LOOKING BACK AT THE SPACKS
by Mike Spack
WINDING UP OUR HISTORY
December 8, 1996
I and others may add to this history as time moves relentlessly forward. Copies to both sisters and to our children will be sent eventually God willing. We look forward to the Christmas holidays for instance to visiting with Sharon, Jamie and family, with Nellie's daughter Cindy who had her first baby this morning at 1220, 7 pounds, named Emily Jo Anne, with Nellie and additionally the presence of sister Margaret and all her family who decided to visit about the same time, a rare occasion to be sure. Having heard of the birth of our grand niece early this morning making Kath and me Grand Aunt and Grand Uncle respctively makes this writing and the visit to come a "grand" celebration indeed.
I do wish to close however with two very personal writings concerning Sutherland Mission and Dr. "Jim" Shaver, our minister and also Superintendent of the three Missions in the north end of Winnipeg. The influence of Dr. Shaver (Jamie is named after him), and Sutherland on my life is
immeasurable. The sports activities are not mentioned but may be read in the writing of my sports career not as yet begun. Mention has been made by Nellie how important Sutherland was to her, to our mother and the community in general.
ALL PEOPLES' UNITED CHURCH
All People's United Church with its three and at one time four Missions; Sutherland, on the corner of Euclid and Sutherland in north Point Douglas, Stella and Robertson House west of Main Street, St. Giles west of Main Street all in the much-written about north end of Winnipeg. The focus will be on Sutherland Mission on the corner of Euclid and Main built in 1908 or 1909. The time period in general will be of the days of our family while living in the many residences in north Point Douglas. Emphasized will be Dr. Shaver who along with many others such as Dr. Fred Douglas (see Appendix 111), influenced positively many families.
A brief history of the Missions is useful paraphrasing from an article which appeared in either the Winnipeg Free Press or Tribune in 1950. Title was "NORTH END MISSIONS HAVE SPAWNED SPORTS HEROES" underlining the honor paid to the Stella Mission Stellars Junior basketball team which won the Canadian Championship that year coached by Martin Terry and the Manager was Mitch Baryluk. Additionally 1950 was the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of the union of the three denominations, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Methodists to become the United Church of Canada (1925).
Immigrants from Europe were flocking into Winnipeg either to settle there or move further west. Miss Dolly Maguire, a Sunday School teacher in the McDougal Methodist Church taught these newcomers providing also some religious experiences. In 1892 a move was made to a site on Austin Street just north of the C.P.R. station in north Point Douglas not far from Main Street on the east side. A sign was put up on the side of the building painted in eight languages bearing the legend, "A House of Prayer for All Peoples". These words led naturally to the name All Peoples Mission in the 1925 union.
The challenge was not only a religious/social one but also one of citizenship for people who were strangers in a strange land, speaking diverse languages often with little worldly goods. Somehow they had to be assimilated and made to feel at home educated to become Canadians. The various governments were not willing to assume responsibility so this left the way open for the Church.
From 1907 to 1913, a young Methodist Minister J.S. Wordsworth, later the founder and first leader of the C.C.F. Party (eventually changed to New Democratic Party ), was the Superinentendent of the Missions at which time the twin Sutherland and Stella Missions were built (1908-09). However
they were not built as churches but rather as recreation centres for each one was designed with a gymnasium, swimming pool both small with a few shower facilities, as well as space for Sunday School which could be used for worship. Prior to this on Burrows Avenue in 1901, an off shoot of St. Giles Presbyterian Church, began as a Mission and ten years later became Robertson Memorial Church.
As an aside other than sports, I did attend Sunday School and many sevices. Our group remember well at services the very length prayers delivered by Dr. Shaver. Many played pickup football in the fall on Sunday afternoon and getting to Sunday School was so difficult which needed the aid of our teacher to fetch us.
Later I became a Sunday School teacher and with John Potter and his brother Bill after the war we had a midweek group of inner city boys. And they were not all easy to control. Bill taught half of them woodwork while John and I ran the basketball with the other half. Then there would be an exchange. We always ended with a discussion to end the program. Then John, Bill, and I would head for a couple of drinks and conversation. It was great!
UNION AND THE CAMPS
Subsequently the Missions were brought into Church Union as well. Connected with the Missions were Camp Sparling and Camp Robertson in Gimli supervised in 1950 by Dr. J.M.White, These provided holidays and recreation to the under-privileged in Winnipeg for some forty years prior to 1950 and after World War 11. I remember clearly the time I spent at Robertson once as a camper and also as an assistant manager to Lome Chanin during the summer months. I had not seen Lome for about 40 years and Kath and I are so pleased he and his wife attended our 50th anniversary in Brandon August 18, 1995. Lome uses a cane and often a wheelchair now since he has had multiple sclerosis for some time. They made the trip all the way from their cottage at Camp Morton north of Gimli.
The following summer I took on the responsibilities of camp manager at Spar ling. Indeed I can see myself now working at one of the many maintenance responsibilities at Sparling. This became an achievement worthy of some honor or other. You see, the boys' urinal had been clogged for as many years as anyone could remember. I took it upon myself as a great challenge and after many many hours of toil the urinal was finally working! Of course there were other minor tasks which were my responsibility.
OAK GLADE CAMP - KIRKFIELD
Quite a remarkable undertaking was the initiative of Dr. Jim Shaver in obtaining a sizable acreage on the banks of Assiniboine River. A piece of this was used to build a retirement home which became so dear to all the family. The cottage name was Grantham. The rest became Oak Glade Camp written about on the following pages.
I remember well the later forties and early fifties when Dr. White and others like him such as Dr. Eustace of the Ukrainian Mission, and the Central Missions namely St. Andrews, Sutherland, McLean, under Rev. Fred Douglas were providing leadership. Sutherland, as in other Missions, became a centre for ministers in training seeking ordination at United College as did others in other degree programs. My first Sunday School teacher was Jack Sword who at this time of writing just celebratd his 80th year. He lives in Toronto. Then there was Dick Lavender and our almost perennial basketball coach Dale Zubick who stayed with us from the time I was ten years old (practising three times a week in the small gym at Sutherland Mission) playing in the Sunday School Basketball leagues and the high school including our amazing Junior Varsity team at St. Johns Technical High School. The Sunday School Basketball Story covering a span of some 30 to 35 years ending around 1941, is a separate writing in somewhat a draft form.
Service to the Mission communities then, included not only religious and social service but integrated also in these experiences was Canadian citizenship as exemplified by many local community members including those in athletic competitions. Well-known basketball teams, some the best in
Canada, were the old Sutherland Vics arch-rivals to the famous Toilers who won the national title on two occasions, Robertson Memorials many of whom played later for the dynasty of St. Andrews teams as well as Stella Mission Stellars who won the national Juniors championship first in 1950 and once again later.
It is evident that the work of the Missions is a projection of an experiment in Canadian citizenship in which the United Church of Canada played a leading role. A dedicated army of paid and volunteer workers made this happen. In addition to the names mentioned previously as Ministers there were Dr. Shaver's two sons Bill and Jack ( Dr. Shaver and Bill passed away some time ago while Jack resides with his wife Dorothy in Vancouver), Dr. Eustace's son Andy, and Rev. Ken McLeod who resides now in Clearweater B. C. The Missions were a "home away from home" for people and so many of them in early years were newcomers to Canada and Winnipeg courageously facing an altogether different environment.
DR. "JIM" SHAVER
One of the Appendices titled Ukrainians and Religion in Canada (Appendix IV) is my paraphrasing of the section "Ukrainians - the 'Unpreferred'" but included also in the Peter Douglas thesis is the section on Dr. Shaver titled "The Two Talent" man. My paraphrasing with quotations may be found under the heading of " Two Talent " Man (Appendix 11)
I wrote sometime ago to our children my relationship with and feelings about the Shaver family. Woven into this are some post war events of personal experiences with a little repetition as follows.
ABOUT DR. JAMES SHAVER
His signature appears on the inside cover of a lovely book which he gave to your Mother many many years ago when we lived in that tiny two room place on Gomez Street( around 1946 or 47 - since Jamie is named after Dr. Shaver, he has this book). Of course that house is no longer there in north Point Douglas, Winnipeg, since it was located in the area which is now under Disraeli Bridge. In addition to the book Dr. Shaver and his wife gave to us a brass bowl for christening purposes prior to Suzanne being born. I believe Sue has this christening bowl. Dr. (of Divinity) "Jim" Shaver, was the Minister and Superintendent of Sutherland and Stella Missions (perhaps Robertson Memorial Mission also). Together these were the All Peoples' United Church. Sutherland is where Liz, my mother, Nellie, and cousin Sophier went often midweek and for church, in addition I learned all my basketball fundamentals in that tiny gym starting at age 10 under the leadership of "Dale" Zubick. Sutherland is located on the corner of Euclid (oldest street in Winnipeg) and Sutherland. Stella is at Stella and Power across Main Street while Robertson is on Burrows. All the buildings were pretty well identical with two stories, stage and small auditorium, a tiny gym and believe it or not a small swimming pool and showers built around 1908 (later changed into a multi-purpose room but I remember swimming in that small pool).
It is difficult to put into words how much Dr. Shaver meant to me in my growing years and the unbelievable influence he had on my life and the lives of many persons in the communities under his charge. In many ways he was my surrogate father. Mentioned earlier, father became an alcoholic in the early thirties depression. Mind you, though memory fails me and I rely on hearsay knowledge, there were the early family days when my father, a radiator mechanic, made a fine living and even purchased the first Model A Ford on the block on Hallet St. in Point Douglas.
Alcoholism meant losing job after job leading to welfare for the family. I thank the Lord many times for the courage of my mother who held us together, the five children. Margaret, Nellie, Andy, Rudy, and yours truly, through thick and thin and there was a great deal of "thin" in those depression years.
The Shaver family influence remained after your Mother arrived from England to Canada after a seasick voyage and a long train ride wondering often where she was heading. What a change from 8 the Crescent which she left to join me in Winnipeg into a small two room, common toilet, upper story on McPhail St. in Elmwood! Still we were together and that was most important to us.
Prior to the war the Shavers took a special interest in me inviting me often to their home at 464 Stella Avenue next to Stella Mission. I remember to this day my first invite seeing napkins rolled into a plastic clasp and wondering why they were there. So I Just followed what the others did. Son Bill especially spent much time with me and I even lived a week or so with him in Forrest near Brandon, one of his charges when he was a Minister in the area. I do have a recollection of that time. Son Jack was younger and later became a minister leaning somewhat to what was then "rebel" side of positions he took which now I respect more than ever.
There was the Oak Glade Camp or as we called it Kirkfield Park for some reason or other, on the shore of Assiniboine River located in St. James about a mile south towards the river from the King George Hotel on Portage Avenue. The bike ride from where we lived to the camp was quite some distance come to think of it but then it did not seem too far away. Once in a while we took a street car as far as it went on Portage and then walked in to camp.
Church groups spent weekends in working at putting up the CPR boxcars which were to be the bunkhouses, kitchen, and even a chapel in the woods as well as a small playing area. These were enjoyable days full of fellowship and fun for "kids from across the tracks" we were referred to often
coming from a poor area of Winnipeg where could be found booleggers, "hot cars", and the red light district. At camp there was always something to be done it seems but there were many groups in Sutherland and Stella so that was advantageous. In a sense we were working on our own property though understandably it was a Sutherland and Stella Missions Camp called Oak Glade. "Doc" Shaver as we referred to him. Initiated the Oak Glade since he and his wife built their lovely cottage on this site and the camp area was chosen next door. The article in the paper states:
"Originally developed by Dr. J. Shaver, minister of All Peoples in the 1930s, the camp consists of a main building near the river, spacious grounds and an outdoor chapel. Many facelifts were required such as painting, electrifying, etc. and most the work was done voluntarily. The main purpose of the camp was of course for needy children to spend a week at camp and for pensioners and other groups to make use of the facilities.
There were visits to the Shaver cottage. Liz and I, soon after she arrived in Canada in 1946, went there with John and his wife Marie and other young people. As for the camp, your mother spent a week or two as cook at one or two of the campouts for youngsters (at one time very pregnant). Naturally our own boy's group from Sutherland worked and also spent a week or two as campers. It was great fun but also it was an excellent learning experience. Being away from home for any length of time the first time was quite a revelation.
We remember well seeing Dr. Shaver when he was critically ill sitting in a chair in front of the cottage overlooking the Assinlboine River knowing that the Lord was to take him soon. What wonderful memories he must have recalled and hopefully he knew deep Inside what a wonderful life he and his dear friend and companion, his wife had, she so serene, so full of the Christian spirit! The influence he exerted on many persons has been mentioned but one example is how he instilled quite gently as was his nature the hopes that Uncle John and I would consider the teaching profession. He did this by letter if memory serves me correctly. Originally I believe son Bill hoped I would enter the ministry but such was not to be. Teaching was and there was no question for John and for me for anything else. Dr. Shaver's influence was strong so much so I was still in uniform and attending United College soon after arrival home in late August 1945 and I even registered John who would be along shortly after.
Words are impossible for me as I attempt to express my deep felt appreciation for having the privilege of knowing Dr. Shaver, learning from him and his family, of sharing from time to time, and of course finding out a little about Christianity which has become a lifetime pursuit. Tears come to me eyes even now as I write. I've written separately on an experience I had in waking up from a dream, sitting up, perspiring, and with tears in my eyes saying, "Thank you, Dr.Shaver. Thank you!" And as importantly, I thank God that your mother also had the experience of going to Sutherland, helping out in many ways, and particularly to know Dr. Shaver and his family.
An interesting quote by someone is, "Do not squander your time for it is the stuff life is made of!" History is the way time had been spent and It has been a labour of love to have written this. Along with this is the hope that It Is a small beginning for tradition since my side of the family shows no written record. Still to be written is Kath's side and even for that we shall have to depend upon memory and my overseas diary.
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