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PERSPECTIVE: So you think you know Manitoba?

The province gets its own encyclopedia

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The Encyclopedia of Manitoba is to make its debut Monday.
The 814-page hardcover volume, three years in the making, contains 2,000 entries written by hundreds of expert Manitobans. Great Plains Publications, the encyclopedia's publisher, calls it the most ambitious publishing project in the province's history.
Here is a sampling of its content.

BALSILLIE, Gladys Eva "Gladdie," - entrepreneur, burlesque agent (b March 27, 1919, RM of Franklin, MB; d Jan 9, 1987, Winnipeg) was known as the "Queen of the Strippers," reigning over Winnipeg's exotic dance industry for nearly 20 years. Gladys Johnston attended St. Mary's Academy, a Roman Catholic private school, and then took up flying at the Winnipeg Flying Club, helping to form the Women's Auxiliary before marrying lounge musician Reginald Balsillie at age 21 and becoming his booking agent. The couple eventually saved enough from Reginald's shows to purchase a Main St restaurant called the Swinging Gate in 1961. The restaurant became a favourite hangout for Winnipeg Blue Bombers players. Gladys tended bar until the restaurant closed in 1967, after which she set up a bartending school.

Around this time, she began booking go-go dancers in hotel lounges, expanding her business by recruiting women from other industries, including teachers and secretaries. She also became manager of the Airport Hotel's Continental Room, where many of her "girls" performed. Her husband led the house band at the hotel's lounge until his death in 1971. At the peak of her business, she managed roughly 100 exotic dancers, and was booking gigs in 45 Winnipeg hotels, giving her a virtual monopoly over exotic dancing. She introduced the first male exotic dancers to Winnipeg in 1980. She was a large woman known for her flamboyant style, but also a devout Catholic who made all her performers sign contracts forbidding drug use and prostitution. At the time of her death, Balsillie owed more than $600,000 to Revenue Canada in back taxes, resulting in the bankruptcy of her estate.

- Michelle Dobrovolny

BANNATYNE, Annie, - hostess (b 1830; d May 14, 1908, SK). The country-born daughter of Andrew McDermot and wife of A. G. B. Bannatyne, Annie was a noted hostess and charity organizer in the village of Winnipeg. In Feb 1869 she famously horsewhipped poet Charles Mair (either in her husband's store or on its front steps, depending on who tells the story) over slurs Mair had published in a Toronto newspaper about mixed-blood women in the Red River Settlement. Her later energy was devoted to the Winnipeg General Hospital, built on land owned by her family.

-- J.M. Bumsted

CARNIVOROUS PLANTS. MB has 10 known kinds of carnivorous plants. Although commonly associated with tropical jungles, carnivorous plants occur widely around the world and as far N as the subarctic zone in MB. Plants use "meat eating' to gain nutrients, especially nitrogen, in environments like bogs, ponds, and lakes where nutrients are scarce. Carnivorous plants are also known, incorrectly, as insectivorous plants but they "eat"' many more kinds of animals than insects. Some of the larger tropical ones have captured small birds and the small aquatic bladderworts catch mainly very small crustaceans, nematodes and even protozoans.

Carnivorous plants don't really "eat" their prey. They trap it with specialized leaves, secrete digestive enzymes that break down its tissues and then absorb the nutrients they require from this fluid through their leaves. The variety of traps and their mechanisms is fascinating and the type of trap is one of the main ways by which these plants are classified. Passive traps can be ones in which the prey simply falls into a trap full of liquid and is digested. The purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) is an example of this type. Others are MB's 2 butterworts (Pinguicula vulgaris & P. villosa), which have sticky leaves that trap prey like flypaper. Even more interesting are the active trappers. MB has three kinds of sundews (Drosera spp.) which use a combination of active and passive traps. Their leaves are covered with sticky hairs that first catch the prey like flypaper and then fold over it like a net. Then the leaf rolls up. MB's 4 species of bladderworts (Utricularia spp.) live mainly in quiet water. They have tiny ingenious underwater traps. Water is absorbed out of the trap, leaving a negative pressure inside it. When prey hits a sensitive trigger hair, the door of the trap opens, causing water and prey to be sucked inside and the door to then close.

The famous 'Venus fly-trap' (Dionea muscipea) doesn't occur in MB, although you can often find it in garden stores and it is fairly easy to grow. The Conservatory in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg is developing a collection of both native and exotic carnivorous plants.

-- Karen Johnson

DAKOTA. The term Dakota refers both to a specific people and to the larger nation they form with the Lakota and Nakota peoples, who live farther W. These groups have often been called "Sioux," a term they reject because it homogenizes 3 distinct cultures and also because it comes from an Ojibway word meaning "snakes" or "enemies."

The Dakota have long been treated as newcomers to the area that is now MB, but their history belies this notion. Archaeological evidence from pottery suggests that their ancestors had villages in the area at least 800 years ago. European records from the 17th and 18th centuries show Dakota territory stretching from western Lake Superior to the Red River and Interlake regions. Only in the later 18th century did they move farther S and W. The Dakota were active military allies of Britain in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Yet after the Revolution, British authorities labelled them "alien Indians," denying that they had any claim to lands north of the Canada-US border.

At least 3 Dakota bands returned to the Red River area in 1862-63, fleeing US Army reprisals for the Dakota Uprising of 1862 in MN. Despite settler opposition to their presence, the British government prohibited the US Army from entering its territory to crush the refugee Dakota, and eventually their permanent settlement was allowed. The Dakota obtained the consent of the Ojibway to use parts of their territory, and the federal govt granted them small reserves in what are now MB and SK.

The Dakota pursued different economic strategies according to their location, skills, and resources. One group around Turtle Mountain retained a hunting, fishing, and trapping economy, but was forced by govt agents to disperse to other reserves, and their reserve was sold. The groups around Birdtail, Oak Lake, and Oak River became successful farmers. Those around Portage la Prairie, who had been granted very small reserves, supported themselves largely through wage labour. In the 20th century, the Dakota experienced declining economic opportunities on and around their reserves, as demand for their labour diminished and the farming sector began to require increasing capital and larger farms, neither of which could be supplied by their small reserves. By the 2nd half of the 20th century, unemployment was a growing problem.

With increasing control of their own education and some govt assistance in building new economic ventures, the Dakota are making important steps toward improving their economic circumstances. Their strategies include improved education, more intensive agriculture, and gaming. The Dakota live in the southwest, where they have 5 reserve communities: Birdtail Sioux, Canupawakpa, Dakota Tipi, Dakota Plains, and Sioux Valley. The total registered Dakota population in MB is about 4000.

- Robin Jarvis Brownlie

FANNYSTELLE, pop 100, is an unincorporated community 50 km WSW of Winnipeg on hwy 2. Fannystelle was originally a French settlement founded by the Countess of Albufera da Valencia, descendant of a Naploeonic-era French general, in honour of Fanny Rives. Rives worked on behalf of the homeless in Paris and met Lady Albufera while doing humanitarian work. The countess convinced her husband to fund the emigration of poor Parisians to Canada. Rives continued her work in Canada and died in 1883. The countess founded the settlement 6 years later and called it Fannystelle for "Fanny's star." A CPR point and post office opened 6 years later, in 1889. In the 21st century, the economy is supported predominantly by grain farming. Because of the close proximity to Winnipeg, many residents commute to the city for work. Every July, the community holds an annual Fun Fest, when residents get together to enjoy music, food, and entertainment.

- R.G. Enfield

FROEBE HELICOPTER. Canada's first controlled manned vertical flight occurred on a farm in the Homewood area of MB. While Leonardo de Vinci was the first to design what we know as a helicopter, it was 3 brothers in southern MB who designed, built and flew the world's 2nd helicopter in 1937-38, a few months after a German-built helicopter was flown. The brothers, Douglas, Nicholas and Theodore Froebe had a keen interest in flight and learned to fly the aircraft of the day and then began to experiment with designing their own "flying machines," in early 1936, focusing on a helicopter rather than fixed wing.

They built the frame from aircraft chrome molybdenum steel tubing purchased from McDonald Aircraft Supply in Winnipeg. Other parts were either handcrafted or taken from farm machinery. The finished product was left uncovered since they considered it experimental.

The brothers purchased a used 4-cyclinder air-cooled Gypsy engine from a plane dealer in Los Angeles for $100. It was installed in the forward section of the fuselage and connected it to the rotor shaft through a right-angled drive. Fuel was contained in a small tank behind the pilot's seat for better weight and balance. Two concentric counter-rotating blades located 5-6 feet above the fuselage provided lift, with directional control in the upper rotor assembly. Although the helicopter easily lifted off the ground, it vibrated severely and only short directional flights were achieved. Numerous flights were attempted throughout 1937-39 with the last logbook entry being March 2, 1939. A total flying time of 4 hours and 5 minutes was logged. With no financial support and world war pending, further tests were suspended. In 1957 the National Research Council of Canada expressed interest.

The design was very similar to designs of the 1970s and 1980s - a tribute to the advanced thinking of the brothers. Unfortunately they never registered their design at the patent office with the result that Canada received no recognition of having designed one of the world's first helicopters.

- Shirley Render

PENIS WORM is a cylindrical, phallic, unsegmented marine creature in the small phylum Priapulida found worldwide in cold marine waters. This group contains truly ancient and bizarre creatures ranging in size from 5mm-30cm. The body is supported by hydrostatic pressure and consists of a trunk with a large forward proboscis and a rear appendage. The trunk, ending in the anus, is encircled with numerous indented rings, and with wart-like nodules on the posterior ones. The large (1/3 body length) retractable, club-shaped proboscis, has many longitudinal rows of fine spines, and houses the mouth. The penis worm can move slowly by means of waves of muscular contractions (peristaltic action). Small species and young individuals eat bacteria and organic detritus in the mud or sand of the sea floor, but larger ones are predatory and swallow whole prey such as annelid worms or even their own kind.

The sexes are separate, with external fertilization in large species and internal in small ones. Fertilized eggs hatch into planktonic larva which drift for a few days to a month before settling on the bottom and metamorphosing into an adult. Only 2 species have been found in Hudson Bay - the 10-cm long, cream-coloured Tailed Priapulid Worm (Priapulus caudatus) and Priapulus humanus. Another species (Halicryptus spinulosus) occurs in Hudson Strait and will likely also be found off MB shores. The Tailed Priapulid Worm occurs in both Arctic and Antarctic seas, a remarkable bipolar distribution. Penis worms are found in or on mud or sandy sediments, usually below the low-tide mark and to depths of 500 m. They are tolerant of fluctuating salinity, low oxygen levels, and can withstand lack of food for long periods. Penis worms are represented today by only 17 surviving species, but many others existed back to 520 million years ago (Mid-Cambrian period).

-- Robert E. Wrigley

RIEL DIET was the alimentary regime followed by MB's founding father, Louis Riel, a devout Roman Catholic whose strict religious convictions permeated his eating habits. Riel's ascetic approach to food is well-documented as he often makes mention of his diet in his personal journals, particularly in the section titled "Prophetic Admonitions" in which he chastises himself for eating too much. Though Riel's abstemious diet was likely the result of his rigid morality, he also complained of a weak stomach, and may have preferred foods that would alleviate his digestive issues. He would often cook blood into his broth in order to fortify himself, and recommended bean soup, ripe peas and corn as foods to be favoured by those seeking to improve their constitution. Peas especially were thought by Riel to add to his physical and spiritual strength. Alcohol, of course, was something in which Riel rarely, if ever, indulged. His rather Spartan diet was followed up to his final moments; for the last meal before his execution, Riel requested only 3 eggs accompanied by a glass of milk.

- Michelle Dobrovolny

STOCK, Sarah, wrestler (b Mar 4, 1979, Winnipeg). Though virtually unknown in NA's wrestling circuit, Stock has made a name for herself as a luchadora or lady wrestler in Mexico's lucha libre. She attended St. John's-Ravenscourt, and received a chemistry degree from the U of M. Though she had planned to study medicine, Stock developed an interest in fighting, initially as a kick boxer. When she didn't get as many fights as she had hoped for, Stock began looking to other contact sports for matches. In Dec 2001, she began training with the Winnipeg promotion Top Rope Championship Wrestling. Just 5 weeks into her training, Stock made her professional debut with Can-Am Wrestling, winning her first title in 2002. She went on to wrestle in several independent promotions throughout NA. Looking for opportunities to advance her career, Stock took advantage of her trainer's connections in the thriving wrestling circuit in Mexico, and jumped at the chance to join the lucha libre, a popular form of entertainment wrestling in Mexico where a wrestler's status is closely tied to their masked identity. In mask matches, a luchadora wins only after unmasking her opponent.

Adopting the stage name Dark Angel, Stock was the Lucha Libre Feminil Juvenil champion in 2003. In 2004, she switched to the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), one of the top Mexican promotions, where her skill and sex appeal brought her matches against some of Mexico's top luchadoras. Her muscular physique also won her the title in the CMLL's first female body building contest. Stock then won the first women's mask match at Arena Mexico, one of Mexico's oldest arenas, becoming the first female wrestler to unmask her opponent in the historic facility.

- Joel Trenaman

SWYSTUN (SWISTUN), Michael, circus performer, farmer (b Nov 14, 1901, Olha, MB; d July 16, 1980, Olha) was once billed as "The Strongest Man in the World" while touring with the famous Ringling Brothers' Barnum and Bailey Circus. Born in a budda, a thatched-roofed dwelling built by his Ukrainian parents, Swystun overcame the drudgery of pioneer life by entertaining his small community with magic tricks. Naturally charismatic, his commanding presence was bolstered by his gargantuan size. He eventually discovered that he could lift bags of grain with his teeth, and performed this trick so many times that his jaw became strong enough to bend iron bars.

Swystun's unique talents earned him a spot with the Barnum and Bailey circus during the summer of 1923. He spent several happy months travelling through NA, seeing the world beyond Olha for the first time, but his circus career was cut short when he received a telegram telling him to return home for the harvest. Though he obeyed his family's demand, Swystun was not content to settle for a dull life of farm work, and continued to perform magic tricks in his hometown under the title "Swistun the Magician, Master of 42 Tricks and Illusions." In one incident, having hypnotized several local ladies, Swystun convinced them that they were wading through deep water so that they scandalously lifted up their skirts. Some such tricks were caught on film in a 1980 documentary about his life, including one where Swystun astounds film crews by pushing a 7-in spike into the back of his head and pulling it out through his nose.

Swystun's hypnotic and magical abilities, whether real or imagined, caused him to be shunned by his superstitious neighbours, who considered it a form of devilry. He became something of an outcast in Olha, and took to restoring the buddas he remembered from his youth. He lived to a ripe old age, beating cancer 4 times and, he claimed, surviving a heart attack by willing his heart to beat again.

- Michelle Dobrovolny

TROTZ, Barry, hockey coach (b July 15, 1962, Winnipeg). A long-serving coach of the NHL's Nashville Predators, Trotz grew up in Dauphin before pursuing his hockey dream with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Following his 4-year major junior career, Trotz played one season for the U of M Bisons in 1983-84. He stayed on for the 1984-85 season as an assistant coach of the team before taking over as general manager and coach of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League's Dauphin Kings for 2 seasons. Trotz returned for one year as head coach of the Bisons during 1987-88, while also acting as a part time amateur scout.

In 1988, the NHL's Washington Capitals hired him first as a regional scout and then chief western scout. Trotz began his coaching career at the professional level with the Baltimore Skipjacks of the American Hockey League in 1991. The team became the Portland Pirates in 1993, and Trotz was the head coach for 4 seasons, winning a league championship and coach of the year award in 1994-95. The expansion Nashville Predators made him the franchise's inaugural head coach in Aug 1997, and Trotz went on to set an NHL record as a team's longest serving first coach. He has also acted as an assistant coach for team Canada at the 2002 and 2003 world championship tournaments, winning a gold medal in 2003 along with fellow Manitoban Andy Murray.

- Joel Trenaman

Excerpted with permission from The Encyclopedia of Manitoba, © 2007 Great Plains Publications.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 4, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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