I stopped on my way home from work yesterday to take photos of the newest art installation in my neighborhood. It is called Bloody Sunday and is located in front of the Pantages Theatre. The steel and glass artwork was created by Noam Gonick and Bernie Miller.
Image from the Manitoba Archives
The sculpture recreates a pivotal moment near the end of the Winnipeg Strike of 1919. The strike had first begun on May 15 when 30,000 workers walked off the job and took to the streets. They wanted better working conditions, recognition of unions and higher wages. On June 1 10,000 returning World War I soldiers had marched on the legislature to show their support for the strike. They were concerned about massive unemployment and inflation. On Sunday, June 21 strikers gathered once again to protest the arrest of their leaders and the closure of the strikers’ newspaper. A streetcar being operated by workers who had replaced the strikers approached and the strikers surrounded it rocking it from side to side and trying to tip it over. Eventually, they smashed the windows and set the streetcar on fire. That’s when the North West Mounted Police moved in and a violent clash led to two of the strikers being killed and twenty- seven injured. Ninety-four strikers were arrested. Just five days later on June 26th the strike ended. The new sculpture is located just across the street from the Winnipeg City Hall. At the official dedication of the sculpture Mayor Brian Bowman said the sculpture is easily viewed from the window of his office so it will act as a constant reminder to future mayors of an important event in the city’s history.
Strike- The Mural
I Live in an Art Gallery
The Winnipeg Strike- Fact or Fiction?
After seeing STRIKE at Rainbow Stage last week I was reminded of a mural that used to be on the south wall of what is now The Palomino Club on Main Street. Painted by Tom Andrich in 2006 it told the same story as the musical, its illustrations giving life to one of the most memorable events in Winnipeg history, the strike of 1919. In May of that year, some 30,000 workers walked off the job because of poor working conditions and a lack of employment opportunities for World War I veterans. Union organizers had been passionately advocating for an eight-hour workday, collective bargaining and the need for employers to pay a living wage. Mural artist Tom Andrich chose to highlight nine of the strike leaders. The woman right in front is Helen Armstrong. Nicknamed Wild Woman of the West she was a union organizer who championed the cause of working women. Born in Toronto and married to a carpenter named George she moved to Winnipeg with him in 1905 where Helen became the leader of the Women’s Labor League. Her leadership helped bring a minimum wage to Manitoba. I was glad to see that Helen was given a major role in the musical Strike and was played in a strong and brilliant fashion by Andrea Del Campo a veteran of the Winnipeg acting scene. During the Winnipeg Strike Helen organized kitchens to feed female strikers and harassed strikebreakers who were crossing the picket line. She encouraged women to boycott stores where the workers were on strike and challenged them to join the men who were on strike. She was arrested and jailed for inciting people to strike, disorderly conduct and encouraging the abuse of strikebreakers.
Winnipeg business owners organized a Citizen’s Committee of One Thousand to oppose the strikers. They blamed foreign immigrants for the strike and some were deported. The majority of the strikers, however, were British. In the Rainbow Stage production, A.J. Andrews who was the mayor of Winnipeg during the strike and one of the founders of the Citizen’s Committee of One Thousand is played in a properly villainous fashion by actor Kevin McIntyre.On June 21, 1919, war veterans organized a parade to protest the arrest of labor leaders. They were also upset at the government edict that the labor movement newspaper could no longer be published. 6,000 people gathered in front of City Hall. When a streetcar, operated by strikebreakers came by the protesters overturned it and set it on fire. In the Rainbow Stage production, a replica of the streetcar makes an impressive appearance on stage.
The federal government had sent out the Royal North West Mounted Police to help put an end to the strike. Carrying clubs and firearms the North West Police charged into the crowd after the streetcar was overturned. They began to fire their weapons.
June 21, 1919, became known as Bloody Saturday because the North West Mounties killed two strikers, wounded thirty-four and made nearly a hundred arrests. Tom Andrich’s mural on Main Street had a portrait of one of the men who died. His name was Mike Sokolowski. Although almost nothing is known of Mike Sokolowiski beyond the few often contradictory details recounted by Winnipeg newspapers reporting on his death, he is the main star in the Rainbow Stage production of Strike and is played by Cory Wojcik. After Bloody Saturday the strike organizers fearing more violence called the strike to a halt and the strikers went back to work on June 26th. I took these photos of Tom Andrich’s strike mural on September 15, 2012. I captured the artwork just in time because later that same month a wicked rain and wind storm ripped the vinyl mural from the wall and damaged it beyond repair. Thankfully in this hundredth anniversary year of the strike, there are plenty of other ways to learn about its events. Many media stories have been written about the strike, books for young people published and of course, there is still time to see the lavish retelling of the story at Rainbow Stage.
Note: Tom Andrich the artist of the Winnipeg Strike mural died last year. You can read more about him on The Murals of Winnipeg site.
The Winnipeg Strike- Fact and Fiction
Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot
Celebrating Our Marriage History in a Historical Building
Last Saturday I visited the new Russlander exhibit at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum. It tells the story of the Mennonites who immigrated to Canada from Ukraine in the 1920s. I noticed so many artifacts that brought back memories of our own family’s experiences. One display case was filled with travel documents that people needed to leave Ukraine in the 1920s and travel to Canada. Each immigrant had to receive approval from a Canadian Pacific medical officer. We are fortunate to have the same kinds of documents for both of my husband’s parents who immigrated to Canada as small children. The document above is the medical certificate for my husbands’ father Cornelius Driedger’s family. Dave’s dad is the small boy on the right. Also pictured are Cornelius’ father Abram N. Driedger, his mother Margaretha Friesen Driedger and his sister Agatha. They immigrated to Canada on June 23, 1924.
My mother-in-law, Anne Enns although only two years old had her own identification card and medical certificate.Her medical certificate has two dates August 10th 1925 and October 8th 1925. In a memoir written by Mom’s uncle I read that her family’s first attempt to migrate was delayed because of the health problems of a family member. Perhaps this is why Mom’s medical certificate was stamped twice on two different dates. I know Mom’s family arrived in Quebec City on October 17th 1925 and that the ocean voyage took approximately nine days so the second stamp will have been put on the certificate just before her family got on board the ship the S.S. Minnedosa for their journey to Canada. According to Mom’s family memoir, Dr. Drury, the name of the medical officer on the earlier stamp on Mom’s certificate, was from Canada and made the rounds of various Mennonite villages in Ukraine to examine potential immigrants and stamp their certificates. I noticed that both Mom’s certificate and one I saw at the Mennonite Heritage Village were stamped by Dr. Drury. I think Mom’s photo on her medical certificate was taken from this family photo. Mom is with her parents Gertrude and Heinrich Enns, her older sister Gertrude and her brothers Peter, Johann, Diedrich and Heinrich.
The immigration documents I saw at the museum and the ones belonging to our families were a ticket to a more hopeful future for people who had lost everything during the Russian Revolution.
There were many other artifacts in the Russlander exhibit that connected with our family’s experience. I will feature them in future blog posts.
A Luxury Car- A Family Story
What’s a Break Event?
Anne Enns Driedger
Filed under Family, History
I’ve been helping my Dad sort and downsize. We tackled his study first. As he and I went through books and photographs and cleaned out cupboards and drawers we came upon lots of treasures. It was interesting to hear Dad’s stories about them.
This cowbell is probably even older than my father. When he was a young boy it was his job to take the cows to the pasture in summer. About a dozen families in the village of Gnadenthal in southern Manitoba jointly owned a large tract of fenced-in pasture land at the west end of the village. Each family took turns in the mornings and evenings herding the cows to and from the pasture. My Dad did the job when it was his family’s turn.
A photocopied photo of Dad’s trusty horse General
After their own cows were milked Dad would get on his horse General, ride to the pasture and open the gate. Then he’d go to the east end of the village and start ringing his cowbell. This was a signal for the farmers along the village street to bring their cows out. At each house, that family’s cattle would join the caravan.
This photocopied picture of Rover was in a scrapbook my Aunt Mary made for my Dad.
Although the cows all knew their way to the pasture instinctively and usually walked in docile fashion down the length of the village and through the pasture gate, Dad had his dog Rover along to help round up any stray cows that might think it was a good idea to graze in the ditch a bit on the way. Once all the cows were through the pasture gate Dad closed it.
In the evening around four o’clock, he repeated the whole process in reverse, opening the pasture gate and riding behind the cows as they plodded home to their respective farmyards.
My dad has kept his family’s cowbell all these years. I didn’t even know he had it. I am looking forward to telling the story of the cowbell to my grandchildren.
Why Was This Special?
Grandpa and Me
A Photo That Brings Back Memories
Filed under Family, History
I have this sepia colored photograph on my bedroom dresser. It was taken in Moscow during World War I. The beautiful brown-eyed young woman in it with her fashionable dress and hair piled high is my husband’s maternal grandmother Gertrude. She was married to Heinrich Enns who sits to her immediate right in his military uniform.
Heinrich’s family owned a large estate in Kowalicha, Ukraine and while the men of the family were away serving in the Russian army’s medical corps Gertrude was left alone to run the family’s massive land holdings and deal with her irascible mother-in-law who objected to her son’s marriage to Gertrude because Gertrude’s family wasn’t rich enough. Gertrude came from a small village where her family had a modest farm. Her wealthy husband had met her while on a visit to the village with a friend. I believe the man to the far right is Gertrude’s brother-in-law who ran the family’s land holdings in other parts of Ukraine.
Gertrude with her four sons.
Gertrude had four little boys and with her husband far away working on the trains transporting the wounded from the battlefront to Moscow, Gertrude was single parenting and making all the decisions about the education and upbringing of her children.
There were labor shortages as estate servants left their jobs to join the army. Weather had damaged some crops, and roving bandits had been seen on the estates’ far flung properties. Gertrude decided she needed to go to Moscow and meet with Heinrich and his brothers to get some advice about what to do. That’s when the photo of Gertrude at a family business meeting was taken.
I never met my husband’s grandmother Gertrude but whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities I look at Gertrude’s photo and think about how a girl from a small village farm ran a huge business all on her own while the men in her family were away at war and times were incredibly tough. Getrude inspires me!
Gertrude and Heinrich Enns
Luxury Car- A Family Story
Filed under Family, History
Recently Canadian Mennonite University published this photo on social media of students hanging out in a lounge playing video games together. My how times have changed I thought. But……… then I remembered the shared screen time and games that were popular when I was a student at the same university/college in the early 1970s.
CMU students watching Get Smart 1970s
Many of us would congregate in front of the television screen just before supper to watch reruns of the popular comedy Get Smart. In the show a bumbling detective named Maxwell Smart also known as Agent 99 and a smart savvy female investigator Agent 86 tried to protect the world from the evil KAOS organization.
Guys watching TV in CMU lounge 1973
My husband playing ping-pong with a CMU classmate in 1974
We didn’t play video games in the early 1970s but ping-pong and crokinole matches consumed endless hours of students’ time.
My husband’s most competitive crokinole opponent was one of his professors
By the way I noticed in this photo that current CMU students are sporting fairly long hair and that is something that was also popular in the early 1970s as my husband’s 1973 yearbook photo illustrates.
Maybe times haven’t changed that much.
And A Baby Cried
Meet You At the Folio
A Chat With My Old Professor
Last year my daughter-in-law borrowed my Kindle to take on a holiday. When she returned she said one of the books on my Kindle she had enjoyed reading was The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.
I couldn’t remember reading it. I looked through the notes in my journal. No reference to The Boston Girl there. I must have downloaded it and then forgotten to read it. It got lost on my Kindle!
I rectified things on my recent Mexican holiday when I read The Boston Girl . The story takes you on a walk through history with a young Jewish woman living in one of my favourite American cities. As you hear Addie Baum’s life story you learn about the Boston tenements where new immigrants lived in deplorable conditions. You come to understand the devastation and grief wrought by the Spanish influenza epidemic and World War I. You also are witness to the way political and social activists worked to better the lives of women and children in the 1920s. The main action in the story is centered on the years between 1915-1927.
The Boston Girl did not receive overwhelmingly stellar reviews but I liked it because I could connect with it in three ways.
- It tells the story of an immigrant family from Russia. I am from a Russian immigrant family.
- It uses the story of a young woman to illustrate a specific historical period. I am currently working on a series of short stories that chronicle the life of a young woman during the 1960s.
- It is written in a straight forward and easy to read style that could almost make it a middle grade or teen historical novel. I am currently trying to get a middle grade historical novel I have written published.
I think The Boston Girl is an important book because it shows us what life was like for women before they could use birth control, before abortions were legal, before there were laws to protect women from domestic violence, before there were no fault divorce laws, before women had equal opportunities in the workplace, before they could vote. At a time when women are still fighting for justice and equality I think a reminder of how far we’ve come is crucial if we don’t want to return to those dark times for women.
I am glad my daughter-in-law helped me find The Boston Girl otherwise it might have remained lost on my Kindle and I would have missed a good read.
Learning How To Write Historical Fiction
What Makes a Best Seller?
Brides of New France
Filed under Books, History