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.

Winnipeg Planning Commission Announces New Plan for 1912

The Winnipeg Planning Commission Announces New Plan for 1912

by George Siamandas

Winnipeg’s Planning Commission had big plans for Winnipeg in 1912. The report of the planning commission recommended moving city hall to Broadway and creating a Mall along Osborne St. Winnipeg was the third largest city. And its leading citizens thought it would still become the biggest in the country.

There was concern that Winnipeg grow in the proper way and provide health, convenience and beauty for its citizens. Winnipeg saw itself as one of the leading cities in North America and wanted to do the right things with its future growth. The committee had some of the city’s leading citizens including distinguished architect John Atchison, the heads of civic departments representatives from the real estate industry, the builders, unions, and academics.

WINNIPEG’S PROBLEMS IN 1912

There was a lot of overcrowding. Very high cases of typhoid. Their 1912 studies showed it was twice as high in Winnipeg’s poor areas. There were not enough parks. Houses were being built on 25 foot lots. And what were once nice apartments were degenerating into tenements rapidly. There was concern that congestion near Portage and Notre Dame would get worse and that the system of roads, bridges and subways had to be improved. They also saw this as the last chance to acquire some riverbank land for public drives before it was all privatized. There was also concern that the health and building inspection department could not do their jobs because they were understaffed.

THE GRAND PROPOSAL OF RELOCATING CITY HALL TO MEMORIAL BOULEVARD AND CREATING A GRAND MALL

The new Manitoba legislature was about to be started on Broadway and would form the south end of a new mall. City hall was to go near Portage Ave. And between them was to be a new mall featuring a town square providing a place for a future art gallery, public library, post office, auditorium, exposition (convention centre) and other such structures such as a new Hudson Bay store. Running through the middle would be a roadway 160 feet across becoming a new north south highway.

NEW BUILDING CODES

To overcome slums they introduced new building standards. Houses were required to have one bedroom with at least 800 cubic feet of space and a window. No more 25 foot lots. At least one room would have to be 150 sq ft. They wanted to see the establishment of a Child Welfare Bureau and education about domestic hygiene and proper child care.

The legislature was built as planned but everything else had to wait for many decades. Of course city hall was not moved or rebuilt for another fifty years. The Bay built their store in 1926. During the depression they did build the auditorium as a relief project, and in the mid 1960s they built the art gallery. By 1962 city planners felt that city hall should stay put to help prevent further deterioration in the Main St. area.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THESE WELL LAID PLANS?

The voters turned a funding by-law for a new city hall shortly after 1912. The economy just did not support the grand vision that the planners had at the time. World War 1, then the doldrums of the 1920s when Winnipeg’s gateway role was supplanted by the new Panama Canal, then the doldrums of the 1930s and then WW2.

The problems of slums, and housing conditions and more recently of the erosion of the commercial base. But what seems to have changed dramatically is the level of optimism. In 1912 Winnipeg was coming off decades of unprecedented growth and progress. They dreamt big with full confidence their plans would be realized. Today we see continuing challenges to the future viability of downtown both in economic and social terms. The original vision of a health, convenience and beauty seems even more elusive in 1997 than it did 85 years ago.

ST. JOHN’S CATHEDRAL AND WINNIPEG’S OTHER OLDEST CHURCHES

ST. JOHN’S CATHEDRAL AND

WINNIPEG’S OTHER OLDEST CHURCHES

by George Siamandas

 

The 1834 cathedral replaced an earlier log church built in 1822 by John West. Construction for St. John’s Cathedral started in 1833. The limestone came from Stonewall and was quarried and hauled to the site during the preceding winter, by oxen pulling sleds. Much of this hard work was done by volunteers from the native and Red River settlement. Total cost was 900 pounds and the new cathedral could hold 500 people.

 

The site had been selected and put aside years earlier by Lord Selkirk himself. They were proud of their new church and Thomas Simpson called it “better than 90% of the Scotch country churches.” But their pride was premature. The new building deteriorated after just two years and for decades needed constant buttressing.

In 1862 it was replaced by a third church. But once again structural problems plagued the church. By the 1880s they desperately needed a new church. But it was a very long wait for the congregation. It was not until 1926 that the church was replaced by the present St. John’s Cathedral on Anderson Avenue. Andersen was named in honour of Anglican Bishop Anderson who came to red River in 1849.

The first church in Red River was built in St. Boniface in 1818 on the present site of St. Boniface Cathedral. This site has seen a succession of six churches: three were demolished to make way for larger churches, while two were lost in fires. Once again it was Lord Selkirk that had granted the land on the east side of the Red for the French community.

The oldest church is St. Andrew’s on the Red; it was consecrated in 1849. It is the oldest church in the west that has remained in continuous service. It has seen a major restoration of the stonework in the last few years. Its a testament to masonry techniques that old limestone buildings like St. Andrews have survived and can be restored. And all before pilings were commonly used.

One of the oldest churches is St. James Church. It’s located across Polo Park on Portage Ave and it was built in 1852. The oldest downtown church is Holy Trinity church just opposite Eatons which was built in 1882. It is the oldest building surviving on Graham Avenue.

Another interesting old church is St Peter’s on the east side of the Red in Selkirk. It is known as Peguis’ church because Salteaux Chief Peguis and his people helped build it in 1852. Peguis worshipped at St Peter’s till he died in 1864 and Peguis is buried in the church yard.

Nassau in Fort Rouge is a very ecumenical street with at least 7 churches. Starting on the north there is the Christian Science, then St. Luke’s Anglican, Crescent Fort Rouge United, Trinity Baptist, Evangelical Mennonite Conference and ST Francis De Sales Catholic Church for the Deaf.

The first synagogue was Sharrey Zedek originally located at the corner of Henry and King St. Virtually the entire Jewish community turned out on a September day in 1889 to witness the laying of the corner stone. That cornerstone is now incorporated in the Wellington crescent Sharrey Zedek which was completed in 1949.

WINNIPEG’S GARMENT INDUSTRY

WINNIPEG’S GARMENT INDUSTRY

Rag Trade Boomed Despite the Depression

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

Winnipeg’s garment trade was taking off in 1930 when a garment worker’s strike brought production to a halt on Feb 25 1931. Winnipeg’s Rag Trade boomed, while warehousing declined in Winnipeg’s 1930s. Starting as small family enterprises run by Jewish tailors, by 1970 the garment trade had become Manitoba’s second largest industry.

THE GARMENT WORKERS’ UNIONS

In 1935 Sam Herbst succeeded in establishing smoother labour relations in the trade. For the next 25 years there would not be a single strike in the trade. Before the union, ladies could be fired for talking or for taking too long in the bathroom. Wages were poor at 18 cents per hour. One worker recalled receiving one penny for every 12 buttons she sewed to each army shirt. Some had to work 60 hours a week for part the year and were laid off for several months. Wages went up to 25 cents per hour after the WW2. Today most of it is on piecework, and the going rate is 12 cents per minute reflecting about $7 per hour.

THE GARMENT INDUSTRY ESTABLISHES IN WINNIPEG

How did Winnipeg, originally an agricultural area, grow such an industry? By 1874, a year after incorporation as a city, Winnipeg had two men’s tailors and one woman’s dressmaker. But during the 1880s, 20 new businesses would thrive. They made what prairie people needed, by hand, in small operations. In 1899, Moses Haid, established the first mass production apparel manufacturer “Winnipeg Shirt and Overall Company.” By 1906, 19 firms had been founded by families like Berkowitz, Crowley, Freed, Kennedy, Jacob, Neiman, Nitikman, Shore, Stall, Steinberg, and Waldman.

In the early 20th century, Jewish people fleeing European persecution began to arrive in Winnipeg. The tailoring skills that had been passed down from generation to generation were activated in the cheap warehouse space sitting vacant in Winnipeg’s warehouse district. The building of the Panama Canal in 1914 sharply cut into Winnipeg’s growth. Now it became cheaper to ship goods west by the canal instead of through Winnipeg, leaving many warehouses empty and abandoned in the 1920s. For the needle trade this setback for Winnipeg marked its opportunity. Apparel manufacturers now had prime space available at bargain prices. And grow they did.

In 1918 Benjamin Jacob and John Crowley were the first to move away from work clothes to producing ladies clothing. And to promote their rapid success, Winnipeg garment manufacturers got together in 1925 to put on Manitoba’s first fashion show. By the 1930s 3,000 people had work in trade. Between 1941 and 1951 the industry grew 213%. In the peak year 1946, 14 new firms were established.

INTERNATIONAL BRANDS

Today the rag trade employs 8,000 people in over 115 factories. And it supplies many famous brands. Names like Calvin Klein jeans, Gap, Northern Reflections, OshKosh B’Gosh, Eddie Bauer outerwear, London Fog, are all manufactured in Winnipeg’s garment industry, and help it gross $700 million in annual sales. Uniforms for everyone in the Canadian Armed forces, specialised sportswear for curling, warm durable outerwear tested in Canada’s north or “Tundra” sweaters for Ronald Reagan. All made in Winnipeg.

THE WADDEL FOUNTAIN

THE WADDEL FOUNTAIN

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 SALVATION ARMY’S WORK IN WINNIPEG

THE SALVATION ARMY’S

WORK IN WINNIPEG

By George Siamandas

The Salvation Army was started in London England in 1865 by William Booth who wanted to do something to improve the lives of poor people. “General” Booth as he is described in the literature literally created an army to attack poverty and to bring religion to the needy. The Salvation Army still remains very much a religious organization.

They first came to Winnipeg in early 1883. The Frank Vinall family came from Brighton England. They had already been active in a Salvation Army corps in Sussex. The Vinalls were able to persuade Canadian Salvation Army headquarters to establish an office in Winnipeg. And the first Winnipeg corps comprising a 3 man, 3 woman unit arrived in Winnipeg on December 10, 1886 and began to work from a building on Princess Ave.

There was a lot of work to be done in Winnipeg. Red River seemed ripe for salvation and was described by some as a very wicked place. Winnipeg was still a pioneer community. There had been the economic collapse in 1883 after the 1881-1882 land boom. Winnipeg was still very much a place of tents. There were many bush workers, railway men and other tramps as they were called then.

The Vinall’s initial efforts of songs and prayer in front of the post office were not well received. The May 1883 paper noted that “if the morals of the community need correction it will have to be done through some other means.” But the public soon came to appreciate what the Salvation Army did for man’s daily needs. And by 1888, the Salvation Army was also set up in Brandon, Neepawa, Morden, Minnedossa, and Carberry.

The Salvation Army along with other private groups and churches seemed to be working well ahead of government by innovating most social services.
They pioneered outreach work visiting people in their own homes.

In 1890 they founded the Children’s Shelter on Ross Avenue to house destitute mothers and homeless children. In 1906 they established Grace Hospital which became their first incorporated hospital in Canada. It was the idea of Evangeline Booth the founder Booth’s daughter. In 1906 they started the first used clothing depot at Logan and King St.

The SA led the way with by helping house hundreds of returning soldiers from WW1 in two hotels they bought for the purpose. And later during the depression, in a 3 month period in 1931, they gave out 18,000 parcels of clothing, 8,500 meals, and beds to thousands of needy migrant men.

In 1918 Grace hospital’s finances became very strained. Grace refused no one and ran into serious debt. To deal with the financial shortfall they made their first Red Shield Appeal. It raised $60,000 that spring of which $25,000 helped save the hospital.

As well as their good works, the SA has also left us some architecture like the Citadel located at 221 Rupert Ave. This three story brick structure was built in 1900 by J. Wilson Gray who also designed the much more ornate Confederation Life Building.

This building is still standing a block north of city hall in the middle of Winnipeg’s Chinatown, and badly in need of renewal. It once contained a 1200 seat hall and became focus of their spiritual and administrative work in Winnipeg.

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.

 

WINNIPEG’S FIRST FIRE DEPT

WINNIPEG’S FIRST FIRE DEPT

The trials and tribulations of the fire dept

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

Winnipeg dedicated its first fire hall Feb 7, 1875. But for the next 7 years till a permanent professional fire dept was organised, volunteers did the job. There was a time when the new city of Winnipeg had no fire protection. When fire broke out, a chemical pumper would be borrowed from the Hudson Bay Co. In 1875, a by-law establishing a fire dept was passed, with a volunteer brigade providing the labour. Prominent early citizens became members of the volunteer dept: James Ashdown, Thomas Ryan, Stewart Mulvey and Daniel McMillan.

Six fire tanks were built and sunk into the ground along Main St. Water came from an artesian well at the corner of Logan and Main. Labour for digging the trenches was supplied involuntarily by drunks reporting to magistrate’s court. Alderman Archibald Wright telegraphed an order to Silsby Manufacturing Co for Winnipeg’s first Steam Pumper. He was quoted 6 months delivery. But the next day Silsby offered a much better model for another $500 with delivery within 10 days. The engine arrived promptly by the Steamer Dakota but federal customs charges and doubled shipping costs saw the engine under wraps till the extra costs were resolved. The pool of 40 volunteer firemen received $1 per fire and 50 cents for false alarms. If they failed to report at the call of the Grace St Church bell they were each fined $1.

THE FIRST FIRE

The new pumper’s first job was to fill the tanks with water. By early Dec 1874 the brigade was spoiling for its first challenge. It came a month later on Jan 11 1875: fire broke out in the McDermot Block. It was -31 F as the Grace Church bells called the volunteers from their beds. Within 12 minutes water was flowing and within 21 minutes of the alarm the fire was all under control. Surrounding buildings were saved, but the McDermot Block housing the St James Restaurant formerly Red River Hall burned to the ground.

The firemen had to pull the pumper by hand, as horses were not available nearby. Council soon remedied this by having horses stabled nearby. Lombard Ave was the site for the first fire station that stored the steam pumper, 2,000 feet of hose and four hand hose reels. On Christmas Day 1875, the fire hall burned to the ground destroying all the new equipment the dept had proudly assembled over its first year. By February, a new fire engine had been delivered. Local insurers had agreed not to cancel policies. In 1878 a new fire hall opened. At a cost of $7,000 this one was built to be fireproof.

A PROFESSIONAL FIRE DEPT

In 1882 the volunteers decided to disband and to form a full time fire dept. Winnipeg was booming with hundreds of new buildings. And the population was now 30,000. The newly created jobs were highly coveted. One hundred and fifty people applied to be firemen. The first chief was WO McRobbie who served from 1882 to 1889. McRobbie with 25 years experience in the Montreal fire brigade agreed to be chief for $1,800 per year. On start-up the dept hired 36 full time men and bought 17 horses. The force would spend $150,000 over the next 20 years. But it was not until Winnipeg built the high-pressure station on James Ave in 1907 that fire insurance rates dropped.

THE BUREAU OF CHILD HEALTH

THE BUREAU OF CHILD HEALTH

Early Efforts to Help Winnipeg Children

By George Siamandas

On Mar 1, 1916, the City of Winnipeg established the Bureau of Child Health. It marked a big step forward. For years councillors and the general public had avoided grappling with the reality of Winnipeg’s alarmingly high child mortality rates. In the early 1900s it was typhoid that ran rampant revealing Winnipeg as the sickest city in North America or Europe: 23 deaths per thousand in 1904, 138 deaths in 1905. An investigation revealed most deaths in the areas without sewers: the north end around the CPR tracks. Winnipeg medical health Officer Dr Douglas likened conditions in Winnipeg’s north end to those of a medieval European city. He noted the squalor in the north end was beyond the powers of description. Also in 1904, untreated water had been pulled into the water supply system to fight a rash of fires.

WHAT MADE PEOPLE SICK?

A combination of ignorance and poverty was making people and especially children sick leading to the highest mortality rates in North America and Europe. Far too many people were living in slum housing conditions. Parents were ignorant of hygienic practices. Children were malnourished. The water was neither safe nor abundant. The 1912-year saw infant death rates soar again: 126 per thousand in 1912 and 199 per thousand in 1914. Clearly it was time for action.

DR AJ DOUGLAS

Leading the effort was Dr AJ Douglas, Chief Medical Officer from 1900 to 1940. Douglas would face numerous epidemics including typhus, smallpox and influenza. Winnipeg was lucky to have an advocate at the job. Year after year his reports to council recommended action to hire more inspectors, ensure all houses were connected to sewers, and to reduce overcrowding. Douglas was particularly forceful in 1914 recommending that if necessary the city should get into the housing business. He urged that the city do more about the health of less fortunate Winnipeggers and in particular to put a special focus on child health. He got results. In 1913 working out of a house at 31 Martha St, Health Officer Tustin began to report on Child Hygiene.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Three years later the new Bureau of Child Health began to operate from a modern building at the corner of Main and Aberdeen. Nurses provided infant examinations and two doctors were available mornings 6 days a week. Volunteering their time to help the sick were Drs RF Rorke and E Richardson.

One major service was the dispensing of baby’s milk feedings. Over 350,000 bottles were delivered in 1916. The bulk of it given free. That year Douglas requested an automobile to help deliver the milk before it spoiled on hot days. They made 119,730 nurse visits in 1916. Each nurse cared for over 400 infants. They encountered many young unwed mothers who knew nothing about childcare. Child health improved as more and more information was dispensed. The health dept issued Monthly bulletins: simple things about hygiene, yet things mothers did not know.

Working with other agencies like the Margaret Scott Nursing Mission and the All People’s Mission, help arrived for Winnipeg’s immigrant poor. Finally a tradition for social justice was emerging in Winnipeg’s early days.