Tag Archives: Steinbach

Hopeful Diversity- An Elementary School Class So Different From Mine

kornelson school steinbach grade three class mrs. kihn

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in Steinbach

I was guiding a group of students from a school in my hometown through the Winnipeg Art Gallery recently. At one point during the tour I watched the children busy making clay sculptures. Suddenly it struck me how very different this class looked than the classes I’d been part of in that same community as a child. Check out the photo above of my grade three class taken on the steps of Steinbach’s Kornelson School in 1960. All forty students in the photo are white. I can still remember the surnames of almost every child in my class. Virtually ever one was of Mennonite heritage.

The group I was touring at the art gallery fifty years later was incredibly more diverse.  The children came from a wide variety of racial, cultural and religious backgrounds.

I’m glad the community I grew up in has become much less homogenous in some important ways. Children are receiving a more realistic, balanced view of the world right in their own classrooms as they interact with youngsters who come from very different backgrounds than their own. That gives me hope for the future of our country and our world.

Other posts……..

Kornelson School

The Children Are Watching and Listening

Skin Color

 

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Filed under Education, WInnipeg Art Gallery

There are People in Provencher Who Aren’t Hateful, Unsavory and Ignorant

The people in the political riding of Provencher  are “hateful, unsavory and ignorant!”  That’s what you might think if you read the second page feature in Tuesday’s Metro newspaper.  I had a copy of the Metro handed to me as I boarded the bus early Tuesday morning. I opened it up and read the piece during my transit ride.  I found the article unsettling. It describes a video posted by Provencher member of Parliament Ted Falk on his Facebook page.  In the video Mr. Falk suggests refugees who cross the border into Canada at Emerson are taking advantage of kind-hearted Canadians. Falk calls on the Liberal government to make their stance on the issue clear.

I had watched Mr. Falk’s video prior to reading the Metro story. I thought there would have been better ways to address the concerns of his Provencher constituents in Emerson.   I wished Mr. Falk had adopted a more welcoming and open-minded tone. While expressing his opinion that additional information and a clear policy from the federal government was required in the Emerson situation, he could have also talked about the many concrete ways we can all provide practical assistance to people from war-torn countries. Mr. Falk could have reminded his constituents  that at one time most of their families had been refugees too.

The Metro writer says hundreds of people have written accolades about Mr. Falk’s video on his Facebook page and that is true. I scrolled through the nearly four hundred responses and many are written in a fairly reasonable tone. There are some that remind Mr. Falk he needs to be more compassionate. They speculate as to how Jesus might have acted towards ‘the least among us’  who are crossing the border at Emerson. There are also some comments that say very disrespectful and unkind things about Muslims, the prime minster and refugees in general. I agree with the Metro writer that having provided a platform for these kinds of comments Mr. Falk might respond to them in some way. He could  delete or moderate inappropriate comments and remind his Facebook followers that informed, rational dialogue is the path to understanding.

One line in the Metro piece stood out for me. “Sadly, Falk’s views are in tune with those held by many of his constituents.”  That line makes it seem like the people in Provencher don’t care about refugees or their plight. I know that isn’t true. To balance their reporting on the Falk video the Metro might also have published a photo of the huge sign outside Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach that  welcomes all people as neighbours in both Arabic and English.  They might have reported on the refugee families that are currently being sponsored by groups in southeastern Manitoba or have been sponsored in the past.  I personally know of many such stories.

Last summer in the coverage leading up to the Pride Parade in Steinbach the media largely ignored the efforts of the people in southeastern Manitoba who have welcomed their LGBTQ neighbours for years and worked hard to make their communities more accepting. Instead they chose to focus on the less supportive comments and actions of local political leaders. Now they are doing the same thing with the refugee situation. 

I lived in Mr. Falk’s riding for some four decades. I know it is home to many people who are open-minded, welcoming, well-informed, thoughtful and compassionate. They need to be featured in media reports about Provencher as well in order to provide more  balanced coverage.

Other posts…….

Pride in Steinbach isn’t Something  New

Thoughts on Refugees

My Former Church and the Pope

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Filed under Media, Politics

Steinbach Pride- Homecoming, Forgiveness and Hope

At the Pride Parade in Steinbach I was walking with my brother. My brother grew up in Steinbach and experienced some of  the same kind of discrimination and bullying speaker Chris Plett described in his moving address to the crowd. Having the opportunity to march proudly in his hometown with his family and his same sex marriage partner meant a great deal to my brother.  

At the parade I met other members of the LGBTQ community who grew up in Steinbach and had returned, some from quite a distance just for the occasion. The opportunity to walk through their childhood home in support of something so integral to their identity was very significant and a kind of coming full circle sort of experience. 

Some comments in the media say the crowd at the Steinbach Pride Parade consisted mostly of people who live outside of Steinbach, and while that may be partly true, I would say that a large percentage of the people at the parade had some connection to Steinbach.  Every time I turned around I saw people I knew who either live in Steinbach now or have lived in the Steinbach area in the past. It was a day of homecoming for many. 

Speakers Chris Plett and Tyrone Hofer particularly impressed me.  As they described their experience of being gay, they firmly stated how strong their religious faith remained and clearly demonstrated what forgiving attitudes they had. They were willing to give the people in their faith communities another chance even after they had been treated so badly. They had hope for change in their churches and in the city of Steinbach.  

I think marching in the parade was a way to extend, ask for, and receive forgiveness for many. One woman I met said she had gone to high school with my brother and she wanted him to know that if she had ever said or done anything to hurt him during that time she apologized. And if I am honest marching in the parade was a way to ask my brother for forgiveness too, because while I have always accepted and affirmed his sexual orientation in a private family setting, there were many years when I did not do so in a public way out of fear of what people would think. I am sorry for that.

It made me feel so hopeful to see all the children in the crowd. I noticed many families represented as mine was, with three different generations. I dreamed as I walked that there would be a time in the future when there would be no need to have Pride Parades anymore because everyone in Canada would feel safe and secure in publicly sharing their gender identity and sexual orientation. 

The Facebook post of Phil Campbell- Enns my Winnipeg pastor, who grew up in Steinbach, reflects well the spirit of the parade for many. I share it here with his permission.

Today all were loved, and all were safe.
Honest words were spoken.
Stories of pain and resilience were shared.
Optimism and joy filled the air.
Politicians and educators were called to look after everyone.
The church was challenged, and faith was declared.
What a great day for my home town!
So glad I was there to celebrate.

Marching in the Pride Parade in Steinbach. Photo credit- Grant Burr

Marching in the Pride Parade in Steinbach. Photo credit- Grant Burr

I’m glad I was there to celebrate too!

Other posts…….

Pride in Steinbach Isn’t Something New

Responding to Changing Understandings of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

Take Time to Listen

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Rockin For A Reason

     Alan once made a six- figure income but when he lost his job his life spiraled out of control and it wasn’t long before he found himself living in the back seat of an abandoned Mercedes Benz in a junkyard lot. Ironically Alan had once driven a Mercedes himself.

     We heard Alan’s story last Saturday night at an event organized to raise funds for Today House, a non- profit community program based in Steinbach that offers emergency shelter to people who find themselves homeless. We were there courtesy of Canadian Biosystems.

The nearly full house in attendance saw a film explaining the work of Today House. It featured interviews with founding board members Irene Kroeker and Simone Penner. We also listened to the story of a young woman with two children whose family was helped by Today House. Then Alan told us about his difficult journey trying to find the help he needed to slowly turn his life around after he became homeless. Alan now works as an advocate for homeless people in Winnipeg trying to help others who find themselves without a safe place to stay due to job loss, abusive family situations, illness or other circumstances.

The Today House fundraiser took place in the Neufeld Garage in Randolph which like Alan has had it’s life turned around. A family owned and operated business since the 1940s the building has been transformed into an event centre and community space that features elements chronicling the garage’s history, but also has a kitchen, dance floor, movie screen and stage.

  R.B.B a local music group sponsored and planned the Saturday night event called Rockin for a Reason. One of the band members told us the story of why they had decided to host the fundraiser for Today House. R.B.B was practicing one night when a young man wandered into their rehearsal space and asked if he could listen to them play. Later some of the band members chatted with him and found out he was homeless. They took him out for a meal, heard his story, and then contacted Irene Kroeker to see if Today House could be of service to the young man. Irene was able to arrange for assistance. The experience gave the group the idea of connecting their next local performance with Today House and raising funds to help other people like the young man they had encountered.

 An experience with a homeless man had also left a lasting impression on radio personality Karen Black of Country 107 who hosted the Rockin for a Reason event. She began the evening by telling us the story of her encounter with a homeless man at Siloam Mission in Winnipeg.

 Today House board member Irene Kroeker is a high school teacher. She said she had first been made aware of the problem of homelessness in Steinbach when a student walked into her classroom and told her he had not eaten for days and had no where to go for the night.

  Simone Penner who has volunteered at Today House, talked about some of the things she learned as she listened to the stories of the guests. It was clear her volunteer experience had left a lasting impression on her own life.

A theme throughout the Rockin for A Reason event was that while you may have preconceived ideas about homeless people, when you meet them personally and listen to them talk about their experiences stereotypes disappear. You begin to understand their unique situations, realize that homelessness can happen to all kinds of people, and become inspired to do something positive to help those who find themselves in that difficult situation.

Other posts……..

An Alphabet for my Hometown

A Lovely Day in Steinbach

Kornelson School

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They Never Made It to the Manger- Christmas 1994

they never made it to the mangerI found a program in one of my journals for the Elmdale School 1994 Christmas concert. They presented a drama called They Never Made It to the Manger. It was a play written by my husband Dave who was teaching grade five at Elmdale School in Steinbach at the time. The entire school was involved in the performance and each child manipulated a hand held puppet they had created. My husband’s version of the Magi story included a fourth wise man named Henry and a wise woman named Gertrude who didn’t make it to Bethlehem. I noted in my journal there were gigantic camel puppets for the Magi to ride. they never made it to the manger

The show’s music was arranged and conducted by teacher Craig Cassils. The Elmdale student performers staged a lively party in King Herod’s palace with the puppets dancing and singing Twist and Shout by the Beatles. My husband played the harmonica for one of the songs in the show- Elton John’s Can You Feel the Love Tonight. It won the Academy Award for best song in 1994 as part of the soundtrack for the movie Lion King.

My son's grade four school class that performed with the angel puppets in the musical They Never Made It To the Manger

My son’s grade four school class that performed with the angel puppets in the musical They Never Made It To the Manger

Proud mama that I was, I wrote in my journal that our younger son who was a grade four student at Elmdale that year, used a Marlon Brando voice to play the role of King Herod’s advisor. He accompanied a song on an Orff instrument. He maneuvered one of the angel puppets and sang a duet at the end of the concert.

This all happened twenty years ago but I can still remember sitting in the audience and marveling at the talent and creativity of both my husband and my son and the enormous amount of work done by the Elmdale School staff to create such a memorable Christmas experience for both the children and the audience. 

Other Christmas Memory Posts………

My Mother’s Childhood Christmas

This Christmas Will Be Different

Christmas Eve

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Introducing Visitors from India and Hong Kong to Mennonites

windmill steinbachOur friends Meena and Anil from Hong Kong and Meena’s sister Beena from Delhi, India are visiting us here in Manitoba. Today Dave and I took them to the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach to introduce them to Mennonite culture and history. livery barn restaurant mennonite heritage village museumWe arrived around 12:30 so the first order of business was lunch in the Livery Barn Restaurant. traditional mennonite mealAfter we had explained what Mennonite foods like kielke and roll kuchen were- our guests chose a traditional meal of verenike with schmaunfatt, kommst borscht, platz, farmer’s sausage and brown bread made from flour ground in the museum’s windmill.  lunch livery barnThey declared the Mennonite food delicious and fortified by our hot meal we were ready to  brave the cold rainy weather for a tour of the typical Mennonite village laid out on the museum grounds.house barnsDave described how barns were attached to houses in Manitoba Mennonite villages to make it easier to feed and care for the animals in winter without having to go outside in blizzard conditions. The heat from the animals’ bodies also helped to warm the house. zwiebachWe had been trying to explain to our guests what zweibach were and luckily there were some of the two-tiered buns or rolls on the table in the house barn to show them. rhubarb plantsIn the house garden Beena wanted to see the rhubarb. At lunch she had enjoyed her rhubarb platz and wondered what kind of plant the fruit came from. There are no rhubarb plants in India. making manure bricksI wanted to show them this manure brick making machine.Demonstrating its use to visitors was my Dad’s job  for many years when he was a volunteer at the museum. The early Mennonite settlers used the manure bricks for heating. meenaMeena made friends with some of the farm animals housed on the museum grounds. windmillWe toured the museum’s signature windmill wheat into flour steinbach windmillto learn how wheat is ground into flour when the wind propels the sails IMG_0170and causes the huge grinding stones inside to move.steinbach windmill

We posed for photos on the windmill’s windy balcony.one room school mennonite heritage village museumWe visited the one room school and looked at the assignments for all the various grades written on the chalkboard.map of manitoba mennonite heritage village museumAnil studied the map of Manitoba and was interested to see how many lakes there are in our province.farm tractors mennonite heritage village museumIn the transportation shed Dave showed our visitors the kinds of tractors his family had owned and used when he was a boy working on their farm in southern Ontario. Here he explains to Anil how the steam engine ran the threshing machine.mennonite women monumentWe looked at the special monument built to pay tribute to the work of pioneer women. statue of mennonite woman by bill epp Mennonite pioneer museumBeena posed with the sculpture of a Mennonite woman by Saskatoon artist Bill Epp.church mennonite heritage village museumWe visited the church and explained how men and women had sat on opposite sides and singing had been led by a vorsinger who stood near the pulpit. sod house or zemlin mennonite heritage village museumBefore the rain began to pour we managed to sneak in a visit to the underground house made of earthen sod called a semlin which the first Mennonite immigrants lived in till they could build other homes.dave photo of grandfather in boat mennonite heritage village museumIn the main building we learned about the history of the Mennonites in the galleries and Dave made sure to point out the photo of his grandfather in a boat on the lake in front of the Enns family estate in Ukraine. Our guests who all are originally from India, were surprised to learn that there are over a 100,000 Mennonites in India. quilt making mennonite heritage village museumMeena and Beena were especially interested in the women who were quilting quilt and crochet work mennonite village heritage museum steinbachand spent a long time looking at the crochet and quilting work displayed. quilts mennonite heritage village museumDave was eager to leave since he wanted to give our visitors a tour of Steinbach where we had lived for over thirty years before we headed back to Winnipeg where he made a pizza with Mennonite sausage for our supper. 

mennonite heritage village museumDave and I had not been to the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum since our move back to Manitoba from Hong Kong and taking our Asian visitors on a tour was a great way to reintroduce ourselves to the museum and see all the changes that have taken place there in the last decade. 

Other posts about Steinbach……

An Alphabet For My Home Town

Kornelson School

I Was A Treble Teen

All My Puny Sorrows

 

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Filed under Canada, Culture, Food, History, Religion, Restaurants, Ukraine

I Was A Treble Teen

I'm second from the left in the back row

Treble Teens-Centennial Concert Hall- 1971-I’m second from left in the back row

Last weekend thanks to Cindy Rempel Patrick, the Steinbach Arts Council, and Golden West Radio, I was able to enjoy a reunion concert and brunch for the Treble Teens, a singing group that put Steinbach on the map for a number of decades. I was in the Treble Teens from 1969-1971. Like many women in the choir I learned valuable lessons about responsibility and teamwork from my experience.

Jocelyn Reimer Kent in June 2010 with then President of the Canadian Nurses Association Kaaren Neufeld

Jocelyn Reimer Kent (on the left) in June 2010 with the President of the Canadian Nurses Association at the time Kaaren Neufeld

    Four years ago I had the privilege of writing a news story about Jocelyn Reimer Kent, a former Treble Teen, who was a University of British Columbia adjunct professor and the president of the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses. Jocelyn had developed an internationally recognized protocol for treating cardiac surgery patients.

Jocelyn Reimer is third from the right in the first row in this newspaper photo advertising the May 1970 spring concert of the Treble Teens

Jocelyn Reimer is third from right in the first row in this newspaper photo advertising the May 1970 spring concert of the Treble Teens. I’m at the far left of the last row.

During our interview Jocelyn expressed appreciation for the lessons she’d learned while performing with the Treble Teens. She said director Shirley Penner helped her cultivate the confident stage presence she had needed to present her innovative ideas to audiences from across Canada and around the world. 

Shirley Penner at Saturday's reunion brunch

Shirley Penner at Saturday’s reunion brunch

  Jocelyn’s story is one echoed by many of the Treble Teens I spoke with during our reunion weekend. Besides learning music skills their participation in the choir helped develop traits of leadership, loyalty and poise that served them well in life.

Old and new members of the Treble Teens perform a number at the 1971 spring concert- I'm at the far end left in the second row wearing my highschool graduation dress and sporting my granny glasses

Current and alumni Treble Teens join forces to perform a number together at the 1971 spring concert- I’m at the far end left in the second row wearing my colourful highschool graduation dress with the big bow.

It was a treat to browse through the memorabilia on display at the Cultural Arts Centre during our Saturday morning brunch. Looking at photos of the choir from my era I was surprised I was still able to name almost all forty singers with whom I’d performed. treble teens recordI was delighted to see a copy of the record we’d made and found I could still recall the words and music to most of the songs we’d recorded like The Sleigh, Moody Manitoba Morning, Little David Play on Your Harp, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.

The Steinbach Treble Teens participate in A Mosiac of Music in April of  1970- I'm the very furthest to the right standing and leaning on the door

The Steinbach Treble Teens participate in A Mosiac of Music in April of 1970- I’m the very furthest to the right standing and leaning on the door

    Looking through scrapbook pages I was impressed by all the things our choir had done- participating in a multi-cultural show at the Centennial Concert Hall, recording radio and television programs, singing with the Winnipeg Symphony and traveling to other provinces to perform.

In the early 70's our director was still referred to by her husband's first name instead of her own

In the 70’s our director was still referred to by her husband’s first name not her own

It was interesting to see how times had changed since the 1970’s. I noted in newspaper articles about the Treble Teens, Shirley Penner, the group’s director and founder, was referred to by her husband’s first name rather than her own, and that the songs we sang frequently used words like brotherhood and man even though our choir was exclusively female.

Old Treble Teens uniforms on display at the concert

Old Treble Teens uniforms on display at the concert

    I got teary at the concert when Arts Council President Frances Funk mentioned parent support. My parents paid for my participation in the Treble Teens and my voice lessons. They drove me to practices, came to my concerts and helped with fundraising. I was sad my Mom, who died a year ago couldn’t be at the reunion concert. She’d have loved it.

  I bumped into my Carillon editor Grant Burr at the concert and when I told him I’d be writing a column about the reunion for this week’s paper he suggested, perhaps in jest, that I reveal the ‘untold story’ of the Treble Teens. I haven’t done that, because despite the inevitable behind the scenes politics that exist in any organization, the experience of singing in Treble Teens was overwhelmingly positive.

Treble Teens performing last Friday night- photo credit Adeline Loewen

Treble Teens performing last Friday night- photo credit Adeline Loewen

But I will leave you with one ‘inside scoop.’ Quite a number of former Treble Teens confessed that like me, they had their mouths open but weren’t really singing on those high notes at the concert on Friday night. After all many of us are in our sixties and at least in my case, the only singing I’ve been doing of late is with my grandson.

Other posts about Steinbach……

An Alphabet For Steinbach

A Lovely Day in Steinbach

The Old Kornelson School

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Filed under Childhood, Culture, Education, Music