by Mike Spack
Part 3

WHERE WE LIVED - the early years

A further check of the maps is helpful namely the Winnipeg Free Press 100 year pictorial historical map of Winnipeg compiled by Edith Paterson (1973 - early pages map).  The bottom right hand corner shows the peninsula formed by the curvature of the Red River (within the black line). Also the rough guide of streets and key areas. This is Point Douglas and on the north side is where we children were born and grew up in our early years. The railway arrived to split the area into north and south. The streets and avenues on the rough streets and avenues diagram were drawn to an approximate scale from memory by yours truly. The map is my remembrance of the area back in the thirties but I have included in broken dash lines where the Disraeli Freeway runs at the present time.

Some houses in which we lived

A few thoughts may help beforehand with regard to the houses in which we lived (on map - filled-in triangles). There were other houses as will be noted from Nellie's recollection supported by communication with Margaret. Certainly the one at 18 Sutherland Avenue (no longer there -  see picture later pages of present site) is recalled easily since these were the days of my attendance at St. John's Technical High School (Technical because course options such as wood turning, sewing, home economics,  blueprinting, machine shop. etc. were made available even In those depression days of the thirties). I do not recall the year we moved there. Sister Nellie remembers some events but prefers to forget, unsuccessfully for some, many sad incidents  even though she was quite young at the time. Brothers Andy and Rudy left no recollections as far as I know.


Interesting and sad were written notes by Nellie as follows:

"Don't know how true this is but Mom told me she had a miscarriage before I was born In 1930 . Mom wanted to call me Gladys but there was a bootlegger on Syndicate St. where many neighbors went often and the name of the lady in that house was Nellie. So that is how I got that name. Yes, Mom was in jail and she took me with her - overnight stay. I remember too when Margaret was born in the house on Sutherland Avenue and there was a big christening party for Margaret. Rudy had me in bed with him at the time."

Comment: At this point in time physical and sexual abuse is reported so often but in the days of the thirties much of this was hidden. There is no doubt in my mind that our family was not excluded even to the point of sexual abuse with my mother and sister Nellie taking the  brunt of these attacks.

 "Also I remember when Mom bought her first washing machine paying 25 cents a week for it. Mom scrubbed floors in the candy factory and she brought us candy. At Christmas there was cake and peanuts, the kind you shell, wet them in a glass of water, drain the water and salt the peanuts. The only present we got was the one received from the Sutherland Mission."

Comment: And to think that in these days there are families today, too many of them, who face similar conditions. Nellie continues:

"We were never bored because there were plenty of kids with whom to play. And then there were the chores to be done. Andy and I went often to the Starland Theatre on Main Street walking along the railway tracks to the C.P.R. Railway station and then to Main. We walked also to Batons which was much farther away."

What a difference to today's youth where car transportation is expected more of the time. I remember my love for reading and walking regularly to the William library which was located on William Avenue quite a distance away as was St. Johns Technical High School.

 Nellie continues:
"And then there was that wagon we had pulling it to Brown and Rutherford's Lumber yard just down the street on Sutherland Avenue to pick up scraps of wood for the box and cook stove. After you (Mike) left (RCAF) Mom worked at the Air Force base and she even got Sophie a job there. Yes, we did go to the Sutherland mission including Sophie who said what good times they had in the sewing club held each Wednesday. Sophie took us to the evening service many times, buy us candy and told us to be quiet at times. This was a second home for us. Such a lot of time was spent there; clubs, Sunday School, as C.G.I.T. leader - those were my better days. When you lived on Edmonton Street near downtown. Sue was a baby and I was working nearby on Kennedy Street so I had lunch with Kath usually scotch broth."

Yes, that residence on Edmonton was like a palace to us compared to the houses we had lived in previously after Kath arrived from England in 1946. I was an underwriter with Equitable Life Assurance working full-time in the summer and part time in the fall and winter when attended university. Our first new car, an Oxford, was bought at that time. How proud we were of that car! We had marvelous neighbors and Central Park was in front of our house.

A humorous incident was daughter Suzanne's habit of taking off all her clothes in the summer when playing in our yard. One time we found her missing and, quite concerned, looked for her in the park with no Sue to be found. We finally went into the corner drug stores situated close to us and there she was without a stitch on her. We made certain of a locked gate after that and there is no remembrance how we "trained" her to leave her clothes on.

 More comments by Nellie:

 "Mom did not cook too well, she told me, when she was married and was  taught by someone who lived on the corner of Gomez and Disraeli. Then later, Mom's wonderful friend Mrs. Smith taught her how to bake. Don't know if you know, she enjoyed bingo down at the Seniors Centre. Once on my weekly dinner at her place she carted out her little tin box - $600 she had saved from Bingo. She told me that many times she would

get a Bingo two or three times in a session but would not declare it because she thought it was unfair for any one person to win too often (so this must be inherited, this so-called luck since Nellie herself has this same good fortune from time to time)."

 "Mom loved living in Vancouver. She had a plot in Elmwood Cemetery where second husband Perry was buried but wanted to have a plot in Vancouver (both brother Andy and his wife Mary are buried in the Elmwood Cemetery). Also, my birth certificate reads Spak as my surname (the Polish spelling is Szpak) and I wonder what Margaret's certificate shows.

Much credit is due to Nellie for these vignettes and no doubt she communicated with Margaret also. The family moved from the Sutherland residence to 134 Disraeli the little maroon house still standing on the corner of Disraeli and Sutherland (see picture). I Joined the Air Force in September 1941 and when I had a leave for a weekend I remember going there to stay with the family. It was a tight squeeze in that house since Nellie mentioned Rudy was living with the family as well, five in all. Father was elsewhere and may have left for Vancouver by that time as did Rudy sometime later. To the best of my knowledge, Rudy was not able to get into the service for some medical reason.

Then the family moved down the street to a small place behind the Bohochuks, 106 1/2 - the 1/2 because of its location (this is  verified by reading some of the letters I wrote to Andy, Rudy, and sisters Nellie and Marge sent from England the last one in February 28, 1945 when I was in training on Mosquito aircraft. This was just before I joined the squadron at R.A.F. Wyton with the first raid on Berlin March 16 ). Mothers sister Lena (Sclaric), daughters Sophie, Mary with her husband and the children lived next door (another tight squeeze to be sure) and on the other side was the Catholic Church.

Nellie recalls that Rudy insisted upon a clean white shirt at least every day so she had shirts to wash along with other tasks.

 On the next page are various pictures representative of the Disraeli area in which we lived.

 " Mom and I went to Chicago to visit Uncle Bill. I remember too that you embarrassed no doubt one of my friends from the United College which I attended after the war)."

Then the move to 34 Hallet took place and during this time Andy was married to Mary (who some years later passed away). The family had the downstairs at this time. I was home from England in 1945, Kath arriving in 1946, and since Nellie has a picture of my mother holding Jamie in her arms when the family lived on Hallet, the year must have been around 1951 since Jamie was born in 1950.

Nellie writes "I worked at the Times Theatre, corner of Selkirk and Main. Mom and Margaret would come in the evening twice a week as it was free movies and popcorn for families of employees."

Prior to Hallet, correspondence indicates that mother, Margaret, and Nellie lived for a short time on Barber Street but the 1950 flood came. Arriving by boat at this house to check the damage, they found little to salvage. More of the possessions were lost as a result. Included were two large pictures of our parents and a lovely round dining room table. They then lived with brother Andy and his wife Mary and family on Selkirk Avenue. Following this they found a small residence on Boyd Avenue (no hot water or fridge) after which was the house on Manitoba Avenue. Margaret remembers that house. During this time Nellie was  married to Walter Balayewich and he passed away after they had moved to Vancouver where I believe daughter Cindy was born.

Once I asked my mother in one of my visits to her in Vancouver, how many residential moves she had made to date. She guessed that it was in the neighborhood of 30 but even 20 would be amazing. She was the "movingest" person I've known but of course there were many rather unfortunate circumstances which caused this to happen.

Perhaps around 39 or 40, father had gone to Vancouver and worked for a time with Dominion Motors. Rudy joined him there which was the first year for Nellie in Vancouver. Nellie's recall is that the reason father left for Vancouver was that he faced a court charge for whatever reason and the Judge ordered him out of the province. Apparently Rudy and I or perhaps Andy and I saw him to the train in a rather drunken state and he ended up in Prince Rupert for a while and then went to Vancouver.

How to put this into words? What a contrast between her quality of life when living with father and her much too short a relationship with Perry Ramey who she married not too long after the war ended perhaps late forties or early fifties. Somewhere there may be a marriage certificate and perhaps Nellie or Margaret will find it. Mother and Perry worked at the Civic Auditorium in Winnipeg located behind the Hudson's Bay Company building. I know a little about this relationship since the Civic Auditorium in Winnipeg was where our University and Senior A basketball teams played their games. Both Andy and played there with fine crowds in attendance, and it was in this city-owned Auditorium where Mom met Perry. If I remember correct Andy and I met Perry at that time. Just prior to this Mom worked at the downtown Windsor Hotel as a  chambermaid. Indeed it she must have had in her lifetime almost as many jobs as moves from one residence to another.

Perry was one of the gentlest persons one could meet. Mom and Perry married quietly and moved to Perry's house on Gertrude Street just off  Wellngton Crescent not far from where daughter Catherine now lives. One son of Perry's from the first marriage named Alec I believe was a pretty well-to-do business man living in Toronto (Point Grey Dixon Road) who was like a son to Mom. In fact I visited him and his wife, (an elegant home) when I had arranged to see my good friends Ruth and Walter Zeaton who lived close by. I chatted with him and he was so grateful that his Dad was much happier since his Dad's first wife had died. Then Mom and Perry moved to Scarborough and so sad it was that Perry passed away. She returned to Winnipeg for a while, lived with Kath and me, and then moved to the United Church Fairhaven for Seniors in Vancouver. These events took place probably from about the early fifties to just prior to when she left for Vancouver to be with Nellie in 1966 when she was 63 years of age.

The other members of the Perry family must have had some doubts about their father's marriage at such a late date but things seem to workout reasonably well although there were some natural mutterings when the will became known. Remembered also is that Perry's son Alec phoned Mom often when she lived in Fairhaven and he may have visited her there. I think she felt he was truly a son of hers without the in-law attachment.

Nellie writes: "Margaret was married to Dr. John Eagle in 1965 and they moved to Edmonton where John began his teaching career at the University of Alberta. They live there now with daughter Jennifer and son David.

After the children were old enough Margaret completed her program for a Master of Social Work degree. David married Alison recently and both are at the university living on their own and doing very well indeed.  Jennifer is also in university and living with her parents.

Nellie looks back a few years just prior to Mom's leaving for Vancouver:

"At this time Mom was housekeeping for some man and she had a small suite after having lived with you and Kath for a short time. She was 62 but then left for Vancouver as mentioned previously in 1966, age 63. She lived with Walter and me and the baby and babysat for us. I do not know what year she moved into Falrhaven - remember she had her own kitchen etc. and was so happy there."

1950 FLOOD
 Kathy and I were flooded out from Notre Dame St. In St. Boniface so Kath, Suzanne, and Jamie (born January 8th that year) with Hazel Swan and family went to the United Church Camp Robertson in Gimli. Hazel's huband Howie and I administered the King George School in Norwood (my first teaching position as a Physical Education Director for Norwood School District) as a hotel for truckers and other volunteers. We ate and slept there as did the workers with the gymnasium set up as the kitchen. Gimli was difficult for the ladies and children to be sure and how glad they were to get home even though there was the task of cleaning up a flooded basement at 442 Notre Dame Avenue just behind the Belgian Club on Provencher Avenue in St. Boniface then a separate city. Many others were worse off than we were. I visited 442 many years ago and the little shrubs and one evergreen were in full size - a lovely residence, rented, and our first house.

This house mentioned previously by Nellie with the Canadian Pacific Railway almost in our backyard, had on one side a fairly large yard with a number of trees and on one of these a basketball hoop was hung. A horseshoe pitch was dug in front which caused some bother to the neighborhood when we played in the evening, kitty corner from MacFarlane Street. There was an open veranda, two storied, and my small room on the north side overlooked Sutherland Avenue. The yard on the other side of the house became a lumber and brick establishment run by Schwartz and Litz and at the back facing the railway track, a woodshed. The scene brings both sad and happy memories to mind. Indeed I feel at times that it was as close to a home I ever remembered in my growing up years due to the presence of our wonderful mother. However it was far from being a "rose garden" considering the many other events noted already.


Kathy and Mike Spack
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