On April 6, Transcona will celebrate the 100th year of its birth. It was named for the CN Transcontinental Railway (TRANS), and (CONA) for Lord Strathcona, whose given name was Donald Smith (as in the two streets in downtown Winnipeg). He was a driving force behind the building of the CP Railway.
Both sets of our grandparents were pioneers in the town. We were born, raised and schooled in Transcona and we relish every memory of growing up in that atmosphere. We met and were married in Transcona.
The town was completely separated from the "big city" of Winnipeg and most of our shopping, living and dining out was done in Transcona. Blosteins was the place to go for clothes, hardware and anything else you needed.
A trip to Winnipeg meant a 30-minute bus ride on Dunn’s Bus Line. We knew all of the bus drivers (Stan, Bill, Rosie and so on) and they knew our names and our stop-off points. Every corner seemed to have a grocery store, but the "big" stores in town were the Red and White Store managed by Peter Tychonick, and the Safeway store, both of which were located on Regent Avenue. Safeway was right next door to the Apollo Theatre owned by Mischa Triller (10 cents to see a movie).
Next door to the west was Max Katz Dry Goods store where you could buy everything from buttons to table cloths. On the east side of Safeway was Notley Electric where you purchased your appliances and arranged for electrical work at home. The two main restaurants in town were the Oxford Grill and the L&G Grill. They were right next to each other at the corner of Oxford Street and Regent. Oxford is now called Day Street, named after Arthur Day who was a leader on the local school board. We went to school with his children and probably owe much of our educational opportunities to his foresight and leadership.
Our friends became lawyers, doctors, nurses, rocket scientists, businessmen, politicians, teachers and sports stars. Four of them (including Peter) became radio announcers. One of our school mates was a so-called"Big Guy" named Jim Gauthier. We all know what happened to him. There were three doctors in town and they knew everything about everybody’s health.
They also made house calls and were available 24 hours of the day to respond if needed.
We had two drug stores and referred to them by the people who owned them. Still’s Drug Store was on Bond and Tony Blum’s Rexall Drug store was on Regent. That one had an actual old-time soda fountain and made the greatest strawberry milk shakes and chocolate sodas.
Right next door was Sherbo’s Chip Shop. Best fries in the whole world.
We could bike to the outskirts of town in under four minutes, have fabulous picnics and barbecue hot dogs and marshmallows over the embers of a wood fire on the spur of the moment. Our parents could pick wild mushrooms by the bucketful virtually within the town limits. Speaking of which, each parent knew every other parent in town, and if any of us ever did anything wrong as kids growing up, you could be sure they would find out about it...before we even got home for dinner. Our police chief was Alex Taylor. He was followed by Joe Teres.
Our school principal was Mr. Edwards then Mr. Quelch, all of whom reminded us of Ed Asner in his role of Lou Grant. One of our long-serving mayors was Russ Paulley, who went on to become the leader of the CCF party (now the NDP) in Manitoba.
One hundred years is just a brief blip in the scheme of things, but we feel so fortunate to have grown up in an era that most of today’s kids can only enjoy on a TV show like Happy Days. And yes, we had our own Fonzie, plus friends with many other nicknames such as Dixie, Dukie, Mouse, Bomba, Clubber, Pixie, Jiggers, Cooney, Satch, Tweetie Bird, Easter Bunny and Hungry Hank.
Happy Birthday to you Transcona — the memories will live forever.
Peter and Carol Grant are Winnipeg-based writers.
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