I lived at a hospital for a year. When I was five my family made our home in the McEwen Building on the grounds of the St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg. Named after Dr Sanger McEwen a former medical director of the hospital, the building currently houses the St. Boniface psychiatry department. But when I lived there it was an apartment block for interns who were completing their medical degrees.
In the summer of 1959, my family moved into one of the many apartments in the McEwen Building since my father who was a medical student at the University of Manitoba was doing his year of internship at the St. Boniface Hospital.
Our family was assigned a one-bedroom apartment. My parents shared the bedroom with my baby brother who had been born in February of 1958 and I slept on a fold-out couch in the living room with my sister who was three years old. I can remember when we first moved I would wake up at night because I heard the trains on the tracks just across the river, but later I got used to the sound. This postcard was used to advertise the internship program at the St. Boniface Hospital. It features a photo of my mother and my sister sitting at the piano in our apartment. My mother was a talented pianist and college music graduate. This Heintzman piano was a part of every house I lived in as a child. My sister still has it in her home. You can see the small kitchen and our table pushed up against the wall to the left. When we had guests the table was pulled into the living room so we could sit all around it.
There were many other young families living in the building and my mother made friends with the wives of other interns and we often played with their children. There was a large common room in the McEwen Building. At Christmas time in 1959, the Grey Nuns who ran the St. Boniface Hospital hosted a party for the children of the interns. We played games and ate goodies and each of us received a gift from Santa. In the photo, I am sitting on Santa’s knee with my friend Candice. The nuns are walking in with more gifts to add to the pile under the tree.
While we lived at the hospital I attended grade one at Marion School. It was primarily a French school but my class was in English. I took a Winnipeg City Transit bus all on my own to school since Mom thought that was safer than having me walk a mile down busy Provencher Boulevard.
Some of my memories of grade one include being made to stand in the corner because I dropped my thermos in the lunchroom and broke it. This made a noise and we were NEVER to make a sound in the lunchroom. I also remember sitting out in the hall all alone when the priest came to give lessons that would prepare my classmates for taking their first communion. My Mennonite parents asked I be excused from these lessons.
One of my memories of living in the McEwen Building was the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Winnipeg in the summer of 1959. My father took me up onto the roof of the St. Boniface Hospital so he and I could have a bird’s eye view of the queen as she rode down Tache Avenue in her motorcade. I was so excited to see the queen but also so excited to be doing something special with my Dad. I’ve been on a pilgrimage of sorts to visit all of the different places where I lived in Winnipeg as a child. This week I went back to my third home in the city.
Want to read about my previous visits to my past homes?
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