Monthly Archives: January 2012

February 1 is Grasslands National Park Day on ReadReidRead

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The Faces of War

Reid Dickie

Eleven years ago today my dad, Bruce Dickie, died. He was 83. I miss him every day. I wrote about Dad last year on this day, too.

Recently I came across an article about how the ravages of war become etched on the faces of young soldiers. They show close-up pictures of dozens of Scottish soldiers before, during and after serving in Afghanistan along with their comments. If you ever needed further testimonial to the insanity, destructiveness and uselessness of war, look into the eyes of these men. In every case, the innocence, hope and clarity of the first photograph transmogrifies by the third photograph into reflected horror, soul death and hopelessness. Instead of innocence, their faces convey only fear, instead of hope there is loss and despair, instead of clarity, they are haunted by memories of unspeakable horrors.

Similar changes were wrought upon the face of another Scotsman, my father Bruce Dickie, before, during and after he saw combat as a lance bombardier in WWII from 1942 to 1945. In a series of pictures he sent Mom while he was overseas, the transformation of my father’s face is obvious and frightening.

This first picture was taken in London just after he arrived overseas in 1942. He was a fresh-faced farm boy from the Canadian prairies.

 The next picture was taken in Aberdeen, Scotland in late 1943 after Dad had seen combat. Experience and sadness lurk in his eyes and his serious expression.

The third picture was taken in Amsterdam near the end of the war in 1945. Innocence is gone, replaced with aggression, his eyes are wild and his teeth are bared. No other image ever taken of my father is more heartbreaking for me than this one.

The horrors of battle that Dad witnessed become progressively more evident on his face in each photograph. Dad signed each picture he sent to Mom but it was only on the last one that he mentions love. Dad lived another 55 years after that last picture was taken. Quietly and peacefully he died of old age eleven years ago today. Luckily he never had to live in a post-911 world.                          


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Filed under Deathday, Family, Images, Momentous Day, Prairie People, Spirit

Need Help Picking a Religion?

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Winnipeg’s first mayor was a scoundrel!

Reid Dickie

His name was Francis Cornish. He has a Winnipeg avenue and a library named after him. Watch my short glimpse of Winnipeg’s first mayor on YouTube.

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Filed under Local History, Manitobans of Note, Pioneers, Winnipeg

Winnipeg – Train City

Reid Dickie

To commemorate the 2011 centennial of Winnipeg’s Union Station, VIA Rail Canada commissioned the production of an original film exploring the historical significance of trains and train travel to Winnipeg. The National Film Board delved into their vaults containing more than 70 years of archived material and created a 15-minute film entitled The 100-Year-Old Station. The film offers a rare glimpse into Winnipeg in its formative days with stunning footage from the late 1800s to the present, beautifully crafted by award-winning editor and director Yves Chaput. Click my pic to watch the film. It’s well worth your time.

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Filed under Heritage Buildings, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers, Prairie People, Trains, Winnipeg

1870s TV Ad for Free Farms in Western Canada

Reid Dickie

A delightful impossibility!

In 1870 the Dominion of Canada bought Rupert’s Land, which was pretty much all of western Canada, from the Hudson’s Bay Company. After passing the Dominion Lands Act in 1872, the government embarked on an advertising campaign to entice people from Europe, the United States and eastern Canada to come to western Canada and take advantage of the free land and unbound opportunity. This campaign went on well into the 20th century. I gathered together ten of the Dominion’s ads from the period, several of them covers for pamphlets about Canada that, more often than not, wildly exaggerated the potential of the prairies. Basically, they were propaganda. In that same tradition, I envisioned what the Dominion’s TV ad might have looked like in the 1870s. Click the poster to watch.

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Filed under Hope, Humour, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers, Prairie People

White House, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

I have previously featured this house on the Houses page. This post will update, elaborate on details and replace the original entry.

White House, 510 Fourth Avenue, Carberry, MB

Carberry, MB has retained an enormous amount of its built heritage relative to most Manitoba towns. Two blocks of historic buildings with architecture dating back more than a century on Carberry’s Main Street have been designated as Manitoba’s first Provincial Heritage District. Walking down the town’s main drag is a rare and exhilarating experience for a heritage buff. I spent a couple of days in Carberry last summer photographing most of their remarkable buildings, including these new pictures of the White House.

The White House has stood on a corner lot on the outskirts of Carberry since about 1900 when James White built it to reflect his Ontario heritage where Queen Anne style developed its own permutations. White moved from Ontario in the 1880s, settling in Carberry where he was a contractor, sash and door manufacturer and business owner. In addition to his own home, he built his factory, the Charlie Sear Block at 19 Main Street in downtown Carberry and the town’s Presbyterian, Methodist (United), and Anglican churches. An inventive fellow, White devised a system that diverted waste steam from his factory to heat his nearby home.

Take a moment to drink in the overall Seussian effect of this Queen Anne Revival beauty. Fanciful yet formidable, subtlety and exuberance unite in striking accord on the Manitoba prairie. Notice its expansive harmony and superb craftsmanship. The picturesque roofline features double gables with a shallow pitch between them. Under the gables, bull’s-eye windows are perfectly centred between substantial brackets, each of which features a delicate drop. The peaks of the gables contrast with the smooth arc of the bargeboard below. The design on the elaborate bargeboard, the triangle and dot, is replicated on the upper verandah.

The colours are intoxicating. The distinctive red brick came from the brickworks in Edrans, MB where James White’s wife, Margaret, apparently had connections. The brick has developed a lovely patina over the century that accentuates the contrast with the rich white brick detailing. All windows are topped with elaborate headers in white brick, each with a drop, like on the brackets. Two belt courses in white brick gird the house and the bull’s-eyes are accentuated by the solid white brick enclosures. Every corner is loaded with white brick quoins. Notice the subtle use of the colour black on the building in the small details on the verandahs, window sills and lintels and under the gables.

The verandahs are exceptional despite being under repair. The arcade of arches on the upper level mimics the shape of the bargeboard and the arches over the windows. Both verandahs sport turned posts all around. The small porch over the rear door is delicate and adorable with its widely-spaced dentil and little picket balustrade.

Notice how the quoins next to the top and bottom of each window join up with the white brick header giving the appearance the window is supported from above. The design is almost hieroglyphic.

In addition to the variety of shapes in the brick design, each window features diamond and triangular shapes and a frame of square coloured panes. The exterior condition of the White House is remarkable. It is now part of the Carberry Plains Museum located next door to the house in the brick building James White built for his sash and door factory.

Quick Carberry fact: For a number of years starting in 1940 the British Royal Air Force operated Service Flying Train School #33 near Carberry. Among the thousands of airmen who trained there was actor Richard Burton.

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Filed under Carberry, Heritage Buildings, Houses, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers

The Canada Party

This will amuse Canadians much more than Americans. Click the pic to see why.

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Flood Update: The Bridge Will Swing Again!

Reid Dickie

One of the victims of last spring’s devastating floods in Manitoba was the world renowned swinging bridge in Souris. The river of the same name that flows through the town threatened to flood the area repeatedly. Flooding was minimized by vigilance and miles of earthen dikes but, as a precaution, the swinging bridge was cut loose and captured, lest it wipe out sections of the dikes. It was recently announced that the bridge will be reconstructed.

Souris Town Council has hired Stantec Engineering to come up with the conceptual design for the reconstructed swinging bridge. The bridge has been rebuilt before, most recently in 1976. Details about the bridge and this year’s experience are on my short video called Souris Swinging Bridge Before & After.

On a related note, River Watch is an international organization of students, teachers and citizens who monitor the water quality of rivers and streams in their area. Students at Souris schools are participating in the program with a special eye on the Souris River which flows through the centre of town and ravaged the valley last spring. Find River Watch info.

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Filed under Flood, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Roadside Attractions

Abel Klemper Snorts Crystal Lite – Fiction

 Excerpt from “Last Order of Loneliness”

Reid Dickie

The morning is grey with a promise of clear skies tickling the western horizon. Abel Klemper is heading to Hugely Park by the lake to meet his friend Freddy Kane who is a year older than Abel and in Grade 6. Abel feels the nervous excitement of doing something for the first time as he walks the overgrown path into the trees. Freddy is already there, sitting on a downed tree.

“Did you bring it?” Abel asks Freddy.

 Freddy pulls a small sandwich bag a quarter full of grey powder from his knapsack.

“Is that it?” says Abel.

“This is it,” says Freddy. “Mom will never notice it’s missing. Ready?” Freddy untwists the twist tie, opens the bag and an aroma of bananas rises from into the still damp air. “I’ll show you how since this is your first time.”

Freddy takes a small amount of the powder on the tip of his index finger, brings it to his right nostril and sucks the powder up his nose. He sniffs a few times to get the dust as far into his sinuses as he can. A weird smile crosses Freddy’s face. “Your turn.”

He hands the bag to Abel whose hand is shaking a little bit but he manages to get the powder onto his finger, snorts it up his right nostril and follows Freddy’s lead, sniffing it several times. “Oh, owww, it burns,” Abel says.

“Yeah but just for a minute,” Freddy starts to laugh through his strange smile. Both boys take another fingertip full and snort it up their left nostrils.

“Ooow, I taste bananas,” says Abel. Both boys start to laugh and start making monkey noises and motions. They both get dizzy and sit down on the fallen tree trunk. Abel feels a little like throwing up but resists.

“My head is growing,” says Freddy. “Growing like a pumpkin in autumn.”

Pumpkinhead would be a good nickname for Freddy, thought Abel, finding it increasingly difficult to think directly about anything. His head felt big and floaty, more like a balloon than a vegetable.

“Pumpkinhead,” Abel says, turning toward Freddy. “That would be a good…” Abel stops in mid sentence. With horror at the suddenness of it, Abel says to Freddy, “Your nose is bleeding!”

“Yeah, that sometimes happens with this stuff.” Freddy dabs his nose with a tissue. “It’s a good idea when you know you’re going to snort to bring along a tissue or two.” The bleeding is spotty and soon stops.

“Let’s go,” says Freddy.

The boys wend their way out of the trees toward Hugely Elementary, staggering slightly. Abel’s’ head still feels light and large.

Twenty minutes later, as Abel ponders the first page of a math test with ever-mounting confusion – a combination of his general inability to do math plus the affects of the aspartame-loaded drink mix – a large red drop of blood splashes onto the paper. Abel stares at the blood without moving, his eyes growing larger and more horrified. A second drop falls, then a third. Abel doesn’t move, he’s transfixed by the sight of his blood so cleanly and readily leaving his body, a strange attraction to it grows in him.

A shrill scream from the girl sitting across the aisle shatters his interlude. She has noticed his bleeding nose. Abel jumps and the class turns to see him rubbing his nose on his sleeve leaving a long red gash on the blue fabric. He tries to wipe the blood off the test paper, smearing it with his hand, leaving bright red splotches on the paper and his hand. He wipes his hand nervously across his forehead leaving several thin red lines. A few sniggers arise from his classmates. A solid red line of blood runs from his right nostril over his mouth and drips off his chin.

Realizing he is the focus of everyone’s attention, Abel smears the blood over his chin and cheeks with increasing intention. His face is a reddening mask pierced by two huge black eyes that survey the other children as if they are prey. He tastes banana and begins to growl, rubbing his face with more blood, small drops of it spatter around him onto other students. Abel imitates a monkey and laughs a high keening wail. He scratches his sides and his butt, woofing through funneled lips. His classmates become less entertained, more frightened by Abel’s actions.

Miss Baxter runs to Abel’s desk. “Good Lord, Abel, Abel, are you all right?”

“Shove your fucking Lord up your fucking ass,” snarls Abel through his reddened grimace.

Miss Baxter exercises her control over the Grade 5 class.

“Everyone! Clear the room. Everyone out in an orderly fashion. Wait in the hallway. Everyone out NOW!”

The room clears quickly, leaving just Miss Baxter and Abel. Without his audience, Abel is deflated and slumps into another student’s desk, watching his blood splatter onto the clean white test papers. Miss Baxter puts the box of tissues from her desk next to Abel. He takes several and wipes at his nose. The bleeding is slowing. He holds the white tissues against his face in stark contrast to the red blood which is beginning to dry and peel off.

“Abel Rufus Klemper.”

Abel has never heard his name spoken with such negative force.

“Abel Rufus Klemper.”

Abel trembles, too afraid to turn around. “Who’s asking?” he peeps.

“I’m not asking. I’m telling. Look at me.”

Abel turns to see the letters B-A-M on a large silver belt buckle. Principal Mangle glowers down at Abel, his fists clenched on his hips, his crisp white shirt and tightly knotted tie support his large angry face.


Abel stands.

“To my office.”

“Miss Baxter,” Mangle says, “I’ll let the janitor know for a quick clean up. Reschedule the test. Take them for a study break in library. Let’s not overreact.”

“Yes. Thank you Principal.”

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Filed under Earth Phenomena, Humour

Something for Trainspotters

Up close and personal with a CNR Fast Freight as it speeds eastward toward Winnipeg, Canada on a warm October afternoon. Note the arty arm weight. I’ll try not to do that again. Enjoy! Chug chug, play it loud!

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Manitoba Heritage House – Fieldstone Mansard

Reid Dickie

Fieldstone Mansard Roof House, 66 Third Avenue SE, Minnedosa, MB

Among the collection of wonderful fieldstone buildings in Minnedosa stands this fine example of Second Empire architecture adapted to prairie needs. Commonly used for public buildings in Canada, especially those built by the Federal Department of Public Works in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Second Empire architecture was adopted by the Roman Catholic church and used for its schools and convents well into the 20th century. Built about 1896 from local fieldstone and first owned by Charles Currie, the house sports many well-defined details of the style. The red mansard roof dominates the house with the chimney poking up out of the top and tall dormers on all four sides. The dormers have pediment roofs with delightful sunburst detailing. The little house has two full bay windows with the street side bay featuring tall windows on all three sides. The scrolled brackets under the eaves are painted in  two colours, a characteristic which complements the mottled colours of the fieldstones. Situated on a corner, the house gives the impression of stability and conveys a sense of its own history.

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