Category Archives: Winnipeg

A Different Kind of Table

Is that a picnic table behind me? It is but…….. it is also a work of art called Table of Contents.

Viewed from this angle the table could be a sculpture but one lying down instead of in an upright position as most sculpture are

Located in Winnipeg’s Vimy Ridge Park just off of Portage Avenue the long steel table pays tribute to the people of the surrounding Wolseley neighbourhood who are the primary users of the park.

The words Our Place or chez nous in French reflect the sense of community and belonging the artists were striving to convey as they designed Table of Contents.

There are words or quotes etched onto the table’s surface. They were submitted by folks who live nearby and are frequent users of the park. They were asked to comment on the importance of the park, its natural setting, or the history of the area.

These quotes talk about the natural elements of the park like the elm trees, mosquitoes, autumn leaves and the sky

There are many different languages used for the words on the table. This is indicative of the surrounding multi-cultural neighbourhood where Tagalog, Portuguese, French and English are spoken. Even Braille is represented. The words are etched on the table in a way that gives you something to read no matter which side of the table you are sitting on.

Messages promoting a positive community spirit are etched in various languages and in Braille

Designed by Eduardo Aquino, a University of Manitoba architecture professor who originally hails from Brazil and Karen Shanski who is a practising Winnipeg architect, the table/sculpture is located at a spot where many of the walking paths in Vimy Ridge Park converge. Aquino and Shanski refer to the words on the table they created as a ‘landscape of language.’ It was important to them that the people who used the table would recognize themselves in the words on its surface. They hoped the table would be a place for people to gather to talk with each other and listen to each other.

Architects Eduardo Aquino and Karen Shanski pose for a photo next to another project they designed on the Osborne Bridge. Photo by Boris Minkevich from the Winnipeg Free Press

I am in the park frequently these days on regular stroller rides with my granddaughter whose home is nearby and I have seen people eating, visiting, sleeping, reading, smoking, taking a break from cycling and playing chess at the table. From what I’ve observed the table is fulfilling the purpose it was designed for.

Neat poem on the far side… Trees sway, children play, Hurray! I wonder if it was written by a child? I also like the sentiments A Place of Happy Memories and Always Love Those Beside You

Other posts………

He Looks Kind

The Guess Who

Between Dog and Wolf


Filed under Art, Winnipeg

He Looks Kind

When I take my granddaughter for walks in her stroller we often make our way through Vimy Ridge Park near her home. There is a statue of a young man there that always attracts my attention. He is crouched down, his hand stretched out and he looks so concerned and kind.

Portrait of Andrew Mynarski by Paul Goronson

I found out the man is Andrew Mynarski the son of Polish immigrants to Canada. He grew up in Winnipeg and attended elementary school and high school here. Andrew joined the Canadian Airforce when he was 25. He had been working as a leather cutter since age 16 when his father died and he needed to help support his family- his mother and five siblings. He is described as a quiet man with a good sense of humour who enjoyed woodworking. He liked to design and build furniture.

Artist Charlie Johnston created the sculpture of Andrew Mynarski

On June 12 his airforce crew was setting out on their 13th mission over France when Andrew found a four leaf clover in the grass by their plane. He insisted on giving it to his good buddy Pat Brophy who was a rear gunner on his crew.

On the mission their plane was hit and the pilot ordered everyone to bail out. Andrew was just about to jump with his parachute when he noticed that his friend Pat was trapped in the back of the plane. Instantly he turned away from the plane door and crawled on his hands and knees through blazing hydraulic oil to help Pat. By the time he reached his friend his parachute and uniform were on fire.

Andrew grabbed an axe and tried to smash Pat free but it was hopeless. Pat kept telling him he should just jump and get out. Finally Andrew did. French villagers found Andrew but he was so badly burned from trying to save his friend Pat he died a few hours later.

Pat however survived. The explosion caused when the plane hit the ground blew Pat safely away from the wreckage and he was rescued. Later he told the story of how his friend Andrew had tried to save him and Andrew was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage and kindness.

Andrew’s statue makes me think about what a horrible thing war is. That a caring brave young person like Andrew had to die is such a tragic loss. I think about the contributions a man of Andrew’s character could have made to his family and community had he lived. It makes me so sad.

When I push my granddaughter’s stroller by Andrew’s statue I always say a little prayer that she will never experience the tragedy and sorrow of a war.

Other posts……….

James Bond is From Winnipeg

Canada’s Women Soldiers

Wars Dread of Mothers


Filed under Art, Canada, History, Winnipeg

A Unique Meeting Place in A Winnipeg Park

“Would you mind if my wife took your photo?” I was too shy to ask but my husband wasn’t and that’s why I got this photo of some Winnipeg women enjoying a beautiful sunny Easter Sunday afternoon, visiting together.

They laughed and smiled when Dave said I wanted to take their photo and readily agreed.

Photo from the Winnipeg Arts Council

Dave and I went for a long cycle yesterday that took us to Maples Collegiate. Just behind the school is Adsum Park and a piece of public art called Close Commons. I had read about it and had been wanting to see it.

Artist Gurpreet Sehra with Close Commons- photo from the Winnipeg Free Press

Artist Gurpreet Sehra who designed and created Close Commons said she wanted it to be a place for dialogue and that is just what it was being used for when I saw it.

The art piece has large oak leaves made from aluminum. Gurpreet chose them because the bur oak is indigenous to Manitoba.

The bottom part of the piece is made from granite and is etched with floral motifs inspired by Islamic and Indian architecture and textiles.

Before she made the piece, Gurpreet took a survey of local residents using the three languages most commonly spoken in the area, English, Punjabi and Tagalog. Many people in the neighbourhood are immigrants from the Philippines or the Punjab area of India.

Gurpreet wanted the artwork to represent Manitoba so she chose the oak leaves and…………..

Photo from the Winnipeg Arts Council website

to represent the diverse immigrant communities in the province she did the granite etching with motifs from other countries and cultures. In Gurpreet’s piece the two come together beautifully.

When Gurpreet did her initial survey some of the women in the neighbourhood told her the wooden benches in the park at the time, were being used predominantly by men and they didn’t feel welcome there. The women wanted a beautiful and functional place where they could meet to talk. And as I saw yesterday that is exactly what they got!

Other posts…………

Indian Dinner

Warli Art- Kids Love It and You Will Too

Fifty Years of Folklorama

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Filed under Art, Winnipeg

My Aunt and Winnipeg’s Polio Hospital

My aunt with my parents at her nursing school graduation from the Misercordia Hospital in 1953

In a recent e-mail my Aunt Mary recalled the time in the early 1950s when she was training to be a nurse at the Misercordia Hospital in Winnipeg. A call for volunteer nurses went out from the King George Community Hospital where most of the city’s polio patients were in care. My aunt said the patients in iron lungs needed to be under vigilant survelience due to the need for frequent tracheostomy suctioning. The director of the nursing school at the Misercordia encouraged her students to volunteer at King George during the hours they weren’t on call at the Misercorida.

The Old King George Hospital

My aunt volunteered and was assigned to two young men, both from the area of southern Manitoba where she had been born and raised. The men were from a Mennonite background, as was my aunt, and so sometimes she spoke their common cultural language Low German with them, which she recalls often helped to lighten the mood of their serious situation.

My aunt says that Ted Braun, one of the men she cared for was engaged to be married, and his worried finance was a frequent visitor. She remembers how deeply appreciative the two men were of her care for them. My aunt’s memories of her time at the King George Hospital were triggered by a recent article in the Canadian Mennonite magazine written by Will Braun who was a nephew of Ted’s.

The King George Hospital site is now home to the Riverview Health Centre

I was curious about the King George Hospital where my aunt had volunteered but learned it had been torn down and was now the site of the Riverview Health Centre. My husband Dave and I decided to visit the site on our bicycles and discovered that the front archway of the old King George Hospital has been preserved on the site.

There was a fence around the archway so we weren’t able to get too close .

Dave managed to get shots of one of the plaques with his zoom lens and it told the story of the King George Hospital built in 1914. It was considered one of the best and most modern hospitals in the world for treating patients with communicable diseases like the Spanish flu and polio.

The old King George Hospital was torn down in 1999 to make room for a new addition to the Riverview Health Complex. I am glad they kept the archway as a reminder of the important role the former hospital played in the fight against polio. For many Manitobans, their families and the medical staff that cared for them the King George Hospital was the site of life-changing events. It will still have a special place in their hearts and minds as it does for my Aunt Mary.

Other posts………

My Polio Vaccines

The Pandemic Story Behind a 105 Year Old Photo


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Filed under Health, History, Winnipeg

A Mural for a Mayor

Photo I took last year of the construction on the new Bill and Helen Norrie Library

The brand new Bill and Helen Norrie Library located right beside the Pan Am Pool in Winnipeg will open its doors to the public on March 29th. The library is named after Bill Norrie who served as our city’s mayor from 1979-1992 and his partner Helen Norrie, a former teacher and librarian. Helen has written a column about children’s books in the Winnipeg Free Press since 1978 and has been an avid supporter of children’s literature and literacy.

We stopped at the Bill Norrie mural yesterday while taking our granddaughter for a walk

There are other places in Winnipeg, besides the new library, where Bill and Helen’s contributions to the city are recognized. One is at the corner of Ellice and Langside, where a huge mural unveiled in September of 2013 tells the story of Bill Norrie’s life. He died in July of 2012.

Note the pen beside the photo of the mayor’s wife

Helen Norrie, whose photo is displayed prominently in the mural, said at the mural’s unveiling that she appreciated the way it pictured so many of the things her husband was passionate about and interested in.

For example, the mural includes a sculpture of northern aviator Tom Lamb by Winnipeg artist Leo Mol. Bill Norrie officially opened Mol’s sculpture garden in Assiniboine Park during his last year in office.

Note the photo of the Norrie family cottage and the bookends of the Manitoba Legislature

There is also a panda since Bill Norrie helped to bring the pandas to Winnipeg. 

A painting of the Manitoba landscape is behind the mayor and just above it is a snow globe containing the Golden Boy and a vintage photo of the Forks site

The mural was painted by local artists Michel Saint Hilaire and Mandy van Leeuwen and shows the former mayor sitting at his desk surrounded by items that were meaningful to him.

The artists have even included a likeness of Bill Norrie’s childhood home on Banning Street.

At the mural’s unveiling, the mayor at the time Sam Katz characterized Bill Norrie as a kind and gentle man who loved his community. University of Winnipeg President Dr Lloyd Axworthy also paid tribute to Norrie saying, “he never forgot his roots.” 

Helen Norrie observed, “Bill loved Winnipeg and this mural shows that.”

Other posts……….

Meeting Another Children’s Book Lover

A Prayer for the New Year

The Guess Who on the Wall


Filed under Art, Winnipeg

A Notorious Winnipeg Robber

Many years ago I took an evening course about Winnipeg history with Roland Penner a former Attorney General of Manitoba.  Mr Penner had been involved in a legal case associated with a notorious Winnipeg robbery and he told us all about it.

Kenneth Leishman

On March 3, 1966,  a man named Ken Leishman masterminded the theft of nearly $400,000 in gold bars from the Winnipeg International Airport.  The gold was en route to the mint in Ottawa. Ken posing as an Air Canada driver intercepted the gold and drove away with it.

Harry Backlin, a lawyer was part of the scheme. He was on a planned holiday in California so it would look like he wasn’t involved in the robbery. On his return from the United States Backlin was going to take the gold to Hong Kong and sell it. Ken hid the gold in a snowbank in Harry’s backyard.  

Harry’s plans to go to Hong Kong were thwarted when there was a problem with his passport so Ken decided to go to Hong Kong to sell the gold himself. He sawed off a piece of gold to take to Hong Kong as a sample for potential buyers.

However, Ken needed a smallpox vaccination to go to Hong Kong. Harry arranged one with a friend who was a doctor. There was supposed to be a seven-day waiting period after vaccination before travel, but Ken convinced the doctor to lie and put the wrong date on the vaccination form so he could leave Canada right away.

The doctor feeling guilty confessed what he’d done to a police officer. The officer recognized Ken’s name because of his previous criminal activity.  The RCMP arrested Ken in the Vancouver airport when he arrived there on his way to Hong Kong. He managed to get rid of his sawed-off piece of gold before he was arrested. It has never been found. 

Ken is arrested

While in prison in Vancouver after his arrest Ken made the mistake of explaining the heist in detail to the man sharing his cell. He was an RCMP agent incarcerated with Ken for the purpose of extracting incriminating information. After Ken’s Vancouver jailhouse confession, the gold was dug up from Harry’s backyard and Ken was sent to jail in Headingly, Manitoba till his trial. 

Ken managed to escape from Headingly, was recaptured in Indiana and sent to the Vaughn Street Detention Centre and he escaped from there too. Finally, he was tried, convicted and sent to prison for twelve years. He managed to be released after just eight years for good behaviour.

Ken and his wife Elva

Following his prison release, Ken and his wife Elva and their seven children moved to Red Lake where they opened a store and Ken became a pillar of the community, even serving as president of the Red Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Ken, a former pilot began flying mercy flights taking people from northern communities to hospitals. In 1979 while flying one of these mercy flights his plane went missing. It took almost five months of searching but the remains of the aircraft were eventually found. 

 After learning about Kenneth Leishman from Mr Penner’s course I read a book about him, called The Flying Bandit by Heather Robertson. She writes about Ken’s difficult childhood. His parents were divorced, he was in foster homes and he lived with some strict and unaffectionate grandparents.

I truly admired his wife Elva who stuck with him through everything and raised their seven children. I also learned about the crimes Ken had committed before the gold heist– two bank robberies and a break and enter at a furniture store.

Something interesting I discovered was that when Ken escaped from Headingly Jail in September of 1966 he went to Steinbach, where my family was living at the time, and stole a plane. Ken and three other Headingly escapees flew the plane to Gary Indiana before they were arrested. 

Heather Robertson does a good job of helping us get to know Ken as a person. He truly believed he could get away with his crimes. He was a nice man –polite, friendly, dressed neatly and fashionably, was faithful to his wife, loved his children, wrote poetry but………. secretly revelled in the fame his crimes brought him. 

If you’d like to know more about this notorious Winnipeg robber I’d recommend a great little movie called Ken Leishman- The Flying Bandit. 

Other posts………..

Louis Riel

The House on Beaverbrook Street

Remembering the Holocaust in Winnipeg



Filed under Books, History, Winnipeg


My husband Dave has been on a quest to walk every single meter of the Seine River as it winds its way through Winnipeg. At the start of this week, we had almost accomplished his goal.

Monday we traversed the section near the Niakwa Country Club and yesterday we were going to finish the last two small sections that had alluded us till now. We walked one, but I was just a little nervous because the weather was so warm and sometimes the ice creaked and crackled beneath our feet and there was some water on the surface of the river. Dave walked ahead banging the ice with a stick he carried to be sure it was still solid. Eventually, I grew too faint of heart and moved to a path beside the river while Dave ploughed on down its centre.

I was all for giving up our quest once the first remaining section was complete, but Dave was determined to walk the one last small part of the Seine we had missed during our winter walks. So we drove to it and Dave went down a nearby residential street to park. At the entrance to the street was an open field lined with signs inviting you to park for a two-hour limit so Dave pulled over. When I wanted to get out of the car a wall of snow met my door. Dave was puzzled but said he’d move the car so I could get out.

It wasn’t going to happen. A narrow ditch ran along the side of the road where we had parked and it was full of snow. The passenger side of our car had sunk into it pretty deeply. No matter how Dave tried to drive forward or back the car was STUCK!

Dave dug around the wheels with his hands. I drove and he pushed. We were STUCK!

Dave had to listen to a lecture about his poor driving skills before obtaining a shovel to try and dig us out

I spotted a snow shovel leaned up against a nearby house and Dave went over and rang the bell to ask if he might borrow it. The elderly gentleman who answered was crotchety and irritated. He told Dave he was only one of many people who had been stuck in that ditch and blamed Dave for his poor driving and poor judgement. After Dave had listened patiently to his irate lecture the man finally begrudged him the use of his shovel. However, no amount of shovelling helped move our car. We were STUCK.

Our eventual saviour spread sand under our wheels

Finally, another nearby resident came out of his house with a pail full of sand. With the help of the sand under our wheels and the kind man’s strong back and arms helping Dave push the car, we managed to back it out of its snowy trap.

As we drove down the street heading home we could see where several other cars had gotten stuck just like we had

By this time I needed to leave to take my Dad to a medical appointment so Dave’s determination to finish our winter conquering of the Seine was not to be. I am afraid with warmer temperatures making river conditions even more trepidatious today if Dave does decide to finish his quest I won’t be accompanying him.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lucky twist of fate may have caused us to get trapped in that ditch thus preventing us from making a final river walk that might have proved even more disastrous than getting STUCK!

Other posts……..

Walking on the Seine

Looking for the Spirit of the Woods

Burning My Toes

Nature’s Artwork

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Winnipeg

Finding Nellie’s House

My husband Dave and I were taking our four-month-old granddaughter for a walk in her stroller on Friday and found ourselves on Winnipeg’s Chestnut Street.

“Hey! Look at that!” Dave pointed to a small sign on the yard of a well- kept attractive yellow house we passed.

“That’s Nellie McClung’s house he said. ” And sure enough it was. The sign made it clear.

Nellie, who was instrumental in getting Canadian women the right to vote, lived in the house on Chestnut Street with her family from 1911 to 1914. Besides being a suffragette Nellie was also an accomplished author with fifteen books to her credit. Her first book was a best-seller earning her more than $25,000, a windfall in 1908 the year it was published. Nellie became a sought after public speaker. When her family moved into the house at 97 Chestnut she was also the mother of five children ranging in age from a newborn to a teenager.

Nellie’s husband Robert was a pharmacist and it was his job that brought them to Winnipeg from Manitou Manitoba in 1911. They left Winnipeg and their house on Chestnut Street in 1914 because Robert got a job in Edmonton. Two years later in 1916 Manitoba women became the first in Canada to win the right to vote in large part thanks to Nellie’s lobbying, speaking and persuasion.

Just before Nellie left Manitoba she and her friends put on a satirical play called The Women’s Parliament at what is now the Burton Cummings Theatre. Nellie played the role of then-premier Rodham Roblin. The play was a huge success and won lots of support for the suffrage movement. It played a key role in getting women the vote.

Nellie is featured in a sculpture on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature where she is depicted as a member of the Famous Five.

This was a group of five women who went all the way to the British Supreme Court in 1927 to fight for the right of Canadian women to be recognized as persons under the law and not merely their husband or father’s property.

I was delighted to find Nellie’s house and a little piece of Canadian history on my walk on Friday. I thought it an especially serendipitous find since Women’s History Month begins this week.

I am curious about who lives at 97 Chestnut now. I hope they don’t mind when curious passersby stop to have their photo taken in front of the former home of a feminist pioneer who championed the rights of women with such intelligence, talent, wit and courage. I will be sure to take my granddaughter back to see the house when she is a little older and I can tell her Nellie’s story.

Other posts……..

The Famous Five

Are You This Determined to Vote?

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

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Filed under History, Winnipeg

It’s Louis Riel Day

Today is Louis Riel Day in Manitoba. I see reminders of Louis Riel everywhere in my downtown Winnipeg neighbourhood.

I live only about a fifteen-minute walk away from the Manitoba Legislature where this statue of Lois Riel faces the river. It is by artist Miguel Joyal.  It shows Louis Riel wearing his Metis sash and moccasins and holding the Manitoba Act in his hand. The act was based on a List of Rights Louis Riel wrote that asked for Manitoba to be recognized as a province by the federal government.

Even closer to my Exchange District home is the stunning Provencher Bridge. The walkway across the bridge is called The Riel Esplanade. There is beautiful artwork you can see from the esplanade that reminds us of how Louis Riel worked to preserve and protect Metis land rights and culture in Manitoba. Currently, some 90,000 Metis make their home in Manitoba.

You will find another public art piece recognizing Louis Riel just over the Provencher Bridge on the grounds of the St. Boniface Museum. It is housed in a former convent of the Grey Nuns. The nuns were Louis’ first teachers and they took him to Montreal to further his studies there. The museum contains a large collection of Louis Riel’s personal belongings. Louis Riel’s sister Sara became a Grey Nun.

This statue of Louis Riel is on the campus of the Université de Saint Boniface just a short walk from the St. Boniface Museum. It used to be at the Manitoba legislative grounds but it was so controversial it was moved. It shows Louis Riel with his face and body contorted in anguish.

Artist Marcien Lemay said he wanted to show Riel as a martyr who had suffered for his people but many Manitobans thought it was an inappropriate representation of Riel who was a statesman elected to Canada’s Parliament three times.

I live on Bannatyne Avenue. It is named after Andrew Graham Bannatyne who acted as a mediator, trying to broker an agreement between the provisional government Louis Riel established in Manitoba and the federal government. Louis Riel greatly admired Andrew’s wife Annie McDermott Bannatyne and once wrote a poem about her.

At the end of the Provencher Bridge is Joseph Royal Park. It is named after the lawyer who argued for amnesty for Louis Riel when he was tried for treason.

On the St. Boniface Basilica grounds, just a minute away from Joseph Royal Park is Louis Riel’s grave. He was tried for treason and hung in 1885.

Louis Riel was a complex man and I have read some interesting books that have helped me get to know him. But there are also many places within easy walking distance of my home in Winnipeg’s Exchange District where I can learn more about Louis Riel and the important place he holds in Manitoba history and Canadian history.

Other posts……..

Louis Riel had Three Coffins

A Graphic Louis Riel

A Controversial Statue


Filed under History, Winnipeg

A Waterfall on the Library

Have you ever noticed the waterfall on the Millennium Library? himmer waterfall winnipeg

It is cascading off a ledge on the side of the building and glimmers and sparkles in the sunshine.  It appears to be moving and flowing.   The artist who made it out of plywood, plastic and sequins is Theresa Himmer. Theresa is from Denmark but works in Reykjavik, kind of fitting since Manitoba has such a significant Icelandic population. 

waterfall theresa himmer The artist says it “playfully investigates the relationship between artificial and natural landscapes. “

waterfall artOne of the things I love about Winnipeg’s downtown is all the interesting public art especially during the pandemic when art galleries are closed.   You can see a video of the waterfall moving here. 

Other posts…….

I’m Living in an Art Gallery

The Millennium Library

Katherena Vermette on the Wall

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Filed under Art, Winnipeg