Category Archives: Manitobans of Note

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

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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.

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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.

 PROFILE

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

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

Prairie Caravan Tribal Belly Dancers at 2014 Medieval Festival

Snapshot 4 (17-08-2014 12-46 PM)

Reid Dickie

Located in Winnipeg the Prairie Caravan Tribal Belly Dancers are a troupe of women of all ages who have a desire to study and expand the tribal belly dance form and to present it to modern audiences at festivals, events and fundraisers.

Snapshot 6 (17-08-2014 12-47 PM)The troupe was a high point of the afternoon’s activities at the 2014 Cooks Creek Medieval Festival. Their joyful energy and positive spirit shone through the whole performance.

I featured a short excerpt from their performance on my festival video report. Click any picture to watch my video of their entire opening dance, just over 5 minutes.

Check out their website.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

PROFILE

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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Filed under Architecture, Education, Manitobans of Note, Schools

A Vickers Viscount in Garland?

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Reid Dickie

Garland, Manitoba is a tiny place settling into the bush near The Ducks, as locals call the Duck Mountains. Garland consists of a store, post office, hall, some churches, a few nicely tended yards around little cottages, the sweet smell of prairie air and a Vickers Viscount airplane parked in the middle of it all, looking more than a little like it just landed. This is the kind of anomaly that sparks my curiosity so I went off in search of the story.

I didn’t have to go far. Don Fyk lives two miles from Garland on the family farm. Don’s family homesteaded in the area; several of his relatives are buried in the little cemetery on the highway at his GARLAND VONDAROSA PICS 024turnoff. Don, a pilot and airplane buff, farms, does repairs, heavy construction, crop dusting and grows a variety of buckwheat much sought after in Japan, his biggest market. He’s an amiable fellow, hard-working, successful with a fine sense of humour. We sat and had coffee in his office one afternoon in the summer of 2013 and he told me the story of the Garland airplane. That’s him and his aircraft in the picture above.

Back in 1982 Don’s brother-in-law was looking to build a new cabin,
GARLAND VONDAROSA PICS 023 something different. He considered a log cabin but went after the idea of an airplane fuselage as the living space. After searching around, they found two Vickers Viscount airplanes at Teulon in Manitoba’s Interlake; both had been cannibalized, neither were in good condition. However, they managed to combine parts from both and come up with a whole aircraft. He bought the airplane for $700 then faced the mammoth task of transporting it from Teulon to Garland, a distance of 380 kms.

Don, his brother-in-law and other family members, with the help of a consultant, dismantled the 8 tonne airplane, took off the wings and tail feather, building special dollies to load the pieces on several trucks. In early May, 1982, the five-truck convoy received a special permit to transport the load down major highways, passing through viscount 2The Narrows then heading north of Dauphin. Don was surprised that people turned out at every little town to watch them go by. Even the Winnipeg Free Press covered the trek which wound up taking 12 hours.

For the two weeks needed to disassemble the airplane, it took aboutViscount as long to reassemble it on the large lot in Garland where it sits today, chained and anchored down against strong winds. Interior renovation began. They gutted the aircraft, laid carpet, connected it to hydro for lights and electric heat, added a stereo system, air conditioning, all the amenities except running water. The front area accommodated a living room, behind that a galley kitchen and at the viscount 1955-TCA-Vickers-Viscounttail end a bedroom. The grounded Viscount hosted many a party since landing in Garland. The guest book for the aircraft cum weekend getaway includes dozens of people who stayed in the plane over the years. 

In recent times, Don’s Viscount hasn’t been used much. A couple of years back the plane was vandalized on the interior but Don plans to restore it when he has the time. He pays about $300 a year in taxes for the lot and aircraft. Don has had offers from people who want to turn it into a bed and breakfast but he feels very attached to the plane. The novelty of the aircraft and its incongruent location will continue to draw the curious, like myself, to little Garland. For now, it will stay as it is – a startling surprise in a prairie village.  Good!

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Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA) was the first North American company to fly Vickers Viscounts starting April 1, 1955 on its Montreal to Winnipeg route. By November of the same year TCA Viscounts were serving fourteen North American cities. The aircraft flew North American routes for TCA until 1974. Don Fyk’s aircraft belonged to the TCA then Air Canada fleet. Both the logos were painted over when Don bought the plane but the paint has since peeled away revealing both names.

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This is a picture of Don Fyk’s plane, identification number CF-THB, when it was still part of Air Canada’s fleet taken July, 1967. My thanks to Ken Fielding for the pic.

What was the original appeal of the aircraft?

It was a game changer!Viscount TCA ad The Vickers Viscount revolutionized passenger air travel when British engineering conglomerate Vickers-Armstrongs introduced it in 1948. Instead of a piston engine, the Vickers Viscount used a Rolls Royce Dart 510 turboprop engine, a new form of propulsion. 

Piston engines were noisy, smelly and couldn’t provide a smooth ride. The Viscount changed all that with its turboprop system. It was much quieter with fewer vibrations, the cabin was pressurized for comfort, the ride was smoother and oval panoramic windows offered a view from your plush and adjustable seat. Flying had become comfortable, even glamorous. The plane was designed for medium-range flights with 24 to 48 passengers.

The Viscount became one of the most profitable post-war transport aircraft. Four hundred forty-four of the luxury liners were built, six were prototypes and the rest went into service worldwide.   

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Viscount interior

This picture shows what the original Viscount cockpit looked like with its wide front and side views, instrument panel and seating.

This is the interior of the Viscount cabin in 1950s-modern primary colours. Comfort was built into every aircraft. This is what Don’s plane would have looked like when it was still in service.

According to vickersviscountnetwork.net there are 47 Viscount airframes left in the world, fifteen in museums. Along with his, Don thinks there are three other Viscounts in Canada: Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg has one, one in British Columbia Aviation Museum in Sidney and one in the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa .

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I took my video camera to Garland and shot a short four-minute tour that includes a walk around the outside of the airplane with close-up views. Click on the picture of VV and me above to watch.

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A few other videos of Viscounts. The first one shows the aircraft loading passengers then starting its engine. The second video shows a Rolls Royce Dart 510 turboprop engine that’s been removed from a plane being started. The last video shows a vintage Viscount making its final flight and landing in 1996.

I am grateful to Don Fyk for sharing his story and part of his busy day with me. To end off, a direct quote from Don about flying, “I have my faith in my airplane like I have my faith in God. You cannot doubt it for a second or the what if will kill you.”

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Filed under 1950s, Day Tripping, Local History, Manitobans of Note, Prairie People, Roadside Attractions, Year-End Review 2013

Manitoba Flood Cams 2013

Reid Dickie

UPDATE: As of May 15 2013, the flood cams have been discontinued. There won’t be much, if any, flooding this year so show’s over, folks, nothing to see here, move along…

It’s Virtual Flood Season again in Manitoba!

The Manitoba government has added some live flood cams to their Flood Information website:

  • One webcam shows the Red River pouring into the floodway diverting the water around Winnipeg.
  • Another shows a rather odd aerial view of Morris, MB, south of Winnipeg on the Red River.
  • For awhile they had a camera at the inlet for the Portage Diversion which siphons off Assiniboine River water and sends it north to Lake Manitoba. Today (April 30) that cam has disappeared. The Portage Diversion cam shows the most contentious site of flood control in the province and, since the government likes to tightly control its flood information and spin, I’m not surprised it has disappeared.  Perhaps it will be back…
  • The fourth cam is at a bend in the Assiniboine River in Brandon looking west with an 18th Street bridge in the distance. As of today in Brandon the Assiniboine appears to be pre-breakup with lots of solid ice. Its headwaters received about six inches of new snow in the last 24 hours. Once again the Assiniboine is the river to be nervous about.

Click the vintage picture of the floodway gates to get to the 2013 flood cams.

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J. B. Mitchell – NWMP Corporal, School Architect, Visionary

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Reid Dickie

The policeman trekked into the Canadian West with the North West Mounted Police on a mission of law and order. The architect designed over forty schools in a prairie boomtown. The visionary helped bring enlightenment to masses of immigrants newly arrived and hungry for a fresh and better life. History would eagerly record the exploits of all these people and history has, except, in this case, all three are the same person.

James Bertram Mitchell was born in Gananoque, Ontario in 1852. He joined the Canadian militia as a bugler at the age of 14, rising to Micthell_2corporal by 1870. Upon promotion, J.B. Mitchell was assigned to guard the Welland Canal at Carlton, Ontario against a Fenian invasion of Canada, an event that never took place. During his time in the militia, he met Colonel George A. French, soon to be the head of the newly minted North West Mounted Police. It was a defining meeting for the young Mitchell.

At age 18, Mitchell returned to civilian life and studied architecture at the Montreal Institute of Art for three years.

No longer able to ignore reports of lawlessness in the west – the Cypress Hills Massacre was the latest example – Prime Minister John A. Macdonald created the North West Mounted Police in 1873.

Macdonald modeled his police force after the Royal Irish Constabulary, a ‘police-styled’ force but with a military bearing. Their first task was to shut down the whisky trade at Fort Whoop-Up. Whisky was causing violence and upheaval in Indian camps and white outposts. It triggered fights among rivals, friends and family. The NWMP were instructed to stop the whisky trade, establish friendly relations with the aboriginals and entrench Canadian law over a 300,000 square-mile territory. This awesome task was assigned to fewer than 300 men, not an army but a constabulary.

Young Mitchell had read newspaper accounts of the difficulties at Red River and the whisky problem in the West so, when the NWMP was announced, he was delighted to discover his friend Col. French had been chosen Commissioner in charge of the force. Stemming from his desire to serve his country and his strong sense of adventure Mitchell enlisted and at age 21 and was assigned NWMP regimental number 50, E division with the rank of Staff Constable.

The NWMP departed Fort Dufferin, now Emerson, MB on July 8, fort duff1874. During his time with the force, Staff Constable Mitchell was present at the signing of treaties with the Cree and the Six Nations led by Chief Crowfoot. His name can be found among the signatures on Treaty 6.

In 1877, J. B. Mitchell’s three-year hitch with the NWMP was over. He had fulfilled his contract with the government and gained firsthand experience of the Canadian West, how enormous and filled with possibility it was. The only thing that matched the hardship of the trek was the exhilaration Mitchell felt from the whole experience. Out there on the vast and subtle plains, he gained a unique perspective that would serve and inform his worldview.

Having passed through Winnipeg during his time with the NWMP, when Mitchell returned to civilian life, he remembered the opportunity he felt existed in this new prairie city. He settled in the Point Douglas area.

mitchell carttonHe was elected to the Winnipeg School Board in 1888 and in 1892 appointed Architect and Commissioner of School Buildings and Supplies. Along with his contemporary, School Superintendent Daniel McIntyre, J. B. Mitchell designed and created what some saw as North America’s safest and most architecturally eloquent collection of schools. Together the two men oversaw the design and construction of forty-eight Winnipeg schools and numerous additions. During his tenure, Mitchell witnessed the value of school buildings grow from less than $350,000 to nearly $10 million. Odds are, if you went to school in Winnipeg, you sat in a classroom designed by J. B. Mitchell.

It was Winnipeg’s great boom time – 1890 to 1914 – when population growth on the newly opened prairie was exploding. School enrolment jumped from 5,000 to 40,000 requiring thirty-nine new schools to be built over those 24 years.

To accommodate the massive influx the public school system underwent a huge transformation. At the time, Canadians’ pride in the British Empire was at a peak. A great enlightenment, reflected inSOMERSET SCHOOL women’s suffrage and free and universal education, was sweeping through western institutions. Education was viewed as a panacea for ignorance and other societal ills and the buildings in which it occurred had to reflect that optimism and hope.

Known as a stalwart of the Empire with enlightened views about education and the need for healthy learning environments, Mitchell’s 006_3design concerns were student safety, spaciousness and eloquence. He created many school designs that embodied all of these optimistic values.

Mitchell spoke of his feelings on this subject: “There is nothing too good for the children, and it should be known, appreciated and remembered by every parent in this Dominion that education is more important than good streets, roads or sidewalks, and more public money should be spent to thoroughly equip the children for the battle of life than is now being devoted to that purpose.”

Influenced by British Board Schools, Mitchell created powerful, KELVINstately buildings that he felt nurtured the physical and intellectual potential of all children, no matter what their country of origin. British Board Schools were massive red brick buildings, usually three storeys, with similar design and layout. Hundreds of them were built between 1870 and 1900. Their style captured the imagination of the public and became the defining characteristic of enlightened education. J. B. Mitchell used the Board Schools as his basic design, enhancing the already handsome EARL GREY TOWER 1buildings with decorative details from Queen Anne, Gothic, Classical and Georgian Revival architectural styles.

Always eager to learn new techniques and designs, Mitchell traveled across Canada and the United States, touring educational facilities and discussing their design with his peers. He brought home many new ideas for his schools. But always foremost in his mind was that fundamental education would be provided, children would be enlightened and all of Canada would benefit.

Fittingly, Mitchell and McIntyre retired in 1928 after an association of forty years. Both men have schools named after them, honouring their contribution to education and architecture in Manitoba. Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute was opened in 1923, J.B. Mitchell School in 1956.

As a Colonel, J.B. Mitchell saw action at St. Eloi and Vimy with the 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers in World War I. Colonel Mitchell outlivedmitchell quuen all of his old NWMP comrades to become the last surviving member of the original force. When he died on November 15, 1945 at the age of 93, J.B. Mitchell left Winnipeg “not less but greater than he found it.” Mitchell is buried in Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg (Section F, Plot 12, Grave 4).

Thanks in no small part to the visionary ideas of J.B. Mitchell, Winnipeg gained national recognition for the excellence of its school system and the innovative designs of its high quality, well-built schools. The system and its buildings stand as a testament to these creative, positive energies. They are a legacy, not just of bricks and mortar, but of enlightenment and human development that defines our heritage through the minds of past students and creates our future through the minds of today’s students.

31 Winnipeg Schools designed by J. B. Mitchell

name, year built, years of additions

  • Gladstone School #2 – 1899/1902, demolished 1963-64
  • Somerset School – 1901 “permanently” closed 1972, demolished 2005
  • Alexandra School – 1902/1950-51 demolished 1969
  • Carlton School #2, 1903, demolished 1930
  • Pinkham School #2 – 1904 burned & renovated 1945
  • Strathcona School #1 – 1905/1911 demolished 1963-64
  • John M. King School #1 -1906/1918 demolished 1964
  • Luxton School – 1908/1915, 1948, 1988
  • King Edward School #1 – 1908, demolished 1975
  • Lord Selkirk School #1 – 1908/1921, 1965
  • Clifton School #1 – 1908, on site of Isaac Brock School, moved to Dominion Street 1913, demolished 1949
  • Aberdeen School #2 – 1909/1955, 1961
  • Cecil Rhodes School #1 – 1909/1951-52
  • Greenway School #1 – 1909/1960
  • La Verendrye School – 1909/1964
  • Kelvin High School #1-1910/1963, design similar to St. John’s High School, demolished 1966
  • Lord Roberts School #1 – 1911
  • Lord Selkirk School #2 – 1912
  • St. John’s Technical High School #1 – 1912/1960, 1963, 1966 demolished original 1912 sections in 1967, design similar  to Kelvin High School
  • Principal Sparling School -1912/1986
  • Laura Secord School- 1913/renovations 1988-90
  • Isaac Brock School – 1914
  • King Edward School – 1914, demolished 1976
  • Earl Grey School – 1915/1965
  • George V School – 1915/1948, 1951
  • Julia Clark School – 1918 demolished
  • Greenway School #2 – 1919
  • Ralph Brown School #2 – 1919/1960 demolished 1989
  • Lord Roberts School #2 – 1919/1923
  • Robert H. Smith School #1 – 1919/1929 demolished 1992
  • David Livingstone School – 1922/1957, 1968

Find more stories about Manitoba schools on my Schools page.

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The First Junior High School

Reid Dickie

Think of the last time you were traveling and came across an idea so new, so startling, so perfect that it caused a eureka moment. Superintendent of Winnipeg Schools Dr. Daniel McIntyre, on one of his “reconnaissance” missions to the United States and eastern Canada, was introduced to the concept of the junior high school in 1918. Whether it was a eureka moment or the seed for his thoughtful innovation, the idea make absolute sense to the Superintendent.
Dr. Daniel McIntyreJunior high schools – sometimes called intermediate or middle schools – developed partly as a reaction to the Old World socialization of parents who believed education culminated at Grade 8 and, thereafter, you worked. This resulted in a significant dropout rate at Grade 8.
Educators had long studied the problem of the quick transition from elementary school to high school that occurred after Grade 8. Students often were ill equipped to deal with specialized teachers, note-taking requirements and the independence of subject selection.
The junior high concept also resulted from the realization that children in the 11 to 15 year old range experienced life much differently than they had at a younger age and differently than they would in the future. Hormonal changes in our bodies ignite puberty and its confusions. New worldviews begin to emerge as we deal with our new ability to think about thinking.
During these transitional years, developmentally we experience the birth of mental rules and roles and the ability to take the role of the Other, moving from a purely egocentric worldview to one that is more sociocentric and inclusive. At this stage, we experience a strong need to “belong” thus our passionate attachments to sports teams, musicians, fashions, groups of any kind. As we find our place in the group and we seek our individuality, from that new vantage point grows our self-esteem and the ability to think about thinking. Rampant with possibilities, this stage – Grades 7, 8 and 9 – requires a different approach to education.
In September 1919, Earl Grey School in Winnipeg became the site ofEARL GREY SCHOOL 2 the first junior high school in Canada. Asked to create an experimental junior high curriculum for 400 students, Earl Grey principal J.S. Little introduced teaching methods quite unusual for the time.
Junior high gave students the opportunity to select various subjects as a way of determining their aptitude and inclinations. Part of the experiment was having the students move, not the teachers. This was adopted because the equipment for science laboratories and other specialized curricula was difficult to move. Instead of a text, history students created scrapbooks of clippings from newspapers and magazines.
These early curriculum ideas evolved, through decades of trail and error, into junior high as we know it today. Innovative curriculum ideas and subjects, experiments in classroom design and focus, introduction of guidance counseling and many other concepts have been tried.
The junior high concept proved so successful it was adopted by other Winnipeg schools and within ten years was standard curriculum across Canada. The first Winnipeg school built specifically as a junior high school was Isaac Newton, which opened in January 1922 and housed students previously at Strathcona School. The principal at the new school was William Sisler.

Find many more stories about Manitoba schools on my Schools page.

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Old English Church, 602 River Avenue, Hartney, MB

Reid Dickie

This old church, built by Anglicans for the Parish of St. Andrew’s in 1893-94, is a classic example of austere Anglican church architecture. Unadorned brickwork laid in American Bond, extremely steep roof pitch, pointed Gothic windows topped with staid sunbursts and side buttresses are basic to the style. The tiny arched window under the gable ends is charming. Built by local artisans and church volunteers, the church has been described as a textbook example of Anglican church style.

The chancel at the rear of the church was added on in 1907, its steep roof the same pitch as the original building. Lacking a pastor for an number of years, the old place has found new life and new purpose in the little community of Hartney, becoming the home to a new community of the faithful.

For views of Old English Church from all angles, check out my 2:05 video.

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Look What I Found While Driving Around

Reid Dickie

“I’ll be driven, eyes always moving, riveted to the task…” 

– Gordie Downie

My list of heritage sites to visit and record all over Manitoba has largely been satisfied. More organized than ever, it was a highly productive summer of “working the list.” I just calculated my mileage for the season and the mighty Avenger and I, well, myself and three mighty Avengers, have logged almost 23,000 kms, all but 1,000 of them in Manitoba. I got to see amazing country this year, discover special places that few Manitobans know about then report them here on my blog. Thanks for reading my blog, by the way. I am grateful every day for your attention.

With my trusty, battery-sucking digital camera by my side, I’ve captured some odd, surprising and occasionally astonishing images along my path. Here are a dozen of them with brief commentary about each one.

Old Cook Stove in Abandoned Stone House

Sure, I haunt the occasional tumbledown farmhouse out in the middle of now here, sure I do. I’m not usually the first to satisfy their curiosity about what’s inside the old place. A little stone house sits atop a small rise along Hwy #21 south of Hartney. I’ve seen this old house most of my life since my grandparents homesteaded nearby. This summer I stopped at it for the first time for pictures and video. Beyond the Keep Out sign, this old wood stove was the first thing I saw through the door. I took a few shots of the interior, largely wrecked. The inset is a shot of the house. Expect more about this place on my blog and YouTube channel.

Stillborn Graves at Camp Hughes Cemetery

The little cemetery at Camp Hughes has but 26 graves in it dating from 1916. Sadly, more than half are the graves of children. Some died in infancy, others stillborn and unnamed. Several graves are simply unknown.

Strange Cloud on Prairie Horizon

No, it’s not an atomic bomb test. It’s a gigantic cloud of smoke slowly rising from a field of burning stubble. This is a common sight in late summer, ominous and beautiful at once, most are not this spectacular. I shot this traveling south out of Winnipeg along Hwy #75 in late August. I watched it for miles as the cloud grew and changed shape.

Criddle Vane in the Rain

One hot afternoon during one of my dozen visits to the Criddle Vane homestead this summer, a prairie thunderstorm came over with plenty of lightning and thunder, a little rain but no wind, just a smooth calm passing. I took this picture of the Criddle Vane house through the rain-spattered windshield of the Avenger. Percy Criddle was very wary of storms and prided himself on the lightning rods, imported from England, that adorned the roof of this house. The inset shows the house after the rain.

Wind Sculpted Formation at Spirit Sands

During a hike on Spirit Sands with my dear friend Chris Scholl, we came upon this beautifully sculpted arch on the upslope of a dune. We’d had variable winds, that is, winds from directions other than the prevailing northwesterlies, which may have accounted for this small miracle in sand.

Assessment Roll Information for Negrych Farm 1901-1930

If there was one site I visited this summer that left me in awe of how our ancestors lived and survived on the harsh prairie, it was the Negrych Homestead north of Gilbert Plains. Its ten original log buildings date from the late 1890s when the family arrived there, most of them in Ukrainian vernacular style. Each building houses materials the family improvised and used for decades. This assessment roll information traces the family’s assets for thirty years from 1901 until 1930. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Old Headstone in Wawanesa Cemetery 

Humble and plain, corroding against the weather and the years, this little stone caught my camera’s eye in the cemetery at Wawanesa. What story could this stone tell?

Gathering of the Clans Picture

Being a full-blood Scotsman, this nicely framed illustration of the Gathering of the Clans had special meaning when I discovered it in one of the buildings at the Fort la Reine Museum in Portage la Prairie. Click pic to see entire image.

Herald Angels at Immaculate Conception, Cook’s Creek 

This isn’t my photograph. My friend Kevin Uddenberg took this picture using his smart phone which has HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology. The quality of the colours and the definition of the images is almost three-dimensional. By contrast look at the inset which is my picture of the same angels taken on the same day and time as Kevin’s picture.  The difference is obvious and substantial.

The Hemp’s as High as an Elephant’s Eye and… 

Rewilding W. C. Fields for smartass purposes with bashful aplomb. During my summer travels, I noticed that the only area of the province that concentrated on growing hemp in any quantity is north of Riding Mountain around Dauphin. This verdant crop you see was growing directly behind my hotel and stretched for acres to the horizon. Besides being easy to grow and low maintenance chemicalwise, there is another sound reason why so much hemp is grown in the area: the Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers Coop is headquartered in Dauphin.

The Staircase That Killed Percy Criddle

We return to Criddle Vane homestead to wind up this odd excursion. Insufferably brilliant or brilliantly insufferable, whoever Percy Criddle was, the beginning of his exit from this life was a tumble down the stairs you see here. After moving both his families from London, England to a patch of sandy soil south of present-day Shilo in 1882, Percy spent 35 years eking out a living largely due to the true genius of his children. During a severe blinding case of Erysipelas that Percy acquired in the spring of 1918, he groped his way to the top of these stairs and tumbled the full length of them, injuring himself terribly. He died ten days later at age 73 and is buried in the family cemetery a couple hundred yards from his house. This is Percy’s headstone.

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Keeping Up with The Past

Reid Dickie

There is a terrific blog created by Christian Cassidy that Manitobans with a passion for our history should know about. This Was Manitoba is an almanac that runs short features on daily events throughout Manitoba’s history. For example, on this day in 1923, thousands of Winnipeggers watched Harry Houdini escape from a straitjacket while suspended 30 feet above the parking lot of the former Free Press Building on Carlton Street. The blog offers information about people and events all over the province. I have added it to the blogroll.

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Louis Louis

Reid Dickie

I couldn’t resist the heading.

Mr G dropped me a line after seeing the picture of the Louis Riel statue: “whoa … that statue actually looks like Riel! what happened to the old one? (the one hidden by the concrete cylinder so it couldn’t be seen from the street) And it’s a full-fledged bank-holiday too? My how times have changed.”

Indeed they have, Mr G! The original Louis Riel statue on this same site was erected in 1971. An abstract sculpture by Marcien Lemay and Etienne Gaboury the first commemoration depicted Riel’s “tortured soul” and was enclosed in a tall cylinder open to the north and south. It was a controversial thing, as you can tell by the picture which shows it in its present location. The statue was moved in 1996 and can now found on the grounds of St. Boniface College, 200 ave de la Cathedrale in Winnipeg. Yup, full bank holiday as well!! The coffee shops are full and the streets are empty.

 

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It’s Louis Riel Day in Manitoba

Reid Dickie

Louis Riel said, “I am more convinced everyday that without a single exception I did right, and I have always believed that. As I have acted honestly, the time will come when the people of Canada will see and acknowledge it.” Today is that day, Louis. We celebrate your contributions with a holiday.  

I gleaned a few of Louis’ thoughts: “We may be a small community and a Half-breed community at that – but we are men, free and spirited men and we will not allow even the Dominion of Canada to trample on our rights.” “Deeds are not accomplished in a few days, or in a few hours. A century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time.” “My people will sleep for one hundred years when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”

Just before Riel was hanged a guard asked him for a souvenir. Riel’s reply: “I have nothing but my heart and I have given it long ago to my country.” 

Don’t miss the irony that while we are honouring a man who fought and died for the rights of Metis and all Manitobans, we are confronting a federal government intent on taking away more and more of our rights and freedoms.

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Winnipeg’s first mayor was a scoundrel!

Reid Dickie

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=vJjHEtpLlJk

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What a Guy!

Reid Dickie

Accolades just keep piling up for my friend and National Treasure, filmmaker Guy Maddin. Metacritic offers weighted averages of combined critic reviews of certain movies, video games, TV and music. In the Best Film Directors Since 2000 category, Guy ranks Number 3. Eligibility requires each director to have released at least 4 films since 2000 and to have garnered a minimum of seven reviews of each film. Prolific and purposeful, in the past 11 years Guy has released Saddest Music in the World, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, My Winnipeg (which Roger Ebert included in his Top Ten Films of the First Decade of the 21th Century), Brand Upon the Brain, and Cowards Bend at the Knee. I highly recommend all these movies.

Guy’s current project, set for theatrical release in 2012, is called Keyhole, which was screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The Globe and Mail‘s review of it began like this: “A story of marital breakdown and the fight for reconciliation takes on an archetypal, absurd and delirious surface in Guy Maddin’s latest black-and-white dream movie.” This is a still of actor Jason Patric in Keyhole. If you are wondering who ranked Number One and Two, second was Pedro Almodovar and first was French director Laurent Cantet. See the whole list at www.metacritic.com/feature/best-film-directors-since-2000

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Manitoba Boogeyman Percy Moggey

Reid Dickie

Booga booga, it’s Percy Moggey. In 1960 many Manitoba kids checked under the bed every night just in case Percy Moggey was hiding there. Portrayed in the media as a monster who frequently had shoot-outs with police, Percy was the only person to ever escape from Stony Mountain Penitentiary. He spent almost a year on the lam living in the bush near Eriksdale. In 2001, John Warms wrote a book about Percy called Over the Prison Wall. Can the movie be far behind? Today Percy’s log cabin is a tourist attraction located along Moggey Road. Join me in the bush at Percy’s hideout.

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Linda Tooley – Memorable Manitoban

The Manitoba Historical Society keeps a log of people who make significant contributions to the province and its people called Memorable Manitobans. Recently Linda was added to the list. You can see her page here http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/tooley_l.shtml

I am very touched by this. Thank you to Gordon Goldsborough and the MHS for honouring Linda with this recognition. It is well-deserved. I keep encountering people who tell me beautiful stories about Linda and how she made a difference in their lives. Her gifts live on. Reid

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Manitoba Heritage House

Reid Dickie

Fairbanks Mansion, Emerson, MB

         Another Italianate beauty in southern Manitoba! Built in 1880-81 on the north side of Emerson between Second and Third Streets, lawyer, real estate broker and municipal official William Newton Fairbanks spared no expense constructing his mansion. A true and wonderous example of the Italianate Villa Style, which was just becoming popular in North America, the pile sports low-pitched roof,  tower, extended eaves, arched windows, angular bay windows and a sense of Mediterranean wealth.  Constructed of “Emerson” brick – distinctive yellow brick with pink undertones – produced in Emerson’s early brickyard. The house had been the residence of the Forrester family for over 100 years. Today it stands empty and unprotected by any kind of historic designation.

 

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Learning English Sisler’s Way

Reid Dickie

             In early 1900s, immigrants from Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Ireland and China flooded into Winnipeg. One of the great challenges of the time was to teach them the English language as quickly as possible.

Strathcona School built 1904

In 1905, William Sisler became principal of newly opened Strathcona School at McGregor and Burrows, a role he’d fill for the next 16 years. Sisler came face to face with the problem of teaching English to a classroom of children who may speak 20 different languages by teachers who speak none of them.

Though cumbersome and only moderately effective, the phonetic method of teaching English was the accepted way of the time, requiring segregation of students into language groups. Sisler had a better idea. He called it the “direct method.”

The “direct method” took a lateral approach to diversity, appealing to all languages equally and simultaneously using pictures, objects and actions experienced by the students to build a vocabulary. Lessons were written on blackboards, easy songs and crafts provided repetition and references, students had individual gardens to teach them the names and ways of plants. Actions created meaning and repetition facilitated remembering, the result was English. The “direct method” was so effective it spread to other schools in Manitoba and beyond.

William J. Sisler 1868-1956

Being an honourable stalwart of the British Empire, Sisler insisted on military training with brightly dressed cadets doing drills. He encouraged sports for all his students and created opportunities for individual development, all of which helped generations of new Canadians find their linguistic way in their new home.

Noticing the trend among new immigrants for older teenagers to be out working rather than getting a rudimentary education in English and customs, Sisler convinced the school board to open Evening Schools. His night school idea was an immediate success with 200 showing up the first night, poignantly, many with day students holding their hands and helping them adapt.

Born near Newmarket, Ontario, young Bill Sisler came west working construction for the CPR when he was 18. He attended Winnipeg Collegiate Institute and later Trinity Medical College. He received his teaching certificate from Winnipeg Normal School.

For his stellar work at Strathcona, Daniel McIntyre, Superintendent of Schools, recognized Sisler as an exceptionally creative and engaging educator. In 1921, he chose Sisler to principal the first school in Winnipeg built

Dr. Daniel McIntyre 1852-1946

specifically as a junior high, Isaac Newton Junior High School. Sisler even got to name this precedent-setting school, choosing the British scientist/mathematician whom he held in considerable esteem.

Sisler stayed at Isaac Newton for 16 years during which it became a high school in 1933. He retired in 1938. In retirement, he authored several books: Peaceful Invasion in 1944, which details the challenges of teaching English to non-English students, and Pioneers of Rockwood and Woodlands in 1949. Peaceful Invasion is available in the Local History Room of the Millennium Library.

A few months after Sisler died in 1956, Sisler High School opened. Ironically, the opening of Sisler High resulted in Isaac Newton returning to its original role as a junior high, as it was when Sisler was its principal.

Sisler’s original life plan had been to teach only until he raised enough money to finish his medical education. Luckily for innumerable students thirsty to learn, while at Squirrel Creek School, Sisler decided to stick with teaching.

Find many more stories about Manitoba schools on my Schools page.

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Happy Birthday Guy Maddin

Winnipeg’s Civic Treasure film visionary Guy Maddin said, “Those are my goals, you know. To be smart, tasteless and feeling. Something to shoot for.” and “Rage-thought to live by: in The General, Buster gets so annoyed at his girlfriend’s stupidity for stoking the engine with tiny pieces of wood, he facetiously gives her little toothpicks – which she dutifully feeds into the fire. He then stares at her in disbelief, then delights in her anyway and leaps at her with a kiss. Sweet axiom!” and “Sadness is just happiness turned on its ass—it’s all showbiz!” Roger Ebert named “My Winnipeg” as one of the ten best films of the first decade of the century. Guy turns 55 years old today.

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Who was Yosh Tashiro?

          Yosh Tashiro was one of Manitoba’s most important rural photojournalists. For a quarter of a century, between 1952 and 1975 he was the only photographer for the Daily Graphic, a newspaper that serves the entire Portage la Prairie district. Luckily, his photo negative collection, consisting of some 10,000 individual items, was rediscovered in 2002 in storage at the Fort la Reine Museum. The collection is currently being scanned and conserved by students at Portage Collegiate Institute. Many of Yosh’s black and white photographs along with his life story are now online.

This incredible capture of a young girl on her bike with an uncertain Manitoba sky behind her is one of Yosh's most amazing photographs.

                                                                       

 

Another classic capture by Yosh. Beet boys with angelic expressions and some fine beets.

 See more of Yosh’s photographs

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