Category Archives: History

Bennett Buggy Anyone?

When I visited the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon a few years ago my grandsons took a ride in the Bennett Buggy that was on display.

My grandsons taking a simulated trip in a Bennett Buggy

Bennett Buggies became popular in Canada during the early 1930s when the nation was going through the Great Depression. A Bennett Buggy was a car which had its engine and windows removed and was pulled by a horse. The unique mode of transportation was named after Richard Bennett who was the prime minister and was blamed for the poor economy.

During the 1920s many Canadians purchased cheap cars for the first time only to find that during the Depression they couldn’t afford to buy gas for them. This was especially true in the hard hit prairie provinces. So they got creative and turned their cars into horse drawn carriages.

With the high price of gas these days it looks like we may have to be just as creative as those Depression-era drivers. Although horse-drawn cars aren’t an option anymore we can be creative in other ways.

My trusty bike is my main mode of transportation these days

We can use public transportation.

We can go as many places as possible on foot or by bicycle.

We can car pool, plan trips carefully so we use the least possible mileage, and drive a little more slowly.

My husband just bought a brand new e-bike which he plans to use for longer city drives. He took it to the Winnipeg Blue Bomber Game last Friday and it was much less hassle and expense than driving our car across town to the stadium and trying to find a spot to park.

I am seeing more and more people on the sidewalks using skateboards, roller blades and scooters to get around.

Just like our grandparents and great-grandparents had to think outside the box in order to deal with high gas prices in the 1930s…… we too will need to be creative to deal with them in 2022.

Other posts……….

An Inspiration For Our Time

They Wore Masks Too

Mom’s First Day of School in 1931

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Filed under Canada, History

Dog Transportation

Fort Garry 1879 by Lionel MacDonald Stephenson- Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

If you had been living here in Winnipeg in the 1870s there is a good chance you would have received your mail via a dog team. Mail from England came to York Factory by boat and then was transported by dog sled to Fort Garry.

Dogsled team carrying fursfrom the Glenbow Museum collection

Dog sledges were also used routinely in the fur trade here in the Red River Settlement beginning in the late 1700s. Dog sledges carrying furs travelled in convoys of up to twenty-five with each team following the track of the sled in front of it. Teams could pull loads of up to four hundred pounds.

In summer the dog teams were sometimes used to transport bison meat using a travois.

Dog sled team at the Fort Garry gate in 1879

The Metis who were the primary residents here in the Red River Settlement were very proud of their dog teams and often dressed them in an ornamental way.

A collection of ornate dog sledge regalia is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in their exhibit – A Hard Birth. Check out the gorgeous dog saddle with its intricate Metis beadwork and row of bells.

A Dog Cariole – 1825 by Peter Rindisbacher

Dog sleds could also carry people. Passengers sat in a cariole and passengers wrapped in furs glided in comfort over the prairie. Dogs could eat up to a pound of pemmican a day and were sold for as much as $20. A good dog could be more expensive than a horse.

In this 1848 painting by Paul Kane called Wedding Party a train of dog sleds are transporting guests for a prairie wedding.

Dogs responded to the driver’s whip for direction changes. In this alternate view of the Metis dogsled regalia currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery you can see the whip in the foreground and the driver’s gloves to the side.

If you had lived here in Winnipeg/The Red River Settlement a hundred and fifty years ago you might have seen dogsleds on the street instead of buses, cars, trucks or bikes.

Other posts………..

Between Dog and Wolf

Coop the Great- A Book That’s Not Just For Dog Lovers

10 Thoughts on Seeing the Movie- The Call of the Wild

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Filed under Canada, History, winnipeg art gallery

May 24th- An Important Day for Canadian Women

May 24th is a very important date because, on this day in 1918, the women of Canada were given the right to vote in federal elections.

My grandparents on their wedding day in 1917

It is hard for me to believe that when my grandmother got married in 1917 she still didn’t have the right to vote.

On a trip to Quebec City, I photographed this trio of Quebec suffragettes, Therese Casgrain, Idola St. Jean and Marie Lacoste Gérin-Lajoie who fought for 22 years to get women the right to vote in their province.

Prior to 1918 women in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Manitoba had earned the right to vote in provincial elections but it would take women in the other provinces longer to win that right. In Quebec, women couldn’t vote in provincial elections until 1940.

Asian women only gained the right to vote in 1948- photo from the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Center

It is also important to remember that Asian women, Indigenous women, Inuit women and incarcerated women would have to wait much longer to achieve suffrage.

The right we Canadian women have to vote should never be taken for granted. Many women worked long and hard and made great sacrifices to obtain suffrage for us. We need to remember that rights can be repealed. By responsibly exercising our right to vote we can ensure that women’s rights are respected and advanced.

Other posts……..

The Famous Five

Three Determined Women

What A Woman!

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Getting To Know Mr North

Statue of Tom Lamb by Leo Mol in the Richardson Building Winnipeg

I’ve passed this statue hundreds of times as I walk through the Richardson Building on my way to work so I decided I wanted to find out more about Tom Lamb the man whose name is on the statue’s plaque.

Tom, who would eventually earn the nickname Mr North was born in 1898 in Grand Rapids Manitoba. His British parents went to the north as Anglican missionaries. Tom’s family moved to Moose Lake in 1900 where his Dad built a log cabin and began a fur trading business with local traders.

Tom grew up with Cree children as his companions and learned to speak their language fluently. Tom quit school at the end of grade three to help his Dad with a fish hauling operation he had started.

Tom married Jean Armstrong in 1924 and together they raised six sons and three daughters. Eventually, his children helped operate the fur trading and fishing businesses Tom took over from his Dad.

Photo of Tom Lamb by Richard Harrington from Library and Archives Canada- Photostories Canada site- National Gallery of Canada

Tom instituted a conservation and development plan to increase the declining muskrat and beaver population in the north and in 1935 bought an airplane to help haul fresh fish. He hired a pilot who soon was as busy doing charter work for the government, the RCMP, geologists, oil rig operators and medical evacuations as he was transporting fish.

Tom Lamb with his six sons who all became pilots and worked for Lambair- photo from WikipediaThey learned to fly sitting on their Dad’s lap in the cockpit

In 1937 Tom became a pilot himself and a decade later had purchased a fleet of aircraft with floats and skis that became a thriving northern airline called Lambair. All six of his sons got their pilot licences and flew charter operations throughout the Arctic including Greenland, the Yukon and Alaska.

Lamb Air passengers are ready for a flight. The company motto was “Don’t ask us where we fly. Tell us where you want to go.”- Photo Lamb Family Archive- from Vintage Wings of Canada

By 1959 Lambair had logged more than 1,500,000 air miles, owned twenty planes and employed 40 pilots.

Photo by Richard Harrington from Library and Archives Canada- Photostories Canada site- National Gallery of Canada

At the same time as his airline flourished Tom maintained the fishing and shipping business, his Dad had founded. In the photo above one of the Lamb’s boats is transporting lumber as well as cattle for a ranching operation another one of Tom’s initiatives in the north.

Tom Lamb’s portrait in the Aviation Hall of Fame was created by artist  Irma Sophia Coucill.

Tom Lamb was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba and has been inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame. He died in 1969 and his children carried on his airline business for another decade. He had twenty-four grandchildren. His son Jack chronicled his Dad’s life in the book My Life in the North.

Statue of Tom Lamb in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park

Although the Leo Mol statue in the Richardson Building bears the date 1991, the original piece was poured in 1971. There is another copy of the Tom Lamb statue in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park. A fibreglass version sits in the airport at The Pas and there is another copy in the Canadian embassy in Washington DC. 

Leo Mol said he wanted to show Tom Lamb as a young pilot and he made the propeller in his hands look a bit like a clock because he wanted the statue to take people back in time to the era when Mr Lamb helped open up the north as an aviation pioneer.

Other posts………..

His Dream Came True

Come Take A Trip in My Airship

Dave the Navigator Meets Henry the Navigator



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Filed under Art, History, manitoba

That Noisy Red River Cart

On a bike ride yesterday we stopped at the huge Red River cart that stands at the Assiniboine Park entrance to take some photos. Red River carts were invented by the Métis who were the primary residents in this area of Manitoba in the 1800s.

This Red River Cart sculpture was made by Roman Ivan Kowal and was a gift to the citizens of Winnipeg from a local investment company

The hubs of the carts were usually made from elm, the wheel rims from white ash or oak, and the axle from hard maple. All these wooden pieces were held together by leather or rope. The huge wheels made the cart stable and easier to pull through the mud and marsh. They could hold up to 450 kilograms of goods.

The wood and leather of the carts made an ear-piercing squeal as they rubbed together so you could hear the carts coming from kilometres away. The Métis did not grease the axles to soften the sound because it would attract dirt, grass and insects that would eventually clog the parts and slow the vehicle.

The Forks- by Washington Frank Lynn- 1865

The carts were buoyant and so they could float across a stream or river. In this painting which is on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, you can see the Red River carts are about to enter the river at Upper Fort Garry.

Terry Doerksen in his Red River cart – Photo by Ruth Bonneville- from the Winnipeg Free Press

Yesterday’s Winnipeg Free Press had a story about a man named Terry Doerksen who is trying to relive history by making a journey from Lockport to Minneapolis in a Red River cart he built. In the 1850s some 600 Red River carts filled with items to trade were making that journey every year.

We once took friends visiting from Australia to Fort Whyte where a guide explained the unique features of the Red River cart to us.

The Red River cart is an important symbol of the Métis culture and the history of Manitoba.

Other posts………….

A Creative Way To Share History- Upper Fort Garry

River Boat Tour

15 Ways To Use A Métis Sash

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Filed under History, Winnipeg

15 Ways To Use A Métis Sash

Next week I start giving Winnipeg Art Gallery tours of A Hard Birth or Kwaata-nihtaawakihk the exhibit’s name in Michif, the Métis language. A Hard Birth tells the story of Manitoba becoming an official province of Canada 150 years ago.

One of the pieces I am excited to show young visitors is this sash. Saencheur Flayshii is its name in Michif, the Métis language. The sash is on display thanks to the National Gallery in Ottawa. They think it was made in the first half of the 1800s. This kind of sash was very popular in the Red River Valley and orginated with the voyageurs. They were French workers employed to transport furs for the Hudson’s Bay company.

The sashes could be up to three meters long and were made from brightly coloured wool. The one currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery has a popular flame design with diamonds at its centre.

Shooting the Rapids 1879 a painting by Frances Anne Hopkins. The lead paddler is wearing a Metis sash.

Making a sash could take up to two hundred hours. Until the 1800s the sashes were handwoven and sometimes made with plant fibres. It was only later they were woven on looms with wool.

Once when I took a tour of the St. Boniface Museum the guide showed us the heavy bales of fur and told us how the sashes helped to ease the burden of carrying them

The sashes have been used for many things. Here are fifteen I found. There are probably more.

  1. As a support to your back while carrying bales of fur that could weigh more than a hundred pounds. This helped prevent hernias.
  2. As a tumpline to lash your canoe or supplies to your head during portage
  3. Firestarter bags, tobacco pouches, knives and first aid kits were tucked into the sash for carrying
  4. A tourniquet for broken bones
  5. A scarf for your face in winter
  6. A washcloth or towel
  7. A saddle blanket or emergency bridle for your horse
  8. You could tear off the fringes to get pieces of thread to mend your clothes
  9. You could tie keys to the fringes so didn’t lose them
  10. Storing pemmican or other foods
  11. A belt to keep your coat closed.
  12. A rope to tie up your canoe
  13. To mark a bison as someone’s property after it was killed
  14. As a gift to give someone
  15. A symbol of Metis pride at ceremonies and events
This statue on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature shows Louis Riel wearing a Métis sash
In Shelley Niro’s woodcut series Resting With Warriors she shows a woman wearing the traditional sash. I photographed this piece when it was on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the spring of 2017.

Today the sash is worn by both men and women although originally only men would have worn them.


Other posts…….

An Award Winner Inspires Teens

What A Sash

It’s Louis Riel Day

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Vimy Ridge Day in Winnipeg

Did you know that today is officially Vimy Ridge Day in Canada? In 2003, the Government of Canada declared April 9th to be Vimy Ridge Day, to honour Canadians who fought and died in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in Vimy Ridge, France which began on April 9, 1917 during World War I. Four Canadian divisions of soldiers were instrumental in capturing Vimy Ridge from the Germans. Here in Winnipeg, we have a park named Vimy Ridge right on Portage Avenue. I find it both a sad and hopeful place to visit.

There are several memorials in the park that commemorate soldiers who died in World War I. One of the most striking is the sculpture of Andrew Mynarski a young man from Winnipeg who won the Victoria Cross for his courage in saving a fellow airman after their plane had been shot down. It is sad to think that this kind, quiet, hardworking young man died so tragically. What might he have contributed to our city had he lived instead?

A happier aspect of the park is this table which is used for eating and visiting and playing games but is also a work of art called Table of Contents. It pays tribute to the folks who live near the park and is engraved with their words and thoughts in as many as five different languages representing the diversity of the neighbourhood. The words on the table celebrate nature, remind people to be kind, and extol the virtues of love and joy. Artists Eduardo Aquino and Karen Shanski who made the table said they wanted it to be a place where people could talk to each other and listen to each other.

Today on Vimy Ridge Day it is important to remember the tragedy and sadness of war but also to remain hopeful that as diverse people talk and listen to one another war in our world might become a thing of the past.

This might be a good day for people in Winnipeg to visit Vimy Ridge Park both to remember and foster a sense of hope.

Other posts……….

Ten Things I Can Do About the War in Ukraine

Learning About War On My Travels

A 1960s Perspective on Our Current World Crisis

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Filed under History, Winnipeg

What Happened to Brooches?

We don’t see many women wearing brooches anymore and I wonder why not. I’ve read that they were all the rage in the 1920s but women were still wearing them regularly in the 1950s and 1960s. I checked out a couple of old family photos and sure enough, both my mother and mother-in-law were sporting brooches in them.

My Mom to the far left in the back row wears a brooch in a Christmas photo with her family in 1955. My grandma is wearing a brooch too.
Mom also has a brooch on in this family photo from the 1960s
My mother-in-law wears a brooch in a family photo from the 1960s
Madeline Albright wore this bug pin when she went to meet with the Russian foreign minister just after discovering the Russians had been bugging the State Department.

Madeline Albright the first female American Secretary of State passed away last month. Reading the media stories about her life I learned that whenever she made a public appearance she wore a brooch and each one was selected with care to send a special message that conveyed her mood and opinion.

Queen Elizabeth almost always wears a brooch when she appears in public.

Although I like wearing jewellery and have a large collection of necklaces and earrings I don’t have any brooches. I wonder what made brooches fall out of fashion favour. Will they make a comeback? Do any of my readers own a brooch?

Other posts……….

The First Thing I Love About Canada’s New Governor-General

Can This Necklace Save the Elephants?

The Path of Life

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Filed under Family, History

In The Footsteps of Eleanor Roosevelt

I have been researching the life of Eleanor Roosevelt for a new middle-grade novel I am writing set in the 1930s. Although Eleanor didn’t live in an era of computers and the internet she might be considered a forerunner of today’s bloggers. In a way, those of us who blog online daily are following in Eleanor’s pioneering footsteps.

When famed photographer Yousuf Karsh took Eleanor Roosevelt’s picture in 1944 he had her pose with a pencil in hand to indicate that in addition to the many other roles she played in life she was also a writer.

From December of 1935 until September of 1962 Eleanor wrote a syndicated column called My Day in which she chronicled her daily life. Her articles were published six days a week and appeared in some ninety different newspapers.

Although she began in 1935 by writing about the activities of her family and the interesting people she met, later her daily entries also offered her ideas about issues like prohibition and the growing popularity of televisions. She didn’t shy away from expressing her opinions about America’s entry into World War II, the development of the atomic bomb, the Cold War, American Civil Rights, anti-Semitism and space travel.

Eleanor continued writing her column after she and her husband Franklin Roosevelt left the White House, after the former President died, and during the time Eleanor served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations. She only stopped writing her daily reflections a couple of months before her death.

I am in the process of reading all of the columns published in September and October of 1936 which is the time period pertinent to my manuscript.

Eleanor’s topics during those two months range from taking one of her children to the dentist to have their wisdom teeth extracted to her observations about the futility and carnage of the civil war raging in Spain.

One day she may eloquently defend the need to encourage young people to be critical thinkers and a few days later describe how she had to heat water in a frying pan on a family camping trip because she’d forgotten the kettle.

She may offer a serious and critical review of the latest book she is reading in an entry, and then talk about her trepidation watching her young granddaughter riding a rather large horse.

Eleanor Roosevelt at work at her typewriter

One thing I noted in the September 1936 columns was Mrs Roosevelt’s difficulties trying to make sure her typewriter came with her wherever she went so she could write her daily columns. She probably would have appreciated today’s laptop computers.

Long before daily blogs became popular Eleanor Roosevelt was writing a daily blog of sorts for the newspaper.

Eleanor kept up her ritual of a daily entry for nearly thirty years.

I’ve been writing my blog What Next for just over a decade now. I wonder if I will be able to match Mrs Roosevelt’s record.

Other posts……….

Writing Is the Way I Think and Remember

The Joy of FreeLancing

Pandemic Pastimes

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Filed under History, Writing

A 1960s Perspective On Our Current World Crisis

My grade four class at Kornelson School in 1962-1963I am in the back row third from the right

I clearly remember the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. I was in Miss Toews’ grade four class at the old white wooden Kornelson School that stood on the site of the current Steinbach City Hall. At the time Steinbach was a community of only about three thousand people and we had a siren that sent out its warning at noon and six o clock every day so we kids would know it was time to head home for a meal no matter where in town our adventures had taken us.

During the Cuban Missile crisis that siren was used as an air-raid signal.  When we heard it wail during the school day in the fall of 1962 my grade four classmates and I would hunker down under our wooden desks. Eventually Miss Kornelson the wiry white-haired principal of our school would come to the door to let us know we should head home. We were to go to our houses directly on a route that we had practised walking during previous drills.  

In October of 1962, the possibility that the world might be involved in a nuclear war was very real.  But it was averted and thinking back to that time from my childhood puts our current threat of nuclear war into perspective for me. 

 The world avoided disaster in 1962 and I have to believe it can do it again. In a recent address to the nation, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland reminded us of times in the last century when the future of democracy was hanging in the balance and the balance always tipped in democracy’s favour.  She assured us it will again.  I want to believe her.

Other posts………….

Turbulent Times

German POWs in Manitoba

The Children Are Watching and Listening and Wondering

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