Category Archives: Winnipeg

The Break

There’s a whole world just down the street from me I know so little about.  Much of the action in Katherena Vermette’s book The Break takes place in Winnipeg’s north end in a neighborhood  just a few blocks from where I live, on streets where I walk regularly.  Selkirk Avenue is mentioned frequently.  I walk down Selkirk every time I go and volunteer at the MCC Thrift Store.  I’ve had lunch at the Windmill Restaurant where one of the characters takes refugee for a few hours. Although it isn’t named I think I work as a faculty supervisor at the high school some of the characters in the book attend. One of the young narrators in the novel is a patient at the Health Sciences Centre. I walk past it en route to a couple of other schools I visit regularly. 

There is a whole world in and around those streets where I walk and work and volunteer that I know little about- a world where gangs wield control and people live in fear of their retaliation, where some young adults are hardened and vicious, where a sentence can’t be uttered without throwing in the ‘f’ word a couple of times, where abuse and violence are everyday occurrences, where drugs are sold, and almost everyone smokes, a world where kids are neglected and hungry.

It’s a place where families are torn apart…. by sudden death, the child welfare system, a transitory life that shifts between Winnipeg and the reserve, by the criminal justice system, a century of discrimination, a desire for a different life but a strong emotional attachment to the old one, and by drug and alcohol dependencies.

It is also a world where there is love and family connectedness, hope, strong women, innocence, loyal friendships, sweetness,  a longing for roots, a nostalgia for tradition, a sense of community, artistic gifts, and a respect for elders.  

In Katherena Vermette’s book The Break the fact that world is brought to life by an author who has lived in it makes it all the more poignant.  The Break is not an easy read. But I am so glad I read it.  I will walk the streets brought alive by Katherena’s novel with both my mind and heart opened just a little wider now.

Other posts…………….

A Blast From The Past

The Palace Theater

Katherena Vermette on the Wall

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Winnipeg’s Palace Theatre

palace theater winnipegI go by the Palace Theatre every time I walk down Selkirk Avenue to do my volunteer work at a thrift shop. The theatre building is all boarded up but it looks like it was a grand place once and I wanted to know more about it. 

palace theaterI found out the Palace was designed by Max Zev Blankstein a Jewish architect trained in Odessa, Russia who emigrated to Canada in 1904.  He drew up plans for a number of Winnipeg theatres. The theatre was built by Jacob Miles whose family would become one of the biggest movie theatre operators in Manitoba. 

The Palace Theatre in 1930- photo by Jim Fustey from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

The Palace Theatre in 1930- photo by Jim Fustey from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

The Palace opened in 1912 and was initially a venue for vaudeville performances. According to Russ Gourluck the author of Silver Screens on the Prairie it was also used for meetings of the Ukrainian community as well as the viewing of motion pictures. 

exterior palace theater selkirk avenue

Detailed design on the theater’s exterior

An addition was built in 1927 adding a balcony and increasing the capacity of the theatre to 800. 

Michael Koster in the Palace Theatre -photo by Raymond Koster- from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

Michael Koster in the Palace Theatre -photo by Raymond Koster- from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

Michael Koster worked in the projection room and it was sometimes so hot in the room that he wore only underwear, socks and shoes.

the-green-hornet-serialJack Baturin a North End resident recalls kids attended Saturday shows that began at 10:00 am and many kids sat twice through the cowboy movies, mysteries, serials and cartoons bringing lunches that consisted of chunks of bread and kubasa sausage from home. The Green Hornet was a favorite serial. 

The theatre was a haunt of the Dew Drop gang who liked to run a variety of scams to avoid paying for their movie tickets.

palace theater winnipegThe Palace Theatre closed in 1964 and was in turn an auction house, furniture warehouse and bargain store. Now it stands empty- a reminder of a time when the North End of Winnipeg was a very different place. 

Other posts about the North End………

Gunn’s Bakery

I’m a Shop Girl and I Love It


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Filed under History, Theatre, Winnipeg

Did You Enjoy the Game?

With my sister at the Jets game

I went to a Winnipeg Jets game on Friday courtesy of my generous brother-in-law and sister.  My brother-in-law who thought a professional sporting event might not be my first choice of entertainment asked me after the game whether I had enjoyed it.  “Of course I did,” I replied. 

I may not notice the same things others do at a Winnipeg Jets game but I’m still engaged and fascinated with the experience.

I loved, loved, loved watching that huge screen over the ice that shows the camera panning to different people in the crowd. I love the moment when they finally realize everyone in the arena can see them.  At the game I attended I saw a mother and father with tiny black haired twins waving and smiling. The little girls’ ears were covered with huge headphones to muffle out the roar of the arena crowd. Of course I saw Winnipeg’s iconic Dancing Gabe having a great time.  He wasn’t the only spectator that broke into a unique victory dance when they realized they were on the big screen. I loved the little boy whose eyes grew huge as the moose mascot approached him and the two guys both dressed as Elvis look alikes who tried to act so cool when the camera focused on them.

I loved hearing the talented Stacey Natrass’ voice soar during the two national anthems. She is so talented and does such a professional job. I also liked listening for the different kinds of music they played during different situations in the game and wondered how the organist decided when he was going to chime in with his own contributions to the sound track.

I loved watching the players fly across the ice, guessing who they were going to pass to, keeping track of the goalies’ little rituals and watching how the different teams celebrated when they scored a goal.

I loved visiting with my sister, catching up on family news and grandchildren’s latest exploits.

I loved watching the people around me and how they interacted with each other during the game, parents and children, people and their partners, grandparents and grandchildren, groups of female friends, groups of male friends and folks I guessed must be work colleagues. 

I loved reading the story printed in the Jets program about Nikolaj Ehlers a young player from Denmark.  It was very inspirational the way the modest young man paid tribute to his mother and father and his sister and brother, giving his family credit for much of his success as a hockey player.  He is most appreciative of their support and openly acknowledges he wouldn’t be where he is without them.  It was also refreshing to read about how seriously Nikolaj takes his responsiblity as a role model for young hockey players, especially those in his home country of Denmark. 

Did I enjoy attending a Winnipeg Jets game?  I loved it! 

By the way the Jets beat Las Vegas 7-4. 

Other posts……..

My First and Last Jets Game of the Season

White Noise

Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot


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Filed under Sports, Winnipeg

I’ll Miss Her

I was sad to read in the Winnipeg Free Press this morning that The Metro newspaper will no longer be published. Truth be told I seldom read the paper but there was this incredibly friendly woman who stood at the bottom of the escalators in Winnipeg Square each morning handing out copies of the paper. She had a cheery good morning or an upbeat “Have a nice day” for every single person that walked by, whether you took a newspaper from her or not. I have passed her a hundred times on my way to work,or coming home from the gym or hurrying to an appointment and her warm greeting always brightened my day.  For the people who live and work downtown and who trek through the underground concourse in Winnipeg Square each morning she will no doubt be more sorely missed than the newspaper. Maybe the rest of us should follow her example and take the time to wish at least one or two of our fellow citizens a cheerful good morning as we make our way through Winnipeg Square. It would be a great way to carry on her tradition.
Other posts………

She’s Gone



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Everyone’s A Winner

I attended the Arts Junktion fundraiser last Friday night.  We are annual patrons of the event.  In case you don’t know Arts Junktion does wonderful work by redistributing reusable stuff to community artists.  Businesses donate materials to Arts Junktion that might otherwise be headed for landfills and the ArtsJunktion volunteers organize the materials and make them available free of charge to teachers, early childhood educators, crafters, community organizations and the general public. Arts Junktion also hosts workshops led by artists to educate people on how to use the materials available for various art projects. It’s a win/win experience for everyone involved. 

Regular features of the annual fundraiser night at the Kings Head Pub are a 50/50 draw, a silent auction and a raffle for a brand new bicycle donated by the Les Wiens Investors Group.  Last Friday Dave and I bought tickets for all the contests.  

At the end of the evening Allison Moore the new chair of the Arts Junktion board started pulling tickets for the silent auction winners.  Lo and behold my number was selected and I had won a collection of things including…….. a beautiful necklace, a gift certificate to a designer clothing shop and a print by local artist Craig Love.  I was excited! 

black and white with bikeThen came the draw for the bicycle.  Les Wiens who had donated the bike pulled the winning ticket.  He teased the audience a bit. The winner’s last name ends with ‘r’ he said and it starts with ‘D’ and the first initial is ‘M’. By then I was pretty sure I was the winner and by the time he read out my full name I was already half way up to the front to get my prize.  

I had a lovely chat with Les later and also with the owner of White Pine Bicycle Company where the bike was purchased.  He told me I was free to come in and trade my bike for another color or size anytime.  I don’t think that will be necessary. I’ve tested my bike already riding it up and down the long hallways in our condo and think it will be the perfect bike for me.  I did give my neighbor Stephanie a little scare when I zipped by her as she walked up from the elevator. 

Although I was a big winner at the Arts Junktion fundraiser this year everyone who goes is really a big winner because they are all contributing to a great cause that promotes artistic expression and environmental responsibility for everyone in the community.  

Other posts. …….

Tin Can Art and Feeding the Homeless




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Filed under Art, Winnipeg

The West End Cultural Centre

mike koop free pass front pageThat’s a former student of mine!  Mike Koop was my grade one student many, many years ago.  I remember how full of energy he was and how he often had something very important to tell me.  Mike, who is a professional musician was featured on the front page of Saturday’s Winnipeg Free Press to illustrate a great story about the history of the West End Cultural Centre.  It was so interesting to read about all the people who have given selflessly of their time and energy and money to found and then keep this cultural hub of Winnipeg’s music industry growing. 

wiki commons photoMy husband is one of those people since he volunteers regularly at the West End Cultural Centre helping to take tickets, usher or sell merchandise at events. We attend concerts there often and I love the different ways the venue is used to showcase all kinds of musical experiences.

Just a few weeks ago we were there to see jazz musician Amber Epp (a former student of my husband’s) perform her versions of all the songs on Joni Mitchell’s album Blue

am-i-not-kingLast December our son’s band Royal Canoe provided the music for an intriguing version of Shakespeare’s Richard II called Am I Not King? It was performed at the West End Cultural Centre. The production is nominated for six awards at the upcoming Winnipeg Theatre Awards event taking place at The West End Cultural Centre on November 12.  

Garden City Collegiate Jazz Vocal Group directed by my daughter-in-law

Last June within one week I heard a concert by 70-year-old Canadian musician Valdy at the West End Cultural Centre and attended a wonderful show of jazz music performed by teenagers from the Seven Oaks School Division. 

One of my favorite shows at the West End was The Last Waltz A Celebration of The Band.  I could sing along with almost every number. 

As the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press said….  the music really does live on at the West End Cultural Centre. 

Other posts…….

Young and Old At the West End Cultural Centre

Nathan Rogers A Story That Tugs At Your Heart Strings

The Last Waltz

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Filed under Music, Winnipeg

Wings or Fingers?

high fiveI walk past this art piece many times each week and have often wondered what it was called and who made it.  Recently I noticed a sign on the boulevard that said the piece is named High Five and was created by Jennifer Stillwell.   It is on Waterfront Drive right across the street from the Goldeyes ball park. Each of the five fins or wings or fingers in the installation are over 25 feet tall and seven feet wide. 

jennifer stillwell high fiveIf you look at the piece from inside the ball park it looks like a human hand with five fingers. The fingers also resemble the wings of an airplane and each one has a target on it. The target designs could be abstract fingerprints, designs on an airplane wing or archery targets. Apparently during a warm up for a Goldeyes game a batter hit one of the targets with a home run ball.  The artist Jennifer Stillwell said she didn’t want the piece to have a specific meaning but hoped each viewer would interpret it from the perspective of their own life experience and would be prompted to discuss its meaning with others. 

Jennifer Stillwell grew up in Manitoba and studied art at the University of Manitoba.  She now lives in Victoria where she is a visual arts professor at the university there. 

Other posts about public art on Waterfront Drive…………

Selkirk Settlers

Grain is King


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