In this part of Winnipeg, we have a history worth learning and, fortunately, we also have the North East Historical Society, which is about to publish the third volume of North East Winnipeg Area History.
Led by local historian Jim Smith, the group’s latest project will focus on the area’s churches and cemeteries.
"Can you name all three cemeteries?" he asks when we meet.
I can only name two. How about you? Sitting with Smith in his home, we are surrounded by binders, massive maps and old newspapers. We read from a copy of an original Elmwood Herald, then a full-service paper with a price of only five cents, or $2 for the year.
I learned where the original Herald was published; I read from The Examiner, another area newspaper; I learn that we once had oil refineries here, a drive-in theatre where Sobeys now sits, and that Fraser’s Grove was once almost home to the University of Manitoba.
The residential and commercial landscape has transformed so much but just as noticeable are the changes in community engagement.
"They were a lot more involved," said Jim of previous residents of the area.
"There are a lot of groups that have gone. For example the Kiwanis of East Kildonan. There was a time when they had 75 to 80 members and they were really involved in the community and you had kids in their 20s who would be part of that.
"Where the closed Safeway is, there was a playground area and the guys from the Kiwanis club actually built it themselves," he said. "Community clubs were all volunteer, there was no paid staff. Bronx, which started in ’45, had a dollar a year fee to join. When they had (board) elections, like one in the late ‘40s, there were four people who ran for president. You had like 150 people show up for meetings, actually elections, now it’s ‘Who’s gonna take it?’"
Smith has dedicated much of his life and resources to the area’s history with a goal of making it all accessible to the public. You can follow Jim online and on Facebook, where he posts pictures and facts. Ultimately, he would love to see a space people can visit, like every other district in Winnipeg.
"Going back to the ’50s, there was an attempt to have a museum, where the Co-op station is on Rowandale and Henderson. There was a house there owned by the Munroe family, built in 1856. At that time, it was 103 years old," he said. "They thought it would cost too much money as they would have to move it because the Rossmere shopping centre was going to be built. So, it was burnt down in 1959 for practise for the fire department."
The Historical Society is in the midst of seeking charitable status in order to pursue a permanent residence.
If you are interesting in showing support, please visit www.newpghs.com, write a letter of support, or attend the Society’s monthly meeting, every third Wednesday (September-June) at Bronx Park C.C. Evan Comstock is a community correspondent for East Kildonan.
East Kildonan community correspondent
Evan Comstock is a community correspondent for East Kildonan.