Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/9/2011 (2125 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Just when you thought you had seen it all when it comes to the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, new, unpublished photographs have been uncovered at the Manitoba Archives.
In preparing his 25-minute documentary Mike's Bloody Saturday, which will debut at an outdoor screening in the city hall courtyard Saturday evening, writer-producer Danny Schur was hunting down a picture he believed showed a mortally wounded Ukrainian-Canadian Mike Sokolowski being carried away after being shot during a violent confrontation between strikers and police on June 21, 1919.
Schur still hasn't found that photograph, but in the search of the province's archives in July, he discovered a cache of 12 new ones that offer new perspectives on Bloody Saturday, the culmination of one of the most defining events in the city's history.
"The photos are definitely interesting and significant," says Nolan Reilly, a University of Winnipeg Canadian history professor who has hosted general-strike walking tours since 1985. "They paint a fuller picture."
Schur is something of an accidental strike historian. The Riverview resident wrote and produced Strike! The Musical in 2005, authored a strike radio play that aired on CBC in 2007, has led strike walking tours since 2004 and most recently co-wrote the screenplay for a feature film on the subject that he hopes will shoot in Manitoba next year.
He's not the only one fascinated by this contentious chapter of Winnipeg's past. The locally produced documentary Bloody Saturday by Andy Blicq aired on CBC-TV in 2007 and the book When the State Trembled by Brandon's Reinhold Kramer and Tom Mitchell was published in 2010.
Schur spotted the purported Sokolowski photo in Carleton University student David Miller's 1969 master's thesis about the general strike. Miller's research around the strike's 50th anniversary flushed out most of the known visuals from the cameras of freelance photographers L.B. Foote -- best known for the iconic shot of the leaning streetcar -- and William Wilson. There were 69 photos catalogued at the Manitoba Archives when Schur engaged archivist Rachel Mills to help him locate the wayward photo.
It was Mills who noticed that the general strike photo archive on the computer actually numbered 72. She went into the vault to investigate the discrepancy and returned with several folders filled with photos.
"I don't think we've found what we needed but I think you will be very surprised by these," Mills told Schur.
"She opens up the folder -- my hair stands on end just talking about it -- and there are originals from 1919," says Schur.
In the folders were more Wilson photos from a completely different camera angle as well as some by an unknown photographer taken from the roof of the former Birt Saddlery building on Main Street.
"It's incredible looking at these and visualizing how terrible it must have been," says Reilly's wife, Sharon, a recently retired Manitoba Museum curator who oversaw the 75th and 90th anniversary exhibits of the general strike. "It had to have been a horrible, horrible day."
There were thousands around city hall on Bloody Saturday when Sokolowski was shot but people are still arguing about what ignited the violence. One side contends it was the attack on the streetcar by strikers that was the genesis for the armed crackdown. Pro-strikers claim that the clash was set off by the mounted-police charge on unarmed citizens at a peaceful demonstration.
The Foote shot famously depicts the streetcar being pushed over westward while a new photograph captures the streetcar been pushed eastward.
"The new photos show it wasn't tipped over but rocked, putting a lie to the idea that deadly force was warranted," Schur says.
Does it matter after all these years?
"During times of hysteria, individuals and governments deny rights in the name of civil order," says Schur. "If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, then these pictures are messengers from Winnipeg's past declaring, 'Apathy is not an option. Educate yourselves about what went on in your backyard.' Simply put: for the good of our society, we ought to know our founding human-rights stories."
Reilly says the way people remember Canada's best-known strike is important to the way Winnipeg sees itself. People are still interested: witness the 80 members of CUPE in June he took on a strike tour that includes stops in the poverty-ridden neighbourhoods of the North End and mansion-lined Wellington Crescent.
"People on the tour always say, 'Wow, things haven't changed a lot in Winnipeg,'" says Reilly. "Some have said maybe we need another general strike."
The free public première of Mike's Bloody Saturday is set for 7 p.m. in Winnipeg's city hall courtyard, 510 Main St. Bring lawn chairs. It can also be seen on MTS Winnipeg on Demand beginning Oct. 7.