Tag Archives: main street

Flower Shop, 110 Main Street, Carberry, MB


Reid Dickie

Crossing Third Avenue heading north

Manitoba’s lone Heritage District features two buildings used extensively by various telephone systems. The building across the street at 121 Main was built by Manitoba Telephones and became the new home of the switchboard and telephone operators after 1939. The flower shop building was used by Bell Telephone company from 1906 to 1908 then it was taken over by Manitoba Government Telephones. Since 1980 it has been series of flower shops including Phyll’s Flower Shop,  Arlene’s Floral Boutique and Flowers and Gifts.

Though thoroughly clad in metal siding now, beneath lurks another fine one-storey brick structure with flat roof. Unassuming andCARBERRY OCTOBER PICTURES 112 utilitarian, the building’s facade is a symmetrical display of central entrance bracketed by large display windows. This side view shows the addition at the rear of the building.

Pa Tuckett’s daughter Jane worked as a switchboard operator in this building for about six months before moving into the new telephone building across the street. “Jane had a sweet and very distinctive voice that people recognized on the street and on the phone,”  says Pa.

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Modern Bakery, 42 Main Street, Carberry, MB


Reid Dickie

Next along Main Street…

Modern Bakery was constructed after 1896 and retains its intricate brick detailing, adding rich Romanesque Revival qualities to the only designated Heritage District in Manitoba. While the main floor accommodates large display windows and a cut-in entrance plus access to the second floor, it is on the second storey the lovely brickwork can still be seen.

CARBERRY OCTOBER PICTURES 121Divided into three bays separated by bold corbelled pilasters with a window in each bay, the second storey reveals several interesting brick details. The plain brick cornice surmounts an area of indented bricks forming an appealing pattern across each bay. Below that is some delicate corbelling and a stringcourse of dog toothing. Each of the three windows has segmental arches with a keystone and drip moulding, their sills roughcarberry main limestone.

In this vintage picture of the street, the bakery is the fifth building from the left. You can see it once sported a tall prominent  parapet and elaborate cornice at the top of the first floor.

The building as long served Carberry as a bakery and cafe run by several families including the Cricks, Appels and Alders.

Pa Tuckett remembers the giant gooey cinnamon buns the bakery made. “You could smell them halfway down the block. Best advertising they had. And a pretty decent cup of joe to go with them.”

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Forbes Building, 40 Main Street, Carberry, MB


Reid Dickie

More built heritage along Carberry’s main drag.

Going by the brick detailing on the second floor facade, the Forbes Building and its neighbouring Kowalchuk Block are twin sisters linked at the adjoining wall. Design elements, such as the drip moulding,  American bond, corbelling and segmental arches above the windowsCARBERRY OCTOBER PICTURES 125 are shared by both buildings.

Notice the delicate wood frame detail between and above the individual panes.

The main floor is attractive with its recessed entrance surrounded by large display windows below a series of transoms. I suspect the entrance to its second floor is next door at the Kowalchuk Block.

CARBERRY OCTOBER PICTURES 124The Forbes Building, erected in late 1890s, served as commercial home to two long-time Carberry businesses. Funeral directors  J. B. Davey and Son were early occupants. Carberry Radio-Electric inhabited the space for a number of decades.

Pa Tuckett bought his first TV at Carberry Radio-Electric. “It was 1961 when I decided TV wasn’t just a fad. The roof antennae blew off three times in the first year.”

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Moon Apartments, 30 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Moon Apartments

Reid Dickie

In the exposed brickwork lives visible heritage.

Continuous rows of original 1890s brick buildings are exceedingly rare in Manitoba making the existing ones precious. Carberry boasts one of the best! Seven buildings with second-storey brickwork largely intact and completely visible comprise most of the block and Moon Apartments certainly adds to the heritage value.

This two-storey brick building, built in late 1890s, has served the community well with mixed uses and functions, both commercial and residential. Currently the ground floor features two storefronts with large display windows and access to the apartments above.

As visible on the second floor, the street facade offers a symmetrical three-bay structure divided by shallow brick pilasters. Employing Classical design elements, the facade dances with expressive Detail of second floor brickworkornamentation, achieved using masonry techniques. This picture of the middle window shows the various details. Starting with the simple flat brick cornice and the two-stepped corbels beneath it. The indented row and the dog toothed course run below. The tall second floor windows are accentuated with a continuous stringcourse of drip moulding (raised brick) and capped with radiating headers and smooth stone sills. Spread across the three bays, the moderate brickwork enlivens the whole building.

The building has been known by several names – Robertson Block, Natural Wellness Centre, Moon Block – and housed a multitude of commercial tenants and residents over the decades.

After Amelia, his wife of less than a year, died of the Spanish flu in 1918, Pa Tuckett sold their bungalow on Dufferin Street and moved into the Robertson Block, as it was then known. Rent was $7 a month for a furnished room. In apartment #3, Pa mourned his lost love.

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C.V.M. Cafe, 24 Main Street, Carberry, MB

CVM Cafe in Carberry

Reid Dickie

Crossing the street now, we explore the heritage wonders to be found on the east side of Carberry’s historic Main Street.

Starting at the south end of Main Street on the east side, today we find a modern Bank of Montreal and another new building housing an insurance office. These buildings occupy the area where the Western Hotel stood for many decades. The hotel was torn down in the early 1970s and a Chimo Lumberyard operated by Gerry Anderson was built on the site.

Victoria Hall Block on right front.

The parking lot next door was originally the site of the long demolished Victoria Hall Block which is the three-storey building in the picture above.

Long view of CVM Cafe and its position on the street.The next surviving heritage building houses C.V.M. Cafe which came into being during the Second World War. The cafe is named for its three original owners: A. R. Calvert, V. H. Vopni and M. P. Menlove. The place later became a Chinese restaurant operated by the Kwan Yuen family.

Beneath the unattractive blue vertical cladding is a brown-red brickCVM facade structure built in the late 1890s that represents typical commercial facilities of the time. Highly visible at the south end of the row of brick buildings, the narrow, two-storey rectangular form of brick construction with flat roof has been expanded and modified over the years. Other functional features include the off-centre entrance on the ground floor and the trio of second floor windows.

CARBERRY0002Pa Tuckett recalls spending many an hour jawing with the other retired old boys over a coffee at the C.V.M. “You could always count on at least one other bullshitter to be there,” Pa said.

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Sid’s Garage, 135 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

Set back from the street, this antique store is the next point of interest in Manitoba’s only designated Heritage District.

In 1931, Alf Lounsbury came to Carberry and worked as a mechanic alongside Pa Tuckett. Pa has fond memories of Alf. “He was ambitious, you know, he could see himself standing in the middle of his own garage with big showroom windows and every car part you would ever need. And that’s where Alf wound up, in the middle of his dream. He was a success.”

Alf Lounsbury, the real guy, operated the first Bituminous Paver in the area which was used on old Hwy #1 from Carberry to Brandon.  Today we call the road PR 351. Alf later worked for Manitoba Hydro. Alf rented the B.A. Service Station next to Barrister’s Garage in Carberry. Then he bought the building, tore it down and built his dream garage. That was 1949. Alf ran it for 33 years before selling it to Sid Parker, when it became Sid’s Texaco Service and garnered its new and present name.

This early picture of the garage shows its basic utilitarian design: two large service doors and two large showroom windows bracket the central entrance. It appears Alf sold White Rose gasoline.

In the post-war years, people gained personal mobility and the age of the automobile began changing the landscape, not the least of which were filling stations and garages to feed and service the growing number of cars and trucks. Alf’s low-slung, one-storey building suited this purpose well as did hundreds of others of similar design across the country.

Adaptable, today Sid’s Garage houses a very good antique store called Off Beat n Antiques that’s worth the 3 km drive off the Trans Canada Highway to visit.

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Manitoba Telephone System Building, 121 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Strolling along the main drag now we encounter a rare delight!

Reid Dickie

Before the days of dial telephones, which was long before the days of cell phones for anyone under 40, you turned a crank on your telephone and an actual human being asked what number you wanted to reach, dialed it for you and waited until you either got an answer or didn’t. Actual humans!! We called them “operators.” This happened daily in this building in Carberry and in others like it in most every little Manitoba town and village.

Plus, among the somber but elegant brick buildings along the street, this eye-catching pile served its purpose: to remind people to use the telephone because inside women you likely knew were waiting to connect you up. And, as they sat hunched over their switchboards, or switchboreds, listen in on your conversation as likely as not.

The Spanish Colonial Revival detail of the red adobe tile false roofs on three sides accentuates the compactness of the massing and the sweet roofline, one step, pilasters telling us when, all plain as plain can be. Yet it catches the eye and the ear, makes me want to call someone up, tell a few lies and see how quickly they get around town. Small town telephone roulette, let ‘er spin!!

Contrasting with the stucco cladding is the red soldier course of standing brick around the windows and door. The chunky wide brackets under each fake roof give the roofs principle.

MTS built lots of these little buildings all over Manitoba in the late 1930s and during the war years. Carberry’s was likely built in 1941, one of the few that I can think of remaining in southern Manitoba. Precious, spaced nicely between its neighbours to allow full access to all facades and a familiar landmark in downtown Carberry, the last telephone office before dial phones continues to be used as offices and still acts as a fanciful exclamation point along the street.

Pa Tuckett was twenty-three years old when he first talked on a telephone. He never owned a telephone until he was thirty-eight years old. His number in Carberry was 87.

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Carberry – North Cypress Library, 115 Main St., Carberry, MB

Our amble down Carberry’s Main Street takes us past one of the town’s most symbolic buildings. 

Reid Dickie

While most of the buildings along Main Street have been used for numerous purposes, often overlapping, this compact little structure has served but two high-profile uses since it was built in 1938: federal post office and regional library.

The original building was the basic cube on the left of the picture. The addition complements the original building in style and materials. Overall, Art Deco describes the building’s architecture. Popular into the 1940s for federal government buildings, the style easily adapted to small town requirements of size and functionality.

Elements defining Art Deco here are the boxy massing, flat roofline, well-defined geometric lines and the low-relief ornamentation. Tall windows surrounded by soldier courses of bricks and limestone sills, the limestone surround of the main entrance contrasting with the red-brown brick and the stepped pavilion of the entrance all exude simplicity and durability, modern practicality at its highest…for 1938.

Now used as a book return, the brass mail chute is original as is the date stone and frontispiece lamps. This little building continues its symbolic role in the Carberry community, not just as a library, but because of its intergenerational contribution to the heritage district.

For the first 25 years he lived in Carberry, Pa Tuckett got his mail through General Delivery. But in 1938 he acquired his first and only post office box: #123. Pa joked, “I asked for a harder number to remember but this is all they had.”

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Bricks, Stones and So On Along Reid’s Road

Reid Dickie

“Speed River, take me away, Speed River, take me away.” – Gord Downie

“Life is a journey and where you are going is HERE and when you arrive is NOW.” – Ram Dass

The Arcades of Hartney

In downtown Hartney, MB, prominent on a corner, stands this lovely old two-storey brick building. The series of arches formed by the brickwork under the cornice is called an arcade and Hartney has several arcades that attracted my heritage geekeye. You know the one.

Anyway, this is a particularly precise arcade, mixed and measured into the corbelled brickwork which continues along the exposed side of the place. The craftsmanship of the masonry overall on the building is exceptional, the crown on the end pilasters an excellent example.

Today its broad showroom windows light the Hart (ney) – Cam (eron RM) Museum. Incidentally, this building served as the bank location in an entertaining little movie called The Lookout Try to watch it.

Just down the block from the museum is another arcade. Cruelly painted and indulging itself in mid-peel mode, the brickwork still shines through. If you click and zoom the pic you can see that the original intent of the artisan who laid this arcade cannot be diminished by mere paint and hue.

Right next to the museum is another fine brick structure prompting awe with its deft and detailed design and execution. The three arches over the rounded windows form a sweeping, open arcade that gives the facade breath and life, “articulating and disambiguating the fenestration of the ground floor.” The main floor is a whole other study in arches, dominant and submissive, abetted by alluring brickwork. That’s another post for another late night.

Corbelling, dentils and aviated keystones enhance the arcade, the quality of the craftsmanship still evident and whole, a century after construction.

Wooden trestle bridge from abandoned rail line next to Hwy #23 just east of Elgin, MB with sunflowers as far as you can see. August 2012

No, it’s the family name.

Miniota Main Street Brickwork 

I am always attracted to exceptional brickwork, especially when it contrasts with the metal cladding favoured in many towns. The skyline of Miniota has a few shapes that resonate back to its birth and subsequent enterprise, its boomtown moment, a worthy endeavour and one to be encouraged elsewhere. 

One side of Miniota’s main drag has a series of facade rooflines that are replicated in brick. As in this picture, there are pointed and rounded shapes using header dentils and cornice, soft corbelling and interesting finishes and colour choices.

Just down the block two more one-storey  brick commercial buildings constructed around the same time with the rounded brickwork and again interesting finishes.

Down the street is this official looking building with the pointed facade and the infrequent double dentil, the corner stepped-brick brackets, again infrequent and the American bond of the bricks inside the surmounting pediment, contrasting with the running bond of the rest of the pile. It has a story or two to tell, I would say.

Yup, usta be Uno. Just one house and this sign now.

Out there, lonesome, Mansard roof tumbledown, howling wind, rotting, swallows, lightning-ready, the rods, gulps, stones, falling away, sunken, sunk. Find it along MB Hwy 21 south of Hartney. Expect more visually inspired stuff from this place…all hush, hush for now!

No clue! You?

More restoration work happening in Spruce Woods Park after last summer’s devastating flood. These are straw mats held down with webbing meant to restore some green growth along the road to stabilize the ditches. The thick grey floodcake that covered large areas of the park left by last year’s floodwaters has been hauled away and these mats secured in place.

 Some growth is already occurring. I’ll report later in summer on the progress of this method.

I’m always on the road, passing back and forth through the vanishing point, getting out of the mighty Avenger, smelling the fresh prairie breezes, feeling the hot sun on my flesh, always curious about what’s around the next corner, ever seeking the ‘what was that?!’ moment and often finding it. Every mile a safe mile.

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Ray’s Diner, 43 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

Our next stop along Manitoba’s only Heritage District gets us to Ray’s Diner.

Obviously no longer Ray’s Diner but still known as such for heritage purposes, 43 Main Street is much like its southerly neighbours as reported in my two previous posts in this series. A practical commercial space, also built about 1900, Ray’s Diner is a one-storey structure with wide display windows flanking the central entrance, flat shed roof and stucco walls.

As you can see in this earlier picture, the place had some nice brick corbelling just below the cornice and elaborate brackets on the tall pilasters separating the buildings. “Modernized” now, meaning most of its heritage character has been covered over by cladding and fake stonework, the building still contributes to the historic nature of Carberry’s Main Street.

Over the decades this location has housed numerous businesses including offices for auctioneer R. H. Lindsay, Knuckey’s Barber Shop, T. D. Stickle’s grocery, Al’s Coffee Shop and a hardware store run by Cliff Addison.

Pa Tuckett, who had a head of thick, black hair, remembers jawing with Knuckey the Barber. People called him A. J. While discussing the major issues of early small town life, A. J. always gave his customers a clean cut and a sharp shave. “He never drew blood, not even once,” affirms Pa.


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Switzer’s Red and White Store, 39 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

The next building in our jaunt through Manitoba’s only Heritage District – Carberry’s Main Street

Its original brickwork is caked over, a modest updating changed the windows and the entrance and smoothed away its character and history but the little space, known generationally as Switzer’s Red and White Store, adds its own reverberation to Carberry’s Historic Main Street.

This one-storey utilitarian storefront has housed numerous businesses, including implement dealers, butchers, grocers and furniture dealers since its construction around 1900. Similar in size and style to its neighbours – The Style Shop and Ray’s Diner –  Switzer’s is typical of the type of adaptable and practical commercial buildings that sprang up all over rural Manitoba in its town building days.

In this picture from Carberry’s early days, you can see the brick facade of Switzer’s and its adjoining neighbours.

Pa Tuckett told me about Gregor, short for Gregorian, Mason who ran a butcher shop in this building. He said Mason was the best butcher he ever met, always did clean, safe and fast work and still had all his fingers after two decades wielding the saw and the blade. “That’s the sign of a good butcher,” Pa said.

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Nelson Butt Building, 31 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

The fifth heritage building along the main drag is a beaut!

Although similar to its neighbour, the Murphy Block, the Nelson Butt Building makes a striking impression along Carberry’s Main Street, Manitoba’s only Heritage District, due to its distinctive design, use of colour and lack of alternation. Joseph R. Thompson built both these commercial establishments; the Butt Building was erected about 1896 and over the decades housed a variety of businesses including law offices, a bank and a butcher shop. In its early days it was called the Joseph Thompson Building. The place earned its present name by being home to the jewellery store of Nelson J. Butt from 1946 until 1992.

The streetview of the building is a symmetrical dance of depth where brick arc and wood angle sway and commingle in sweet baths of white or red, figure and ground. The dancing balance is embodied in the superb stepped corbelling along and below the cornice, enlightened by large display windows that bare and entice, sidelights and transoms in the recessed entry which promises unknown delights within.  Three sensuous white arches pride the roofline and the two pairs of second floor windows. In this early picture you can see the front elevation is virtually the same today as it was when it was constructed 116 years ago.

 A little tearfully, Pa Tuckett recalls the first time he set eyes on Amelia Lusk, a teller at the bank that once occupied the Butt Building. She was new in town, from Souris, and had raven hair that shone in all kinds of light, almond-shaped pale grey eyes with thick lashes and a reluctant smile. She took Pa’s breath away and left him trembling and speechless at the wicket, unsure what to do with his paycheque for $14.42. It was 1917. They got married a year later.


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Royal Canadian Legion, 25 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

Here’s part three of our jaunt back in time on Carberry’s Main Street.

Modest, sturdy and practical, one-storey brick buildings sprang up in most growing Manitoba towns, supporting a variety of commercial and social uses. Built in the 1890s as two separate long narrow buildings, Carberry has an excellent example of utilitarian town building. The business roles of the two buildings changed frequently until they were merged in the mid-1950s and became the Royal Canadian Legion, a hub of social interaction in the little town. Pa Tuckett has fond memories of “bending a few with the old boys” at the Legion.

Though primarily functional, this little one-storey has a few elements of interest. The buildings are both wider than usual, have flat roofs, brick walls and stone and brick foundations. A shallow pilaster indicates the original border between the two spaces. Their interiors are deep and open and now connected with a partial opening in the separating wall.

In this picture from Carberry’s early days, the Legion is the second building in. It had lovely brick corbelling along the cornice and well-defined indented entrances. It’s possible some of that brickwork still exists behind the blue cladding above the entrance.

Today the little buildings, now united behind a single facade, sport the bright red Royal Canadian Legion signage and the Canadian flag flying above. My picture doesn’t do it justice. It inspires a disproportionate amount of awe for its size. Nestled between the Charlie Sear Building and the Murphy Block (the next post in this series), perhaps its role bringing continuity to the heritage ambience of the street accounts for some of that.

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Charlie Sear Building, 19-21 Main Street, Carberry, MB

Reid Dickie

This is part two of our stroll up one side and down the other of Carberry’s Main Street, Manitoba’s only Heritage District.

When he began working at Sear’s Garage in Carberry, Pa Tuckett was just a lad of eighteen. He started out as a “mechanically-inclined grease monkey” and wound up being “the best mechanic for fifty miles.” Pa always said one of the best parts of the job was going to work in the great building that local contractor and entrepreneur James White had built between 1903 and 1905.

Located prominently on a double lot on Carberry’s Main Street, the Romanesque Revival style Charlie Sear Building makes a striking contribution to Manitoba’s only Heritage District. Large and elegantly imposing, the brick two-storey building on a stone foundation was designed specifically to distribute and service farm machinery and vehicles and provide commercial space to other businesses. Besides Sear’s Garage, several businesses and agencies have inhabited the place over the decades including Reilly’s Hardware, Plumbing and Electrical Supplies, Spirit Sands Support Service, Home Hardware and Central Garage. 

The place sports many attractive exterior elements, not the least of which is a gorgeous street elevation. The front facade’s symmetrical second floor features several defining elements of Romanesque Revival style. These include the three large arched openings with keystones surmounting pairs of windows, the corbelled and arcaded cornice with a central arcaded pediment, the corner pilasters with raised capitals and the horizontal banding accentuated by rusticated stone window sills. The tiny off-centre window is a curious anomaly to the otherwise balanced facade.

Unfortunately the appearance of the Sear Building we see today is a muted phantom of its original grandeur. Somewhere in its 110 year history the workmanship and decorative detailing of the brickwork was severely obscured by a covering of plaster. This archival picture of the building shows its original design and beautiful detailing. Instead of sharp-edged brick elements that jump out, today we get an almost adobe feeling from the place, fuzzy and bulbous. In my picture of the front and side of the building, you can see some covering is falling off revealing red bricks beneath.

Nonetheless, the Charlie Sear Building is one more reason for heritage buffs to visit Carberry this year. The living, changing history of Carberry is written large and lovingly, not just on Main Street, but all over the little town and its outskirts.  I have posted often about the area’s heritage aspects which you can access on this blog by selecting Carberry from my Categories menu. Happy heritaging!

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Carberry – Manitoba Heritage Gem!

Reid Dickie

Most prairie towns in Manitoba have experienced ongoing physical renewal over the last 130 years with older commercial and residential buildings burned or torn down and replaced with new structures. The faces of Main Streets all over the province are in continuous flux. Exceptions to this process are rare and precious and one in particular stands out – Carberry, Manitoba

Located 42 kms east of Brandon and three kms south of the Trans Canada Highway, Carberry bucked the typical raze-and-build trend of most small towns and proudly retained most of its original brick and mortar architecture from its formative years in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Because of this, Carberry has garnered the distinction of having Manitoba’s first and, so far, only Heritage District. Designated by the provincial heritage people, two blocks of the town’s Main Street comprise the district, which includes 28 buildings, all of them deemed significant for their architectural and historical value. It’s a little slice of heritage heaven.

As a bit of a teaser, this shot shows one section of Carberry’s Main Street – a continuous row of original brick buildings sporting the elaborate decorative brickwork of the era. Though the first floor facades have been changed over the decades to accommodate various tenants and owners, the second floors remain mostly original, an exceedingly rare example of an early small town Manitoba streetscape.

Here’s my plan: I have photographed all the buildings in the Heritage District and plan to develop written descriptions for each, posting them individually on this blog over the summer. With my trusty JVC Everio I have shot video of the district which I will edit and post on my YouTube channel soon along with this series.

Its central location makes Carberry a great destination for daytrippers all over southern Manitoba. Besides its amazing Main Street, Carberry has several other heritage gems. I have blogged about their White house, Lyon house, agricultural display building, octagonal siloSt. Agnes Anglican Church, Carberry United Church Be sure to check out the Carberry Plains Museum and the building it is housed in.

I have spent a lot of time in and around Carberry over the past few years. Spruce Woods Park is just 28 kms south of Carberry, Criddle/Vane Homestead and Camp Hughes are nearby. 

For clarity, this project is of my own volition and I have no connection, financial or otherwise, to Carberry or any business in the area. I do have an appreciation of its architectural uniqueness and its location in the world, both of which motivate this series. My first post will be in a few days. As ever, I welcome all feedback.

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Lucky, Very Lucky

Reid Dickie

“We never know how we will affect people by just being who we are.” – Chris Scholl

Looking back over my six decades as Reid Dickie, I see patterns that define who I am. The older I get and the more honest I am with myself, the more evident my patterns become. Recurring events and themes that were confusing and unhappy at the time now make sense in the long view. By seeking out our patterns, we make ourselves wise, wise about ourselves and others, wise about the world. The trade-off in this life is wisdom for youth. As our bodies age and start to limit us, we are given the opportunity to become wise, to blossom mentally, possibly spiritually. Wisdom is not guaranteed though. It takes work. 

A major pattern of my life has been luck. Starting when I was a little boy I can recall my father often saying to me that I had a lucky horseshoe up my bum. When your father tells you something like that, you tend to take it literally which I did until Mom explained what he meant.  Dad was trying to tell me what a lucky boy I was. In the long view, he was right, as ever! Dad’s wisdom flowed smoothly and naturally through him. He inspired me more and more intensely the older and wiser he got. Every day I aspire to become like him. I have my work cut out for me.

Whether I was born lucky or grew into it, the horseshoe became a lifelong symbol and reminder of my good fortune. It certainly contributed to the notion that we create our own luck. Here’s an example of creating my own luck.

I am one of those incredibly lucky people who knew from a young age what I wanted to do with my life, what I wanted to “be.” When I was eleven I decided I would become a radio announcer, more specifically a disc jockey. I remember earnestly discussing this with my parents when I was about 12. Although, as parents do, they both had higher aspirations for their only child: Mom wanted a doctor and Dad wanted…huh? Dad wanted me to be myself. Whoever that was or would be, that’s what Dad wanted me to “be.” Thanks Dad. Though Mom persisted good-naturedly with the doctor thing, we all decided that if I wanted to be a disc jockey, I’d be a damn good one and go to school to learn how it was done well. And I did.

After two years studying Radio and television Arts at Ryerson in Toronto, I got my first radio job in Flin Flon at CFAR where I was DJ, news reader, commercial writer and general joeboy. I loved it! I had made the right choice. Nine months later, in 1971, I got on at CKX in Brandon where I did the all-night show for 23 months. Five nights a week, starting at 1 a.m., I played whatever music I wanted for four hours then two hours of country music from 5 to 7 a.m. and I was done. I loved it! In the summer of 1973 I got a job in a major market – Winnipeg on CFRW-FM. At the time CFRW-FM simulcast the AM station for 18 hours a day and let me free range in their FM band for the other six. Again I could play or do whatever I wanted…and did. I loved it!

Hairy and happy, this is a picture of me in the CFRW-FM studio about 1974. There are more pics of me from my radio days in the Gallery.

For a short time after I got there, CFRW-FM studios were in the Confederation Building on the bend on Winnipeg’s Main Street. The station moved across the street to the old CKY radio studios near Main and McDermot. (The building is gone now.) The FM studio happened to be the very same studio where the CKY DJs who inspired me to work in radio did their shows in the early 1960s. I had come full circle. I had been devoured by the medium and spit out nightly on air, free to do and be whoever I wanted in a major market! It was the fruition of my dream from when I was eleven, a little bit of heaven, a luxury that few DJs thereafter ever got to experience. I created my radio fantasy for nearly two years before CHUM from Toronto bought both stations, turning FM into heavily-formatted CHIQ-FM.

CHUM buying CFRW-FM was another irony of my radio career. When I attended Ryerson in Toronto, I listened to CHUM-FM which was a terrific free-form radio station, a creative leader. CHUM-FM inspired the style of radio I would do in my early career but, in Winnipeg, CHUM was eliminating free-form radio in favour of tight formats.

Since its inception in the 1930s, FM radio had largely been a commercial mystery to broadcasters. Its stereo capacity attracted classical music but it wasn’t until the 1960s that FM’s commercial potential began to be exploited. First it was free-form radio, alternative, hippie stations that played lots of new music, had no format and played no hits. This was the first hint that FM held enormous possibilities to make money. By the mid-1970s FM had come under the thumb of the “format geniuses” and the end of free-form loomed. I was among the last DJs on a commercial station to create radio without formats or any kind of restrictions, other than playing the Club Beer commercials after 10 p.m. College and university radio stations would provide the next opportunity for people to create free-form radio. I was very lucky.

CFRW-FM added to my luck because it was there I met Linda. She worked in various capacities at the station, one of which was to give me a wake-up call about 1:00 every the afternoon. Linda lived in my neighbourhood so we started to hang out together, fell madly in love and spent the next thirty-three years together. Again, lucky, lucky!

Since getting online ten years ago, I have been contacted out of the blue by three former radio listeners who remember my work at CFRW-FM. All three claimed that my words and music left an indelible impression on their lives, whether it was their taste in music, their outlook on life or as an example of personal freedom. Recently one former listener contacted me and I hope he won’t mind if I quote his first email: I just wanted to let you know that you had a most profound affect on my life. I listened to your radio show on CFRW FM nearly every night. I`m talking about the show you did from 8pm -2am. Your words and music have stayed with me in my life. Right now I can barely type these words as memories keep flooding back. I am glad I was able to finally tell these things to you. Thank you so much. And remember “the harder you pull, the tighter it gets”.

I was surprised, humbled and overwhelmed by this email. I am enormously grateful to this man for sharing with me. Talk about a day-maker! As my friend Chris pointed out in this post’s opening quote, we never know the positive change we make in the world by simply being ourselves, by following our bliss. But every once in a while…

Lucky, very lucky!!


Filed under 1960s, Blog Life, Family, Life and Life Only, Linda, Love, Winnipeg

The Arches of Russell

         A drive down Main Street in Russell, MB comes with a real visual treat. The story goes that these wooden arches were rescued from Dauphin when they were tearing down the old arena. Just 7 days away from becoming land fill, a senior Dauphin resident brought forward a photograph of the then-new wooden arches arriving by train. In the picture a clear stamp indicated the 32 ply nailed wooden laminate arches came from a former Russell business, the Glu-Rite Rafters Company, owned by Carl Mantie. It is now believed that this is a homecoming for the massive structures. The arches truly are both historical evidence of superior craftsmanship and modern engineering genius. That’s mostly what the town’s website says.           Serendipitous, inventive and a fine recycling of history – huzzah to Russell!

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Filed under Heritage Buildings, PRAIRIES, Roadside Attractions