WINNIPEG, MB. - As we grow older, many of the buildings that were important in our lives have been replaced. The former Moore Business Forms building on Erin Street, where my parents worked, was recently demolished and turned into a parking lot. This change makes sense as the neighbourhood evolves. However, sudden and unexpected changes are difficult to accept.
Between 1910 and 1912, three apartment blocks were built on the corner of Furby and Ellice, replacing several homes. The Haselmere at 559 Ellice was quickly followed by the Coronado at 485 Furby, and the Patricia Court at 489 Furby. When the relatively new Patricia Court needed painting, my grandfather, Gudmundur Bjarnason, and his sons, Haldor and Jon, got the job. The basement room where they stored their paint was eventually made into a bachelor apartment. In June 1972, as a young university student, I rented that very suite.
Mr. and Mrs. Atkinson were dedicated caretakers. The building was owned by Joseph Fainman. Salisbury House, Cinema 3, Gurvey's and Rudy's Pharmacy, the Wash-O-Matic laundromat and many other businesses were very close-by along Ellice Avenue. I was able to walk downtown. In May 1973, I walked to the legislature to witness the calling of the election.
The back lane was named after former Mayor Alexander McMicken. I have many fond memories of my first home away from home.
In the early morning hours of a bitterly cold January 18, 1974, I heard fire engines and turned on radio station CKRC to discover a major fire was in progress in the Haselmere. I will never forget watching the large apartment block totally engulfed in flames. Nine people died and 25 were injured. There is a memorial to this on Ellice across from the University of Winnipeg. This fire led to improved fire safety regulations approved by Winnipeg city council in June 1974.
This Dec. 4, another devastating fire destroyed the Patricia Court. The ice-covered remains brought back memories of the tragic January 1974 night. My prayers go out to the injured and the tenants who lost everything.
Fred Morris for Manitoba Post
Photos supplied by Lifestyles55
Fred Morris describes himself as a political activist and sometime political candidate.