Growing up in Winnipeg, one could have many places to choose as a favourite: Kelekis, Assiniboine Park, Tuxedo Golf Course, or the St. Norbert's Farmers Market, just to name a very small few. For me, there's one place that will always be my favourite in Winnipeg, and that's Academy Road.
Spending my childhood in River Heights allowed me to become very close to that stretch of road. At age 5, I started crossing Academy at Queenston Street to make my way to my elementary school, known as Queenston. At that age, you didn't cross anywhere but at the Queenston lights, as Academy was very busy with traffic -- as it is today. The school patrols had to be extra vigilant on those mornings. I should know: A few years later, I patrolled that crossing with great respect!
After school, we would stop off at Snell's Pharmacy and grab a chocolate bar and a drink. My first real job at age 14 was at Snell's, courtesy of Mr. Bassey, who owned not only Snell's Pharmacy, but also Bassey's Pharmacy, which was located at the corner of Academy and Lanark. I worked there as well, delivering prescriptions, sweeping the floors and stocking the shelves.
That was the great thing about neighbourhoods back then. You had everything right there, IN your neighbourhood. On Academy, we had four pharmacies, grocery stores -- including the great Dunn's, complete with butcher --and countless service stations, including Earl Hiebert's, which is still there. Every kid went to Rannard's to get their shoes, and we all got our hair cut, courtesy of Ralph.
Getting a Slurpee at 7-11 was very exciting back then, as we all collected those great superhero cups! Toronto Dominion and Royal Bank were a great convenience on Academy, and you would buy your Christmas tree from the Boy Scouts right beside the Royal Bank every holiday season. Specialty shops such as A Touch of Class sprang up in the late '70s, and of course Academy Lanes was, and still is, a birthday-party stop for most kids growing up in River Heights. We all played touch football at Lindsay Field (or, as it has been dubbed, "Steidle Memorial Field" after best friend Robert Steidle). As kids we climbed the trees, shot our Super-8 movies and put pennies on the train tracks. Pretty awesome.
Today, Academy Road is still the great place it always was. There is a butcher at G.J. Andrews, restaurants and clothing stores in abundance, and every kid's dream... a comic-book shop. We do, however, have to travel a wee distance to a pharmacy or to do a big grocery shop, but the essence and the beauty that was Academy Road is still there. Every year there is a street festival on Academy, and businesses continue to contribute to something pretty special: a small stretch of road that will provide wonderful memories of an incredible place to grow up.
Doug Morrow is a River Heights born-and-raised lad who has worked in the film industry as a makeup artist for the last 23 years. He has just completed working on Heaven is for Real with Kelly Reilly and Aloft with Jennifer Connelly. He is currently shopping on Academy Road.