GBR design. It had urged that people want “the buildings that represent their social and civic life not to be just functionally fulfilling, they want their aspirations for monumentality, joy, pride and excitement to be fulfilled as well.”

But costs gradually mounted adding another $3M to the cost. To bury this overrun they renamed it from City Hall to the Civic Centre to express the larger project that had been evolving as parkade was added. Alderman Crawford who was in charge of the project proclaimed the new city hall was so well built with 900 tons of steel, that its life expectancy was 200 years. Winnipeg’s new city hall opened Monday Oct 5 1964.


Upon completion it was named the ugliest building in Canada, “a prison, a shoe box, Lenin’s tomb.” And immediately as the 600 workers took their places the staff complained about overcrowding and being “packed to the gills.” It was already too small.



“That barefoot boy

from the wrong side of the tracks”

by: George Siamandas

Steve Juba, became Winnipeg’s first and only non-Anglo Saxon mayor in 1956. He defeated George Sharpe by 2,000 votes and began a colourful era in civic politics. Juba ran Winnipeg for 21 years and never saw any opponents come even close to taking his job away. He withdrew his name from nomination in 1978 consciously ending his own career.

Juba was of Ukrainian descent. He had dreamt of becoming a lawyer but the depression forced him drop out if school. He was a scrounger and business man starting from nothing and finally becoming a millionaire with 2,200 branches of his business, Keystone Supply. He was fiercely independent and operated like a lone wolf. But most of all he was just like the little guy. He continued to live on William Ave even after becoming mayor. And he loved Cadillacs owning 25 of them.

Juba was returned in every election with landslide majorities. The general public seemed to love him, as did the media. But some saw him as a foreigner. One of his opponents was Gloria Queen Hushes who ran against him in 1966. She called him “the barefoot boy from the wrong side of the tracks.” Others like Alderman Crawford offered to raise $100,000 for “the right man” to run against him. He got into public fights with Cabinet Minister Russ Doern making national headlines when he delivered an outhouse to the front of the legislature with a sign describing it as the fitting office of Russ Doern.


Juba led a campaign to reform liquor laws making Winnipeg a modern city. He brought the Pan Am Games in 1967 and ensured it did not cost Winnipeg a single cent by getting the Federal government and the province to pay the costs including the overrun. He was credited with raising substantial funds from the province for city projects like the Disraeli Bridge. He put Winnipeg on the map. He was a big promoter of the city frequently making news across the country. He believed in the potential of tourism and developed the idea of twin cities as a way of encouraging tourism.


Juba was a personality type uncommon in politics. A true individual, he believed that the only way to be truly independent is to not to be beholding to anyone. So he had to become financially independent before he could be politically independent. Juba had a giant ego well suited to the demands on a mayor to create a sense of dynamism and be the showman and entertainer. He truly embodied the general population. He sided with the women who worked to save the Wolseley Elm.

He convinced everyone of the need to rebuild the old city hall by showing people how structurally unsound it was. He took newspaper writers into one of the domes in the old Victorian City Hall and he would make the dome shake by pulling on its flagpole.

So who does an independent politician consult for advice? Juba was known to have had a circle of five people in all walks of life whose advice he sought. One of these is thought to have been Peter Warren. Juba was a true visionary seeing ahead and urging things like casinos, liquor reform, and mass transit options like a monorail. Juba and his wife Elva had no children. His great passion was birds and he spent half of his annual salary of $24,000 buying feed for his special friends.

Mayor Ralph Webb Winnipeg’s First Urban Mayor

Mayor Ralph Webb

Winnipeg’s First Urban Mayor

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas


One of Winnipeg’s most successful mayors proved to be even more colourful than Steve Juba. His name was Ralph Web and he ran Winnipeg during the 1920s and 1930s. A “live wire” compared to all the grey businessmen mayors Winnipeg had till then. One year in Winnipeg and Ralph Webb is a last minute nominee to run for Mayor against an Independent labour party candidate.


Webb was born at sea on a trip between England and India in 1886. He knew no home and worked a sailing ship, on a railroad survey gang and ran a lumber company before moving onto a career in hotel management the manager of Montreal’s Windsor Hotel. Webb came to Winnipeg in to rescue the failing Marlborough Hotel in and soon found himself a candidate for the mayoralty.


Web was a man of strong and outspoken opinions. His comments provoked bitter reaction from his enemies usually from the side of labour and astounded his friends.


Webb joined the Canadian Army in 1914 and lost a leg at Oppy Wood. To almost everyone it was a badge of bravery. You could always hear him coming. A city solicitor of his day remarked that every step in his artificial leg earned him a vote.


So did his support of liquor reform, which was a long time coming. He recognized that it would be a big tourism asset to Winnipeg and asked the police to go easy on liquor issues. He himself was a tee totaler.

One of his earliest acts was to put up an electric sign on old old city hall saying Welcome to Winnipeg. Webb was known in the US as well as Winnipeg. He served eight one-year terms: 1925-1927 and 1930-1934. In between he served as an MLA for Assiniboia.


With his outspoken style Webb attracted the ire of his labour opponents, who refereed to him as Peg Leg Webb. In the 1928 Streetcar strike Webb maintained that it was caused by troublemakers that should be thrown in the Red River. Webb was taken to court and accused of


Webb proud to be a booster and was described as the best adman Winnipeg ever had. He resigned in 1927 to take the new job running the Tourism Bureau. He pioneered the Pines to palm car run on Jan 1926. Designed to create promote Winnipeg and make connections with Americans all along the way to New Orleans. Webb was also a big supporter of improving Highway 75.

He wanted industries to come to Winnipeg and had seen. There was not enough business development as Winnipeg lost in a sea of pessimism when he arrived. It was just after WW1, the completion of the Panama Canal and after the divisive strike.