Category Archives: History

Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot

This statue of Timothy Eaton stands in the concourse of the MTS Centre where the Winnipeg Jets play hockey. I remember this statue well from my childhood because it was located on the main floor in the old Eaton’s Store which used to stand where the MTS Centre is now. When my family was shopping at Eatons, we would often rendezvous at Mr. Eaton’s statue. The Eaton’s store went bankrupt in 1999.  Later the statue was officially deemed a part of Manitoba’s history and a decision made to display it in the MTS Centre.

Timothy Eaton came to Canada from Ireland and built a retail empire with department stores in Toronto and Winnipeg. Mr. Eaton also had a nation wide mail order business. I remember how excited I was as a little girl when the Eatons’ catalogue came out, especially the Christmas edition. I looked through it many times picking out things I dreamt about getting for Christmas. My mother remembers during her childhood in the 1930s longing for an Eaton’s Beauty Doll for Christmas.

This statue was a gift to the Eaton family from the Eatons’ employees. It was presented in December of 1919 on the store’s 50th anniversary. The employees wanted to express gratitude for the company’s generosity during World War I.  Eatons’ employees who enlisted were promised their jobs back after the war and continued to receive a salary while they served overseas.  Military employees received care packages of store products during the war. The company had lucrative government contracts as a result of the war but donated those profits to the war effort.

Although I am sure some Eaton’s workers did appreciate their employer enough to donate money for this massive statue, I am somewhat skeptical if they all did, because during the Winnipeg Labor Strike in June of 1919, just six months before the presentation of the statue, Eatons tried to bribe their workers with a $4.00 a week raise so they wouldn’t go on strike. Despite this five hundred walked off the job. Eatons also supplied horses and baseball bats for the police force dealing with the strikers.

The 3,500 pound statue was made by Ivor Lewis, a Welshman who worked in the Eaton’s advertising department.  A replica was placed in the Eaton’s Store in Toronto. It is now in the Royal Ontario Museum.

I’ve learned recently it is good luck to rub the left foot of the Timothy Eaton statue. I’ll have try  that the next time I walk by.

Other posts …….

Michael’s Geese

Celebrating in an Historic Building

Photographed Just In Time



Filed under History, Winnipeg

Happy Belated International Women’s Day

I know this is one day late because yesterday was International Women’s Day, but here are ten strong women I have featured in recent blog posts.

oviloo and her granddaughter TyeOviloo Tunille was an accomplished and talented Inuit sculptor who supported generations of her family with her work. She provides a highly personal glimpse into life in Canada’s most northern communities. hariot rowan hamilton dufferin public domainA sketching trip to Winnipeg’s railroad museum introduced me to the Countess of Dufferin a politically savvy Canadian woman who used her connections to provide health care for women in Pakistan and India.

Mrs. Claudette Brown daycare ownerOn a trip to Jamaica I met Claudette Brown. She has defied all odds and obstacles to provide quality childcare for hundreds of kids in Runaway Bay Jamaica.
listening-voices-steinbachI have come to realize grandmothers are often taking the lead in providing acceptance to members of the LGBTQ community.

sarah silverman photo wiki media commons

Sarah Silverman is a comedian who has used her notoriety to gain equal rights for women who come to pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

audrey hepburn pixabay public domainAudrey Hepburn was a stellar actress who devoted the last years of her life to helping children through UNICEF. I learned she is the source of a significant quote about turning the impossible into the possible.

Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante abigail and david

I was preparing to teach a Sunday School lesson when I learned more about Abigail a biblical character who served as a rational peacemaker between two headstrong men.

veronica cathedral liberia costa ricaVeronica is another character from the Biblical narrative that inspires us with her compassion and care. I have been finding images of her all over the world.

dispatches from afghanistanOn a visit to the citadel in Quebec City I learned how portrayals of women in military history have changed from them being portrayed as pale and weak to being seen as strong, caring, inspirational leaders.

frances perkins roosevelt public domain

Frances Perkins stands behind President Roosevelt as he signs the social security act in 1935 a lasting legacy of Frances Perkins

Francis Perkins was the first American female cabinet minister. In her role as Roosevelt’s Minister of Labor she introduced legislation that improved the lives of millions of people.

 Happy belated International Women’s Day.


Leave a comment

Filed under History

Family Blue Prints

exterior-schmidt-houseGoing through some of my mother’s things I found these blueprints for her family home in Drake Saskatchewan.  Although my grandparents no longer lived there after I was born I still visited the house many times because my Uncle Earl and Aunt Lenora had taken over my grandparents’ farm and home. I have many fond memories of happy times with my cousins in that house and so it was great to find these blueprints. I asked my Aunt Viola the only surviving member of my mother’s immediate family if she remembered the house being built. She was 3 years old in 1925 when they moved into the house and can’t really remember a time before she lived there. My mother was born in this house shortly after her family moved in. 

My grandparents' car standing outside their farmhouse in Drake, Saskatchewan

This is how the completed home looked.  My aunt thinks my grandfather ordered the house from somewhere and it came with all the lumber pre-cut and ready to build.  I did a little research and found out this kind of house was called a mill cut house or a mail order house.  You picked a house design from a catalogue and then tens of thousands of pieces of lumber and every single other building material that you would need to construct it were loaded into box cars and sent to the customer’s hometown. In Canada the Eatons Department Store was one of the main sources of these ready to assemble homes but on the prairies various Grain Growers Associations also provided this service to its members. That makes sense because in the corner of each page of the blue prints its says Saskatchewan Grain Growers Regina. My aunt thinks my grandfather put the house together with the help of a carpenter. basement-schmidt-houseOne thing that is interesting about this floor plan of the basement is the little square labeled Dumb Waiter on the right hand side.  My mother remembers what a cool feature that was about their house. When I was interviewing her for her life story she said…… We had a dumb waiter in the kitchen.  It was behind doors and had several shelves. We could place items on there that needed to go into the basement and them lower them down with a pulley system.  This came in especially handy when my mother was canning and we had to transfer all the jars to the basement. We kept potatoes, vegetables and onions in cold storage down there.  Our basement also had our cream separator and storage areas for wood and coal and my mother’s washing machine. ground-floor-schmidt-houds

 The ground floor had my grandparent’s bedroom, a parlour, huge diningroom and kitchen. Here’s how my Mom described the diningroom. In the centre of the diningroom was a big table with lots of chairs because we had a family of six and my grandmother and uncle also lived with us as well as our hired man. We had a plate railing high up all around the dining room wall and Mom not only kept plates there but also all sorts of other knick-knacks. There was a couch by the stairway leading to the upper floor. This couch is where my father used to lie to listen to Amos and Andy on the Philco radio. He loved that show. There was a wooden sideboard on one wall for dishes and our wooden party line phone was on another wall. 

Mom said the parlor was where her parents visited with company and it had a desk for her Dad that was always covered with his papers and it is also where they kept the piano and their organ.  Mom said the kitchen had a wood stove and her Uncle Alvin who lived with them chopped the wood and kept the stove going.  Mom’s uncle had epilepsy and he was nearly blind so after his parents died in the influenza epidemic he came to live with my grandparents. upper-floor-schmidt-house

This is the upstairs floor plan.  See those stairs over on the right? Mom said…….

Wooden steps with a banister led upstairs. I remember my sisters and I used to sit on those steps holding hymnals and Bibles. My brother Earl played the role of the pastor and we pretended to have church on those steps. Beside the stairs was a beautiful stained glass window. Not many houses had them in those days. My Dad always bragged however that our house had the best of everything and I guess that included a stained glass window.

My Mom shared the bedroom right beside the stairs with her sisters. They liked to play with their dolls in the long walk in closet. One of the bedrooms upstairs was for my mother’s maternal grandmother Maria Jantz who lived with them and the other was shared by my Uncle Earl and Paul their hired man. 

Can you see the bathroom over in the right hand corner?   Mom had lots to say about that!

The bathroom was at the top of the stairs. We were one of very few families to have an indoor washroom. We had a washstand and basin. There was a claw foot bathtub. My mother heated water and filled it up every Saturday so we kids could take a bath. My sisters and I took turns bathing in the water one after the other and then my brother Earl was last. I’m sure the water was pretty cold and dirty by the time he got into it. In wintertime we brought in snow and put it in a big barrel beside the wood stove in the kitchen to melt and then used the warm water for our baths. We had an indoor toilet as well. It had a pail and my Dad took out the pail and emptied it every morning before the rest of us woke up.

I’m so glad my mother kept these blueprints.  They tell a story not only of a house but also of the family that lived in it.

Other posts……

Remembering My Grandpa 

When My Grandmother Was Twelve Years Old

My Mother’s Childhood Christmases


Filed under Family, History

The Trump Silver Lining

When Donald Trump won the election my husband commented that his presidency might have a silver lining . It would inspire people to get more politically involved.  He could be right. I have already noticed on my Facebook feed how many of my friends are taking political actions they say are relatively new experiences for them.

“I don’t normally write political posts but”………  An elementary school teacher in a southern American city was upset such an unqualified person had been named Education Secretary of the United States. It prompted her to call her elected representatives in the senate to express her strong objections to the appointment. 

“I believe a Muslim ban is contrary to God’s heart and purpose”….A former student who works in one of America’s largest cities went down to the airport to protest when people impacted by the travel ban were not being allowed to leave the terminal. I told her I was proud of her. 

“This gal hasn’t marched since the 70’s”- A friend who participated in the Women’s March on January 21 with her daughter remarked the last thing she had protested had been the Vietnam War.

“It can’t hurt and might impact the trend towards Trump’s kind of bullying” – A friend on the east coast signed a letter to Donald Trump from the world. The petition asks Trump to take a stand for compassion rather than fear.  It already has some 5 million signatures. 

“It was less scary than I thought it would be”…….. A writer in the American midwest whose grandparents were put in a Japanese internment camp during World War II called her political representatives for the first time ever to express her concern about President Tump’s executive order on refugees.

Those are just a few examples of people who are stepping up to the plate of political involvement even if they may not have done so before.  It could be that my husband was right about Trump’s win having a silver lining.

Other posts……. 

House of Cards

Freedom’s Child

Vote Nation




Leave a comment

Filed under History, Politics

An Inspiration


We saw the movie Hidden Figures on Sunday. It is about three African-American women who made important and crucial contributions to the American space program. Their story was so inspirational and reminded me of other inspirational women I have featured on this blog.  

sacagawea and son mural iowaSacagawea was a guide, diplomat and interpreter on the Lewis and Clark expeditions exploring the American west . At one point she saved the precious journals recording the expeditions’ findings.  

hariot rowan hamilton dufferin public domainHariot Dufferin played a vital role in her husband’s tenure as Governor General of Canada and later built much-needed hospitals for women and children in Pakistan and Indiarembrandt-blessing-jospehs-children-public-domainAsenath was the wife of the Biblical character Joseph and the mother of his two sons. In Genesis 41:45 she is credited with giving her husband control over the land of Egypt.  Oviloo Tunille is one of the only female Inuit stone carvers to obtain international success. annemorrowlindbergh-largeAnne Morrow Lindbergh was an accomplished pilot and gifted author.

Antigone by Frederic Leighton
Antigone is the young female heroine of an ancient Greek tragedy written by Sophocles. Her story has inspired many throughout history including Nelson Mandela and Rachel Issacs the first openly lesbian rabbi.  the famous five manitoba legislature grounds winnipegThe Famous Five– Heinretta Edwards, Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby,Louise McKinney, and Nellie McClung  were responsible for having Canadian women recognized as people in their own right and not just the property of their husbands or fathers. 

Abigail and David by Juan Antonio de

The Biblical character Abigail was an intelligent, strong woman who got between two men acting foolishly and rashly and made them calm down.  One of them was the famous King David. Frances_Perkins_TIME_FC_1933

In 1933 Frances Perkins became the first American female cabinet minister. As minister of labor she introduced important laws concerning pensions, child labor and fair wages.jamaican teacherDonna was just one of many inspiring women I met during my time in Jamaica. 

Other posts……

She Should Be a Saint

Annie Funk- The Heroine of the Titanic

Half the Sky

Leave a comment

Filed under History

Hacksaw Ridge- Did I Really Need Something Else to Keep Me Awake at Night?

hacksaw_ridge_posterI had my eyes covered for a good deal of the second half of the movie Hacksaw Ridge as the camera documented the devastation of war in the most graphic and grotesque way.  If director Mel Gibson thought we needed to be convinced about just how horrific war can be, he did a good job. As we follow the life of the main character Desmond Doss, a World War II army medic and conscientious objector who refuses to bear arms, Gibson shows us the heartbreak war can cause not only for the soldiers who are wounded but also for their families. One of the reasons Desmond becomes a pacifist is because he witnesses so much violence in his own home after his father returns from World War I suffering from a severe case of PTSD. 

The real Desmond Doss being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman

The real Desmond Doss being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman

I think Hacksaw Ridge is supposed to be a feel good inspirational movie, documenting the true story of a man who saved 75 of his fellow injured soldiers during the World War II Battle of Okinawa. Doss was the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor. But a couple of things about the movie troubled me.

Recreation of the barracks at the Amache Japanese Detention Camp at the Colorado History Centre in Denver

Photo I took at the Colorado History Centre of a model of the barracks at the Amache Japanese Detention Camp 

First of all the Japanese were portrayed as nameless villains called nips, a term that is an ethnic slur.  Although Doss also rescues several Japanese soldiers during the battle we are told in a kind of wink of the eye reference that ‘none of them made it’ when a commanding officer asks about their ultimate fate. At a time when many ethnic groups including Asians are becoming the target of racist comments  I was troubled by this stereotypical portrayal of the Japanese. One need only visit Hiroshima or talk to the children of Japanese detention camp survivors to see how devastating the war was for Japanese families as well.

Secondly I can’t distance the film from Mel Gibson’s personal life and career. He has been accused of  anti Semitism in his film making, and of racism and domestic violence in his marriage relationships. Of course I know you can’t always separate the artist from their art, but at this particular time in  history when the American president-elect has made racist, misogynist comments and yet people were able to separate themselves from that by still choosing to vote for him… I have to question the wisdom of separating people’s current careers from their past actions and words.  

I’m left wondering if I should have gone to see Hacksaw Ridge.  It’s not as if I needed something else to keep me awake at night!

Other posts about movies….

Golf Widow at the Movies

I’m Possible

What’s the Best Way to Raise Children?

Post about Japanese Detention Camps…….

An American Nightmare



Filed under History, Movies

Maggie’s Story

An actress tells Maggie's story at The Rooms museum in St. John's

Actress telling Maggie’s story at The Rooms 

Her son was probably wearing a pair of socks she had knitted when he died.  At The Rooms museum in St. John’s Newfoundland I was intrigued by Maggie Osmond’s story. knitting-bagMaggie was just one of thousands of Canadians who knit socks for the soldiers overseas during World War I.  Conditions in the trenches were terrible. It was cold and wet and muddy and a lack of  soap meant a fungal infection called trench foot could develop that sometimes led to gangrene.  The only way to prevent this from happening was for soldiers to have extra socks with them.  So civilians at home knit socks for the troops. red-cross-knitting-instructionsWomen, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and school children learned to knit socks from patterns provided by the Red Cross.  These knitters sometimes tucked a message into the finished socks for the soldier who would receive it. A typical note might read: “Into this sock I weave a prayer, That God keep you in His love and care.”

maggie-osmondMaggie Osmond of Moreton’s Harbour Newfoundland  was one of the faithful knitters on the homefront. She had a personal stake in her knitting since her son Douglas had enlisted in the Newfoundland regiment in 1914 and was serving in France. In 1915 socks Maggie had knitted were given to a Canadian soldier in France. She had put her name on a paper in the toe of the socks. That soldier happened to meet up with the Newfoundland regiment and asked if anyone knew the Maggie Osmond from Newfoundland who had knit his socks. Her son Douglas introduced himself and the two soldiers traded socks so Douglas was wearing the ones knit by his mom.

Newfoundland Regiment in 1915

Newfoundland Regiment in 1915

Unfortunately Douglas died at the Battle of the Somme where almost the entire Newfoundland regiment was killed or wounded.

Maggie’s story was a moving reminder of the tragic cost of World War I and how it impacted so many Canadian families in ways big and small.

The Rooms

Wars- Dread of Mothers

From Pale and Weak to Platoon Commander

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Newfoundland