Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/7/2019 (780 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
My husband and I recently visited the Winnipeg Art Gallery to see photographer and filmmaker John Paskievich’s exhibition, The North End, which consists of 50 black-and-white digital prints of people and places in the North End of Winnipeg.
I love these photographs. The scenes sparked fond memories of my own North End childhood. I grew up on Boyd Avenue, with parents who were immigrants from war-torn Europe.
Boyd Avenue in the 1950s was magical. We had so much freedom. Our neighbourhood was full of children and I remember long summer days when we played outside from dawn until dark. With so many children around, we always had playmates and lots to do. We would skip rope, play games, look for insects, or just sit together and read comic books.
I fondly remember Canada Day festivities. Each family would buy a few fireworks and gather them together. Chairs were set up in back lane garages to view the display. Moms made bowls of popcorn and we sipped on cans of Coke. The boys would run around lighting ladyfingers and firecrackers. The girls got the sparklers. The show began at nightfall and was amazing. The night always ended with the burning schoolhouse firework.
I especially loved Paskievich’s photos of the old men and women of the North End. I remember my own grandmothers in similar poses. My favourite photo was of an old woman bent over double planting seeds in her backyard garden.
My grandparents had huge flower and vegetable gardens. I loved visiting those gardens, picking and eating the sun-ripened carrots, peas and tomatoes. It was certainly my grandfather who nurtured my love of gardening.
I remember that every yard on Boyd had a lilac bush and a rhubarb patch. On hot summer days, we would pick the rhubarb stalks and eat them raw, dipping them into a bowl of sugar. I have continued the tradition and now have a lilac bush and a rhubarb patch in my own back yard.
Seeing the street names on John’s photos took me back to trips that I took with my Oma and Opa.
My Oma would take me to Oretski’s Department Store on Selkirk Avenue where she would buy her "old lady" winter underwear. My Opa would take me to a store on Higgins Avenue to buy a tub of feta cheese.
As Paskievich’s more recent photos show, the North End of my childhood has evolved. New populations have replaced the Ukrainian, Polish and German immigrant families of the ’50s. I hope that the children living there today experience the loving sense of community that surrounded me in my youth.
Joanne O’Leary is a community correspondent for Riverbend. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org