Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Lonesomes Are Coming!! The Lonesomes Are Coming!!

The Lonesomes: 16 Prairie Stories

New Video by Reid Dickie

Snapshot 1 (06-07-2012 9-37 PM)Strange births and strange deaths and the lives lived in between on the Canadian prairies. Stirred by forsaken tumbledown farmhouses and barns, rusting farm equipment and the lonely places they abandoned to the prairie wind, the voices of the pioneers and their descendants tell their poignant tales. FarmSnapshot 1 (23-05-2013 5-59 PM) folk recall their struggles against the elements. Town folk recount interpersonal conflicts and complexities. There is no music but for the lonesome prairie wind. A beautiful dance of sadness and joy ensues.

The Lonesomes begins here 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

One new story a day for 16 days.

Click any pic to watch the 2:36 trailer

Snapshot 7 (06-02-2012 1-51 PM)

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Filed under Pioneers, Prairie People, Promotion, The Lonesomes, video art

Bad Men Who Love Jesus

Reid Dickie

The New Quarterly, a literary magazine published in Waterloo, ON staged a contest inviting writers to submit a story named “Bad Men Who Love Jesus.”  This was my entry. It did not win but it did elicit a bemused letter from the organizers.

“Calamity! Calamity! Calamity!” shouted Corny as he ambled into Waywotowich’s Garage, wiping his sweaty forehead with an oily rag, leaving a smear of Valvoline across his wrinkled brow.

“What’s the matter Corny?” asked the cherub from its perch on the gumball machine on the counter near the window at front of the garage on the corner of Reach and Beach.

“Durn. Durn. Durn.”

“Strong language there, Corny. What’s got you so riled up?”

“Ink blots and cumquats!”

“You are angry! You okay, Corny?”

“Blasted oil definitions!! I can’t get usta them.”

“Huh? I thought you’d worked all that out with the pointy-headed Egyptians and the Saudis and the so-ons.”

“Me too Cheruby, me to. But these new rules sure make a difference. Like, No Scissors On Sunday. Hoooo leeeeee! No Scissors On Sunday!!”

On the counter next to the gumball machine, a bright cardboard display of pink and blue rabbit foot key chains and a hardcard of cheap plastic sunglasses lay a big greasy pair of scissors.

“What about these?” asked Cheruby pointing to the scissors. “It’s Sunday, isn’t it?”

A worried look came over Corny’s freckled face. He didn’t know what to do about the scissors. He wiped more Valvoline on his forehead and stood staring dumbly at the counter. Corny resorted to his usual problem-solving tactic: he burst into song, his rich baritone filling the cavernous empty service station.

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the three-hole punch, the three-hole punch, the three-hole punch,” he sang over and over.

“Corny. You’re stuck. Corny! CORNY! You’re stuck on the three-hole punch again.” Cheruby had to get a little feisty with the nodder sometimes. “YOU’RE STUCK” at peak volume brought Corny back to the immediate service station arising around him.

“I’m stuck.” Corny took a small hammer from his belt and struck his right elbow with a light tap. Innumerable ones and zeroes unraveled inside his head and spun back onto a digital plate.

“I’m stuck.” He brought a wavering hand up holding a blue screwdriver and tightened a few screws along his left leg.

“They’ll be makin’ us register our screwdrivers next, blastomycosis or not. I’m still a little stuck, Cheruby.”

“That’s okay Corny. You stay a little stuck and I’ll keep an eye on the store.”

“Would ya?” said Corny.

“Sure thing, little stuck buddy, buddy, buddy, buddy.” Corny tapped his elbow again but the word didn’t stop. Cheruby was having some fun with him, is all.

“Clown pants and romance and bright shiny kittens, eagles in snowsuits, mufflers and mittens, porridge with tycoons, shamblers and foes, these are the ways of the world I suppose.” Corny’s song filled the garage once more. Cheruby peered through the dirty window into the lot and the street beyond.

Corny’s song was interrupted by the resonant clang of the bell hose – a pleasant, ringing tone that bounced around inside the big room.

“Cadillac,” said Cheruby. “Cad eee lack.”

Corny paused in mid chorus to peer through the grime.

“A customer,” he whispered conspiratorially to Cheruby. “What do we do?”

“What we always do. Serve them!” said Cheruby.

“Oh yeah,” was Corny’s astonished reply. It was triumph.

“Still a little stuck,” Cheruby said under its breath as Corny went to serve the customer.

Cheruby seldom left its perch in the window of Waywotowich’s Garage. It wasn’t because it was naked, winged, pink and chubby; it was because the small plastic children sometimes called it “fat”, “fleshy”, and “organic” as they walked from their day boxes to their night boxes.

“Organic! Pah!” Cheruby would scoff. “How can a cherub be organic? Idiot plastic children!” It resented the small plastic thoughts of the children in this little tourist town.

All true cherubim are hermaphrodites – they possess the genitalia of both sexes, lingam and yoni. That is why Cheruby is an IT and not a HE or a SHE. It could be a BOTH or a THEM, I suppose.

Across the street at the QuikDikWhipSlik Dairy Isle, they were advertising ICE CREAM HATS. The line-up was half a block long.

Corny reluctantly approached the long black Cadillac and the driver’s window slid down two inches.

“Hello,” said Corny hopefully.

“Fill’er up,” a gruff voice said from inside the car.

The metal nozzle slipped into the side of the Cadillac. Corny noticed the bumper sticker that read, “I ♥ Jesus.” He peered into the car to see who was driving as he washed the windows. He could barely reach the top of the front windshield with the squeegee. Due to the smoked glass, Corny couldn’t see inside the car but he did notice the puffy face of Cheruby peeking out the garage window. He waved to Cheruby who flapped its wings excitedly in reply.

As Corny moved around the car washing the windows, the passenger door opened and a large man stepped out onto the concrete service pad. He was well over six feet tall, barrel-chested and thick-limbed with piercing blue eyes, a winning smile and a red goatee. He was completely naked, his white skin covered in curly red hair of varying textures and densities. His bald head sported two stubby horns. His voice was loud and clear.

“Hey there, my little buddy, which way to the pisser?”

Cowering, Corny said “You’re…you’re…the Devil.”

“Yup. I am the Devil but you can call me Satan, all my friends do. And Satan needs to take a piss.” The Devil gestured for directions with question-mark arms and a shrug.

“Through the door to the back on the left.”

The Devil grinned at Corny. “Thanks little buddy.”

Corny was transfixed by the small red-haired tail jiggling at the base of the Devil’s spine as the naked man disappeared into the shadows of Waywotowich’s Garage.  When Cheruby recognized who was coming toward the garage it slipped down into its hiding nook beneath the counter.

Corny finished the fill, replaced the gas cap and told the driver it was twenty-five dollars. He never saw the face of the person who paid him. As Corny was walking away, the Devil came out of the garage.

“Much obliged buddy,” he said to Corny.

“Okay. Then, answer me a question.” Corny was quizzing the Devil!  “How come, if you’re the Devil, you have a bumper sticker that says, “I ♥ Jesus”? Do you love Jesus?”

A wry smile came over the Devil’s face. “Yeah, about that bumper sticker. That’s my sense of humour. Some kid stuck it there. I thought it was funny so I left it.”

“So you don’t really love Jesus?”

“No, my huckleberry friend, I don’t. Jesus is a dickhead. But I do love the idea of his bumper sticker on my Cadillac. See ya, little buddy.”

For a minute it looked like the Devil was getting back into his car but instead he just dissolved through the door and the car sped away. The clang of the bell hose echoed through the empty garage. Emerging from its hiding place, Cheruby saw Corny standing next to the bowsers with $25 in his hand singing at the top of his lungs.

“Bee stings and coil kings and spaniels in tartans, claptraps with dewlaps, bingo and cartons, glimpses of turtles, myrtles and woe, this is the way we all need to go.”

The line-up for ICE CREAM HATS at the QuikDikWhipSlik Dairy Isle was now two blocks long.

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Email from Shirty – Marshall McLuhan Steels His Gaze by Tapioca Hot Tub

Hi Funsters and Dumbsters,

It’s Lil Shirty checkin’ in wit chas.

Since we last talked, Sinatra’s people (dead people have more fucking “people” now than they did when they were alive!) harpooned my GHB’d show, test audiences rejected my Jackie Wilson’s Last Months show, a whole slew of fucking lawyers from the likes of Little Richard, evasLittle Eva, Little Anthony, Little Joey, Little Caesar, Little Steven, Little Dick, Lil Snatch, Lil Yeoman, that bunch, descended on me when I mounted my Little History of Rock and Roll. I thought it was an excellent way to get lots of midgets working but others saw it otherwise.

Which gets us to now. Are you sitting down? I have a legit job!  Well, more legit than any ever before. I’m the PR person for the hottest new band out of Brotish Curlumpia – Tapioca Hot Tub!! They are yummy. They will give you erection, wet panties, icing on cake, whatever you want, whatever you need, they will give you. Try not to think of fish eyes in goo when we say tapioca or, actually, think whatever the fuck you want. How’s that for a pitch? THT suck big time, of course. Here’s a preview of their new fake hit, some dreadful drivel, and below a look at the PR material I have aroused for them. Lap it up sheeple. The end is nigh.

Someone keeps putting spoons in my mailbox. Can that be good?

Hugs and Ughs,

Shirty

Tapioca Hot Tub, the sensational new band from Brotish Curlumpia, are storming up the brain failure charts with their new hit, Marshall McLuhan Steels His Gaze.

mcluha

Tapioca Hot Tub are the only band to outsell Brotish Curlumpia’s première music act, heavy metal band Expletif FU, whose latest album, Pushing In Rabbits (a loose English translation), has sales of nearly a million. Tapioca Hot Tub has exceeded that number and now hold Brotish Curlumpia’s best selling title.

About their success, Canola Pan Spray, drummist for Tapioca Hot Tub, says, “We are closing to robots and closing to horses. Spray it around. You smell us coming in you.” Tapioca Hot Tub lead ganip ganop player Melty Smeltz says, “We’re more than just man pudding. Look. See.” Yes, they are!

Now you can be among first humans on Earth planet to hear their brand new song and watch their brand new video for Marshall McLuhan Steels His Gaze.

Tapioca Hot Tub will be touring Europe soon and elsewhere beyond. Be sure to find them out there.

In case you don’t know it Marshall McLuhan was a WWII spy from Winnipee with a penchant for smelly cigars and farting while seated. He was married to Marilyn Monroe. I miss him.

Read Shirty’s next email

Read Shirty’s previous email.

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Isbister School/Winnipeg Adult Education Centre, 310 Vaughan Street, Winnipeg (1898)

isbister 2007

Reid Dickie 

I began this series on Winnipeg’s grand old schools with Earl Grey School due its unique position in my development. The rest of the schools will be offered chronologically by the year they were built, starting with an overview of Winnipeg as the 20th Century began.

Winnipeg   1898 – 1909

The new millennium brought radical changes in the way we travel thanks to the Wright Brothers, Henry Ford and the creation of General Motors. The new era of transportation began in Winnipeg with the first “horseless carriage,” reputedly owned by Professor wpg1900sEdgar Kenrick, appearing on the streets in 1901.

Other than bicycles and electric streetcars, horses were the major transportation mode. Livery stables abounded (there were nine of them on the south side of Portage between Main and Donald in 1905) as did blacksmiths, harness makers and sellers, and horse troughs. To house their trade, carriage and harness companies built massiveMHanlonLiveryFeed_SaleStable_447x313 multi-storey buildings in what is now called the Exchange District. Great West Saddlery Company’s two buildings at 112-114 and 113 Market Avenue are fine examples.

By 1905, there were a dozen “benzene buggies” which, as they passed, often elicited shouts of “Get a horse!” from bystanders. By 1910, cars were a common sight on Winnipeg streets. The last horse trough, dismantled in 1952, was across from City Hall.

The T. Eaton Company opened their huge Winnipeg store in 1906 and the Redwood Bridge opened in 1908 providing further access to the Municipality of Kildonan. Largely due to European immigrants, many of whom lived in the wpg 1902Dagmar District, by 1900 Winnipeg’s population had grown to 40,000, to 100,000 in 1906 and 213,000 in 1913.

This rapid growth challenged school systems. In this decade, at least 27 schools were built, very few of which remain standing.

During this period, new curriculum concepts developed to educate the influx. Innovative ideas like William Sisler’s direct method of teaching English, night schools and Household Arts (Home Ec) were introduced.

ISBISTER SCHOOL/WINNIPEG ADULT EDUCATION CENTRE

ISBISTER SCHOOL 11

The oldest public school in Winnipeg and the last old downtown school sits rather anonymously, preciously on Vaughan Street, just north of The Bay. In fact, the land Isbister School stands on once belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Reserve. To accommodate the school the Board purchased a block of lots at $100 each from the Hudson’s Bay Company. To assure good water, one of the major challenges in the city’s early development, a 160 foot-deep well was dug.

On June 14, 1898isbisterschool5 archetectural drawing, the contract for a ten-room, three-storey building was let to the construction firm of Sutherland and Wood at a cost of $29,336. Construction began one week later. Architect Samuel Hooper supplied the plans.

In the architectural drawing of Isbister (above), you can see Hooper’s intent was to employ Queen Anne style architecture, an eclectic style used mainly for residential buildings in Winnipeg. This makes any public building using the style particularly special.

A cornerstone laying ceremony was held on September 26, 1898. Building committee chairman Angus Browne presided. Joseph Carman, the school board chairman, said, “The walls that you see rising before you are an expression of the universal desire of our citizens to give their children who will succeed them such a training as will enable them to carry on worthily the work of nation building which their fathers have so well begun.”

By early November the brick work was nearly up to the top of theISBISTER 009 third storey so construction was rushed to get the roof on before winter. On January 5, 1899 the new Smead-Dowd Heating System was fired up to provide warmth for the interior plastering. The interior work was handled by C.W. Sharp.

Isbister School opened its doors to its first students on March 27, 1899, just slightly behind schedule. What grandeur awaited the first pupils! Their school became a showcase proudly displayed to visiting dignitaries for the modernity of its design, heating, ventilation, lighting and electrical system. In many ways, Isbister School was the prototype for a dozen Winnipeg schools that followed it. The school still evokes a sense of wonder 115 years after it was built. Current (2014) WAEC principal Roz Moore says, “It is certainly an honour to work in such a beautiful and historic building.”

For a number of reasons, some inadvertent, in Isbister School we have an extremely well preserved example of fanciful Queen Anne architecture on a public building. Delightfully, despite the recent addition, we can still experience both the exterior and interior more or less as it was when Hooper brought it forth from his imagination.

ISBISTER 2a The school has many striking features: its picturesque roofline flowing from a medium-pitched hip roof into large gables on every elevation, richly detailed chimneys that bracket the building and an unusual entry tower with multi-tiered, pagoda-like cupola. The school measured 75 x 81 feet (22.7 x 24.7 m) giving it 6075 square feet (561 sq. m) on each floor. ISBISTER ENTRANCEThe entry tower induces a feeling of ascension beginning with the ground-level steps that lift you into a landing in a small pavilion bracketed with columns and an elaborate rough limestone surround. A short balustrade in sandstone at the landing off-sets the entrance and appears to be an after-thought but it is included in Hooper’s original drawing. Beyond, large double doors invite you inside. a a a ascan0001 Above the entry, a wide graceful limestone arch embraces a pair of rectangular windows, each capped with a limestone lintel and linked brick arches. Note the brickwork (cross-hatching, sunburst) that infills the large arch above the windows includes a ghost arch. Upward, just above a stone belt course, another pair of rectangular windows with stone lintels are bracketed with pilasters and surmounted by a dentil then the school name carved in stone. isbister 1903 - Copy

The tower that extends above the roof has an open arcade of three arches with balustrades along the front and a single window one each side executed in rough stone. The first roof above an extended cornice is a foursquare convex design with round hooded windows. The cupola is composed of a short square section with a blind arcade of hooded arches in every direction. Above heavy brackets, a concave roof ends in a pinnacle, a peak and a flagpole. The highly accomplished craftsmanship on the entry tower in both stone and brick lives up to the expectations of Hooper’s plan.

Similar to British Board schools, which were usually three-storeys, square with boxy massing, Hooper built his design on a tall foundation with stone up to the sills of the first floor windows cut by low rectangular windows.

There are two different stones used in the school’s high foundation. Typical Tyndall limestone alternates with paler sandstone. The brickwork on every elevation is highly decorative and expertly executed. In this regard, notice the brickwork around its wide variety of windows and openings, the tops of the pilasters and the chimneys. Isbisterscan0001

The subtle asymmetry of the front facade is balanced by the fenestration. Three rows of windows adorn the front facade. Notice the first and third floor windows are rectangular but the middle row has arched crowns to complement the large central tower arch and the three arches it encloses. The gables denote where the pilasters divide the facade. The smaller south (left) gable covers just two rows of windows while the larger north gable covers all three rows.

The school originally had ten classrooms, four on the first and second storeys and two on the third, shared with an assembly hall that was later converted into two additional classrooms. The classrooms were spacious and well isbister deskilluminated with cloak rooms in each room and blackboards and carved wainscoting along the walls. Colourful stained glass panels with magenta and blue floral motifs filled the transoms. Adjustable desks (right) were attached to the maple floors. These cast iron and wooden desks were made by A. H. Andrews Co. in Chicago and were called desk benches due to the combination of chair and table. In the basement, the school had a playroom; we’d call it a gymnasium.

ISBISTER 1The interior of Isbister is slightly changed; many distinctive original elements remain. Passing through the double doors you enter a vestibule, three more steps, through double doors and you arrive on the main floor of the school. Wide stairways on the east and west sides greet you. Every hallway, foyer and classroom has ISBISTER 015the original pressed metal ceilings in a variety of floral and geometric designs. Block and column detailing surrounds the classroom doors. The maple floors throughout the building have a lovely creak to them. The stairs, uprights and banisters are oak which glows with a hundred-plus-year-old patina. The handrail and globesISBISTER 011 of the newel posts have been smoothed by the caresses of countless hands
over the decades, leaving them almost soft to the touch. The 1899 Annual Report by the Winnipeg Public School Board described the interior of Isbister:

The character of the finishing, the pleasant effect of the colouring in the furniture, walls and ceilings has an important value as one of  the educational influences by which the children are affected. With no museums or picture galleries or other agencies for the cultivation of taste and promotion of art amongst us, it is important that the school should not fail in its duty in this respect, for no educational agencies have greater claims on the ground of utility alone than those concerned with the education of taste.

As you can see in this picture postcard of Isbister School (below), it once had wrought iron filigree cresting along the roof peaks and metal fire escape slides on the north and south sides. The slides were installed in 1907 and could evacuate all students in less than two minutes. isbisterschool4 In August 1909, the British Association for the Advancement of Science held their convention in Winnipeg. Isbister along with Carlton (at Carlton and Graham) and Alexandra (at Edmonton and St. Mary) schools were pressed into service for meetings. Delegates must have felt right at home in buildings similar to ones they attended in England.

By 1939, lip-reading classes for the deaf were offered at the school. Though the post-WW2 baby boom helped fill some desks, demographic changes downtown and sliding birth rates meant ever-dwindling enrollments. On June 30, 1964 Isbister School closed its doors and it seemed inevitable the old place would be demolished. Not to be!

Isbister School received a reprieve when it became the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre (WAEC) in September 1967.  Eleven years later, enrollment was so large that portable trailers parked around the school handled the overflow. Today WAEC provides high school ISBISTER SCHOOL 3education in Grades 9 to 12 to mature students, ESL and computer classes. Current enrollment is about 900 pupils with a staff of 45.

In 2004 the steel, glass and concrete L-shaped addition, designed by Penner Prins Architectural Collaborative, was built onto the west side. Structural work was done by Wolfrom Engineering at a cost of $2.5 million. From the third floor, the addition offers some stunning views of downtown. While an incongruent juxtaposition in design and materials, somehow the addition doesn’t detract too heavily from the old building, a testament to the timelessness of Hooper’s design and the empathy of the modern architects. Luckily, the Vaughan Street façade retains its 1898 face, glorious even with pollution-darkened brick and stone. ISBISTER SCHOOL 1

The experience of entering the new addition from inside is like passing through a time warp. (right) Surrounded by rich wood and arcane designs with creaking floors beneath, at the end of the hall is a blinding white glow, the doorway into the 2004 addition.

The floor of the addition is concrete and feels as if it’s vibrating. The wall of glass is not connected to the floor, the space between the floor and the window contributes to a mild sensation of vertigo. The view of the upper brick detailing on the old school from the addition is spectacular! ISBISTER SCHOOL 2 In the above picture, notice the visible section of the chimney with its dentil, sunburst arches and belt courses. Wow! There is a matching one on the north side of the building. Now move down to the dentil under the building’s eaves and the exquisite brick and stone work thereafter. Note the cross hatch carved in limestone under the rough stone sill.

ISBISTER SOUTH FACADE0001

The south facade of Isbister shows a fine view of how the chimneys are incorporated into the exterior design. Bracketed by exits on every floor, the elaborate chimney protrudes out of the top of the gable. Wide metal stairway fire escapes have replaced the spiral metal slides. ISBISTER NORTH FACADE0002

The north side reflects the south in design. The grey wall on the right is the north side of the 2004 addition. I like this shot for the contrast between the old and new school and apartment buildings beyond.

isbister ak The school is named for Alexander Kennedy Isbister, the son of Orkneyman Thomas Isbister and Cree Mary Kennedy, born in 1822 at Cumberland House on the Saskatchewan River. A smart and promising student, at 16 he became an articulated clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Company. Later he studied at universities in Scotland and England becoming a lawyer, teacher and writer, completing 21 textbooks.  He died on May 28, 1883. A strong supporter of the Red River and Northwest regions, Isbister established a scholarship fund still offered to undergraduates at the University of Manitoba though now paid for by the province.  Isbister bequeathed his 5,000 volume library to the U. of M. Regrettably, most were lost in a fire in 1898. In addition to the school, he is commemorated with Isbister Street and the Isbister Building at the U. of M. Fort Garry campus. 

Isbister School’s designer, Samuel Hooper, became Provincial Architect in 1904, a position he held until his untimely death in 1911. In addition to designing Isbister School and St. Mary’s School (1904), he hooper_s2created plans for the Carnegie Library (1903-05) and Normal School (1906) on William Avenue. In his role as Provincial Architect, he created three designs for Department of Education one-room schoolhouses in 1903, which were replicated all over rural Manitoba; Land Titles Buildings in Neepawa (1906) and Portage la Prairie (1906), and Courthouses in Brandon (1908-1910) and Morden (1905). Among Hooper’s last designs, in fact one completed by his successor V.H. Horwood, was Isbister wood0001the University of Manitoba Administration Building (1911-12) on the Fort Garry campus.

Another prominent figure in the story of Isbister School is Daniel David Wood, (left) of Sutherland and Wood Contractors, the builders of many early schools in Winnipeg including Isbister, Somerset, Gladstone and Norquay. Wood, a highly-regarded and successful businessman, served on city council and the Board of  Trade. Little is known about his business partner, A. C. Sutherland.

Though opened without fanfare, Isbister School quickly became a
downtown fixture. Notable features of the school included its award-winning mouth organ band which so impressed a visiting Sir. H.G L. Joly, the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia at the time, that
isbister johnsonhe donated a drum to accompany the harmonicas.

Among the illustrious alumni of Isbister School, you’ll discover Skuli Johnson (left), an early Rhodes Scholar and professor who studied history, philosophy, and classics at Oxford University and taught at the University of Manitoba.
HammyBaker

Other Isbister students include star 1912 hockey player for the Winnipeg Victorias and World War 1 hero, George Hamilton (Hammy) Baker (right) who turned down the opportunity to became a professional hockey player, and singer/comedian/good guy Pat Riordan, (left) known to many as Winnipeg’s King of Comedy for isbister pathis long-standing gigs at The Zoo and The Gort. Watch Pat sing Bobby Darin’s hit Beyond the Sea.

Now that Somerset School has been razed, Isbister School is especially precious because it is the last 19th century school left in the city and one of a very few left in the province. Since Isbister was one of the schools on the demolition hit list of the 1948 Reavis Report, it is even more remarkable that we still have this beautiful old place. 

PROFILE

Isbister School/Winnipeg Adult Education Centre

Built 1898-99

Additions 2004

Materials: buff brick, limestone, sandstone, concrete

Style: Queen Anne three-storey

Architect: Samuel Hooper

Contractors: Sutherland and Wood

Original cost $29,336

Current assessed value $6,734,000

Acreage 1.5 acres

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Filed under Architecture, Education, Heritage Buildings, Schools

1960s Texaco Jingle

Vancouver plus 758

Reid Dickie

I shot this perfectly restored Texaco sign in front of a business on the outskirts of Dauphin, MB with the threatening sky beyond. This sign has a nostalgic meaning for me. My dad was a Texaco consignee (he sold and delivered gas to farms and service stations) for 10 years in Shoal Lake, MB. I grew up there and worked with him, even delivering fuel myself when I got my license. Dad wore a Texaco uniform and cap that featured the big red star with the green T emblazoned on the white circular background. The slogan of the day was, “Texaco. You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.” This is a re-post because I finally found the 1960s Texaco jingle that uses the above slogan. Click the pic to view the 20-second tune.

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1948 Reavis Report on Winnipeg Schools

winnipeg 1948 1

Reid Dickie 

Since I will be referring to the Reavis Report from time to time in my schools series, here is the background on it. All accompanying pictures are from 1948. The above photo is from the 1948 Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade. If you click the pic you can watch a Super 8 movie of the parade. 

During the 1940s, education changed dramatically. Innovative teaching methods, curriculum, research and administration styles developed, creating new challenges and complexities. This left some school boards wondering about the modernity of their own systems. The looming post-war population surge forced educators to take action. Winnipeg School Division #1 (WSD #1) undertook an intense self-study to gain perspective on its present state and most beneficial elmer the safety elephant Charlie thorsonfuture actions.

To conduct the survey, WSD #1 sought the University of Chicago’s Department of Education Field Services Committee under the chair of William Reavis.

The directed self-survey methodology used questionnaires almost exclusively. Sixteen core committees and 73 sub committees involving over 500 parents, school officials, administrators and teachers participated. The survey explored every aspect of the educational process including trustees, superintendents and REAVISscan0001principals, school buildings, finance and administration and curriculum at every level. The survey occurred during one week in October 1947.

As a result, in September 1948 the Reavis Report offered over 300 recommendations intended to update and modernize WSD #1. The Report recommended that the Board of School Trustees reduce its membership from fifteen to nine and find a better way of selecting trustees. The Report encouraged improvements in utilizing the professional leadership of the Superintendent in relation to trustees, schools, teachers and students. School principals, often confused by their role as intermediaries between students and communities on one hand and school authorities on the other, needed more opportunities for TRIUMPH_T100_1948_Apersonal and administrative improvement including in-service workshops and a clear manual of instructions.

Teacher recommendations focused on recruitment, selection, standards of living, appraisals, instructional development and workload considerations. Over 200 of Reavis’ recommendations fell under the heading of curriculum changes.

Elementary school recommendations encouraged smaller class sizes, enrichment of library facilities, improved instructional materials and 

winnipeg 1948 5expanded teaching techniques. Reading in Winnipeg schools at the elementary and high school levels lagged behind national averages. The Report recommended special attention for reading and language arts.

Junior and senior high schools, while generally effective, required establishment of core common teachings needed by all students mixed with curriculum options to help students discover their own proclivities. Other recommendations included fewer and longer class periods, a University Entrance Exam, reorganization of subjects and expansion of practical arts and vocational education.

TEC VOC 2Tec Voc was in the planning stages at the time of the survey. The Report encouraged expansion of home economics and industrial arts and the introduction of agriculture courses at the new technical school.

The Report identified the high dropout rate at the secondary school level as a major problem. One way of improving dropout rates was by establishing and adequately financing more personal services for students. Among these services, the Report touted Child Guidance Clinics as essential to modern secondary education. Guidance clinics in combination with newly available vocational opportunities meant students could more easily adapt to the machinery of mass education.

The Report found that board finances and the administration of school business could be improved through more thorough budget considerations and by exploring new sources of revenue. The Report pinpointed the need for a central maintenance shop and storage building for equipment 1948 Viking Console Radioand supplies.

Reavis felt the system lacked modern “school plants” declaring it encumbered by too many “obsolete” fully depreciated buildings. The Report recommended 14 old three-storey schools should be razed, rebuilt or relocated and replaced with new buildings as soon as possible. The Report stated a dozen other old schools needed the same treatment
but less urgently. Although most of the Report’s findings proved helpful, the demolition of old schools was controversial in local communities, eliciting many objections from area parents and residents.

The introduction of a one-mill capital levy made a vigorous
Arlington & Logan 1948building program possible. Between 1948 and 1957, the School Division built 25 schools to accommodate the baby boom. In that same decade, just four of the schools Reavis recommended for demolition succumbed to the wrecker’s ball – Argyle, Fort Rouge, Norquay and Aberdeen. Largely due to the heroic efforts of neighbourhood residents, many of the other schools de-listed by Reavis remain standing today.

The Reavis Report’s impact on WSD #1 increased sensitivity to principals’ leadership roles and motivated teachers and other staff to improve procedures in the teaching and learning process. Administration changes made the Superintendent the chief executiveWinnipeg 1948 officer of the Board. Because of the Report, Winnipeg established the first fully modern school administration in Canada. The constructive efforts of Division employees and communities involved in the survey created long-term improvements in education and better prepared the Division to cope with present and future challenges. The Division also discovered a way to satisfy the needs of communities using responsive attention while involving them in modernizing the schooling process. Perhaps inadvertently, this delicate balance of needs may be the Reavis Report’s greatest legacy.

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