The Paddock Restaurant

 Pink hot pants and good tips. That’s what I remember about the summer I worked at the Paddock Restaurant. ad-for-the-paddock-restaurant.pngIn a 1950’s Guide to Winnipeg, there is an ad for the Paddock. I remember the Paddock well because I worked there as a waitress during my university days. The Paddock was located right across the street from the Polo Park shopping mall where the Olive Garden restaurant is today. Before Polo Park was a shopping mall it served as a site for horse racing. Completed in 1925, Polo Park was a six-furlong track built by the Winnipeg Jockey Club. The Paddock Restaurant catered to horse racing fans. By the time I worked there in the early 1970’s Polo Park had become a shopping mall and horse racing had moved further out of the city to Assiniboia Downs.  

the paddock restaurantThe Paddock’s coffee shop, however, remained a popular hang out for racing fans. They’d come in for breakfast and slip into one of the booths underneath the large bay windows that looked out onto busy Portage Avenue. Over endless cups of coffee and breakfast specials, the racing fans would share information about the day’s races and which horses looked promising. Once they had visited the track they’d drop back in for dessert or a late bite and discuss their wins and losses. If the gentlemen had a good day at the betting window it usually meant I’d get a bigger tip. These fellows also liked to engage in a little good-natured flirtation with the waitresses. I was already married and found by fingering my wedding ring as I took their order and deliberately ignoring their advances I could usually discourage most of them. 

diningroom paddock restaurant

The Paddock dining room

Hot pants were the rage in the early seventies and they were our uniform at The Paddock. The serving personnel was exclusively female. Those of us who worked in the coffee shop were all younger and we wore pink shorts with pink short-sleeved tops. The Paddock also had a dining room that served families. The menu was more extensive than in the coffee shop and the waitresses there were all older women. Several had been working at The Paddock for over twenty years. These women wore blue uniforms. Their hot pants were just a little longer than our pink ones. The dining room had a large mural on the wall and subdued lighting, creating an ambience quite different from the one in the sunny coffee shop.

The Paddock kept a treasure-chest by the front till. Children who ate with their parents in the dining room and behaved themselves were allowed to pick a ‘treat’ from the chest as they left the restaurant. The prizes were plastic jewellery, small metal cars and perhaps a miniature colouring book with crayons. It was a big deal for kids to be allowed to pick a prize from the treasure chest. Parents could threaten them with a withdrawal of that privilege and kids would quickly quiet down and eat. I wonder if that kind of bribery would still work today?

paddock restaurant photo by rodney martel

The Paddock in the 1960s. Photo by Rodney Martel.

When I left The Paddock at the end of August in 1974, it was much to the dismay of the head waitress, a large, very tall woman with long jet-black hair she wore pinned up with an Oriental comb. She managed The Paddock waitresses with a firm and experienced hand. She trained us well and hated to have to break in a new server, but I had signed the contract for my first teaching position at Lincoln School and no longer needed my waitressing job. 

 I wonder if I’d still fit into those pink hot pants?

Other posts about Winnipeg eating establishments…
Learning to Cook At DeLucas

Eating With Rock Stars

Devour the District

15 Comments

Filed under History, Restaurants, Winnipeg

15 responses to “The Paddock Restaurant

  1. Neil

    Your description of the Paddock sure being back memories. I worked as a busboy there in the 70s while in jr. High and remember the head waitress very well except cannot remember her name! The Chef was a hoot and Mama and Carl in the Kitchen.

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  2. Ifor.

    Yes! Indeed. I remember it from the mid 50’s and early 60’s. What a great place and what great times we had there way back when.

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  3. that big mural with the fountain in front of it was made of hammered copper by artist Roman Kowal – whatever happened to it ?

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  4. David

    I was at Stevensons Field Navigator training in 1954 – Me and my friends often visited the Paddock – Wonderful memories – Hamburger with “the works”

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  5. Bonnie

    Both my Mother and Grandmother work at the Paddock for many years. My Mom Barbara Whitten at the time, left when she started having us kids in late 60’s but Grandma, Elsie Whitten still worked there for a few more years. She loved the social aspect of it, and the owner Mel, who infact read my Grandfathers eulogy. I have very fond memories of of having lunch and special dinners there. The blue paper placemats were a staple in our home for us to draw on. I still have a few sheets in storage. Of course the treasure chest was a special treat if we behaved through the meal LOL. @missingthegoodolddays

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    • How lovely to hear from you Bonnie. I wonder if I may have worked with your mother and grandmother. Working at the Paddock was great training for me. It sure taught me to appreciate restaurant servers and I have treated them with respect ever since.

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      • Bonnie Thacker

        Hi there, my Grandmothers name was Elsie, Mom’s was Barbara. Both were Whitten at the time. My Mom stopped when she has us kids which started in 67, my grandmother stayed for a few more years. I recall being there several times, vague cool memories. I even still have some of the blue paper place mats! us kids used them at home for plenty of fun, compliments of “uncle Mel’ the owner. 🙂 I hope you did indeed get a chance to meet them both. Amazing, classy ladies they both were. My Mother won the Miss Bonnie Butter competition one year and was given a trip to Toronto and a mink stole, which I still have but do not wear..
        Thanks for the trip down memory lane! The road gets a little foggier as time goes on…

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  6. Christine Hanlon

    Hi MaryLou, It’s Christine Hanlon. I’m working on another book. This time it’s a pictorial book with photos of places that no longer exist in Winnipeg. Do you know the source of the photo near the top. I noticed that it was also printed in the Winnipeg Free Press but, in the article, it doesn’t indicate that it’s a WFP photo. Any help would be most appreciated. Thanks! Christine

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    • Hi Christine,
      I also got the photo from the Free Press article which was printed quite a few years after I wrote the blog post. This blog post has been one of my most popular even though it is old so I updated with the new photos when I saw them. If I know the photographer I always give credit. So no I don’t know who took these. You might try contacting the Free Press writer who did the story. Did you try the Free Press photo store to see if the photos are for sale? Good luck with your new book.
      MaryLou

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  7. barbara summers

    Great restaurant and fantastic entertainment-spent many evenings there.

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  8. Charlene

    When did it get torn down

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  9. Lee folster

    Did they have a jockey take you to your booth? He is my friends brother. It was 12-14 years old

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  10. Pingback: Lessons Waiting Tables | What Next?

  11. the blog about the Paddock Restaurant: would you write a short piece about the winner’s circle and the winding staircase? please? I had my wedding reception in that venue in 1968 and would enjoy reminiscing.

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