Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Down by the old mill stream

My favourite place is more than a bench. It's a connection to the past -- and the future

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Holding my hand and sitting next to me on a bench that overlooks Sturgeon Creek is my husband of 43 years. The bench has a nameplate engraved on it with the name of a family's loved one who has passed on.

This place marks the halfway point of our daily walks and is a welcome refuge for our aging bodies. The scent of wet autumn leaves overwhelms me as the last sunrays of summer cast their warm reflection on my face. I relish the moment as this is my favourite time of year and this is my favourite place in Winnipeg.

Grant's Old Mill, located at Portage Avenue and Booth Drive, was built in 1974 as a replica of the original grain mill that was constructed in 1829 by Métis leader Cuthbert Grant.

Scanning the banks of Sturgeon Creek and surrounding area brings back many childhood memories. Just a block east of the mill is Sturgeon Creek Garage where my father worked as a mechanic for more than 30 years. I remember the hot summer days when Dad would surprise his five children with a bag of Dilly Bars he had picked up from the Dairy Queen on his way home from work. This original establishment is still located just a few hundred yards from Grant's Old Mill.

A cool gust of wind ruffles my hair as my attention is drawn northward to the undulating pathways that make their way in and around the area. Towering over the trees that dot the pathways is the Grace Hospital. The hospital overlooks Sturgeon Creek and Grant's Old Mill. This hospital has been a beacon of hope for our community and holds a special place for me, as it was the place where our daughter was born and also the place where I said goodbye to my mom for the last time. My daydream is interrupted by the sound of my husband snoring. I'll let him catch a few winks before we continue on our way.

The four distinct seasons our city boasts multiplies the beauty in and around Grant's Old Mill and has provided many photo opportunities for some beautiful landscape scenes.

On one of our photo shoots, we met a young father with his two children taking pictures of Grant's Old Mill. The evening before, my husband and I had witnessed a most interesting sight. A beaver with an extremely large branch in his mouth was swimming along the creek. We followed the beaver for quite a distance and he eventually led us to his home that he was busy constructing.

Excited to share this information about the beaver, we began a conversation with this young man, only to find out he did not speak any English. I therefore resorted to a one sided game of charades and tried to act out what a beaver looked like by slamming my imaginary tail on the ground.

This man looked at me dumbfounded and I detected a hint of fear in his eyes. After a few more minutes, we were able to figure out he had just arrived in Canada from Korea. My husband and I had travelled to Korea in 1999 and knew a couple of words in Korean. We left this man with the words, "thank you and hello" in the best Korean accents that we could muster. To this day, we often wonder what that young man thought had happened at Grant's Old Mill the day I tried to mimic our country's national animal.

The continuous sound of water splashing over the spillway next to the mill interrupts my thoughts. Standing on the bank of the creek, two young boys cast their fishing lines into the creek. Their silence is broken by brief conversations that are shadowed by the dream of catching the big one. I enjoy the moment of watching these two boys just being friends. I relish these times and am grateful for this jewel of our city.

Only a few years ago, my family received news Cuthbert Grant was our great-great-great-great-great-grandfather on my mother's side. My family researched this information and found it to be true. Isn't it ironic that my most favourite place in Winnipeg actually has some personal family history?

Winnipeg is a gifted and unique city that boasts an abundance of interesting and historic places to visit, but by far my most favourite place is sitting next to my husband on this bench at Grant's Old Mill.

Maybe someday my nameplate will grace one of these benches, but for now it is a great place to spend time in my retirement. My husband stirs and says, "Come on Honey, let's go home."

Do you have a favourite place

in Winnipeg?


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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 4, 2012 A8

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