Shirley Kowalchuk

Shirley Kowalchuk

East Kildonan community correspondent

Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan, where she still resides.
She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

Recent articles of Shirley Kowalchuk

Prairie Diva Dance preps Cinema Sensations

Shirley Kowalchuk 2 minute read Preview

Prairie Diva Dance preps Cinema Sensations

Shirley Kowalchuk 2 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

In an old and elegant bank hall on Main Street where Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez once rehearsed late into the night for the locally shot film, Shall We Dance, a group of Prairie Diva Dance students are putting the finishing touches on their upcoming performance.

“Your best life!” instructor Holly Plett says, helping students craft mood from their movements.

(Full disclosure: I am a Prairie Diva student and it is here that I fulfill my love of dance — although I have been known to libationally trip the light fantastic on many a nightclub dance floor.)

The students are rehearsing for the Cinema Sensations, a movie-themed burlesque fusion cabaret that will be performed Nov. 19 at the Park Theatre. The show is being produced by Prairie Diva owner Meagan Funk, a professional dancer and performer.

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk

Dance instructor Holly Plett (foreground) gives feedback to Prairie Diva students as they prepare for their upcoming performance.

Roxy still lights up its neighbourhood

Shirley Kowalchuk 2 minute read Preview

Roxy still lights up its neighbourhood

Shirley Kowalchuk 2 minute read Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022

The Roxy Lanes building at 385 Henderson Hwy. marks my turnoff when I travel home. The Roxy and its site have been purchased for residential redevelopment.

Many people recall happy times bowling there. Its closure was particularly poignant because its sale was due to the passing of its co-owner, Rob Gauthier. Rob, along with wife Melissa, had purchased the lanes in 2009 and redeveloped ihe facility into what Melissa had described as a “rock ’n’ roll” bowling lane. Its atmosphere was festive.

After its sale and over the summer months I’ve noticed that the long-unused tiers of lights on the front of the building were being turned on at night. Just recently, even the signature bowling pin sign was aglow. Such creative signage became popular in the 1960s when new fluorescent lights within large plastic forms replaced more fire-hazardous neon signs.

To my recollection, this sign was last lit up decades ago, as were the additional front lights. The tiers of lights, so long unused, remind me of the building’s incarnation as a theatre, when “ gaudy signs and flamboyant portals dotted streets from Portage and Main to the remotest suburbs”, as historian Alan Artibise wrote of the era of Roxy’s construction. Powerful floodlights on the building’s side elevations brightly illuminate the side lots.

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022

Floodlights outside the Roxy Lanes building have been lit up at night in recent months.

The joy of adopting an older dog

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Preview

The joy of adopting an older dog

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

If you’re looking for a canine companion, consider an “elder” dog.

For a myriad of reasons, many older dogs are looking for new and forever homes. Because of their age, people may needlessly pass them by.

Let me tell you about Webster, the 11-year-old miniature poodle we adopted.

He was a giveaway on Kijiji. That sounded great to me. After some correspondence, Webster arrived at our home and I learned he had been rejected by two other homes — I can’t recall the reasons.

Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

Webster (a.k.a. Trundle) and his owner, correspondent Shirley Kowalchuk, mug for the camera.

Pulse-ing with creativity

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Preview

Pulse-ing with creativity

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2022

What mystery is this?

“If this is the last, it’s been a blast” reads the phrase in small print on the last page of Miles Macdonell Collegiate’s student literary publication Pulse — the signature “lit mag” project of the school.

Lit mag is the common moniker for the hard copy, literary magazinestudents create yearly. The longtime contract with its publisher has ended and instructors Laura McMaster, Joleen Bell and Meagan Da Cunha are actively networking and looking for ways to continue.

“The project would not be anywhere near the same if it were an online publication…There is something really special about holding ‘your’ book in your hands,” McMaster said.

Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2022

The members of Miles Macdonell’s lit mag team (editorial, contributors, designers, marketing department and more) are described by instructor Laura McMaster as “thoughtful, insightful, wildly talented, funny, committed young people who should make us all feel hopeful for the future!”

Smoothies and Beyond is a calm oasis

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Preview

Smoothies and Beyond is a calm oasis

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Wednesday, Apr. 27, 2022

One might think the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic would have been a great opportunity for writers, who are often seen as lone creatives who relish isolation to foster their works.

Before COVID hit, I relied greatly on coffee shops, as they afforded some sense of companionship while engaged in the lone act of writing.

At the height of pandemic restrictions, retreating to friendly places with the sounds of rattling coffee cups or happy background chit-chat could not be had. But that was only temporary, and necessary.

Actually, at the best of times, finding pleasant spots for writers — or anyone needing to get out — could be difficult.

Wednesday, Apr. 27, 2022

The attractive, contemporary decor at Smoothies and Beyond makes for a joyful experience.

Snow-clearing kerfuffle continues

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Preview

Snow-clearing kerfuffle continues

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2022

You might recall my last column chronicling how Mick Rice’s volunteer efforts to keep a Henderson Highway bus stop clear of snow, down to the pavement, was left in ruins by snow-clearing equipment.

Rice took his concerns – and suggestions for improvements – in person to the city’s 311 desk.

What happened?

Rice says the “very nice lady” at the 311 desk said the issue would be “actioned within four business days” and recommended he speak to his city councillor, Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan).

Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2022

City plow makes mess of EK bus stop

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City plow makes mess of EK bus stop

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022

 

A bus pulled up to the stop at Henderson Highway and Edison Avenue. An older woman attempted to get off the bus at its back door, placing her wheeled cart onto the sidewalk before stepping off. The cart tilted forward and away from her grasp, preventing her from using it as a stabilizer. Ice chunks strewn about created an uneven, moonscape-like surface.“This is disgusting” she said after bracing herself against the door of the bus and stepping gingerly from it with the help of a bystander.The conditions at the bus stop have prompted Mick, a resident of nearby Donwood Manor, to go down to City Hall in person to make a formal complaint, and he is hoping for prompt action. Mick had earlier cleared snow from the sidewalk at the bus stop right down to the pavement. Then a snow plow came by.This is the fourth winter that Mick has removed snow from the sidewalk at the bus shelter so Donwood residents and others don’t have to wait until the walk is cleared by city operations. “I’m quite happy to do the work”, said Mick, who believes in contributing to his community.After the recent major snowfall, Mick began clearing snow at 8:15 p.m. using a shovel for loose snow, a roofer’s spade to pry up any compacted base snow, as well as a 20-inch wide, steel-bladed floor scraper on a pole. As he worked into the night, larger and larger areas of pavement became visible where the deep snow had been.With some brief rest stops, Mick was finishing the job at nearly 2 a.m. when a snow plow moving north on Henderson Highway pushed a ridge of snow and ice scraped up from the street onto the sidewalk near the curb.Mick said he watched “in disbelief” as the plow attempted to clear the material, leaving a compressed layer of hardened snow on the newly cleared pavement, as well as a general dispersal of large ice chunks scraped from the street. Additionally, a windrow of compressed snow and ice was pushed up it parallel to the outdoor bus bench. Some of the ice chunks, especially near the bus shelter, were the size of dinner dishes.“I want to see the city come back and clean up the mess they made”, said Mick, adding he would be happy to help with the work - he just doesn’t want to redo the entire hours-long job. He says he feels tempted to send the city an invoice if he has to clear it by himself again.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com 

A bus pulled up to the stop at Henderson Highway and Edison Avenue. An older woman attempted to get off the bus at its back door, placing her wheeled cart onto the sidewalk before stepping off. The cart tilted forward and away from her grasp, preventing her from using it as a stabilizer. Ice chunks strewn about created an uneven, moonscape-like surface.

“This is disgusting” she said after bracing herself against the door of the bus and stepping gingerly from it with the help of a bystander.

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Windrows and snow and ice left behind by a city plow ruined hours of work by a local resident at the bus stop near Donwood Manor two weeks ago.

Road construction unearths old treasures

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Preview

Road construction unearths old treasures

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021

This entire summer and into October, my street was under construction for the installation of new water mains, a new road and sidewalks. On a daily basis the house trembled because of the large equipment. It was odd to see the street transformed into a low, dark-hued channel where the street and sidewalk once was.With the original earth exposed, it seemed natural to wonder about this historic neighbourhood’s past. Earlier street construction had revealed traces of an historic Aboriginal encampment near the south end of Watt Street, and early river lots of Selkirk settlers stretched back from the river.One day in September, a fellow appeared who was sweeping the open earth with a metal detector. It was Don Sinclair, who (when prodded) described himself as a “professional treasure hunter”.Don has been discovering treasures all across the city for a long time, and knows a lot about Winnipeg’s history and spaces. He said he got hooked on the process when, as a child, he saw someone dig up a spoon in front of historic Barber House in Point Douglas. “I was fascinated,” he said.Starting with his first metal detector (he now owns three) in the early 2000s, Sinclair has since found many old coins, a few licence plates and metal toys from yesteryear,  such as sections of toy trains, airplanes and soldiers. He is astounded at the amount of jewelry he has found over the years.On my street, Sinclair found a coin in an area where the concrete sidewalk had been pulled up.As Christmas lights increasingly twinkle around Elmwood, I thought of another find Sinclair made nearby — a toy soldier that could date back to the First World Ward.Could the long lost toy have once been under a Christmas tree of a nearby home years ago, awaiting the delight of a child on Christmas morning?Sinclair thought children were likely playing with the toy along the sidewalk or boulevard and somehow left it behind.He said  he wonders about every find he makes, especially the old coins which could buy a lot back  then. “I always think about that... how they felt when they lost it”, he said.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

This entire summer and into October, my street was under construction for the installation of new water mains, a new road and sidewalks. On a daily basis the house trembled because of the large equipment. It was odd to see the street transformed into a low, dark-hued channel where the street and sidewalk once was.

With the original earth exposed, it seemed natural to wonder about this historic neighbourhood’s past. Earlier street construction had revealed traces of an historic Aboriginal encampment near the south end of Watt Street, and early river lots of Selkirk settlers stretched back from the river.

One day in September, a fellow appeared who was sweeping the open earth with a metal detector. It was Don Sinclair, who (when prodded) described himself as a “professional treasure hunter.”

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021

Shirley Kowalchuk
Treasure hunter Don Sinclair shows off some of his finds in September.

Wedding photo sparks memories of Elmwood

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Preview

Wedding photo sparks memories of Elmwood

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021

A picture speaks much more than words about the earlier days of Elmwood and its dynamic bustle along Henderson Highway.Rodney Mitenko says it was Sat., June 26, 1954, when his parents posed on the steps of the Elmwood Building before their wedding reception was to begin inside at the Elmwood Community Hall on the second floor. They had just exchanged vows at Holy Eucharist Church on Watt Street at Larsen Avenue, in a building now demolished after a much larger church was built at the corner of Munroe Avenue and Watt that Mitenko attended while growing up in the neighbourhood.Readers might recognize the handsome Elmwood Building at 189 Henderson Hwy., although its impressive neon sign is no longer there.I can only imagine the swirl of activity at this corner. The Elmwood Building opened in 1929 as residential and professional office space with the popular hall upstairs. It has since been renovated into prime residential units.Next door to south, where JC’s Tacos and More restaurant now resides, was Postal Station F, built in 1935 by the federal government, where locals picked up their mail. One can only guess at how many eyes glanced at the public message board that remains on its north wall.Another door down, at 185 Henderson, is the stately house that was the home of the famous Hamilton family, with office space for Dr. T. G. Hamilton’s medical practice. T.G’s son Glen continued a medical practice there until his retirement in 1980.For the happy couple in the photograph, 551 Jamison Ave. was the home where they raised four boys, close to the East End Cultural Centre where Mitenko and his brothers spent many happy hours. The family later moved to 340 Bronx Ave.Mitenko remembers fondly that, sometime around 1970, he went downtown to see a movie with his friends. Spending their allowances, he and his friends had to walk home. It began raining hard as they passed by Hamilton House, where they ducked for cover on its spacious front porch.Suddenly, recalls Mitenko, the front door opened and a pleasant older lady greeted them. After he explained why they were there, she re-emerged with a plate of cookies for the boys.Mitenko thinks this might have been Phyllis, Dr. Glen Hamilton’s wife.Hamilton House was recently purchased by the owner of Gags Unlimited, who will relocate her business there along with a plan to open AirBnB apartments on the upper floors where the Hamiltons once lived, among the very rooms where the historic psychic research took place seeking evidence of the spirit world.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com 

A picture speaks much more than words about the earlier days of Elmwood and its dynamic bustle along Henderson Highway.

Rodney Mitenko says it was Sat., June 26, 1954, when his parents posed on the steps of the Elmwood Building before their wedding reception was to begin inside at the Elmwood Community Hall on the second floor. They had just exchanged vows at Holy Eucharist Church on Watt Street at Larsen Avenue, in a building now demolished after a much larger church was built at the corner of Munroe Avenue and Watt that Mitenko attended while growing up in the neighbourhood.

Readers might recognize the handsome Elmwood Building at 189 Henderson Hwy., although its impressive neon sign is no longer there.

Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021

Supplied photo
Raymond and Beverley Mitenko pose on the steps of the Elmwood Building (189 Henderson Hwy.) on their wedding day in June, 1954.

Mar-Schell’s continues to encourage musicians

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Preview

Mar-Schell’s continues to encourage musicians

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021

The bright sign in front of Mar-Schell’s Music says “Over 40 years in business” and offers a free lesson to anyone, no strings attached.Does that mean I can get a free ukulele lesson? (That would make Great Aunt Sophie, who once played at the Ukrainian Labour Temple, very proud). Hmm... I might also take that six-lesson special for only $99 with free instrument and lesson-book rental...“The answer is yes”, said Mars-Schells owner Mark Galbon, who pioneered the long -time North Kildonan business after starting out as a 15-year-old as music instructor at Kolt Music School and Sales. After he bought the Kolt location in 1981, Mar-Schell’s was born. It thrived for many years at the Henderson Highway building once known for its huge guitar mural.Mar-Schell’s recently moved to a new space nearby, at 1109 Henderson Hwy., where two floors have been transformed with a strategic layout and top-of-the-line HVAC air exchange for every room. There are nine newly built lesson rooms with discrete plastic shields and spaciously designed waiting areas (with Wi-Fi, too).Galbon wanted to continue his vision for Mar-Schell’s - which is to foster community connections and performance opportunities for his students. Mar-Schell’s offers a variety of music lessons in any style - rock, classical, urban - including voice classes, along with instrument sales, rentals, and repair.That meant resurrecting the performance space Mar-Schell’s has always been known for in the store’s new location. It can now be found on the lower level. Many people have discovered their musical ambitions and explored their talents on Mar-Schell’s stage, where open mic nights featuring a variety of performance and student showcases where often heldOne long time act born of Mar-Schell’s is the popular Campfire Junkies, a charitable non-profit band for hire composed of former and present students.Just before COVID-19 hit last year, Galbon had a light-bulb moment during the magic of a jam night. The sheer talent he was seeing made him think of creating a group called The Marmalades -  a slick, audition-only band created to play professionally as much as possible.As Galbon spoke, I noticed a large framed photo of a 1930s-era orchestra, its sign proudly displaying the moniker Galbon - his great uncle’s popular dance band.Another photo shows Galbon playing bass alongside Burton Cummings, who just happened to drop by one of Galbon’s gigs to sing a few songs.“I have never worked a day in my life, this is just a lot of fun”, said Galbon who is also looking forward to opening up to on-line sales at the store’s web page, www.marschellsmusic.comShirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

The bright sign in front of Mar-Schell’s Music says “Over 40 years in business” and offers a free lesson to anyone, no strings attached.

Does that mean I can get a free ukulele lesson? (That would make Great Aunt Sophie, who once played at the Ukrainian Labour Temple, very proud). Hmm... I might also take that six-lesson special for only $99 with free instrument and lesson-book rental...

“The answer is yes”, said Mars-Schells owner Mark Galbon, who pioneered the long -time North Kildonan business after starting out as a 15-year-old as music instructor at Kolt Music School and Sales. After he bought the Kolt location in 1981, Mar-Schell’s was born. It thrived for many years at the Henderson Highway building once known for its huge guitar mural.

Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Clients and staff members of Mar-Schell’s Music enjoy a band rehearsal in the store’s new performance space.

A grandson forever remembered

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Preview

A grandson forever remembered

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 22, 2021

 

All year round, Elmwood Park’s walking paths and benches make for a beautiful experience under a tall canopy of old elm trees.As a child, Shirly Slobodzian would play in the park with her siblings. In turn, her kids played there as well. When they became parents, their children enjoyed the beautiful park, too, with its play structures and historic pool.It has been a little over a year and a half since Shirly’s eldest daughter, Candace Scott, unexpectedly dropped by at Christmas time for a chat.Candace told her mom about her own children, especially her son Tyler, who was Winnipeg’s first homicide of 2017. We turned her thoughts into a Herald story.What I recall most about Ty is how he protectively walked my daughter and Candace’s girls home when they were little. When the Bear Clan Patrol expanded into Elmwood in the spring of 2020, it reminded me of Ty.One balmy morning last November, I saw Shirly in the backlane at her mother Jesse’s house, waving me over. She told me that Candace had quietly passed away the evening before. She was only 48 years old.“Candace is where she wanted to be, with Ty,” Shirly said.I was always struck by Candace’s rare loyalty and her creativity. Her seasonal yard displays were a joy to see. She recognized the talent within all her kids.On that sad November day, Shirly was finishing up placing a memorial bench in Elmwood Park for Ty in time for his birthday in December. It was meant to be a surprise to Candace, she unfortunately died before she would have seen it.On Ty’s birthday that December, and for Candace’s first birthday since she passed, which comes next month, Shirly and her family will gather at Elmwood Park, at the new bench with a shiny bronze plaque set slightly away from the landmark children’s pool. Shirly made sure it was placed there for families to enjoy.Shirly says she keeps envisioning Candace as a child happily running through an expanse of grass in Elmwood Park, where she played as a youngster.The plaque bears Tyler Kirton’s name. Underneath are the words: “Good night, we love you.”To me these words could not speak more typically of the family’s love for Ty; they suggest a bond unbroken and transcendent.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com  

All year round, Elmwood Park’s walking paths and benches make for a beautiful experience under a tall canopy of old elm trees.

As a child, Shirly Slobodzian would play in the park with her siblings. In turn, her kids played there as well. When they became parents, their children enjoyed the beautiful park, too, with its play structures and historic pool.

Wednesday, Sep. 22, 2021

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Shirly Slobodzian in Elmwood Park at the new memorial bench with a plaque that commemorates her late grandson Tyler Kirton. She made sure the bench is near the pool for families to enjoy.

Building a life in beauty

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Building a life in beauty

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021

Back in the 1980s, when I was a student at the University of Winnipeg on Portage Avenue, the street still held suggestions of its past glamour as an energetic, exciting destination.Eaton’s and The Bay were still open and  held promotional events and fashion shows with local models who became quite familiar for their visibility in local ad campaigns.These things became part of a collective buzz that symbolized the downtown.To me, part of that buzz was Jane Baniuk, the cosmetics manager at the Shoppers Drug Mart, formerly located on Portage Avenue near Donald Street.Jane knew everything about cosmetics. She also looked like any model seen on the packaging of the cosmetics she sold, or maybe a movie star. Many of my university friends knew who she was, and for many she was the go-to girl for beauty. She appeared in a Winnipeg Free Press story about cosmetics.I recall that, at that time, Jane typically wore high-heeled shoes, a three-quarter length pencil skirt and a crisp blouse. She had the most luxuriously thick, straight, beachy streaked hair that fell to her waist. When she turned, her hair moved in a slinky swish behind her.Many years later I rediscovered Jane at the Henderson Highway Shoppers Drug Mart. She looked very much the same, only now her hair is shorter.For 41 years Jane has enjoyed a rewarding career in the beauty industry with the same company.Jane told me that her mother used to say she knew her daughter was destined for such a career when, after watching her mother apply makeup, Jane began making up her dolls using mom’s lipstick and anything else she could find.After graduating from Transcona Collegiate, Jane worked in an office, but decided to transition to a people-centred position in an industry she loved.Jane has seen the beauty industry change in interesting ways. Nowadays, staff keep up via ongoing classes in all aspects of cosmetics as well as with special classes every spring and fall as fashion seasons change.When Jane first started, there was no such training.“I bought every beauty magazine I could find and I read them all,” she said. She said she also dutifully read product packaging to learn as much as she could.Jane said the internet has affected shopping habits and unlike in the past, beauty shoppers, especially young girls, know exactly what they want but need help picking out the right products to achieve their desired look.“I am thankful I chose Shoppers to work for”, Jane said, adding that while many stores have closed, Shoppers has only grown. She enjoys interacting with customers - some of whom have remained loyal for years.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

Back in the 1980s, when I was a student at the University of Winnipeg on Portage Avenue, the street still held suggestions of its past glamour as an energetic, exciting destination.

Eaton’s and The Bay were still open and  held promotional events and fashion shows with local models who became quite familiar for their visibility in local ad campaigns.

These things became part of a collective buzz that symbolized the downtown.

Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Jane Baniuk stands in front of Shoppers Drug Mart’s Quo cosmetic products line at the North Kildonan store where she is cosmetics manager.

The historical record is ever-evolving

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Preview

The historical record is ever-evolving

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Sunday, Jul. 18, 2021

 

A few years back I was asked to present a walking tour of the Elmwood and East Kildonan area, researched and written by the North East Winnipeg Historical Society.The walk headed straight down Brazier Street to end at Ernie O’Dowda Park near the Red River. Among tales of corner stores, local characters and past ways of suburban life, I recounted a story from the 1990s involving street repairs on Brazier Street.The road work had inadvertently turned the street into an archeological site, revealing the discovery of an early Indigenous encampment with evidence of fire pits and some artifacts. At the time of that discovering, I went to take a look.All I could see were large stratifications in the earth at the edges of the chasm where the street once was. The site is located, generally, where the last bus stop now stands on Brazier Street before it meets Midwinter Avenue.Compelled once again by news events, I visited the Manitoba Legislature grounds on July 2. Votive candles flickered in the late evening among long rows of shoes representing children whose unmarked graves had recently been discovered at the sites of former residential schools. People stood by in what seemed like moments of quiet reflection. The toppled statue of Queen Victoria was still there.But most impactful to me were the varied conversations I either overheard or had with others. A shocked fellow talked with me at length about, ultimately, our views on the nature of the relationship, over time, between Canada and Indigenous peoples, including the history and knowledge attained from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and what is happening – and not - as a result of the commission’s calls to action.Regarding historical record, the inclusion of the Brazier Street campsite discovery on the walking tour (and the tour’s development generally) is a rather informal example of how a historical record can evolve.Recent national stories involving residential schools have shown this process more starkly, and highlight what has been heard - and not heard - and the past and up to today.History’s events, including its record, connect to and shape the present in all ways and, presumably, in ways unknown.“The tragic history is not just a moment in time, but a live history of our situation here in Canada...” said B.C. premier John Horgan, when he spoke in May upon the recent discovery of a mass grave at a former residential school site near Kamloops.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com 

A few years back I was asked to present a walking tour of the Elmwood and East Kildonan area, researched and written by the North East Winnipeg Historical Society.

The walk headed straight down Brazier Street to end at Ernie O’Dowda Park near the Red River. Among tales of corner stores, local characters and past ways of suburban life, I recounted a story from the 1990s involving street repairs on Brazier Street.

Sunday, Jul. 18, 2021

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
In the 1990s, road work on Brazier Street unearthed evidence of an early Aboriginal encampment near the site of this bus stop.

Prince Edward patrols earn well-deserved honours

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Preview

Prince Edward patrols earn well-deserved honours

Shirley Kowalchuk 3 minute read Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2021

There are more cars on the streets today than ever, and studies show that drivers - even with warning signs - have a difficult time slowing down. For months now the City of Winnipeg has been discussing issues regarding school and residential traffic zones.

I sometimes see school patrols on the streets surrounding Prince Edward School, where, with almost choreographed precision, student patrols safely wait for a break in traffic before they step out onto the street, flags outstretched, to guide their charges safely across the street. With a quick, snapping flourish of their flags, the roadway is cleared and patrols retreat back to their sidewalk stations.

It takes a lot to be a school patrol - as well as administer the program - and Prince Edward School’s safety program is stellar. It recently received the Winnipeg Police Service’s award for Best School Safety Program in all of its division, and placed third in the entire city to win the Manitoba Public Insurance Trophy.

“It is a big accomplishment,” said patrol co-ordinator Delila Heinrichs, “and the patrols deserve all of it”.

Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2021

Shirley Kowalchuk
One of two student patrol team captains, Sloane Borodenko, stands with patrol co-ordinator and teacher Delila Heinrichs at one of three intersections patrolled by Prince Edward School students in the patrol safety program.

Historic Henderson home up for sale

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Historic Henderson home up for sale

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Tuesday, May. 25, 2021

Hamilton House is up for sale. Its listing indicates that the building at 185 Henderson Hwy. is zoned for C2 mixed-use commercial activity and also includes the words “redevelopment opportunity”. Its asking price is $410,000 but its history is priceless.Hamilton House is one of the most historically and culturally important sites in North America. Its story has made it into a few news articles over the years as well as some books, historical records and presentations.The building looks well maintained; I have noticed some decking boards and porch pillars have been replaced.In November, Herald community correspondent Susan Huebert wrote about Hamilton House. Its story is poignant and spectacular, including the stories of the various charitable organizations that have used it.Hamilton House played a prominent role in the international Spiritualist movement that swept across a changing society around the mid-19th century. Based on beliefs that the dead exist in an afterlife, spiritualism often featured highly social activities that sought to make contact with spirits who, many believed, also sought connection with those left behind.It was also a time when society was left reeling from, among other things, the disastrous events of the First World War, the decimation of the Spanish Flu epidemic, and the upheaval posed by Darwinist evolutionary theory. Increasing use of the scientific method brought seemingly miraculous changes.Dr. T. G Hamilton, Elmwood’s first physician, had his office and a surgery in the house while the family lived upstairs.A highly reputable doctor, Hamilton was like many who believed in personal survival after death, historian and psychologist James B. Nickels wrote in 2007.Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King visited Hamilton House to witness the psychic investigations undertaken there, as did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the famous author of the Sherlock Holmes books.Interestingly, the house and its activities connect to the creative development of the 1984 blockbuster Hollywood movie Ghostbusters (The third Ghostbusters movie called Ghostbusters:Afterlife is due out this year).Dan Aykroyd, one of its stars and screenplay co-writer, drew upon his family’s inter-generational interest in spiritualism and the personal papers of Aykroyd father and great-grandfathernow reside at the University of Manitoba, contained within a special archival collection started by the Hamilton family when it donated its large trove of recorded experiments and materials shortly before the family sold the home in 1980.Some view this unique history, as embodied in Hamilton House itself, as a cultural asset and historical resource that should be safeguarded and developed as a heritage project of great potential in many ways.For me, the house tells the story, ultimately, of the capacity of love’s ever-presence which, in this case, prompted many hopeful searches for a connection into the “hereafter” – a quest that, according to some, also works the other way around.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

Hamilton House is up for sale. Its listing indicates that the building at 185 Henderson Hwy. is zoned for C2 mixed-use commercial activity and also includes the words “redevelopment opportunity.” 

Its asking price is $410,000 but its history is priceless.

Hamilton House is one of the most historically and culturally important sites in North America. Its story has made it into a few news articles over the years as well as some books, historical records and presentations.

Tuesday, May. 25, 2021

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Hamilton House, at 185 Henderson Hwy., is up for sale. The former home of Dr. T.G. Hamiton was once a hub of spiritualist and paranormal exploration in Winnipeg.

Old and inefficient becomes new and innovative

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Preview

Old and inefficient becomes new and innovative

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2021

To fight climate change, people are looking at things in new ways.One new way is the Life Cycle Assessment for buildings -  a standard calculation of all energy use (detrimental carbon emissions) throughout a structure’s lifespan. Also termed “embodied energy,” this calculation begins at the point of resource extraction and continues though to construction and maintenance and includes, if a building is demolished, this energy cost as well as energies spent in new build replacement.With this analysis, better choices can made at any point in a building’s evolution.This has been put into action at Prince Edward School. (Can you imagine its embodied energy up until now, beginning with considerations at the limestone quarry, brick foundry or its first coal fired boiler?)Prince Edward School opened in 1920 with a restrained but formidable Collegiate Gothic design that hinted at the 20th century stylistic simplifications that were to come.Imposing expanses of bright red brick contrast dramatically with its cream coloured Tyndall stone window surrounds and stark. solitary diamond-shaped keystones.Large windows created focal points along the building in clusters of “three over two” glass panel designs. They were beautiful, functional and state of the art in 1920 but thermally they were very leaky. Roller shades dampened their heat in summer. Over the years, they were filled in to reduce energy costs. Only a few small window openings remained within their original lofty silhouettes.But a change began to occur at the school last month. Windows on each side of the Brazier Street entrance looked strange - one side still had the relatively recent window infill design, while on the other side it appeared the original windows had been replaced.“We’ve got one window to go”, Principal Kai Jacob said last month, adding that additional finishing work must still be done.Jacob said the district’s maintenance department applied for and received a grant through the Climate Action Incentive fund. Working from old photographs, they recreated the original window design with top efficiency fibreglass framing.Like something out of a James Bond movie, the newly developed but traditional looking windows hold remarkable and surprising capabilities.The glass reflects, absorbs and transmits visible light, heat and ultraviolet radiation in a combination to fit local climate conditions. In practical terms, heat is kept out in summer, warmth is held inside in winter, and unwanted light spectrums are blocked. The result is less use of electric lights and heating; carbon emissions are thus reduced. “But it’s much more impressive on the inside looking out,” Jacob  said.When I visited an early years classroom, students graciously welcomed me to a beautiful room that once again holds a profoundly impressive vista and is flooded with a comfortable light.I have many fond memories of Prince Edward, where I was a student. Its interior spaces were impressive even then. Its enhanced beauty today will forge many more fond memories of learning, while helping to preserve the planet.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

To fight climate change, people are looking at things in new ways.

One new way is the Life Cycle Assessment for buildings -  a standard calculation of all energy use (detrimental carbon emissions) throughout a structure’s lifespan. Also termed “embodied energy,” this calculation begins at the point of resource extraction and continues though to construction and maintenance and includes, if a building is demolished, this energy cost as well as energies spent in new build replacement.

With this analysis, better choices can made at any point in a building’s evolution.

Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2021

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Blue and spray foam insulation can be seen around Prince Edward School’s new energy-efficient, custom-made, historic looking window frames.

A piece of our past is up for sale

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Preview

A piece of our past is up for sale

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2021

I rolled up to 257 Trent Ave. on an unseasonably warm and windy Saturday. As I looked at the picturesque 1914 house, an explosive gust of wind blew open the exterior screen door and held it open against the house.OK then, I thought, and walked up to the house, which is for now sale. Its original wide lot is now divided into two parcels with for sale signs on each.The screen door remained curiously pinned open in the strong breeze, and I stepped onto the solid and level porch. Its open porch walls and four pillars are decorated with delicate, hand-done and milled spans of white wood trim that contrast dramatically with red cedar shingles. (Shingles can last decades because they are made of tightly grained wood and contain a natural, and sometimes added preservative.)Overhead, there is a peaked roof and pediment, which is an imposing triangle structure with a stylized base first seen in public buildings of ancient Greece. (Throughout time, pediments have remained grand, signature architectural statements).This home had always captured my eye. It is, in miniature, suggestive of the grand, late-19th century New England seaside retreat houses. According to Architectural Digest, nothing says New England charm quite like shingle-style houses, which also incorporate asymmetricality and combinations of ancient Greek design.The open screen door revealed an interior door with 15 glass panes, and a door handle plate edged with ancient Greek egg and dart design.Cupping my hands to the window, I could see the brick fireplace in the small home - another surprise discovered by looking up the address on the city’s assessment roster.Who lived in such a home?When it was built in 1914, the home’s owner was listed as Albert W. Sartin - a carpenter for the Brown and Rutherford Company. (By then, the B&R Co. was a fast growing, premier construction supply manufacturer that had begun in Winnipeg in the 1870’s as the first planing mill in the West. In 2017 it became a division of Gillfor Distribution Inc.)That explained a lot.As a carpenter familiar with the latest and best supplies for Winnipeg’s burgeoning neighbourhoods, it was likely Sartin who clad the home’s walls with the early and expensive red cedar shingles and applied the uniquely stylized trim. The porch sills are planed for water run off. He would have been familiar with the installation of decorative leaded glass windows, one of which is at the front of the house.The Prince Edward School archives contain remembrances of his son Alex who attended in the early 1920s. Alex described his memories growing up in East Kildonan as fond ones. He and his brother George were both born in the Trent house.A majestic towering oak sits at the very centre of the (now) eastern parcel; another oak stands closer to the street directly in front of the house.Could Albert Sartin have planted these? Calculated from their circumference, they are both over 100 years old.I pulled the screen door shut, clicking it closed and out of the wind.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

I rolled up to 257 Trent Ave. on an unseasonably warm and windy Saturday. As I looked at the picturesque 1914 house, an explosive gust of wind blew open the exterior screen door and held it open against the house.

OK then, I thought, and walked up to the house, which is for now sale. Its original wide lot is now divided into two parcels with for sale signs on each.

The screen door remained curiously pinned open in the strong breeze, and I stepped onto the solid and level porch. Its open porch walls and four pillars are decorated with delicate, hand-done and milled spans of white wood trim that contrast dramatically with red cedar shingles. (Shingles can last decades because they are made of tightly grained wood and contain a natural, and sometimes added preservative.)

Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2021

Photos by Shirley Kowalchuk
This home at 257 Trent Ave. was originally owned by a carpenter, who likely finished it with many of its fine details.

Cold snap emphasizes need for shelter

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Preview

Cold snap emphasizes need for shelter

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Monday, Mar. 1, 2021

Winnipeg has finally emerged from a record-breaking deep freeze that was part of the coldest and longest cold snap in Western Canada in decades.Dubbed in one source as the Canadian Chill of the Century, multiple weather records were smashed across the country. Winnipeg dragged through 13 consecutive extreme cold weather alerts. One Winnipeg Free Press writer likened the cold to a slow moving tarantula creeping across the prairies.Prior to the cold snap, you might recall we enjoyed some unusually mild winter days, even some with above-freezing temperatures. As these mild days turned into night, freeze-thaw cycles made streets and sidewalks like skating rinks, prompting the city to investigate how to make treacherous sidewalks safer along with a request for costs of slip-and-fall injuries from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.Then the cold spell came.Climatologists explained that the polar vortex (a cold stream of air swirling counter clockwise high up in polar regions), had weakened, causing its swirl to wobble and blossom out in wavy lobes of cold air that reached down into the prairies.It is natural for the polar vortex to undergo changes but some scientists say these changes are increasingly impacted by recent and unprecedented northern ice melt which in turn enlarges water mass that absorbs light and its heat.The cold air finally retreated north after Winnipeg experienced an eerie 13 consecutive days of extreme cold weather warnings. For many, the harsh cold made COVID isolation worse.Fortunately, I was able to get outside to do some winter biking, an activity that keeps you warm through constant pedalling. Although my bike’s gears had frozen solid (in a high gear, no less) along with the brake cables, allowing only partial function, it didn’t matter much because I couldn’t get up enough speed to require any serious braking. (I lock up my winter “beater” bicycle in an unheated space, as it drips rusty water inside).On another cold morning, to my surprise no water flowed at all from the kitchen taps until I took the portable heater into the basement and aimed it at the frozen pipes. But I learned that keeping the kitchen tap dripping all night prevented the water line from freezing (thanks, Google).The worst of it came late one very cold, clear night.As I travelled past an East Kildonan bus shelter, I saw, under its glowing light, what appeared to be two bodies upon the benches, draped in what looked like white burial shrouds. Suddenly, one figure moved and I realized that two people were sheltering there in the -31 C night. (I learned they had been asked if they needed help, and observed that they stayed for days).I had not seen this before in the neighbourhood but have heard of projects that aim to build shelters according to the stated needs of the homeless. I hope this will eliminate the need for people to dangerously shelter in bus shacks or other unsafe spaces. Everyone deserves a trusted and safe home; these projects sound like a situation from which all will benefit.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com 

Winnipeg has finally emerged from a record-breaking deep freeze that was part of the coldest and longest cold snap in Western Canada in decades.

Dubbed in one source as the Canadian Chill of the Century, multiple weather records were smashed across the country. Winnipeg dragged through 13 consecutive extreme cold weather alerts. One Winnipeg Free Press writer likened the cold to a slow moving tarantula creeping across the prairies.

Prior to the cold snap, you might recall we enjoyed some unusually mild winter days, even some with above-freezing temperatures. As these mild days turned into night, freeze-thaw cycles made streets and sidewalks like skating rinks, prompting the city to investigate how to make treacherous sidewalks safer along with a request for costs of slip-and-fall injuries from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Monday, Mar. 1, 2021

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
The sight of people sheltering in bus shacks such as the one above was a shock to all who obseved them.

School is tough for many at-risk students

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Preview

School is tough for many at-risk students

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Friday, Jan. 29, 2021

 

If we are to count our blessings during difficult times, one thing to count may be an increased understanding of the previously invisible ways some people have suffered.  As just one example, the COVID-19 pandemic has given everyone a sampling of what some “other” kids go through.Prior to COVID,  most  Manitoba youth had a relatively smooth path through school. (To be specific, 2018 statistics indicate that about 90 per cent of non-Indigenous youth graduate, while a little less than half of Indigenous youth do).Now, because of the pandemic, schooling has been disrupted for everyone. There is quite a bit of talk about the negative social and scholastic impacts wrought by these disruptions. Provincial exams will not be sat by Grade 12 students this year because of unequal access to instruction. Even prior to COVID, though, some young people experienced school disruptions and poor scholastic outcomes and some dropped out, quietly and without much notice. These kids were troubled by home life dysfunction or had diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illnesses; some were marginalized, had learning deficits or suffered trauma in ways including bullying. The list is long.This reality will continue for some after the pandemic is over. What can make a difference is early, timely access to expert help through schools.In my area, there are guidance counsellors in schools and schools can further access a team of experts at the divisional level. These experts range from an early years behaviour coach to inclusion teachers, psychologists and more. They offer help including “screening, consultation, specialized assessment or ongoing program support” and recommendations for a further referral if needed, all “built on a foundation of inclusion.”But youth still have problems with school. Why?Is there enough funding for interventions for all kids who need them? Are those working with students  provided with updated knowledge and best-practices? What is the nature of gate-keeping for connection to divisional support teams, and what is the divisional team’s knowledge flow to schools? What affects the further referral process?  As well, studies show that paternalistic, disciplinary and hierarchical approaches to problem-solving within institutional systems fuel all sorts of things - especially when mixed with cost-constraint pressure.Canadian law affirms that access to education is an enforceable right. Critical to that right is early identification, with supports, to create enabling environments for students with exceptionalities. The public schools act is intended to enable all learners to develop their individual potentials.They say people don’t really understand something until they have lived it for themselves. The pain of school disruption during COVID has been brought home to many.Albert Einstien said “those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act, and in that action are the seeds of new knowledge.”To provide proper and timely supports for all students who need it, the removal of “old school” paternalism, other systemic bias, and knowledge-hoarding is imperative to fostering a collaborative and enlightened process.Students and families are disempowered and left vulnerable if they don’t know what help is available, and if the process is coloured by paternalistic, biased or incomplete perceptions.Without these changes, schools will continue to be places where some students don’t want to be.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com  

If we are to count our blessings during difficult times, one thing to count may be an increased understanding of the previously invisible ways some people have suffered.  

As just one example, the COVID-19 pandemic has given everyone a sampling of what some “other” kids go through.

Friday, Jan. 29, 2021

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Caution must be exercised in all areas of the education system to ensure that all students get the supports they need to fulfill their potentials.

Finding joy in simple traditions

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Preview

Finding joy in simple traditions

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

Staying within my household this holiday (and beyond), I have looked to tradition during this time of challenge.So I cooked perogies.The sturdy perogy is simple to make, truly delicious, and cheap. You can try this, too.First of all, clear your mind and think only of the delicious perogy.Grab a large mixing bowl, preferably one you have inherited from someone in your family. It has retained the vibe and it will help you. (Put another way, and much less completely: Oh, the memories...)Place 2.5 cups of flour in the bowl, and make a well (a small indentation in the centre of the flour mound). You will be pouring a wet mixture (1 cup warm water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 egg or 2 egg yolks) into the well little by little, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to pick up flour from the sides of the well until it becomes a ball of dough.Place the dough onto a clean, flour-dusted table top or a large floured cutting board. (Here is where the perogies will appear, right before your eyes).Knead the dough for two minutes. Think of the dough ball as a circle on the table and push down from the bottom of its circumference at 6 o’clock (directionally speaking) forward in a line. It will then look a bit like a ski slope, with your palm finishing at the bottom of the slope. Move dough 1/4 circle turn, fold right side over left, down over up, so it is a ball again... sort of. Start all over again with the ski slope move; repeat for 2 minutes. Flour the board/table and hands well to prevent sticking.Practise will create a longer ski slope and more dramatic turning and folding, with an accompanying sense of miraculous transformation. (Don’t practice over two minutes, as this will toughen the dough. Instead, create batch after batch until your wizardry knows no bounds, according to the friends upon whom you will unload the many perogies).Place dough into bowl, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Cut in half and roll out thinly on the floured surface. Take a large drinking glass you have used for happy occasions and press the top of the glass into dough like a cookie cutter, making perfect circles.Filling: mash two or three boiled potatoes with one or two raw eggs and some salt. You can also grate farmer’s cheese or add dry curd cottage cheese to the potato and egg mixture, and place a teaspoon of filling onto centre of dough circles. Close like a clam shell, pinching the edges. Add the perogies to boiling water and remove with a slotted spoon when floating to the top, or additionally fry for a crispy perogy.Don’t forget to mind what has been left on the table; a delicate lattice of left over dough remains. Boil for delicious noodles.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer. She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com 

Staying within my household this holiday (and beyond), I have looked to tradition during this time of challenge.

So I cooked perogies.

The sturdy perogy is simple to make, truly delicious, and cheap. You can try this, too.First of all, clear your mind and think only of the delicious perogy.

Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
A blue enamel bowl that once belonged to the correspondent’s mom sits beside whole wheat perogy dough cut with a glass holding “only happy memories” during Code Red Christmas 2020.

Payphones still useful, especially in a pandemic

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Preview

Payphones still useful, especially in a pandemic

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Friday, Dec. 4, 2020

 

Winnipeg was a trailblazer in emergency response services. In 1958 the city instituted the first emergency 999 telephone system in North America. The call system received its own purpose-built centre in 1965 in new the then-new police headquarters at the Public Safety Building, recently demolished. The PSB was even designed with the modernity of a press room that held wiring for state of the art lighting and recording equipment for use at press conferences and meetings with crime beat reporters. You might recall emergency numbers changing from the easily remembered, serious-sounding 999 to the shorter dial time of 911. I recall this happening sometime in the 1970s.I would like to check the veracity of my memory but unfortunately, I have discovered a disruption of the internet, as well as phone service.As ironic as the timing of this interruption is, it has also proven quite a challenge to investigate. I can’t telephone or email the provider to discuss the issue, and it would be quite un-neighbourly to bang on someone’s door to ask to use the phone, since inter-personal contact must be kept to one household.Internet connection through the libraries? They are closed. Hey, I could use a payphone.Luckily there’s one nearby at Jamison Food Mart at the corner of Jamison Avenue and Watt Street. Does it still cost 50 cents? I can recall a time when using a payphone cost a dime.I pack the hand sanitizer to clean the receiver and keypad but I hope COVID-19 is like the rest of us — prone to freezing in a late Manitoba fall. Dressing warmly is a good idea.To be disconnected during the pandemic is more than thought-provoking, given its usefulness in staying safe.For me, isolation is made tolerable by a good selection of audio presentations from the web. But there are those who have weathered this storm without phone or internet from the very beginning, as well as those who have few to reach out to, even with the technology to do so. Aside from these important concerns, I can attest that an accessible, outdoor neighbourhood pay telephone is still necessary and good for the community.I recall that there were once many payphones throughout the neighbourhood. But only two MTS outdoor phone booths remain to span North Kildonan to Elmwood. In case you need one, an outdoor payphone can be found at Jamison Food Mart, and Mercury Food Mart at the corner of Brazier Street at Trent Avenue. Both are locally owned family corner stores. In the meantime, there is the trusty radio for some nice Christmas music. Please try to find joy in the small things this season. The end of the pandemic is on the horizon.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com 

Winnipeg was a trailblazer in emergency response services. In 1958 the city instituted the first emergency 999 telephone system in North America. The call system received its own purpose-built centre in 1965 in the then-newly built police headquarters at the Public Safety Building, recently demolished. 

The PSB was even designed with the modernity of a press room that held wiring for state of the art lighting and recording equipment for use at press conferences and meetings with crime beat reporters. 

Friday, Dec. 4, 2020

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Longtime neighbourhood resident Joshua Wheelright (who carries a cell phone) strolls by the payphone at Jamison Food Mart.

Exploring a ghostly Halloween night

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Preview

Exploring a ghostly Halloween night

Shirley Kowalchuk 5 minute read Friday, Nov. 6, 2020

On Halloween night, along the dark and descending part of Rowandale Avenue where a creek once meandered, gusts of leaves swirled in the strong evening winds.  Halloween night this year was cool and windy, with win gusting at 58 km/h. It was also a rare night of a blue moon., which does not refer to the moon’s colour, but the occurrence of two full moons within one calendar month to create a year with 13 full moons instead of 12. Therefore, the term “once in a blue moon” describes something that rarely occurs.This Halloween’s blue moon was even more special because it was seen across all time zones, meaning it shone in its fullness everywhere in the world . This has not happened on a Halloween night since 1944. (A blue moon on Halloween in Winnipeg was last seen in 2001, when it showed in the central and Pacific time zones).This Halloween was different, too, because of the pandemic and its precautions.Only a few homes turned on their porch lights to beckon trick or treaters but most homes that usually put up highly decorative displays maintained the tradition. Those  houses giving out candy seemed to do so in safe ways.One creative homeowner had generous treat bags placed on a coffin-shaped hors d’oeuvres tray held by two skeletons in formal evening dress. Thunderous screams and creaking foot steps rang out when a treat bag was taken, and the homeowner, safely behind a window screen, kindly encouraged youngsters to take more.In East Kildonan, another creative resident attached a festive, spiral-striped pipe onto a stair railing. With all the precautions befitting a laboratory, Halloween treats were dispensed directly into loot bags.The simple delight of carved, lit-up pumpkins was still to be had as a few jack o’lanterns glowed from front yards.An affable wizard near Fraser’s Grove Park, with individual candy bags for the taking on his front planter, said that only about 10 trick or treaters stopped by. I spotted only six trick or treaters myself.Yet the mood of the night was still special. Amid a sky darkened by cloud cover, the evening sunset glowed in spectacular layers of orange and grey-brown.Closer to Elmwood, the wind in the thick elm canopy created somewhat ghostly dancing shadows upon the streets.The full moon over East Elmwood seemed animated and quite spectacular as gauzy clouds sped quickly past it. It appeared to have an ever-changing coloured halo of white, grey, brown and steely blue, created by the moon lighting up a large circle upon the moving and varied cloud densities.This was Halloween in Winnipeg this year. I hoped everyone stayed safe, and it seemed to be so.  Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

On Halloween night, along the dark and descending part of Rowandale Avenue where a creek once meandered, gusts of leaves swirled in the strong evening winds.  

Halloween night this year was cool and windy, with win gusting at 58 km/h. It was also a rare night of a blue moon., which does not refer to the moon’s colour, but the occurrence of two full moons within one calendar month to create a year with 13 full moons instead of 12. Therefore, the term “once in a blue moon” describes something that rarely occurs.

This Halloween’s blue moon was even more special because it was seen across all time zones, meaning it shone in its fullness everywhere in the world . This has not happened on a Halloween night since 1944. (A blue moon on Halloween in Winnipeg was last seen in 2001, when it showed in the central and Pacific time zones).

Friday, Nov. 6, 2020

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
One East Kildonan homeowner offered treat bags on a coffin-shaped hors d’oeuvres tray held by two skeletons in evening dress.

Home-purchase flyers too good to be true

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Preview

Home-purchase flyers too good to be true

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Friday, Oct. 9, 2020

It’s been made easy to pick on the weak in some neighbourhoods.  You would think this couldn’t happen amidst a $55 billion, 10-year national housing strategy which prioritizes home security for the vulnerable.However, while the federal government was ramping up its program, the provincial government chose to “repurpose” the money that had been used to fund its home repair grant programs. The other day, I received a personally addressed, postage paid letter. It read:“Dear Shirley Kowalchuk:My name is Sean and I am interested in buying your house at (address).I will buy your house in “as- is” condition therefore you are not required to make repairs and pay any realtor fees.Please call me today as I promise a great offer and a fast response.—  Sean (telephone number)”For months now, my neighbourhood has been receiving incredibly creative letters from potential house buyers (and, by the way, my house does not look like it’s about to fall down).Here’s another example:“Hey, its Bryce. I was here at 2 p.m. I want to buy your house. I’ll pop by later this afternoon. Call me (telephone number).”Since the summer, three older houses have come down in favour of new builds within two blocks of my home.A local real estate industry professional warned that homeowners should be wary of those strange flyers.“There are people who are buying up houses for redevelopment,” he said. “They want the house for the land and will not offer you full market value because the house is valueless to them”.Potential buyers know it can be worrisome to own a home that requires needed but unaffordable repairs that may become an intractable emergency at any time.The directly made purchase offers suggested by these flyers may then seem like a god-sent solution. But those who have sold their homes to developers, for fair value or not, could never buy the new “affordable” homes built on the bulldozed sites for the money they received for the original homes.The now-axed provincial repair programs clearly provided housing security, especially for the fixed-income elderly, the disabled needing adaptive repairs, and low-income home owners. The grants covered fundamental repairs to specific changes and more.Similarly, the federal government’s national housing strategy says it “supports initiatives that improve the performance or extend the useful life of existing buildings.” In short, that was the very aim of the fix-up grants. Then why do they remain unavailable?Older homes in my neighbourhood are beautiful and charming. Prosperous neighborhoods such as Armstrong’s Point and Crescentwood (awaiting approval) are kept safe from redevelopment pressures through heritage conservation districts and subsequent protections. Some fix-up grants are offered in five low income Winnipeg neighbourhoods through municipally funded “housing improvement zones.”  But my area doesn’t have those things, either.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

It’s been made easy to pick on the weak in some neighbourhoods.  

You would think this couldn’t happen amidst a $55 billion, 10-year national housing strategy which prioritizes home security for the vulnerable.

However, while the federal government was ramping up its program, the provincial government chose to “repurpose” the money that had been used to fund its home repair grant programs.

Friday, Oct. 9, 2020

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Developers are eager to buy homes in older neighbourhoods so they can tear down the original houses and erect more expensive infill homes.

A mysterious Red River swimmer

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Preview

A mysterious Red River swimmer

Shirley Kowalchuk 6 minute read Friday, Sep. 11, 2020

I learned recently it is best to carry a working cell phone at all times.While cycling over the Disraeli Active Transportation Bridge, I looked out to the picturesque vista of the 1882 Louise Bridge and noticed a person’s head bobbing just above the water. A man was intermittently swimming, sometimes just bobbing, right down the centre of the river — but he seemed in no distress.As the current brought him closer, I called out to ask if he was all right. In a strong voice he said he was — the water was heating him.Without my cell phone, I was unable to call 911. I noticed a life preserver in its holder on the bridge, and asked if he wanted it. He didn’t and I wondered if he had a death wish.“The undertow only gets you if you jump in from a bridge. I walked in at the Forks,” he shouted. Another cyclist stopped but continued on, saying “Guy seems all right.” Then another cyclist stopped, and she called emergency services on her cell phone.The swimmer was finally brought to shore past the Redwood Bridge. Responders in a Zodiac watercraft flanked him from Michaëlle Jean Park to where he was ushered onto shore past the old Paddlewheel Dock, seemingly in conversation all the while. A large emergency response team with many vehicles and personnel had assembled on the Redwood Bridge and along the river.The City declined comment on the dangerousness of the river, but in June Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service deputy chief Russ Drohomereski had said the river was much more dangerous than it appears. “If you look at the Red (River), it doesn’t seem to be moving quite as fast on the surface but once you’re actually in the water it’s moving quite quickly.”The Red’s bottom is slippery, deep mud and the sediment in the water means visibility is poor. The river also contains  refuse such as broken concrete, submerged logs and trees, fishing line, hooks and broken bottles. Walking into it isn’t a safe idea. There can be things like water-logged tree trunks that sit just below the river’s surface, and invisible currents can prevent someone from breaking surface even from a slight submersion.Returning to East Kildonan over the Redwood Bridge, I saw the swimmer was on shore, wearing shorts and a red T-shirt emblazoned with “Winnipeg” across his chest. He didn’t seem tired in the least. He was moving away from the rescue vehicle at river side and was walking barefoot onto Redwood Avenue, talking emphatically and raising his arms to make a point to a responder alongside him.An inquiry to the City indicated the man “did not require transport to hospital.”One can only wonder why he took a death-defying swim the Red.What is certain is that many people cared that he did, and  were there to help him away from the risk that was so near, but which he felt was so far away.Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer who loves her childhood home of East Kildonan where she still resides.She can be reached at sakowalchuk1@gmail.com

I learned recently it is best to carry a working cell phone at all times.

While cycling over the Disraeli Active Transportation Bridge, I looked out to the picturesque vista of the 1882 Louise Bridge and noticed a person’s head bobbing just above the water. A man was intermittently swimming, sometimes just bobbing, right down the centre of the river — but he seemed in no distress.

As the current brought him closer, I called out to ask if he was all right. In a strong voice he said he was — the water was heating him.

Friday, Sep. 11, 2020

Photo by Shirley Kowalchuk
Correspondent Shirley Kowalchuk first saw the Red River swimmer in the water halfway between the Disraeli Active Transportation Bridge and the Louise Bridge (in the distance).