Category Archives: Education

12 Days of Christmas 2015 – Day Three Schools

My Schools page has 29 posts about specific schools in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba, aspects of education development and information about teacher’s lives in the early 1900s including my mom’s 1930 Grade 11 exams.

Cheap Thrills & Fire Drills from Schools page

Gladstone School

Gladstone School in the early 1960s, not long before it was demolished. The fire escape slide (the white tube on the left side of the school) was accessible from the second and third floors. The school stood at Confusion Corner.

 If you had the stomach for it, fire drills could be fun!

A major concern for school designers and builders is fire safety and evacuation in case of fire, especially for early three-storey schools. Fireproof materials, wide hallways and stairways were basic design features that helped ensure safety. Though Winnipeg had its share of school fires, most in early wood frame or log buildings, there were no major tragedies involving students. Nonetheless, new precautions were always a consideration.

One of the many innovations Daniel McIntyre, Superintendent of Schools, and J. B. Mitchell, Architect and Commissioner of School Buildings, brought to Winnipeg from their travels to other schools around North America was the spiral metal fire escape. The slides provided a quick and direct path from the upper floors to the ground in the event of a fire.

Spiral fire escapes were just what they sound like. Attached at the second and third floor landings, they were enclosed spiral slides of smooth metal – think water slides.  They looked like silos or huge preying insects. When the fire alarm sounded, second and third floor students evacuated one at a time down the slide. The chutes were narrow; the pitch was reasonably gentle but the descent itself was fast. Being more prone to adventure, it was usually the older grades that used the slides.

Winnipeg’s largest foundry, Vulcan Iron Works and Engineering, designed and manufactured the slides.

About 1907, Isbister School, now Winnipeg Adult Education Centre, was among the first to get a spiral fire escape. The structures were installed on the north and south sides of the school. Besides being a source of sudden fun for students, their greatest benefit was their ability to evacuate every student from the school in less than two minutes.  The slides proved so effective most three-storey schools eventually used the system.

The slides increased the excitement of fire drills with students “shooting the chute” and yelling at the top of their lungs. The first one through acted as a dust mop, sitting on a sack “cleaning” the way for fellow classmates.

The late comedian/singer Pat Riordan, who attended Isbister School in the late 1940s, remembers the slides as being quite scary for Grades 1 and 2 but, thereafter, fire drills became a much-anticipated thrill.

Though externally secured to some degree, the slides were an after-school fascination and offered endless hours of climbing and chuting pleasure.

Jeanette Dickie recalls the fire escape at John M. King School in the early 1950s. “I went there from Kindergarten to Grade 5. My friends and I would go there on Saturday and illicitly climb up inside the fire escape. We took off our shoes and socks to get a grip on the shiny metal surface then climbed in complete darkness to the second floor where the light slipped through the door that led to a little bridge to the school. We carried on to the third floor, sat on the little landing, put our socks back on to enhance our slide to the bottom where we shot out onto the ground. I am not sure which was more thrilling – the swirling ride down or doing something we knew we weren’t supposed to be doing!”

The slides began to disappear as older three-storey schools were demolished and replaced with one-storey buildings.  By the late 1960s, the slides were just a fond memory.

Mulvey School Gordon Bell

Known as both Mulvey School and Gordon Bell School, the building sported a metal fire escape until its demolition.

Find more stories about Manitoba schools on my Schools page.



Filed under 12 days of christmas 2015, Education, Schools

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Filed under Canada Strong and Free, Education, Inspiration, Public Service, Wisdom

Who Remembers the Med Movies on Friday Nights?

el topo 1

Reid Dickie

“We have been transmogrified from mad bodies dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark.” – Jim Morrison

Two years at Ryerson in Toronto had opened my eyes to all kinds of films from W.C. Fields marathons to Fellini Satyricon (below) to Andy Warhol’s erotic western Lonesome Cowboys which was shown on multiple TV screens (to avoid the censors) in Cinema 2000, a modern XXX emporium on the Yonge Street strip. I craved a similar experience in Winnipeg and found it at the Med Movies.

FelliniSatyricon_Lobby1A year or so after I moved here in the summer of 1973 I started hearing about underground movies that some med students showed every Friday night. Asking around I discovered the Med Movies tucked away in a lecture hall in the Basic Sciences Building at Emily and Bannatyne, part of the newly named Health Sciences Centre.

From October 3, 1975 to May 21, 1976 I went to both Med Movies every Friday. Sixty-four movies and I didn’t miss one. It was like getting a crash PhD in classic and modern films at $1.25 per movie. What a bargain!

The theatre was a large lecture hall with full size screen. The continuous bench seating let you stretch out for comfy viewing. It pulled small discerning crowds, the size often winter-weather dependent. The atmosphere was casual, laid back and reverent to the movies. Here are the films in my “20th century cinema course” on the original schedule sheets.


Looking at the schedule, the series offered an eclectic cross section of genre-busting, rarely seen films that together create an exceptional overview of world cinema in the first 75 years of the 20th century. Several of these films left indelible impressions on me: Little Murders, Death in Venice, Zabriskie Point, Mean Streets, Red Desert, Amarcord (below).AMARCORD_3_Reasons_Still_video_still

I still recall my gasps as I watched Jodorowsky’s El Topo (top) for the first time, being abducted to his strange and cruel world where you couldn’t just watch the movie, your entire nervous system and every bit of viscera also had to fully participate in the experience. I recently re-watched El Topo and it had a similar effect on me as it did 40 years ago. Don’t die without seeing El Topo.

This wasn’t the first year the med students showed movies and I don’t know how long they went on. I didn’t go the next year because my life had changed. I’d fallen in love with Linda.

She and I sat in on an experimental film course at the University of Manitoba a couple of winters later. We created films together several of which can be found on my YouTube channel. One of the more experimental films we made together was called Passionate Leave, shot in 1978/79 on Super 8. More details with the video here

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Filed under Education, Film, Linda

Principal Sparling School, 1150 Sherburn Street, Winnipeg (1913)

Principal Sparling can0001

Reid Dickie

By the time this “lovely castle” was built, school architect J. B. Mitchell was delightfully combining elements from several architectural styles, creating a stunning array of Principal Sparling can0003structures.

Two-storey Principal Sparling School is a luxurious sight, rich with detail, solid but enticingly airy with glorious fenestration all around. Executed by expert craftsmen, the school incorporates Gothic and Classical Revival design elements.

The elevated limestone portico and the tower above it (left) are the building’s most striking feature. Transverse stairways lead to the portico landing, which is open on each side.

Overhead Dutch gables crown three sides of the portico, the front has a large medallion in a floral motif, all Principal Sparling can0004 - Copycomplimenting the arched doorway into the school, the stained glass window above it and the open tower atop. The name of the school is inscribed on a large limestone plaque on the face of the tower at eave level. (right) Although I’ve never seen anything to indicate J. B. Mitchell belonged to the Masonic Lodge, it is highly likely he was a member. On other schools Mitchell has left us a few hints of his understanding and use of the Golden Section. On Principal Sparling, the overlapping Os in School create the vesica pisces.

A storey and a half above the low-pitched hip roof, the square tower culminates in four open arcades of rounded and square columns. Resembling tracery, the arcades are aPrincipal Sparling can0009 medieval touch. The top of the tower (left) has a curving belt course supported by arcades of corbelling of very high quality – it feels as if it drips from the building. An angled parapet crowns the tower.

The symmetrical facade has large end wings that bring a churchy Gothic effect Principal Sparling can0006because they are windowless but for the round openings on the stone-capped Dutch  gable ends. The sections that would have been windows are indented and surmounted with exquisite corbelling. (left) There is a pair of dormers on the front elevation and a limestone belt course with diamond shapes.

Demonstrating Mitchell’s attention to detail there is the letter S on each of the downspout collectors that deliver rainwater directly into the sewer.Principal Sparling can0010

On the sides (right) projecting sections are in a Gothic motif with stone lintels over the windows, peaked stone cap on the cornice with orbs and a pointed finial. Again, the arcade of corbelling on the face of the wings and Gothic end pavilions is superb. The rear has two Classical Revival porches, one obscured by the 1987 gymnasium. They feature wide arched entranceways with a three-sided hip roof that points up to a recessed arched window.

Principal Sparling can0002

A recurring feature of school design was stained glass panels at the top of rectangular windows. At Principal Sparling, the original stain glass remains on the façade windows only, as it was when Mitchell designed it.

Of brick and concrete construction, the masonry overall is fine work. The bond of the building is American bond with a slight variation – usually every fifth or sixth course is headers rather than stretchers. On Principal Sparling School, every fourth row is headers,Principal Sparling can0007 requiring proportionally more bricks to construct.

Notice the tall, rusticated foundation (right) with many windows. This allows classrooms in the basement to have ample light. Limestone is used to great effect from the foundation to the lintels and sills, the belt course and the curved gables.

The interior has a central hallway with rooms leading off both sides. The hallway is extraordinarily wide and the ceilings are very high. The stairwells are concrete with the original cast iron railings embellished by flower medallions. One of the classrooms has the original slate blackboards and the basement rooms have the old hardwood floors that bear the warm patina from the feet of five generations of children.

When Principal Sparling School was built, architect Mitchell was incorporating the latest principal s 3innovations in heating and ventilation. The school still has the original arched vents that accordion out two-thirds the way up the wall that allowed cross-ventilation when combined with window transoms.

Former Principal Denise Smith found the original school boilerplate stored away when she arrived at the school. She had it polished up and proudly displays it in the main hallway.

Every year the graduating Grade 6 class, with the help of the Parent Council, purchases a piece of art for the school, usually a print of a great master or a historic depiction.

All former principals have their pictures displayed in the foyer (above) and a photograph of principal s himselfReverend Joseph Walter Sparling (1842-1912) (right) hangs in a revered place in the hall. Sparling, a theologian and teacher, was known as “the father of Winnipeg Methodism.” Born in Perth County, Ontario, educated in Ontario and Illinois, he was ordained in 1871. After serving in numerous parishes, he was sent to Winnipeg in 1888 to establish Wesley College, now the University of Winnipeg. In a small rented room, Wesley College started with three students. Four hundred were attending at the time of Sparling’s death.

Sparling died in 1912, the year construction on this school began. His son, Jack Sparling attended the official opening in 1914, his granddaughter, Mrs. Joseph Walter Sparling, served tea at the 50th Anniversary in 1962.

The contractor was a Winnipeg firm, S. Brynjolfsson and Son who built the seventeen room school for $142,000. Cost of the 2.6 acre lot was $30,500. Construction began inprincipalsparlingschool2 1912; the cornerstone was laid by Johnson Douglass, merchant and school board member.

Although the official opening occurred in March 1914, the school (archive photo right) offered classes starting in August 18, 1913. Two hundred students enrolled the first day to attend Grades 1 to 8 taught by eight teachers and principal Harry McIntosh. The curriculum included Home Economics and Industrial Arts. As the West End district around Principal Sparling School developed, by 1922 the student population grew to over 800 taught by 19 teachers.

In 1986 a new gymnasium with modern facilities was added to the school based on a design by Stechesen Katz Architects. The addition was built by Levasseur Construction Co. at a cost of $552,000. The old gym was converted into a multi-purpose room and a resource teaching area.

In 2013/2014 Principal Sparling’s enrolment was 212 students in Nursery to Grade 6. Ethnic breakdown is 65% Philippine, 17% aboriginal and the balance mixed.

Principal Sparling School’s heritage designation is Level 3, meaning it is reasonably safe from demolition. There is an active Parent Council at the school which renovated the play structure and added a picnic area and landscaping with 20 trees.


Principal Sparling School

Built 1913

Additions 1986

Materials: tan brick, limestone, concrete

Style: Gothic Revival, Classical Revival two storey

Architect J. B. Mitchell

Original cost $172,500

Current assessed value $1,779,000

Acreage 2.6 acres


Filed under Education, Heritage Buildings, Manitobans of Note, Schools

Linwood School, 266 Linwood Street, Winnipeg (1913)


Reid Dickie

Pop quiz!

What Winnipeg school’s alumni includes the City’s first woman mayor Susan Thompson, bandleader Jimmy King, Liberal Cabinet Minister Mitchell Sharp, Olympic speed skater Gordon Audley, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and former National Defense Headquarters Chief of Air Staff Ken Pennie?

Hint: it’s in St James.

This diverse group all haunted the halls of Linwood School.

Though having recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, Linwood School sits on a lot used for schools for 130 years. St James School, a white two-storey wooden building with a large bell tower that sat on the southeast corner of the lot was the original school on the site. Built in 1885 and known in the neighbourhood as The White School, it burned down in 1913. Students attended classes in tents during construction of the current building, also called St James School. The name was changed to Linwood School in 1951 to avoid confusion with the newly opened St James Collegiate.

The original trustees’ names are carved in limestone on the front of the school. The architect is LINWOOD11scan0007listed as A. Melville and the trustees were Alex Gunn, Chas. Holden and J.H. Cotter.

Scottish-born Winnipeg architect Alexander Melville designed the present building. Melville, and his enigmatic brother William, a civil engineer, were responsible for at least 14 of Winnipeg’s fire halls, many of them still standing. (Under the heading of Winnipeg Degrees of Separation, we find Susan Thompson who, besides attending the Melville-designed Linwood School, was later a resident in a fire hall on Dorchester that had been renovated into condominiums. This fire hall was a Melville Brothers design.)

The Melvilles created plans for the Empire Hotel on Main Street, Broadway Court Apartments, Ashford Apartments on Balmoral, Touraine Apartments on Ellice and the Coliseum Dance Hall, all now demolished. One of the few houses the brothers designed, the G.A. Glines house, still stands at 55 Hargrave though its exterior has been substantially changed. Check out this Manitoba Historical Society page for all of Melville’s buildings.

The stately, two storey red brick and concrete Linwood School resembles the size andLINWOOD22scan0001 shape of British Board schools but with a more horizontal emphasis. A large school, it has 20 classrooms set on a tall foundation allowing adequate basement usage. The bricks, laid in running bond, have developed a beautiful patina that changes colour: in shadow, it is deep wine-red; in sun, it turns almost chestnut. Seven belt courses of contrasting limestone surround the building from cornice to foundation complimenting the school’s seven bays. Ribbed pilasters are used to great effect on all elevations.

LINWOOD SCHOOLThe formal front entrance (left) has wide stairs leading toward double doors and sidelights under a low arch with decorative stone keystone and label. Above that, a limestone ledge and brackets sustain three narrow windows and more elaborate limestone work is crowned with the school’s name and datestone.

The school’s fenestration, over 150 windows, adds lightness and openness to the exterior. All windows have limestone lintels and sills.

At the back of the completely symmetrical school is a pair of entrances (below). Grandly carved in limestone over one door is “BOYS”, over the other “GIRLS”. Thought this conjures all manner of questions, the reason was simply logistical: boys and girls lockers were most easily accessible through the separate doors.



Inside, the hallways are wide and bright with pilasters and beautifully restored oak throughout. The wainscoting and trim around all the blackboards is oak. The large marble sections at the entrances have recently been cleaned and refurbished. Original interior glass is etched with decorative floral designs. On the lower level, there is a large assembly room with built-in stage original to the building.

Classrooms have high ceilings and five large windows making them bright and airy. The linwoodschool1 rearpressed tin ceilings are gone; however, the cast iron railings with oak banisters remain.

From its opening in 1914, the school held elementary classes on the main floor and high school classes above. When St. James Collegiate opened in the early 1950s, the higher grades moved there.

An annex was added on the north side in 1953 and the gym in the early 60s. Though both are brick, their one-level utilitarian style is dwarfed by the mass and scale of Melville’s creation. Above is a view of the symmetrical rear elevation.

The school proudly displays an Honour Roll of former students who died in both World Wars, a venerable and appropriate tribute found in many Winnipeg schools.

In 2013 Linwood School celebrated its 100th anniversary with student reunions and nostalgic events. Watch a four minute video created for Linwood’s centenary.

There has long been a connection between Linwood School and the St James Horticultural Society. The Society has used the school for monthly meetings and flower shows since 1914.

Administered by the St James-Assiniboia School Division, today Linwood School educates 197 children (2012) from Kindergarten to Grade 5. The middle class neighbourhood around the school has been stable for so long that third and fourth generations of the same families are now attending Linwood. The school is so integrated into the community it has over 100 volunteers every year. With its stately and solid appearance, this fine old building grandly reflects the stability of the area it serves.


Linwood School

Built 1913

Additions 1953, ca 1961

Materials: red brick, limestone, concrete

Style: Georgian Revival, Romanesque Revival two-storey

Architect: Alexander Melville

Current assessed value: $2,217,000

Acreage: 4.2 acres

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January 16, 2015 · 6:30 pm

Achieving Geezerhood – Reid’s 2014 Year-End Review


Reid Dickie


Somehow life managed to transport me to age 65 this year placing me firmly in the category of senior citizen. Of course, I resist that as much as possible while still getting the geezer discounts and pensions that accrue to me. Turns out, for me, 65 is the new 45. I originally told friends 65 is the new 40 then I started comparing myself to some 40-year-olds I know and realized I needed to adjust my figures.

It’s become obvious from The Long View that there are at least two kinds of age: the number of years I’m around which is relevant to the system as my part of the herd, and age as a state of awareness which is relevant to me as an individual and the growth I accomplish in this life. Both need to be honoured.

The Distance

The Mighty Avenger accompanied/enabled me on my 14,000 kms of summer travel, alas, for the final time. Dodge has decided to discontinue making Avengers so my moving persona will be overhauled next year when it comes time for Mother Enterprise to birth me a new vehicle. I will miss the Avenger. Over the past five summers I’ve driven ten different Avengers, all basically the same. Sitting in the car was as familiar as sitting in my living room. The performance was consistent car to car, year to year, as was the service I received at Enterprise.

Personal Creative

My large video project The Lonesomes: 16 Prairie Stories wound up on YouTube afterSnapshot 1 (23-05-2013 5-59 PM) many unsuccessful attempts at getting it into film festivals. YouTube has the individual stories plus the entire work. Along with the sixteen short videos, I posted the script and the backstory for each story on my blog. This was the year I went after free wild samples big time, downloading hours of free images and sounds from sites like and This provided the basic content for a few dozen short videos which I call absurd found art.  One example I’m especially fond of is called The Curve. I downloaded a short black and white video clip of a curve in a road and added the muffled sound of people walking. I decribed ten spontaneous stories of events that happened at this curve. The parameters of the descriptions were easy: each had to contain a number. I combined  the stories with the video and an hour later had my piece. It needed an intro. The images of the red curtain rising and falling is perfectly absurd. Click the picture below to watch The Curve. It’s 3:45 long. Snapshot 1 (22-12-2014 1-46 PM) Incorporating found material I created four short videos using my flash fiction stories as narratives. Click the pics to watch. Snapshot 1 (22-12-2014 10-40 PM)        Itinerary Item  1:35     Snapshot 1 (29-03-2014 9-28 PM)    Grass of the Apocalypse   1:17     Snapshot 2 (22-05-2014 6-55 PM)    I Am Aspen Smoke  4:38     Snapshot 1 (22-12-2014 10-54 PM)    God is At Home/Atomic Prayer  4:53     Along with my found art and other video documentations this year, I have been compelled by The Muse to write my coming-of-age in a small town in the 1960s novel, now almost complete. The working title is Some Stuff. My hometown provides the physical layout for the town in the story. None of the characters, including mine, bears much resemblance to anyone in particular. Instead the characters are composites of aspects and traits I’ve noticed over my life. I’ve never embarked on a project this intense or complex. It requires me to spend five to eight hours a day writing. Backed up with a solid outline, the thing starts to write itself after awhile. Characters become overly familiar and take on a life of their own. I see them at the coffee shop or grocery store. A couple of characters have suggested their own destiny to me, some quibble about a line of dialogue I have written for them, other characters will join in the debate. It’s a long conversation that goes on in my head which I empty out daily, spattering it across the pages. No matter how good or bad a character is, I am responsible for every one of them; they live and die by my key strokes. Despite that, I find the characters sometimes use me as their conduit to get the words on the page. I just type what they tell me to.


Criddle/Vane house

CRIDDLE HOUSE 001 Over the past five years I’ve devoted an enormous amount of energy and time studying the Criddle/Vane family and their incredible story of survival as pioneers on the Canadian plains. Their reasonably intact homestead has been a constant source of inspiration as I followed their story with the intent of it becoming a screenplay one day. Regular readers of this blog know the homestead is a favourite haunt of mine. FLOOD JULY 2 to 4 2014 pics 002I visited the homestead on Monday, June 23 with my cousin Vonda who had never been there before. The house had recently been boarded up (above) so no access inside was available. I’ve felt for some time this would be an excellent idea, at least to protect it somehow. Two days later on Wednesday June 25 arsonists burned the 120 year old Criddle/Vane house to the ground. The crime remains unsolved. The sign on the left is located about three miles south of the turn-off to the Criddle/Vane homestead. Although the house is gone, documentation of it exists in several ways. One of them is my 3:55 video tour of both floors of the interior of the house which I shot in 2013. I haven’t returned to the homestead this year. I can’t really bring myself to see it without the eight-bedroom house towering over the remains of the family’s history, the enormous amount of wood the place required and the glories and tragedies the house contained. It makes me angry that more protection wasn’t given to the place; the threats to it were real and obvious. Another effect of the loss has been a dulling of my interest in heritage. Over the years my endeavors have been quite scatter-gun all over the province, dabbling in this and that. Moving past that I decided to focus my heritage energies on one location and try to make a difference there.


Deciding where to focus my energy and intent was quite easy. I just picked the place with the best heritage stuff outside of Winnipeg – Carberry. I’d helped promote the first Carberry Heritage Festival in 2013 by writing a media release for them and documenting the festival. In 2014 I was much more involved in the festival, attending planning meetings and promoting the event. A family emergency prevented me from attending the 2014 festival but it was deemed a success by organizers and the next festival is August 7 and 8, 2015. Check out the festival website. It wasn’t just the heritage buildings and unique history that attracted me to Carberry, it was and still is the people. I’ve met some of the nicest, most sincere people of my life in Carberry. When I go there I am reminded of growing up in Shoal Lake – the leisurely pace of life, the friendliness of people even to strangers, the lack of most of the crappy things about urban life and the sound and vibration of trains going through town. Carberry heritage people are very appreciative of my contributions. In addition to building the festival website, this year I also wrote and designed a walking tour book of Carberry that features 45 heritage places. I’m still working on some design features for the book but hope to have it available for the summer of 2015. Possibly the Carberry town council will help fund the book then the local heritage organizations can sell it as a fund raiser. I’ll keep you posted.

Winnipeg’s Grand Old Schools

One of my heritage interests has always been Winnipeg’s grand old schools, the ones built in the first half of the 20th century. Over a decade ago I did a freelance series for the Winnipeg Free Press on the schools, even writing and designing a book on the subject that no one wanted to publish. This year I updated the school features and posted them on my EARL GREY 1Schools page. Earl Grey School (left) was my alma mater for the series which I explain in the article. The other schools already posted are Isbister/Adult Education Centre, Ecole Provencher, Luxton, La Verendrye and Laura Secord. I am posting them in chronological order by the year they were built. I expect to post six to eight school features a year. In addition to the old schools that still stand, I feature ten schools that have been demolished with pictures and descriptions. Along with posts on Winnipeg schools, the Schools page has articles on many rural schools, architect J. B. Mitchell, spiral fire escapes, live-in custodian suites in schools, William Sisler, the first junior high school and much more. I had a teacher mom and I have posted her Grade 11 exams from 1930 along with the rules of conduct teachers of the era were expected to follow. Coming soon is a feature on some of the teaching materials Mom used in the 1930s when she taught in rural Manitoba.

Favourite Spots

Besides Carberry and the nearby Camp Hughes, two of my favourite spots this year have been Beaudry Park and Alexander Ridge Park. Beaudry is a small provincial park on the bend of the Assiniboine with some hiking trails and picnic areas. It sports a bit of original tall grass prairie. Situated just west of Headingley, the park is perfect for an afternoon’s relaxation to bask in the sun or sit in the shade and work on some details of my novel. alex 2Alexander Ridge Park (left) is halfway up the escarpment just west of Miami, Manitoba. The view of the vast lake bed below is spectacular making the 75 minute drive from Winnipeg well worth it. This year the park added a new lookout tower and a washroom. I spent many long hours working out details of the book at the park. I took a couple of old buddies to enjoy the view. Afterward a drive up onto the top of the escarpment wending my way back to the city.



I have a short list of artists of all stripes with whom I will gladly go wherever they want to take me. Musically Tom Waits is on my list, cinematically Federico Fellini and fully completely Dali. Obviously I have tendencies toward the surreal. I miss Fellini’s fantastic visions and not having a new Fellini film to look forward to. To remedy that I seek out filmmakers with similar artistic motives and motifs finding two this year. I have already posted about The Color of Pomegranates (1968), a surrealistic telling of thecolor pomogranates life of Armenian poet Sayat Nova by Russian director Sergei Parajanov. Released the year before Fellini’s Satyricon, the film creates similar trance-like imagery. The image on the right is from the film. This year I discovered a more recent film The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza, 2013) that celebrates Rome as enthusiastically and humourously as Fellini’s portrait of the great 3city in Roma (1972). Well-known and well-loved writer Jep Gambardella, handsomely portrayed by Toni Servillo (left), has just turned 65 and attends party after party in his honour between which he reminisces about his life in Rome and his love affairs while interviewing a parade of odd characters for a book. Director Paolo Sorrentino, who also wrote the screenplay, often goes full homage to Fellini as in the early scene with the nun on a ladder half obscured by a lemon tree followed by a murmuration of black birds across a chem trail. At the 37 minute point there is a scene in a hallway of two men grieving for the same dead woman that is breath-taking! Modern Rome and Old Rome mesh in delightful ways: Jep’s apartment looks out onto thegreat 1 Colosseum and a performance artist does her bizarre act at the ancient Roman aqueduct. Jep’s friend Stefano has a case that contains the keys to Rome’s most beautiful buildings so we accompany them on a long nighttime jaunt through empty museums, palaces, promenades and incredibly ornate rooms, filmed with a definite shout-out to Fellini’s brothel scene in Satyricon. The sources of humour in The Great Beauty are the same as Fellini’s: bureaucracy, politicians, sexuality, religion. Jep interviews a 104-year- great 4old saint (her feet don’t touch the floor) whose minder says the most outrageous things about her. At Jep’s dinner party in the saint’s honour, a flock of flamingos show up on his balcony (above) followed by the saint’s odd reaction. The Great Beauty won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 2014. If you like witnessing unlikely things you’ve never seen before, The Great Beauty provides two hours and twenty minutes of it, every moment striking and unusual. It’s not for everyone but it could be for you. Netflix has it in Italian with English subtitles. Watch the trailer. Other new movies I enjoyed included St. Vincent, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy (yes, I admit it!), Gone Girl, On the Road and The Hobbit. I’ve just come from seeing The Hobbit in 3-D D-Box. D-Box is where the seat moves and rumbles coordinated with the screen action. It added four bucks to my ticket price but nothing to the movie, immediately becoming more distracting than enhancing. The only time D-Box gave me a convincing sensation of the action was when people rode horses. The Hobbit was terrific fun. Martin Freeman has the perfect Hobbit face. birdmanTwo movies I especially enjoyed mastered very specific cinematic techniques to tell their well-written stories. Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has Michael Keaton (left) as a washed-up movie superhero trying to make a credible comeback on Broadway. Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone and the rest of the cast are marvelous as is the script. The entire movie appears to be one long take, i.e. one uninterrupted shot with no editing. Credit and, hopefully, some awards should go to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for the seamlessness of the movie. The stylish technique created a floating sensation for me that lasted the whole film. If you missed its first run, see it during its Oscar run in theatres. Birdman trailer. Locke takes place entirely inside a car at night and the only actor we see is the driver. That might sound tedious but write a well-oiled script that uses modern telephone technology in a new and inventive fashion to tell the story then hire one of today’s best, thoughlocke 1 somewhat unknown, actors and the result is riveting entertainment. British writer/director Steven Knight (he created TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) is responsible for the story and the vision and actor Tom Hardy (above) is the driver. The car never stops so the film unfolds virtually in real time. Hardy says near the beginning he’s ninety minutes away from London and he arrives almost exactly ninety minutes later. Considering he has only his chest and above to act with as he talks to various people on his hands-free car phone, Hardy easily overcomes the limitation and makes the role utterly convincing. During the shoot, Hardy caught a head cold which is incorporated into the drive as one more way his life is unraveling. Tom Hardy is under-appreciated even though he’s been in Inception, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Lawless (amazing role) and The Dark Knight Rises. Next summer he is Mad Max. Maybe then he’ll get the recognition his talent merits. Watch Locke trailer.

TV Series

sherlock-holmes-450794Thanks to Netflix I watched the British TV series Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character and Martin Freeman as Watson (left). This is Sherlock for the 21st century and it’s a hoot with three seasons done and a fourth on the way. Its fun trailer. A fascinating series called Rectify with Aden Young as a newly released prisoner returning to his hometown has two seasons under its belt and returns in the spring. Netflix also has Lie To Me, one of the last series Linda and I watched together. Tim Roth reads facial expressions and body language to determine who’s lying and who isn’t. Educational and fun.


National Public Radio in the U.S. produced a 12-part podcast called Serial that revisits a real 15 year old murder by interviewing all the principals and seeking out new information on the case. Beautifully written and voiced by Sarah Koenig with very high production values I highly recommend it. Serial is available here.baseballs 2


Late in the year I discovered a German throwback band called the Baseballs (right) who capture the genre’s brash fun. Their original songs are often pastiches of numerous hits from the 1950s and 60s. They also rockabilly up some modern songs. On the player below hear the Baseballs jumped up versions of Leona Lewis’s Bleeding Love, Alicia Keys’ No One and Robbie Williams’ Angels.

Blog Life

2014 at was a very good year with almost 80,000 views from 160 countries. I created 132 posts during the year and uploaded 679 pictures to my blog. This year-end review will be my 1010th post. Here’s how my blogging life went month by month.


EARL GREY 1I started the old schools series with Earl Grey School (left) in all its glory. I posted an article from elsewhere on ways to rebel in the Matrix and added an absurd cut-up video called What He Rebels Against.


Though I eliminated my Fiction page because WordPress is a crappy forum for almost everything now, I posted a short fiction called Bad Men Who Love Jesus. I profiled Isbister School now the Adult Education Centre and offered a feature on the 1948 Reavis Report on the future of schools and education in Winnipeg.


Ecole Provencher was the next old school feature. This month my large video work The Snapshot 9 (06-02-2012 1-55 PM)Lonesomes: 16 Prairie Stories (right) was posted on my blog and also on my YouTube channel. You can read the scripts and backstory here and watch the video here. I posted on movies about the Beats made in the 21st century.


We had spring flooding in Manitoba this year that caused Spruce Woods Park to be closed for a while. I did three on-site reports. The next old school is Luxton in Winnipeg’s North End. I documented the ten years of my radio career with pictures and charts in a post called Read Reid Radio.


I reported on my first Spirit Sands hike of the year, my train trip to Dauphin and the awakening of the garter snakes at Narcisse in a post called Snakes Without Ladders. I re-reported on Kevin Richardson and the lions shot with a GoPro camera. An amazing story!


I reported on my visit to the Criddle/Vane homestead discovering the house had been sealed off (left). Two daysCRIDDLE HOUSE 001 later the house was burned to the ground by arsonists. I posted a short fiction piece called Watching the River Flow, a life-changing conversation between a husband and wife


More flooding at Spruce Woods Park with on-the-spot video and pictures. The Cooks Creek Medieval Festival was held this year and I have a full report plus video. I helped promote the Carberry Heritage Festival this year and posted often about it.


A major attraction at the Medieval Festival was the Prairie Caravan Tribal Belly Dancers. ISnapshot 4 (17-08-2014 12-46 PM) offer some background on the troupe and video (right) of one of their festival dances. The heritage festival in Carberry was a success prompting a third year. Check out the Carberry Heritage Festival website for the latest information. More short fiction What Ever Happened To the Squareaway ChildrenGrindel, Cheyenne, Colloquia.


An offshoot of my rooting around for found footage online I created a daily short video series called The Good Old Days which started last month and accounted for the rest of my posts this month. See two samples: Five-horse, one man swather and stooker :55 and Cigarettes, Oh Boy 1:18


I celebrated John Cleese’s birthday, offered a new short video called Tesla As a Boy. I did a CKY JUNE 64scan0002feature on a 1960s radio contest where CKY (left) tried to get a town to change its name to Seekaywye. I report on Marshall McLuhan’s 1977 visit to Brandon. La Verendrye School is next in the schools series and a new found video Guitar Concerto.


I posted the feature on Birtle Indian Residential School which I shot in June when my  friend Mark and I went for a drive in western Manitoba. I created two more found videos – Just This and Oasis in Space which uses the sound poetry of Kurt Schwitters as its audio. I found some TV commercials Federico Fellini produced in the late 1960s including one for Campari. Five versions of one song – The Chokin’ Kind – rounded out the month.


I kicked off the month with a feature on Winnipeg 1910 to 1919 which tied into Laura Secord School. I found some lovely old calendar art from the 1920s which got me curious about calendar art in general. On the 124th anniversary of his death I posted two shortFAM MOM TEACH0009 fictions about Sitting Bull with an added bit of film this year. Then I started the 12 Days of Christmas – a daily look at one of Carberry’s wonderful heritage buildings. The series was very popular. Party hats (right) from the 1930s was a timely post. Over the Christmas holidays, due to hundreds of Facebook links, my post on the Vickers Viscount airplane in Garland from 2013 generated thousands of views giving my blog its best day ever and second best month ever.


I’ll give the last picture and the last word to my namesake Ezra Reid Scholl who’s just turned two. The little guy enriches my life beyond measure. I revel in watching him grow and change and learn. Among the many things Ezra has taught me so far is there is no better reason to make a silly fool of yourself if it makes a two-year-old laugh. This picture is Ezra at 17 months. Below that is a one-minute video mash-up I did of Ezra being extra cute. Click the pic. Happy New Year!

March 2014 v

Snapshot 1 (02-10-2014 9-53 PM)


Filed under Architecture, Art, Blog Life, Carberry, Education, Flood, Heritage Buildings, Heritage Festival, Momentous Day, Museum, Music, Schools, The Lonesomes, Year-End Review 2014

Party Hats of the 1930s



Reid Dickie

Among the artifacts unearthed in a recent archaeological dig through the family archives, I discovered seven party hats made of crepe paper. These are part of Mom’s teaching materials from the 1930s. As a child I was never allowed to play with these which accounts for their excellent condition today.

I’m not sure if Mom made these as an assignment when she was learning to be a teacher in Winnipeg Normal School in 1932 or if they were made afterward for a school event. They are all small and medium sizes to fit children’s heads. The crepe paper pieces are stitched together. The appliques, bits of wallpaper, are glued on. Here are the other six.








Filed under 1930s, Art Actions, Education, Family, Schools

Laura Secord School, 960 Wolseley Avenue, Winnipeg 1913


Winnipeg 1910-1919

 When World War 1 started, Winnipeg’s boom time ended. Immigration slowed as did construction and city expansion. In this decade, the eternal problem of palatable wpg aque 1917drinking water was solved when the Shoal Lake Aqueduct (left) began supplying the city with water.  Manitoba women became the first in Canada to get the vote in 1916 and the Municipality of Kildonan was divided into East and West Kildonan. Transcona was created as an adjunct to the railways. An obscure comedian named Charlie Chaplin played the Dominion Theatre on Main Street. The 1919 Strike brought the city to a halt.

The Little Nurses League was formed in 1912 and the first Home and School Associationswpg 1915 started at Luxton and Wellington Schools. In 1916 the School Attendance Act was passed, making attendance compulsory for 7 to 14 year olds. The Spanish flu, from which thousands of Winnipegers died, closed schools for seven weeks in 1918. Looking west down Broadway (above) in 1915.

During this decade the Junior High School concept was introduced and the first technical high schools, St. John’s and Kelvin, were built. In 1919, the Manitoba Teacher’s Federation was formed and the first Manitoba Musical Festival was held.

This decade resulted in some of the most beautiful and innovative schools ever built in Winnipeg. More than half the schools built in this era have burned or been demolished, making the remaining nine even more precious.



 A heroic female namesake, notorious builders and its massive size make Laura Secord exceptional among schools from Winnipeg’s boom time.

Twenty-six classrooms, two manual training rooms, a huge auditorium that seats 800, shops, showers and a third floor caretaker suite made it one of the largest school built during the era. It covered over 25,000 square feet per floor and was 72 feet tall. Originally, it was to be located on Westminster Avenue but the lot was too small. Its current 3.3 acres lot, purchased for $37,000, provides the old place with enough elbowroom to feel comfortable in its Wolseley neighbourhood.


Laura Secord’s size meant its cost of $218,259 was three times the typical school price tag of the time. The felonious contractors of the Manitoba Legislative Buildings, Thomas Kelly & Sons, constructed Laura Secord School, apparently without scandal.

In December 1913, when Mrs. Isaac Cockburn, Laura Second’s granddaughter, formally opened the ten completed rooms, the school stood among empty market garden fields on happyland1the fertile banks of the Assiniboine River. The area was largely vacant lots but there was an amusement park called Happyland (left) situated between Garfield and Sherburn. By the 1920s, an almost exclusively Anglo-Saxon and steadfastly middle class neighbourhood developed around the school. Ethnic shifts of 1960s and 70s brought greater diversity to the area, revitalizing the school as symbolized by its mini-Folklorama in 1976.

The school opened in August 1913 with just ten rooms completed, six more were done in January and the final 10 by the summer of 1914. Original 1913 enrolment in the first 10 rooms was 602 students (60 students per classroom!) in Grades 1 to 9 with 14 teachers.

Nearby Wolseley School opened in 1921 and relieved the student pressure at Laura Secord.LAURA SECORD 1950S SCIENCE CLASS At its peak capacity in 1940, there were 1012 students enrolled in 24 classes, over 40 per classroom. Morning and afternoon kindergarten began at the school a few years later.  The picture (right) shows a 1950s science class. When Gordon Bell opened in 1960, the Junior High students from Laura Secord were transferred there, leaving Laura as an elementary school, a role it has played ever since. In 2014 Laura Secord has an enrolment of 550 students from Nursery to Grade 6.

School division architect J.B. Mitchell designed Laura Secord School in an eclectic style with elements of Beaux-Arts Classical, Georgian Revival and Romanesque architecture. Two storeys of reinforced concrete sheathed in pale brick with symmetrical façade and sides sit on a high limestone foundation. The low-pitched roof sports coyly arched eyebrow dormers complimenting the arched windows on the end pavilions. Originally, iron cresting, now gone, ran along the upper roof edge. Based on Mitchell’s common plan, the school is nearly square with a central courtyard giving a light and airy feeling to the massive structure.


Laura Secord’s most stunning feature is the baroque entrance way (above), two entrances in fact. A narrow arched doorway centered between the stairs and cut out of the limestone leads into the basement. It has a lovely multi-paned round window.

LAURA SECORD 4Above it, a limestone portico (left) with four matching arches and canopy, finely executed by superior craftsmen, is bracketed by curlicue stairways and the root of the tower to create an intimate sense of place that draws you inside. Two sections of the tower were removed in the 1960s due to structural problems though urban legend says tower was lowered because it interfered with TV reception.

Unfortunately a few crowning details from the portico and tower have disappeared. These include stone orbs that once sat at the corners of the portico roof and slim finials at the top corners of the remaining tower. This detracts only slightly from the experience of entering the school via the wide stairway, turning, passing under an arch, turning, through another arch then being welcomed inside.


Above the portico (right) a semi circular stained glass window with a sunburst pattern in brick and limestone depicts the school crest – a red cross with three maple leaves and the letters L & S on either side. It contains elements of Ontario’s crest, honouring Laura Secord’s United Empire Loyalist roots. The little room inside the school with the arched window and its elaborate old stained glass is especially delightful.

Laid in American bond – here every fifth row is headers – the brickwork overall is superb. There is corbelling under a belt course above the upper windows, pilasters separate the inset windows.

The paleness of the brick means its colour changes with the available light. Sometimes ghostly white, other times silvery grey to almost yellow the school is a fine study in combining similar shades of brick and limestone for effect.

LAURA ORCHESTRA 39 400003The similar shading of materials on Laura Secord demonstrates how they age and discolour differently (left). All the limestone has a dirty appearance because it tends to accumulate pollutants faster than the brick. This is very evident on the foundation and windows sills and is common on many older buildings with limestone elements. While the stone darkens, the brick develops a patina, adding to its lightness.LAURA ORCHESTRA 39 400004

When completed, Laura Secord School was the most modern building of its kind in the city. Wide hallways, large enough to accommodate foot races or showing films, and tall windows made it safe and bright. The stained glass (right) is original to the school. Virtually fireproof, only desks and floors were made of wood. Its heating and plumbing were state-of-the-art. Cast iron railings in the stairways still feature the school initials, though a few are missing, likely souvenirs.


Classrooms are large and bright, each having four windows and a transom. A few of the original stained glass transoms remain. Laura Secord School had its own orchestra as seen in the picture (above) taken 1939/40.

Though most of the attic is empty space, the Ruby Street side has the remains of a first for Laura Secord School: the janitor’s suite with its extra windows. Skylights were often used in these suites.

Early progressive educational philosophy took a holistic approach to learning that included the complete physical health of students. Laura Secord was one of only four Winnipeg schools that offered a dental clinic.

Only a handful of local schools are named after women. Barely a year old in 1776, Laura secordIngersoll and her parents, United Empire Loyalists, fled to Canada from Massachusetts. She married James Secord who, in 1812, fought with Sir Isaac Brock at the Battle of Queenston Heights, near where the Secords lived. In that battle, Secord was badly wounded. He survived only because Laura found him on the battlefield and nursed him back to health. Not long after, Laura overheard American soldiers, billeted in her home, talk of an imminent attack at Beaver Dam. With a cow as her alibi, Laura set out the next day to warnLaura stamp 1992 Captain Fitzgibbon of the attack. The scene is depicted in the Lorne Kidd Smith’s painting (above) circa 1920. Forewarned Fitzgibbon surrounded the Americans forcing them to surrender.  Laura Secord’s heroic behaviour still provides students with an inspirational Canadian figure. In her honour, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp featuring Laura Secord in September 1992 (right).

The students regularly published a school newspaper called Laura Lites from 1938 to 1957. It reported the activities of students supporting the war effort, their involvement during the 1950 flood and news of school events. Among Laura Secord School’s illustrious alumni is entertainer Fred Penner who attended in the early 1950s.

The City of Winnipeg’s Historic Building Committee recommended historic designation for Laura Secord School in the 1980s. By that time, structural problems demanded either demolition or renovation of the old place. At the forceful behest of the Wolseley area, the LAURA SECORD TREES 4Public Schools Finance Board and WSD #1, recognizing the school as comparable in historic and architectural significance to the glorious buildings on Main Street and in the Exchange District, chose renewal and spared this delightful place.

Renovations, by Ikoy Architects, were extensive beginning with a new roof and foundation repair in the summer of 1988 and followed the next year with new windows and a refurbished west entrance. These projects cost $551, 670 but the major renovation began in 1990. Red Lake Construction Company conducted major structural and interior renovations including replanned corridors, new administrative office, a handicap elevator and new building systems.  The cost of these projects was $2,152,948 bringing the total to $2.7 million; a bargain considering today’s replacement value of the original school is $3.8 million.

That is just abstract dollar values. What matters when you walk into a school is the opportunity, the hope, the motivation and the systems are living and evident, for the building to be a fertile field where young curious minds can feel inspired to grow, inspired by a compassionate and generous staff. That is what schools do and, thankfully, Laura Secord School continues to do it.


Laura Secord School

Built 1913

Additions 1988-90

Materials:  pale brick, limestone, concrete

Style: Beaux Arts/Classical Revival two-storey

Architect J. B. Mitchell

Original cost $218,259

Current assessed value $4,895,000

Acreage 3.3 acres


Filed under Education, Local History, Schools

Marshall McLuhan in Brandon 1977


“Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now. And to generate heat not light is the intention. To keep everybody in the helpless state engendered by prolonged mental rutting is the effect of many ads and much entertainment alike.” Opening paragraph of Preface to The Mechanical Bride,  Marshall McLuhan, 1951.

In April 1977 Marshall McLuhan visited Brandon as part of Mosaic Massey, an event arranged by Vincent Massey High School. The Brandon Sun published a lifestyle article about McLuhan’s visit written by Wayne Boyce. The feature begins, “One doesn’t interview Marshall McLuhan. One merely shakes his hand, sits and listens.” The second paragraph begins, “It simply doesn’t matter if a listener agrees or not… McLuhan has not come to argue. He has come to think out loud.”

While being driven around Brandon, McLuhan suggests the city could become an international city because, “It isn’t overburdened with 19th century hardware and doesn’t have a stake in the old.”

Personal Aside: However, Brandon isn’t an international city despite its delusions of pretending to be something it isn’t: a big city. Brandon succumbed to big city woes: a gutted downtown, urban sprawl, congested traffic, homelessness, no-brainers like a shopping mall on a frequent flood plain and the location of their new fire hall between the river and railroad tracks. Urban sprawl is so rampant Brandon should be renamed Mortgage Heights. Brandon has lost its identity as a rural hub.

Back to 1977: McLuhan rejects the claim he’s a seer or futurist. “I make observations, not theories. They call me the prophet of the electronic age but I’m merely an observer. My work predicts what has already happened.”


Boyce ends the article with this observation, “The total effect is to stimulate thinking. He does that well. McLuhan’s thoughts help us find the freedom to do that.”

Both photographs were taken during McLuhan’s Brandon visit by Stu Philips.

Watch my McLuhan Mash-Up called “Everybody Is With It.” It’s a minute twenty.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Education

La Verendrye School, 290 Lilac Street, Winnipeg (1909)


Imagine Winnipeg in its boomtown days – 1890 to 1915. The population grew by thousands every month. Immigrants, mainly from Europe, converged here, some passed through for points south, west or north. Others saw their opportunity in this brand new city at the confluence of two old rivers.

Over two decades of post-railway bustle that changed a floodplain into a city, almost fifty schools were built to educate all those new western Canadian children. Between 1900 and 1913, school enrolment increased 200%, from 7,500 to 22,000. By contrast, enrolment during the 1950s baby boom increased 25%.

laverendryeschool2One of Winnipeg’s grandest old schools from the boomtown era is La Verendrye School (left, not long after it opened) in Fort Rouge. Though residential and business areas quickly grew up around it, when it opened in 1909 La Verendrye School was on the outskirts of the city. Reporting on the school’s cornerstone laying on July 8, 1909 by Ward 1 Trustee F.C. Hubbard, the Manitoba Free Press reported, “Yesterday visitors journeyed to the ground or within 100 yards of it by electric car and found there was still something of Winnipeg beyond them, though the streets lose some of their garb of traffic and dwellings are hidden in areas of native bush.”

In the early 1900s, education was viewed as a panacea for ignorance and the buildings in which it occurred had to reflect that optimism and hope. In contrast to the few wood frame homes around it, the scale and solid mass of La Verendrye School still provides a feeling of promise and stability.

Centred perfectly between Jessie Avenue and Warsaw Avenue on Lilac Street, the location takes full advantage of having an empty square block without competing buildings. Based on a design by School Division Architect and Commissioner of School Buildings J. B. Mitchell and constructed of local materials, La Verendrye School is a commingling of Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival and Classical Revival architectural styles.LA VERENDRYE0001

The school’s weathered exterior is pale dun-coloured brick with Tyndall stone trim set on a raised limestone foundation. The façade features end wings with wide semi-circular windows accentuating Dutch gables (right).



The front entrance (left) is very formal with a shallow pilastered portico topped with a cut stone balustrade. Above that an arched tri-part window leads the eye upward toward the school name carved in stone and beyond to the dramatic arch with ball pinnacles (below).LA VERENDRYE 3








The side entrance on the north side of the building (left) has a deeper portico with similar balustrade under a Dutch gable with a bull’s-eye window. The south side entrance is obscured by the gym.


Although the street face of the school is utterly symmetrical, the rear view LA VERENDRYE 005reveals Mitchell’s asymmetrical use of space (right).

Mitchell’s objectives were student safety and adequate natural lighting. The corridors are wide with plenty of exits and large windows flood the classrooms with light. Though not the originals, the façade features leaded stained glass windows. Most of the rooms still have original pressed tin ceilings.

The total cost to construct the 20-room school was $81,184. Contractors Saul and Irish were paid $69,920 to build the school. The Steam Power and Heating Company got $10,200 to install the state-of-the-art heating and ventilation systems with stylish arched vertical vents midway up the walls, a giant step up from rooms heated by stoves. Though proposed, a third floor caretaker’s suite was never built.

la verendrye duncanThe school’s first principal was David Merritt Duncan (left). Duncan had been classics master at Winnipeg Collegiate Institute and later would principal at the new Kelvin Technical High School. A founder of the Community Chest, Duncan became Superintendent of Schools for the Division in 1929, succeeding Daniel McIntyre.

Obliged to accommodate mentally handicapped children, the school system struggled to find workable solutions. In 1914, La Verendrye School was the site of a program called “Opportunity” which brought handicapped children together in special classes. Over the next decade, various methods were tried, with 300 children attending classes by 1926.

Anna Gibson, who had a school named for her, was a novice teacher at La Verendrye School in 1918 when the Spanish flu hit Manitoba. She volunteered to help in a hospital and succumbed to the flu within a few weeks.

The gym was added onto the south side in 1964, a benefit to the students that offered the drawback of precluding the building from being named a heritage site. In the late 1980s, the school was saved from demolition by an area parents group.

Operated as a high school for two years, La Verendrye became an elementary school to handle the overflow from Fort Rouge School. Today La Verendrye is the oldest school in Winnipeg School Division continuously used for students.

Among La Verendrye School’s century plus of alumni, you will find Terry Fox’s father, Rolly and artist Nathan Carlson.

Named after early Quebec explorer, Pierre Gaultier de Verennes, La Verendrye School is one of a handful of early schools not named after stalwarts of the British Empire. Since 1983, the school has offered French Immersion classes for Nursery to Grade 6 students. Today 310 students attend École La Verendrye taught by 31 teachers.

The centennial of La Verendrye School occurred in 2009. To quote the school’s website, “In June 2009, École La Vérendrye celebrated its centennial with a major community barbecue and carnival, as well as numerous historical projects. A circa-1909 heritage classroom was made a permanent part of the school, offering students from across the Division a chance to experience history in an immersive environment.” Due to increased enrolment since the centennial the heritage classroom no longer exists as it was needed for a regular classroom.


La Verendrye School

Built 1909

Additions 1964

Materials: buff brick and limestone

Style: Queen Anne, Classical Revival two-storey

Architect: J. B. Mitchell

Contractors: Saul and Irish

Original cost $81,184

Current assessed value $3,240,000

Acreage 3 acres



Filed under Education, Schools, Winnipeg

Lycanthropy The Good Old Days Part 24

Snapshot 1 (21-09-2014 11-25 PM)

Disturbing our practice.

Don’t treat me like practice.

Tell them sorry I have practice.

Practice chaos and disorder.

Click pic to practice. 

Practice colours.

Practice til later.

Companion video explaining how it works

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Art Actions, Education, Guff, Old Souls, shamanism

École Provencher, 320 Avenue de la Cathedrale, Winnipeg (1906)


Reid Dickie

École Provencher’s history extends back to the earliest Catholic school in the Red River settlement. About 1818, the first missionary in the region, Father (later Bishop) Provencher (below), used his chapel as a

Bishop Provencher school where he taught boys the four Rs: reading, writing, ‘rithmetic and religion. In 1844, the Grey Nuns assumed responsibility for the school. Ten years later, Father Taché asked the Brothers of Christian Schools to take over the boys’ education in the bishop’s residence while the girls attended school in the Grey Nuns’ Convent.

In 1886, the Oblate Order, who had taken over from the Brothers in
1860, erected a fine Colonial Revival style two-storey wood frame school (below) with an unusual open arcade entrance and stairway
ECOLE PROVENCHER 18860001under a peaked roof. The hipped roof of the school sported a lovely cupola featuring another open arcade, a substantial pinnacle and a school bell. This school, teaching bilingual courses, was located in a wooded area at Taché and Provencher. It shares its genesis with St. Boniface College.

When the Grey Nuns resumed instruction of the boys in 1886, the school’s name changed to l’Academie Provencher. The Schools’ Act of 1890, brought in by the provincial Greenway government, created one school system administered by a Board of Education with its own minister. After this, the Grey Nuns handed jurisdiction over to the St. Boniface School Board. In 1899, Bishop Langevin invited the Brothers of the Marianist Order to staff the school.

The Marianist Brothers offered excellent education and a variety of extra-curricular programs including a cinema club, savings bank, bowling and school newspaper.

Provencher scan0003

In 1906, the School Board constructed a school at the site where École Provencher stands today on Avenue de la Cathedrale. It was a modest three-storey brick and limestone building, featuring an entry tower surmounted with an elegant ogee roof. The central 12-room portion of the current building is the original 1906 section (above). Note the students working in the school garden.

Provencher scan0001

Built in 1912, the west wing doubled the size of the school to 25 rooms. In this picture (above) the 1906 central section with 12 rooms is on the left. The west wing, on the right, added in 1912, doubled the size of the school. Here you see the original roofline with cresting and dormers and the original tower topped with ogee roof.


In this picture (above) taken between 1912 and 1924 you can see the original structure (far left) with the west wing (centre) added on.

ecole provencher joseph_fink

The first principal of the new school was Father Joseph Fink (left), whose portrait hangs in the school hallway. Popular and progressive, Father Fink initiated a horticultural project using garden plots in front of the building.

To this end, on the third floor, two of the classrooms have large multi-paned skylights, now covered over by the metal roof. Originally, these two rooms were used to grow bedding plants and seedlings for the school garden. The skylights created a greenhouse effect in the rooms so students could learn about horticulture. They would have been very bright rooms with four big windows plus the skylight in each.

The basement of the school had shops for teaching industrial arts. Dating back to 1911 this could be the earliest shop class taught in Winnipeg. By 1915, the school offered a complete high school curriculum.

There is a large third-floor gymnasium in the east wing that oncePROVENCHERscan0008 was used as classrooms. It is noticeable from the outside by the bricked-in windows (right). A row of elms was planted along the front of the school in 1909. Some remain today.

In the middle of the night on January 4, 1923 École Provencher caught fire (below). By noon just a gutted shell remained. The St. Boniface School Division lost their offices, which were located in the school. The Board quickly rebuilt. The school we see today opened January 14, 1924, a year and ten days after the fire.

Provencher scan0002

Post-fire, the school increased in size with the addition of the east wing. The tower lost its crowning roof; the roofline lost some of its pitch and its dormers, replaced with a tall plain parapet above a tiered cornice.

I should mention the difference in the building’s coloration in my pictures. École Provencher celebrated its centennial year in 2006. In the spring, there were tours of the school, displays and tents for special events. One of the major plans and a most fitting centennial project was sandblasting the façade, restoring it to its original condition. The northwest winds, which have buffeted the brave face of the building for over 110 years, brought in extra smoke and pollution. The other three sides are not as dingy as the front though they benefited from the cleaning. École Provencher’s splendid façade is now even more striking since the cleaning. I shot the school before and after the sandblasting which accounts for the variations.


As you see in this pre-sandblasting picture (above), the 1924 addition of the east wing created a fine balance to the façade of this massive and stately structure with its five bays including the end wings. The façade and rear are symmetrical without pilasters. The pilasters begin at the corners and offer expression to the sides with their elegant doorways. The rear facade of the school (below) is a modest echo of the front.


École Provencher combines Second Empire massing with Classical Revival elements to create a feeling of stability and potential. The buff brick is laid in American bond, every sixth row is headers. It sits on a rough limestone foundation; the same stone used for lintels, sills and the belt courses around the building. Smooth limestone expresses the more refined detail on the school.


The front entrance pavilion (above) uses round and square Classical columns of smooth limestone to contrast with the rough limestone of the foundation and to welcome you into an enclosed porch. The double doorway into the school is surmounted with a sensual arch filled with a segmented window and accented with an outer arch of smooth limestone. Over the entrance the school’s name is carved in smooth stone.

provencher tower As you proceed up the entry tower (left), a section of smooth limestone is broken by a pair of rectangular windows. Above an elaborate arched alcove houses the carved datestone – 1906. The next brick section has four small windows with limestone lintels. A course of rough stone grows into a smooth stone Classical cornice surmounted with a parapet. Nine shapely balusters in smooth limestone accentuate the top of the tower.

École Provencher has remained without additions since 1924, making it one of the few Winnipeg schools to have survived nine decades in its original form.



Notice the east and west entrances have different detailing. The pediment and the pavilion details on the end of the west wing are from the earlier school (left) while the east wing entrance (above) on the post-fire addition, is less elaborate.

École Provencher’s interior is among the most spacious in Winnipeg. The dimensions of the classrooms are 24′ by 32′, that’s 768 square feet! The hallways and most classrooms have 12-foot ceilings, which feel airy and open, accentuated in the classrooms with tall doorways and large plentiful windows. The hallways have a row of high horizontal rectangular windows into the classroom.

Most of the floors and stairs throughout the school are terrazzo: chipped stone and marble set in mortar then polished. It lasts forever. There is assorted frosted and mottled glass in various interior windows.

This is a very large school. At the height of its enrollment in fall 1954, fully occupied it taught 1,050 students. Part of the Louis Riel School Division, today École Provencher’s 23 staff provide French Immersion and English Language Arts to about 150 students from K to 6.

Provencher School Cadet Corp 1952

The Sacred Heart Cadets originated in 1911 and received their military affiliation the next year. When their uniforms and rifles arrived, the Provencher School #323 Cadet Corps became formal in March, 1912. The picture (above) shows Corps cadets from 1952.  The school basement doubled as a firing range. Some of the heating ducts still have dents from stray bullets.

provencher band 1952

The cadet band (above) from 1952. The Corps’ old drum, along with the school’s trophies and memorabilia, are displayed proudly in a striking stairwell vitrine. The Corps was disbanded in November 1964.

provencher gab royAmong the illustrious alumni of École Provencher is a true Canadian celebrity, acclaimed author Gabrielle Roy (left). Not a student, Roy was a Grade 1 teacher at the school from 1930 to 1936. She wrote fondly about her days as a schoolteacher.

Artist and sculptor Tony Tascona (below right) remembers Roy as his first teacher. The class pictureprovencher tony tascona (below centre) was taken in 1932 and shows École Provencher Grade One class along with their teacher, Gabrielle Roy. He was born in 1926, so it’s likely one of the students is Tony Tascona.

provencher gab roy 1932 stbon_groupe

Hockey was a prime physical activity at École Provencher. Once the skating rink at the rear of the school was flooded and hockey season started, the Provencher Paladins took to the ice, becoming senior champions in 1946. They used a room in the school basement with a separate entrance and low seating to put on their skates and equipment and exit directly to the rink.

During the 1950 Flood, l’Institut Collegial Provencher (the school’s name since 1929) accommodated 250 evacuees, becoming one of a dozen Winnipeg schools pressed into emergency flood service.

As a Collegiate, the school offered bilingual education. When St. provencher joseph_brunsBoniface became increasingly francophone in the 1950s, the school principal, Brother Joseph Bruns (left), advocated for more French instruction. J. H. Bruns Collegiate bears his name.

To honour Bishop Provencher, in June 1953 a bronze plaque of his face was placed on the large fieldstone in front of theProvencher scan0004 school. Unfortunately a thief made off with the plaque.

The first lay principal, Marcel Lancelot, took over in 1967. The large gymnasium on the third floor and a huge library in the basement were projects Lancelot accomplished in 1968.

Here is the school’s 2014 mission statement: As a French Immersion school, École Provencher strives to provide a safe and respectful learning environment which develops the acquisition of the French language, useful knowledge, skills and attitudes essential for responsible citizenship and lifelong learning.


École Provencher

Built 1906

Additions 1912, 1924

Materials: buff brick, limestone, concrete

Style: Second Empire and Classical Revival three-storey

Current assessed value $3,672,000

Acreage 2.1 acres



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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.



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.


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.

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. 


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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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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Earl Grey School, 340 Cockburn St. N, Winnipeg (1915)


Reid Dickie 

UPDATE: April 15, 2015. This is Earl Grey School’s centennial year. They will be holding numerous events in mid-May. Check out the celebrations which include the presence of the Grey Cup here.

A few years ago, before this blog existed, Linda & I used Winnipeg’s old schools for our 12 Days of Christmas. The school articles originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press starting in 2004. I have expanded and updated the features, added many more pictures and helpful links. I begin the series with one of my all-time favourite  buildings.

There is no better place to begin my series about Winnipeg’s grand old schools than standing here in front of Earl Grey School’s glorious façade with its asymmetrical towers above the entrances and contrasting brick and limestone details. Earl Grey School is my alma mater, though not in the usual way. I was raised and educated in rural Manitoba and never attended any Winnipeg schools. Let me explain.

At the beginning of 2004, I had surgery, which required a long recovery time. As part of my recuperation, I decided to take three months and teach myself everything I could about architecture. My aim was not to design and build buildings but rather to recognize and describe various architectural styles, details and eras.

Being a lifelong learner I had done this before, teaching myself about subjects as far ranging as spirituality, nanotechnology and futurism. As a writer, I find broad knowledge and studied references essential.

EARL GREY SCHOOL 2Once I began to learn architectural terms and designs from library books and online, I needed to find explicit examples of them in the world. I live two blocks away from Earl Grey School and had walked by it for 25 years without really seeing it. With my new-found appreciation of the built environment, suddenly Earl Grey School “existed.”  I saw it for the first time now that I was able to describe it and appreciate its wonderful style and detailing.

Since then, I have often walked around Earl Grey School with my clipboard, noting its roofline and masonry style, its fenestration and glorious entry towers.  I took pictures of it to study at home, researched its architect and was given a thorough and gracious tour of the interior by Principal Gail Singer. At Linda’s urging, I started to write about it. My first “This Old School” feature in the Winnipeg Free Press was about Earl Grey School back in late 2004.

Earl Grey School is one of Winnipeg Schools architect J. B. Mitchell’s spectacular ones – huge, beautiful and expensive. I wrote extensively about J. B. Mitchell.

Settled handsomely at the corner of Cockburn Street and Fleet Avenue and towering above its neighbourhood, Earl Grey is truly one of Winnipeg’s grandest old schools. It was constructed during Winnipeg’s boom time when population growth on the newly opened prairie was exploding.


Detail of decorative arches on rear of Earl Grey School by school architect J. B. Mitchell. There are ten arches in this picture!

On July 3, 1914 the City of Winnipeg granted the school board permit #2244 to build a school on the west side of Fleet between Helen (now Cockburn) and Garwood. Construction began in 1914.  Total cost was nearly $186,000, an enormous amount of money for a school. To replace Earl Grey School today would require at least $4 million. The 2.4 acre lot the school sits on was a relative bargain at $7,559. That’s about $152,000 today.

The result was Earl Grey School – three-storeys tall with 25 rooms and able to accommodate 675 students. In 1915 Earl Grey, as this section of Winnipeg is known, was a burgeoning neighbourhood with large wood frame houses sprouting everywhere on streets freshly cut from the surrounding pastures still dotted with a few greenhouses.

Let’s take an architectural tour of the place. While my pictures provide context and some detail, to get the full impact of the building and appreciate its complexity you need to walk around it, be there with it.

Like many of J. B. Mitchell’s schools of the time, Earl Grey School’s design is loosely based on British Board schools from 1870 to 1900. These massive solid buildings became symbols of progress and enlightenment, qualities that Mitchell felt were essential to Canada’s future. When you look at the building, its impact is one of stability, openness and hope.

Earl Grey School’s architectural imprint is an eclectic mix of styles as were British Board scan0004schools of the late Victorian era. Architect Mitchell combined Romanesque, Gothic and even a few Queen Anne elements to make the school an exceptional delight. The combination of styles captured the public imagination and became representative of the Enlightenment.

Typical is the red brick exterior with Tyndall stone details. Set on a tall limestone foundation, this stately building’s facade features two dramatic towers above the entrances, their height difference a hint of the complex symmetry of the building. The rear sections of the U-shape plan are uneven sizes to complement the uneven towers.

EARL GREY TOWER 1The pavilions on which the towers sit are identical with deep smooth limestone arched entrances and the monograms E and G. As you ascend the stairs, the muscular arch with its robust curved keystone draws you deep inside to a sheltering alcove before you pass through the elegant doorway into the school.

Moving upward both towers feature limestone quoins, two small multi-diamond-paned  windows, a larger rectangular window with limestone surround, a scroll under a short pediment at eave level. Each pediment has a stone emblem inscribed with The Maple Leaf our
EARL GREY TOWER 2Emblem Dear and God Save Our Gracious King.

The stubbier south tower (above) has pilasters, corbelling, a smaller window with a stone sill and a parapet dressed up with Dutch gables pierced with round lights. The taller north tower (right) sports a false balustrade in limestone beneath an arched window under fine corbelling in an inset. Its uneven parapet sports Dutch gables with small lights.


Earl Grey School’s glowing facade.

The façade section between the towers is fascinating. Here the use of two slightly different colours of bricks is used to great effect. Notice the fenestration. The foundation has six wide arched windows with segmented heads allowing plenty of light into the basement. Above, five bays separated by pilasters, capped at the second floor level, sport 36 rectangular windows with limestone sills and stained glass transoms.  Effective brick detailing on the spandrels is a lively addition. A stone belt course runs across the façade at the third floor. Craved in limestone and bracketed by rosettes are the words The Earl Grey School. (I don’t think the sneakers hanging from the name were part of Mitchell’s design.) Thereafter a compelling vertical sweeps up past the school name to the only two dormers with peaked roofs. Beyond, sky’s the limit!

Another dramatic feature, typical of early J. B. Mitchell schools, is the strikingly exuberant use of arches all around, especially on the dark-roofed dormers – sixteen in all – that face every direction. There are window arches, arched insets, curved entranceways, Dutch gables and arches within arches.


The two-and-a-half-storey-tall arches over south side entrance – arches within arches.

Notice the side entrances. On the north, two narrow doorways are surmounted with a deep curved inset. Its small balcony has an iron railing. Two windows, the top one arched to complement the feature, are set in the indentation. On the roof directly above, an arched dormer takes your attention to the huge blue sky. A similar entrance experience occurs on the south side.


Elegant arches of Dutch gable surmounting the south rear entrance. Even the steps are arched.

At the rear of the building are two entrances each with its own masterful design and execution. Each has a pair of doors separated by an arched window deep inside a raised porch with a wide fanciful archway. Above, stepped corbelling and yet another variation on the arches theme, a Dutch gable, complete both entrances. Notice the interplay between the brickwork in the corbelling, the wall behind it and the outer rim of the arch with three rows of headers. The north entrance is now obscured by the gymnasium.

Earl Grey rear view

Inside the rear U of the school, the white terra cotta detailing stands out against the red patina of the brick.

Most of the decorative features are inexpensive, not requiring special materials or artisans. The exception is the upper detailing on the inside corners of the rear sections. A variation on a Dutch gable with modillions is set in a white terra cotta wall panel with false limestone balustrades and brackets.


In this rear view the delicate asymmetry of Mitchell’s plan is obscured by the brick gymnasium. Note the arched dormers.

If you’ve ever wondered what one million bricks look like in one place, look at Earl Grey School. That’s how many contractors W. M. Scott and Company needed to build the original building, not including the gym. The bond is a tight American bond with every fourth row headers, requiring more bricks. Usually American bond has fifth, sixth or seventh row headers. The builders used 1,000 EARL GREY BRICKWORKcubic metres of concrete to create a concrete slab and concrete joists. There are 325 cubic meters of limestone on the school, 9000 square meters of superficial plaster. The lot has 114 feet frontage to a depth of 164 feet. The cornerstone was placed on October 2, 1914.

Two of Mitchell’s major design concerns were safety and lighting. Made of fireproof material with wide hallways and many exits, the building satisfied all safety requirements when built and still does today. At one time Earl Grey School had spiral metal fire escapes, basically chutes in silos, to evacuate the third floor in case of fire. Read my feature Cheap Thrills and Fire Drills on spiral metal fire escapes on Winnipeg schools.

Large plentiful windows provide sufficient light and provide cross-ventilation. Earl Grey had Winnipeg’s first direct alarm connection to a fire hall. The school library opened in 1941, an intercom system was installed in 1958 and the new gymnasium was completed in 1965.

The school was heated by coal furnaces in the basement which burned mud-like Souris coal requiring much stoking and shoveling. On cold winter nights, the firemen worked all night to heat the school.


One of the rooms of the custodian’s suite as it looks today. Most of the rooms still have remnants of garish flower wallpaper, popular in the early 1900s.

The need for a constant presence to mind the furnaces and maintain the building meant a custodian’s apartment was provided in the attic of Earl Grey School. The custodian and his family lived in the large scan0002apartment, using a separate entrance. The last live-in custodian left in the early 1950s. The school was converted to gas in 1961.

In this picture the dormer windows of the dilapidated apartment offer a fine view of a mature neighbourhood, very different from the young suburb springing up when Earl Grey was built. Read my feature article about custodian suites in several of Winnipeg’s old schools.


The striking Art Deco double entrance inside Earl Grey School.

Once you pass through the Art Deco entrance, the interior of Earl Grey School is a strikingly practical design with wide hallways, tall ceilings and dark wood paneling carried throughout the building. Stairways have wrought iron railings and wooden banisters polished smooth by decades of childrens’ hands. Skylights brighten the third floor and the custodian’s apartment. And more arches! In a design rarely seen today, the school’s warm air vents are vertical arches.

For many years the school’s gymnasium had shared the basement with the woodwork and metal shops and two classrooms but its low ceiling precluded sports like volleyball. There were no change or equipment rooms. A new gym was proposed. Built by contractors B. F. Klassen Construction Ltd., the large gymnasium on the school’s west side was completed in October 1965. The bricks on the gym, though not matching the school’s brick, complement both buildings. The gym’s chevron roofline less so.

Earl Grey gym

Gymnasium built in 1965 with chevron roof.

EARL GREY HIS OWN SELF The school is named after British nobleman Albert Henry George Grey, the 4th Earl Grey (left). A popular personage, (at one time he was Chief Boy Scout of Canada), he acted as Governor-General of Canada between 1904 and 1911. An avid sports fan and a strong advocate of fitness and health, Lord Earl Grey initiated the Grey Cup in 1909. Earl Grey tea is named after the position, actually the 2nd Earl Grey, not EARL GREY STEENspecifically our Earl Grey.

The first students attended Earl Grey School in September 1915. Over its almost hundred-year history, the school has educated thousands of children and produced many illustrious alumni, among them lawyer Robert Steen, (right) who was a Manitoba MLA in the 1960s and Winnipeg’s 38th mayor from 1977 to 1979. In 1980 The National Film Board produced a documentary about Steen called The New Mayor. Another Earl Grey alumnus is mcluhan youngmedia philosopher and fusionary Marshall McLuhan (left) who received all his formal education in Winnipeg. Among McLuhan’s major contributions are his Laws of Media. Musician and social activist Neil Young (below), the soul of Buffalo Springfield, the Y in CSN&Y, also attended Earl Grey School.


At one time, both signatures on Canadian paper money were Earl Grey graduates: James E. Coyne (below) was the second Governor of The Bank of Canada (1955-61), and John R. Beattie, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada. This $20 from the 1950s has both signatures.



Another Earl Grey graduate was journalist, spy and frankpickersgillWWII hero Frank Pickersgill. A film called Canadian Special Operations Executive Stories of WWII documents the exploits of Pickersgill and other spies. Watch it on YouTube.

In 1919, Earl Grey School became the site of a major educational innovation; it was the first Junior High School in Canada. Read my feature article on how this came to be. 

Today Earl Grey School educates 220 Nursery to Grade 8 students, about one-third of its capacity, with 28 staff members. Asked to characterize her school, Principal Gail Singer said, “We’re a close-knit family, creative and innovative.”

Still the scene of innovation, since 1995 Earl Grey has offered an all-girls program for grades 7 & 8 that has a strong academic focus and emphasize math, science, and technology. Research indicates that girls can benefit academically in an all-girls environment where they are encouraged to take risks and to develop positive self-esteem.

The school features state-of-the-art computers (they are the iPad generation now) and science labs that benefit all students. In 1999 Earl Grey School was made a member of the Network of Innovative Schools.

Always ready to innovate, today Earl Grey School participates in Building Student Success with Aboriginal Parents which aims to increase the involvement of Aboriginal parents in education. ABC Montessori School is also located in the building.

Earl Grey School’s centennial is next year! If you are an alumnus of Earl Grey School, please call the school office at 204-474-1441 or email to add your name to our 100th anniversary contact list. Celebrations are planned for May 15 & 16, 2015. To prepare for the centennial, a school yard beautification project is underway. While maintaining its proud historic connections, Earl Grey School continues to look to the future.

Simply by being there, Earl Grey School taught and inspired me. Special, familiar and precious, a neighbourhood icon, it galvanized my attention and gave me wisdom, educated me. Because of that, I will always think of Earl Grey School as my alma mater.


Earl Grey School

                                                Built 1914/1915

Addition 1965

Materials: red brick and limestone

Style: Gothic Revival, Romanesque Revival three-storey

Architect J. B. Mitchell

Builder W. M. Scott and Co.

Original cost $185,548

Rebuild cost $3,622,604

Current assessed value $4,169,000

Acreage 2.4 acres


Filed under Architecture, Education, Heritage Buildings, Schools

How To Rebel in the 21st Century

rebellion 1

Reid Dickie

I don’t mean dying your hair magenta, piercing every pinch and hollow you can find or covering yourself with drawings. Do that if you want. Here I mean rebellion that comes from inside of you rather than applied rebellion for its own sake.

Conformity is killing us and allowing us to be killed. Herd mentalities and their manipulation have become a core tool of mind control. The most frightening thing you can do is “think for yourself,” the operative word being “think.”

I came across an article on Waking Times website called Top 5 Ways to Practice Non-Conformity in the Matrix  As I read the list I realized many of my readers would be interested in it.

Monetary Non-conformity – The human race is enslaved to a corrupt and inflationary monetary system. To act as a balance to this, any opportunity to conduct life without using the dollar and the credit system is a stunning act of non-conformity. By practicing trade, barter and local exchange, and using alternative currencies whenever possible, a practical statement is made in support of an alternative to central bank tyranny and manipulation. Most important, however, is the simple decision to spend less overall and live without consumer debt.

Shun the Materialistic and the Entertainment Driven Lifestyle – The consumption of consumer goods in our world has grown to dangerous proportions, and no matter your political bent, you can’t deny the existence of the plastic ocean gaining mass in the Pacific. To be realistic about one’s true needs and to consume less “stuff” makes one stand out as a non-conformist in today’s culture. Much of this consumerism is part of a lifestyle of entertainment that we have developed in recent decades. We seem to value being entertained more than anything else, and we will do anything, and incur any debt, in order to get that which entertains and distracts us. Choosing a non-consumeristic, non-entertainment driven lifestyle is an important act of disobedience to the norm.

Health Rebel – The truth about the condition of health is ugly, and clearly something is wrong with the conformist ideas of diet and health. From horse meat, to high-fructose corn syrup, to GMOs, the conformist diet is deathly harmful to our well-being. To continue on with this unhealthy lifestyle is self-destructive, and to buck this trend simply means to take care of yourself properly, as we all should be doing anyway. Taking care of the body is easy and enjoyable, and each step towards health brings with it a renewed outlook on life. Taking control of diet, finding some enjoyable type of exercise, and being courageous enough to try out alternative, non-pharmaceutical modalities of healing when possible, are, oddly enough, all one has to do in order to stand out as a health non-conformist.

Re-Education – The quality of the future can be seen in the quality of our youth, and the current models of building quality people seem to be falling short. Trying out new modalities of education for our children is an inspiring way to work towards a better vision for the future. Green schooling, homeschooling and even un-schooling children offer hope for something different from the next generation. With access to unlimited educational resources via the Internet, almost anyone can educate themselves in almost any field, and so the re-education of the individual is an act of great non-conformity.

Experience-Based Spirituality – The nature of personal spirituality itself is evolving in these transformative times as people have access to a vast assortment of ideas, philosophies, wisdom traditions, substances, and dogmas. The non-conformist of today explores practices and ideas that work best to induce direct experience, following intuition to develop a connection to the sacred part of humanity, which is so routinely trampled in our hectic world. Finding inner peace through whichever religion or philosophy you choose is critical to creating a world free from toxic effects of collective fear. There is a war being waged against the conscience and consciousness of the average person, and seeking direct, personal spiritual experience and connection to the great mystery is the way to prevail.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Education, Soul Building

Reid’s 2013 Year-End Review


Reid Dickie

The mighty Avenger (actually two different ones from Enterprise) and I logged over 25,000 kms again this summer, almost all of it in Manitoba. I got around and I’m so lucky to have an outlet to report what I saw, did and wondered along the road. The picture above, called Oh Susanna The Covered Wagon by R. Atkinson Fox, I found in the Carberry Plains Museum.

I drove a diversity of Manitoba highways this summer and can attest to the fact that there was a lot of highway infrastructure work being BRANDON 067done in all areas of the province.  Some of the work was more major ranging from seal coating to total reconstruction to replacement of bridges. Overall the condition and driveability of rural roads in summer is far superior to the streets of Winnipeg whose condition now approaches third-world status in all seasons.

In my travels this year, I was struck by the resilience of people and Nature to repair and recover from the 2011 flood, by the importance of local heritage which was celebrated in several places this summer but disdained or denied in others, by the generosity of people in sharing their stories, ideas and images with me and by the jolt a double homicide caused in a small village. For the view from Reid, read on…

Fresh Events

Carberry Heritage Festival


On this blog I have long touted the glorious heritage examples that still exist in Carberry, MB, posting 51 times about some aspect of the town’s past. When I heard Carberry was organizing its first ever heritage festival I wanted to play a part. I met with the organizers, created and distributed a media release to help promote the event and documented all the days’ events. This is a picture of an old Linotype typesetter in the office of the Carberry News Express. Below members of the Manitoba Muzzleloaders show their weaponry at the Carberry Heritage Festival.


Though the weather was cool, the festival drew a sizable crowd, enough to convince the organizers and business people of Carberry to make it an annual event. I am glad Carberry took the initiative and expanded on their unique heritage status. They have much to be proud of.

I did several reports on the heritage festival, a video of the events plus this post about how to load and fire muzzleloaders and the new video below of classic cars, trucks and farm implements at the festival. Heritage comes in many forms. I always love it when a new/old song enters my awareness. This happened on the Friday afternoon at the Carberry Heritage Festival when I was taping the events. An elderly lady sang and played guitar on the sidewalk for festival goers. I caught a snippet of her singing a great old song called Waltz Across Texas which I included in my video of the festival. The song echoed

tubbvery dimly in my memory but I couldn’t recall the original singer. Ernest Tubb was a 20-year country music veteran when he recorded this wistful, sentimental song in 1965. There is some confusion as to who wrote it. Ernest’s nephew B. Talmadge Tubb is usually credited sometimes with his uncle Ernest, sometimes not. Watch Ernest perform Waltz Across Texas, basically defining a whole generation of country music, one that even as the song rode the charts was passing from the public mind.

Yardfringe, Dauphin

YF 2

After I heard the term “Yardfringe” for the first time I went to Google and discovered the only reference to it was in Dauphin, MB. Something was abubble in Dauphin! Yardfringe is a variation on fringe festivals but the wrinkle is people bike from venue to venue which are in people’s backyards, people who have developed some sort of entertainment for the fringers to watch at no cost.  It’s an idea whose time has come, can be easily and cheaply promoted via social media, can apply to small cities or even big city neighbourhoods and has virtually no infrastructure. In October I wrote extensively about Yardfringe and interviewed one of the event’s co-founders.

Garland Airplane


This is a picture of your humble scribbler posing with the Vickers Viscount aircraft parked in tiny Garland, Manitoba. The plane has been anchored there since 1982. One of the many helpful people I met this year was Don Fyk, the plane’s owner, who shared his fascinating story with me. Read the whole story and watch my video tour of the exterior of the plane.

Flood Recovery

Since I covered the 2011 Manitoba flood in depth, I feel compelled to follow-up with the latest news. This summer several of the places devastated by the flooding Assiniboine and Souris rivers made a recovery. Two stories dealt with crossing rivers but in different manners.

Stockton Ferry

stockton 2011

This is a picture of the Stockton ferry in 2011, beached by flood waters. The infrastructure for the Stockton Ferry, the last remaining river ferry in southern Manitoba, was destroyed by the flood, washed away leaving twisted metal and broken cable. This video shows what the ferry looked like after the 2011 flood. As of summer 2013 the ferry is back in operation, carrying local traffic across the Assiniboine eight hours a day.  This video shows a ride on the restored ferry this past summer. The Stockton ferry restoration is an appropriate and successful response to the flood damage, which I can’t say for the town of Souris.

Souris Swinging Bridge


Unfortunately for Souris their old swinging bridge, the main tourist attraction to the place and a significant piece of local history, has been replaced by a bridge that doesn’t swing. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t budge the bridge. Boring! Too bad the engineers who designed this thing didn’t consult with any heritage people. To continue calling it a “swinging” bridge is dishonest at the very least. Not a success. This picture is the new unswinging bridge.

Spruce Woods Park


Again this year Spruce Woods Park was one of my most frequently visited sites. I took this picture this summer from Hwy #5 in Spruce Woods Park. The row of grey dead trees in front of the verdant ones in back were drowned by the flooding Assiniboine in 2011. They stand as a stark reminder of how the park looked then. This year and last, man and nature collaborated to rebuild and renew one of Manitoba’s best parks. Visitor amenities – campgrounds, trails, services – are almost back to pre-flood standards. The covered wagon rides to the dunes are back. A new office and other buildings that were swept away still need to be replaced. Another success story. Two out of three isn’t bad, considering how much government must have been involved in all of them.

Special Places

Spirit Sands


I hiked Spirit Sands half a dozen times this year from May to October. As I reported in my posts, every hike offered plenty of subtle changes in the open meadows, deep forest and wind-shaped dunes.


Though not formally recognized as a desert, active sand dunes on the open prairie is enough of an anomaly to be called a “desert” at least as a hook to garner tourists. However, of late Nature hasn’t been playing along with this tourist game. At Spirit Sands the reverse of desertification is occurring. The dunes are becoming overgrown with native grasses, flowers and wolf willow, all hardy in dry places. The lure of open sand dunes is being rapidly dulled by the burgeoning plant growth on the sand.


When Linda and I started visiting Spirit Sands in the mid 1990s, there were large open areas of sand with moving dunes fringed by some growth. Stepping off the top rung of the log ladder and seeing a desert spread out before you was truly a Manitoba “Wow” moment, right up there with polar bears. These days there is a more muted response to the first glimpse.


While Nature proceeds apace, humans are responding rather predictably. Those for whom Spirit Sands plays a financial stake in their lives have started rattling some cages. Options being presented include a biotically-respectful plowing up of the overgrowth to open up the dunes to the prevailing north-westerlies, get the dunes moving again and restore their “Wow” value.  I expound further on this in my September hike report.  All the pictures in this item were taken on my September 2013 Spirit Sands hike showing the current state of the extensive overgrowth.

The Vondarosa

My cousin Vonda resides on her family farm on the northern edge of Riding Mountain about two miles from the park. I’ve been visiting the area since I was a child so the distinctive bulge on the horizon we call Riding Mountain is an indelible and pleasant shape threaded through my memory. I am grateful there is still close family on the land and to be a welcome visitor to the Vondarosa. Here’s an account of an early visit last spring.

An evening drive back across the rolling plains with the blue Duck Mountains bulging on the western horizon and deeper blue Riding Mountain looming in the south and growing larger as we approach. At the Vondarosa, we sat outside, drank wine and watched the five cats and three dogs at play, living their idyllic lives in the throws of a long dense valley with a spring stream that surges then trickles then disappears flowing through the yard. The throws are the wide mouths of valleys as they flatten and disappear into grain fields that stretch away. Vonda’s place is exactly at the edge of a throw, sheltered by the valley and mature trees. It feels perfect! For me, it’s one of those in-between places that shamans experience great joy inhabiting. There are several places on her land that have powerful spiritual energies, especially the plateaus above the farm yard and the vortex in her yard and on the western edge of her land.


Birds sang and fluttered, dogs barked, distant trees sang on distant breezes, the sun poured red honey over the edges of the valley then set scarlet and hopeful between two granaries. Twilight ensued at its leisurely pace; the silence deepened. Sweeping down the valley toward me I felt the glorious wildness: the muscular lope of the cougar, the gnawing spring hunger of a bear, the spray of fear from startled deer, itches under the bark of a hundred million spruce trees, all aching along as evolution persisted around me, inside me on the brink of a mountain.


Finnegan (cat) Rebel (dog) Reid (human) at the Vondarosa.

ALONG THE ROAD TO DAUPHIN 018One of my duties at the Vondarosa is gathering dead wood from the bush surrounding the yard, hauling it to the fire pit and assembling it as artistically as possible. The evening bonfire unites day and night in a ritual blaze that competes only slightly with the realms of stars overhead. Among the stars in the pitch black night travel satellites and, at dusk, when the light is just so, the International Space Station floats past. The embers glow, sleep.

Pitter Patter

Percy Criddle’s Telescope


Regular readers of my blog will recognize the name Percy Criddle as a Manitoba pioneer from England, eccentric as the day is long. Percy fathered a brood of exceptional children whose talents and efforts gave science its first serious glimpse of prairie flora and fauna, provided decades of accurate weather data and left behind a true Canadian story as yet untold but deserving of a movie.

criddle hypno

Percy had some training as a medical doctor so his talents were put to use on the virtually doctorless prairie of the late 1800s, early 1900s. I posted about Percy’s medicine chest, showing some of the foibles of early medicine. Check out the ingredients in Hypno-Sedative. Chloral was basically knock-out drops.


On a day trip with old friend Mark, we visited the Sipiweske (sip-a-whisky) Museum in Wawanesa which has many relics from the Criddle-Vane homestead. Among his fancies, Percy included astronomy. His dear friend J. A. Tulk back in England bought a telescope for Percy and shipped it to him in 1886, four years after the family arrived in Canada. Now in the collection at Sipiweske Museum, Percy’s telescope – it’s blue! – stands in a place of honour among the artifacts.

MCC Thrift Shop of the Year

I know, Mennonite Central Committee thrift stores don’t compete with each other; they all do good work making things better locally and globally. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the stores. You can read more on their background in this post.

As a veteran thrifter, I visit rural MCC stores regularly every summer. Manitoba is gifted with a dozen of them outside Winnipeg. I visited all but one of them at least once this summer, usually finding a few neat/strange things along the way.


Using the criteria of interesting and unpredictable stock, reasonable prices, friendly staff and general cleanliness of the store, I proclaim that the MCC thrift shop in Portage la Prairie is my personal MCC Thrift Store of the Year. I visited it over three dozen times last summer and walked out without buying something maybe three times. The large PLP store, which opened in 1983, is located on Saskatchewan Avenue, handy on my many visits westward.

The store is well managed in the new era sense of thrift stores. The manager, Kevin, wears a headset phone, his staff are kind, helpful and enthusiastic, the store is clean and very well organized. While jumbles are fun for a few minutes, you can’t beat a nicely presented display of similar items which the PLP store excels at. All day this store rolls out racks and racks full of their latest donations. They usually have sales on certain categories of items. They keep a large stock of costumes which are available year round plus they offer a silent auction which can be viewed in-store and online. There is a large parking at the rear of the store.


This life-size mask is a handmade, hand-painted souvenir from Venice, Italy, a city known for its elaborate masks. The Carnival of Venice which ends when Lent begins, is an annual affair where masks are worn, each mask representing a certain aspect of Venetian history. I bought this mask at the PLP MCC for $5, making it one of my best buys of the summer.

Steinbach and Brandon both have large MCC Thrifts but they are runners-up to PLP. All the MCC stores in Canada and the United States are listed here.

PLP has two other thrift stores which I occasionally stop at: United Church’s McKenzie Thrift Shop on Saskatchewan Ave, and St. Mary’s Anglican Thrift on 2nd St SW.

Clinker Bricks in Edmonton

I visited my cousin Barb and hubby Larry in Edmonton over the summer and they introduced me to a building material I had never heard of before – clinker brick! Huh? That’s what I said.


This is hundred-year-old Holy Trinity Anglican Church made with clinker bricks – misshapen bricks  cured too close to the fire. They were a trendy item in Edmonton for awhile; ritzy houses often had clinker features. Read my post all about clinker bricks.


Lyons Mansion

It’s a pile next to a busy highway whose only job is to disintegrate brick by brick, bird’s nest by bird’s nest, lath by lath into the prairie. My video tour of the inside of the old Lyons mansion near Carberry garnered plenty of YouTube views this year. So did my tour inside and out of the old stone house along Highway 21. If you haven’t seen either, click the pics to watch.


Snapshot 26 (14-11-2011 3-25 PM)


This is the big old barn caving in on itself behind the Lyons mansion.

So God Made a Farmer

Dodge Ram used part of Paul Harvey’s touching tribute to farmers in a Super Bowl ad. Originally read to a gathering of the Future Farmers of America in 1978, Harvey’s speech was edited to fit into the two-minute commercial. Here is his entire tribute to farmers including the two sections omitted in the ad.

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.

Heritage Breakdowns

Negrych Family Homestead, north of Gilbert Plains


This building, a long-shingle bunkhouse in the vernacular style of the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, is the iconic image of Negrych Family Homestead, the best preserved, most complete Ukrainian homestead in North America. Built between 1897 and 1910 by the Negrych family using materials found on their land, the place is a heritage treasure that is tended with much local love and pride. In 2012 my cousin Vonda and I visited the homestead and were given a full tour by Madison, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic DAUPHIN AUGUST WIGO RUH 037young woman from the area. It was a summer job that she found very fulfilling. The buildings, relics and background information combined to create a unique experience. We came away with greater appreciation for how pioneers survived and thrived on the raw prairie and new respect for their resourcefulness.

This year was a much different story. For reasons I don’t know, no funds were available to hire summer students to give tours and help maintain the site. The only opportunity for a guided tour this year was if you happened to arrive when one of the volunteers was mowing the grass. It is disgraceful for a site like this not to be available which is why I uploaded an eight-minute tour of the Negrych Homestead.

Dalnavert, Winnipeg


Built in 1895 Dalnavert still stands at 61 Carlton Street as one of Winnipeg’s finest Queen Anne Revival houses in a neighbourhood once richly endowed with houses in the style. Beyond the sheer grandiosity of the building, lovingly restored, maintained and run as a museum by the Manitoba Historical Society (MHS), is the provenance of its occupants. Sir John A Macdonald’s son, Sir Hugh John Macdonald, prominent Winnipeg lawyer, lived with his family in the house giving it an aura of importance and justifying its national treasure status.

But Dalnavert is in trouble. Closed since September 2013, the house/museum has run into financial difficulties prompting the MHS, the site’s owner, to ask for sound doable proposals for the future of Dalnavert. The deadline is January 17, 2014.

Shaver House, near Killarney


I included the historic Shaver house in last year’s 12 Days of Christmas. Built in 1901 and located just north of Killarney MB it’s a unique example of prairie brickwork and style. Recently the house has been a bed and breakfast run by the personable Pam and Paul La Pierre. Sadly the house burned down on May 8, 2013. Heritage lost. Watch my short video of the Shaver house.

The Dollhouse, formerly way out MB Hwy #2


Among the most popular videos on my YouTube channel is my report on Saskatchewan artist Heather Benning’s Dollhouse, a poignant work of art out on Highway #2 almost at the Saskatchewan border. At least it was a poignant work of art until Heather decided to burn it down which she did in April 2013. Artist’s prerogative. This is heritage lost in a way but I’m sure Heather will creatively built on it so its statement did not die in the flames. Watch the video and read the updated story. 

Murder House


I grew up in a small town of about 800 people in western Manitoba. Crime of any kind, other than the occasional bootlegger, was rare and usually committed by drifters. Most small communities aim to maintain a state of grace – an often-fragile balance between people and their individual and collective needs and expectations based on fellowship, caring and tolerance. Sometimes one person can upset the balance to such an extreme the whole community falls from grace.

ETHELBERTDAUPHIN MAY 28 2013 007In August I reported on events in Ethelbert, MB (pop. 312) as a short intro to pictures of a house and yard where a double homicide occurred in January 2013.  Elsie Steppa, 81 and her nephew Clarence Thornton aka Harry Jones aka Jesus Christ, 50 died of “blunt force trauma” in a little white stucco house next to abandoned railroad tracks. For me, the event has an irresistible bouquet of surrounding elements and, as it turns out, images.ETHELBERTDAUPHIN MAY 28 2013 010

On two occasions this past summer I took video and stills of the murder house in Ethelbert which, though padlocked, hadn’t been touched since the investigation. These images comprised my August post and received a variety of responses.

Thornton aka Jones aka Jesus Christ was a violent unpredictable man who was banned from most area churches due to his erratic and threatening behavior. He couldn’t get along with anybody. Still needing a church to preach in, Jones secretly adopted as his own several long- abandoned churches out in the ETHELBERT JONESbush. He stole plastic flowers from cemeteries to decorate his church and altar. He wore vestments stolen from churches and set up his own altar lit with candles. Jones preached for hours, sometimes days from his lonely pulpit, all the time to an empty room with the prairie wind whistling between collapsing walls and roofs.

This summer the details of this story have come to me in often CARBERRY MUSEUM JONES CHURCHES PICS 027serendipitous ways. One such example is gaining access to two of the abandoned churches Jones decorated and preached in. I took dozens of pictures of the churches and evidence of Jones’s using them. Some of the pictures are quite shocking.

Combining the pictures of the house, yard and churches into a little movie I offer you Murder House in the Rain, 4:50 of visual CARBERRY MUSEUM JONES CHURCHES PICS 025reportage. I aim to creates moods, atmospheres in my videos work and Murder House in the Rain is all mood! Jones kept two large dogs to guard his paranoia. The dogs on the soundtrack fulfill their role, sudden and near. Click this pic to watch the video.

Ethelbert mayor Mitch Michaluk told me that the murder house (my terminology) and property went up for tax sale on December 9, 2013. It has back taxes of $1200 owing on it. Though it sits on a serviced lot, it’s unlikely anyone will buy it. Its fate? Probably demolition by the village.

Payton Saari, 20, of Ethelbert was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder. He has yet to enter a plea.

Ten Manitoba Sights in Two Minutes


Though I have created several dozen videos and over 100 blog posts this year, there is still a wealth of bit and pieces that I want to share. In this new video see ten Manitoba sights in two minutes. Click the pic to start the tour.

Schools Page

This year’s best new page is my Schools page (at the top above the header picture). Included on the page are articles and pictures of ten Winnipeg schools that have been demolished, features on spiral fire escapes, the origins of junior high, my memories of attending a one-room schoolhouse, educational innovators like William Sisler and J. B. Mitchell, heritage schools in rural Manitoba and my mom’s Grade 11 exams from 1930 plus much more.


This is now-demolished Somerset School, constructed 1901, demolished 2005. I offer it because in the last few months I have met two people, both in their mid 30s, who attended Somerset when it was temporarily part of nearby Sacre Coeur School. Though I have extensive pictures of its exterior I wasn’t able to get access to photograph inside before it was torn down. A chain drugstore stands in its place on Sherbrook Street.  

I have researched and written extensively about most of Winnipeg’s grand old schools from the early 1900s, many still in use today. You can expect features on them to begin appearing on my blog in early 2014.

Culture Bound

In the final episode of Breaking Bad in the shot-up clubhouse, Walt answers dead Todd’s cellphone whose ringtone is a male voice singing, “Lydia, O Lydia, Say have you met Lydia? Lydia the tattooed lady.” It’s Groucho Marx singing a song from the Marx Brothers movie At the Circus (1939) in one of their wackier musical scenes with nuthouse choreography and Groucho the biggest ham in the room, no small feat.

groucho 4

The zany tune was written by Harold Arlen (Over the Rainbow, Stormy Weather, That Old Black Magic), with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg (Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?, April in Paris, It’s Only a Paper Moon). The lyrics are a hoot! As an example he rhymes Amazon with pajamas on. Click Groucho for the song from At the Circus.

I watched plenty of movies this year but have just two to recommend: Stoker and Let Him Be.


Stoker is South Korean writer/director Chan-wook Park’s twisting tale of changes in an American family. Mia Wasikowska gives another seamless performance. Park should be listed with the actors as his presence as a director is never far from evident. Beautifully rendered, well-crafted yarn and a perfectly tacky use of Summer Wine by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood (1967).


Let Him Be is a docudrama in which a bright young filmmaker has evidence that John Lennon is still alive and living in a village north of Toronto. He goes exploring for answers with startling results. There are two moments, including the ending, that sent shivers up my spine. That’s all I will tell you. It came out in 2009. I found it in the Winnipeg Library System. Find it.

New Friends

Michele and Larry, Karen, Don Fyk, Amber, Jeremy, Jesse, David, Jim, Sylvia, Johnny, Larry, Cathy and Pat. Great to know you!

Wrapped. Rapt.

Thank you for reading my blog. The year sailed by with joy and gratitude and, when I forgot, appropriate reminders to be joyful and thankful. Thank you Great Spirit for all this perfection in which are utterly immersed and to which we are inextricably bound. Joy and Gratitude.

I will end the year with two pictures of my namesake, Ezra Reid Scholl, who is now 14 moons old. Happy New Year!

Dec 2013 c

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Filed under Carberry, Dauphin, Death and Dying, Education, Family, Festivals, Flood, Heritage Buildings, Heritage Festival, Hope, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Old Souls, Parks, Pioneers, Prairie People, Schools, Soul Building, spirit sands, video art, Year-End Review 2013

Rules for Teachers 1870 & 1915




See Mom’s 1930 Grade 11 exams here and here.

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Filed under Education, Local History