Canstar Community News - ONLINE EDITION

Remembering Winnipeg’s thriving downtown

  • Print

The year was 1960. My mother worked part time in the women’s lingerie department at the Hudson’s Bay Company store in downtown Winnipeg.

Every Friday night, my father, brother, and I would climb into the car and meet her for supper at the Paddlewheel Restaurant. Being Catholic meant meatless Fridays back then, so every Friday we ordered the same entrée — fish and chips. I would anxiously await the dessert — cheesecake topped with a gooey cherry concoction.

After supper, my father would give my brother and me a handful of pennies to throw into the Paddlewheel while he shared some quiet dialogue with my mother.

Friday evenings at the Bay Downtown were magical in 1960.

As a university student in the ’70s, I worked part time at Eaton’s. Winnipeg’s downtown was bustling back then and often, during my Saturday lunch break, I would join the crowds walking and window shopping down Portage Avenue. Downtown was always crowded with shoppers and friends meeting up for lunch or a movie. Saturday afternoons in downtown Winnipeg were alive in the ’70s.

Isn’t it interesting how life sometimes comes full circle? Now retired and in my 50s, I work part-time at The Bay Downtown. I doubt that my mother world recognize the store these days. It has shrunk from six to only three working floors. Inside, the building is falling into disrepair.

The second floor women’s bathroom used to be a showcase in the ’60s. Now, it is a barely functional, sad place. The Paddlewheel Restaurant recently closed, as did the Zellers store located in the Bay basement. The escalators seem to be under constant repair and the ceiling fans are covered in black soot. Gone are the crowds of shoppers. Today The Bay seems cavernous most evenings, as downtown empties after 5 p.m.

However, there is a whisper of hope for Winnipeg’s downtown. A new apartment complex has opened on Portage Avenue, and construction is underway on the ALT Hotel and luxury condos across from the MTS Centre. Of course, the MTS Centre draws people downtown from all areas of the city for hockey games, concerts, and special events. The Met has been refurbished to its former glory, and now offers another entertainment venue.

The University of Winnipeg is continuously increasing its presence downtown. There are also a few new restaurants.

These are laudable ventures, but what needs to change is people’s perception of the downtown as a safe place to work, live, shop, and visit. This is the greater challenge.

There has been much conversation about the future of The Bay Downtown, including new tenants for the boarded-up floors. I continue to dream about a vibrant, magical downtown — a renaissance of the area I so fondly remember. Let’s hope that dream becomes a reality.

Joanne O’Leary is a community correspondent for Riverbend.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Fall Arts Guide

We preview what’s new and what’s coming up in Winnipeg’s new arts season

View our Fall Arts Guide

Readers' Choice Awards

Best Of Winnipeg Readers Survey

See the results of the 2014 Canstar Community News Best of Winnipeg Readers' Survey.

View Results

This Just In Twitter bird

Poll

Northwest Winnipeg may be getting a new subdivision with homes for 5,400 people. Do you think it’s a good idea?

View Results