Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ideas for honorary street names pouring in

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ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS ASK... Last week I asked for your help on a couple of topics and, of course, you -- or at least some of you -- delivered.

Initially on a search for submissions of names that deserve to be on city street signs, then on the search for the owners of some "found memories." Shall we start with the name-dropping?

-- -- --

THE HONOUR IS ALL YOURS... It started when Karen Alcock, the wife of the late federal Liberal cabinet minister Reg Alcock, asked Mayor Sam Katz if he would help rename a portion of Kenaston Boulevard in memory of her late husband. It was Reg, after all, who secured the federal portion of the funding for the Kenaston Underpass.

Given the problems associated with changing the addresses of existing businesses along the route, Katz had another idea, one he borrowed from Chicago. Honorary street names.

When I spoke with Katz, he said he already had a list of about half-a-dozen presumably deserving names that had been presented to him. Anyway, that's what prompted me to ask for your submissions. What I received, for the most part, was the usual list of celebrated big names, from Olympian Clara Hughes to hockey legend Bobby Hull and musician Randy Bachman.

But there were some pleasant surprises, too.

"How about Georges Forest at the entrance of Esplanade Riel?" Forest is the Franco-Manitoban whose court battle over receiving an English-only parking ticket eventually forced Manitoba to guarantee government services in French.

Gary Morris had another, more obscure, nomination. The late James F. Cox, a Second World War veteran who was reeve of Charleswood during the mid-1950s.

"With a vast amount of new construction planned for Winnipeg," Morris argued, "it only makes sense to remember this war hero who was also the 'mayor' of the area."

Meanwhile, Grant Rodgers nominated his father. His father being the late John Rodgers of Main Street Project fame.

"He did more to help people in need than most politicians who have streets named after them," Grant argued.

Then there was Val Werier, my personal favourite of the submissions. Werier, of course, is the soon-to-be-95-year-old dean of city journalists. He spent most of his career at the Winnipeg Tribune, where he was a voice for environmental issues long before Greenpeace, which, ironically, was co-founded by Bob Hunter, another ex-Tribune journalist.

"He deserves a REAL street name, not just an honorary one," Winnipeg Press Club executive Wendy Hart wrote in submitting his name.

Which brings us to the difference between "real" and honorary names, as explained by a former Winnipegger who now lives in downtown Chicago.

"While Mayor Katz's idea to adopt the Chicago style of street-name recognition may be logistically easy and inexpensive," wrote Jeff Broughton, "the significance of the (honour) is soon lost after the initial day of posting... Other than the Magnificent Mile, I cannot think of any other downtown Chicago roadway that is referred to by its honorary name."

Broughton added that Winnipeg, unlike so many other North American cities that rely on numbers and compass directions, has a great history of naming streets after people.

"I hope that Winnipeg will continue to honour its citizens by naming NEW streets, parks, waterways and structures, so that proper respect and remembrance can be observed."

Me, too, Jeff.

-- -- --

LOOK WHO WE FOUND... It was a reader named Donene Sawatsky who asked for my help before I asked for yours. Her husband had found a bag of data CDs on an Elmwood street. The CDs contained what amounted to a family photo album.

By 5:48 a.m. on Thursday, the day the column appealing for your help appeared, a reader named Mark Gendron had sent an email, and I had the answer to whose "memories" had been found. It turns out, this being Winnipeg, I knew one of the family members. Terry Kolbuck is the Winnipeg Police Service media relations assistant I sometimes talk to on the phone. Her father, Don Pilcher, is a retired officer. Terry explained her husband Mitch, who just retired from the city, was carting home the contents of his office when it fell off the truck. Fortunately, the CDs were backups of originals.

I wondered why Mitch had copies of the family photos at work.

So Terry asked him. It's because, being an IT guy, Mitch knows you should always have backup copies of important documents stored in more than one place.

Consider that your lesson for the day.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2012 B1

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