Whippoorwill Cottage

Whippoorwill Cottage


Whippoorwill Cottage, 2013

(One of a series of articles about the history of South Beach and its families)

Written by Evelyn Ward de Roo

In the early 1900’s some of the first cottagers in South Beach were city professionals, including Percy D. Harris (b 1880). Sometime around 1912 he built Whippoorwill Cottage at 34 South Colonization Road.

Percy Harris was principal of Lord Nelson School in Winnipeg (ref, Gimli Saga, p. 118). He was also the secretary of the Manitoba Educational Association from 1911-20 and then served as its president in 1920-21.

Percy D Harris

ca 1938, Maxine Carter (Ward), Percy D. Harris, Sylva Carter (Benkelmen)

Florence Harris was the daughter of Percy. She also became a school teacher. In the 1960’s she authored the high school textbooks, The Art of Poetry, and A Packet of Prose, both published by McClelland and Stewart Ltd.

Florence never married and had no children of her own. She inherited Whippoorwill Cottage. Along with her teaching ability she had a generous heart. She invited all the children from South Beach into her cottage to play.

She had the most interesting and unique toys. A huge farm set out on the grass. Betsy McCall doll and clothes.

Betsy McCall, 29" doll

Betsy McCall, 29″ doll

She developed treasure hunts, crafts and games. She taught us how to knit. She served KoolAid or juice in plastic glasses carried in a wire rack.

Max & Sylva at Florence's

Doing crafts at Whippoorwill Cottage

The days it was okay to go to Whippoorwill to play were the days when Miss Harris would fly a Union Jack flag on the front of the cottage. Florence was not a well woman. So days when she was not up to having kids hang around, no flag would be present. Even until the early 1960s the Union Jack would fly on the odd day.

Sylva, Max & Friends at Florence

Kids from South Beach 1940, l. to r. Sylva Carter, ?, ?, Maxine Carter (Ward)


Belle, Max, Sylva, Winifred

1937, the Carter women

Whippoorwill Cottage still stands today behind a big white fence. No Union Jack flies there anymore.


Whippoorwill Cottage, South Colonization Road, 2013



South Beach Tribute – Ron Keizer

RON KEIZER February 18, 1953 – May 17, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 4.11.35 PMKeizer wedding

South Beach is very saddened at the sudden passing of Ron Keizer on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 in Winnipeg. He leaves Dorothy, his wife of 27 years, to mourn his loss and to lovingly cherish his memory.

Ron was a pillar of life in South Beach since purchasing their little piece of heaven at 41 Ethel Street about 13 years ago. His loving support of Dorothy shone through in so many ways especially as she served as the Treasurer of SBPOA for over a decade. They fashioned a life that gave them the freedom to enjoy their cottage for more that just weekends. Ron supported her desire to leave a corporate career to become a self-employed travel agent and so the cottage dining table became her office.


They both were integral to the co-ordination and success of our annual community picnic for many, many years. Ron was always willing to lend a hand, haul tents and BBQs and do the thankless ‘grunt’ work with a laugh and a smile.IMG_8519You were always welcome to pull up a chair around their campfire. Ron was lauded as ‘the wood whore’ and kept a meticulously maintained woodpile (and wine cabinet).

Their former cottage neighbour Wendy Dunlop, said “South Beach will never be the same without Ron who was always so upbeat and a wonderful neighbour.” Dave McNabb gave a fitting tribute to Ron at the May 2017 SBPOA meeting.

winning tickets?

winning tickets?

The Keizers travelled the world together hand in hand, spent Saturday mornings on the garage sale circuit, undertook countless projects at their cottage, and loved their shared adventures in South Beach. Dorothy recounts how they would walk the beach at night and solve the ‘problems of the world’. Dorothy has sold their cottage and stepped down as Treasurer.

Ron leaves behind his daughters Allison Demann (Klaas) and Nikki Keizer; and grandchildren Ethan (the light of his life), Dominic, Gabriel and Evolet. A Celebration of Life was held for Ron on Friday, June 23 at 7:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn South in Winnipeg. A large contingent of South Beachers were present to toast his memory.

Dorothy has lost her soul mate, the love of her life, and a partner who shared life with her to the fullest. South Beach has lost a vibrant couple. They both will be greatly missed.


Hicks Family in South Beach

(One of a series of articles about the history of South Beach and its families)

Submitted by Lorraine Walton, 2017
Hicks Family in 2011 (Marg, Corinne, Heather, Lorraine, Doug)

Hicks Family in 2011 (Marg, Corinne, Heather, Lorraine, Doug)

July, 1956

Doug and Marg Hicks moved into their new Winnipeg home June 15, 1956.  The very first people they met were their neighbours Cecil and Jean (Murphy) French. The two couples became lifelong friends.  In July 1956 Jean invited Marg to come to her sister’s cottage for a few days.  Marg packed up her two daughters, Corinne (Larsen) & Lorraine (Walton) and off they went to South Beach, Gimli.

Jean and Cec had three daughters – Shirley, Patti and Marilyn.  Corinne and Shirley were close in age and played.  Lorraine and Marilyn were a couple days apart in age and also were young playmates.

The cottage to which Jean invited my Mom belonged to Jean’s sister, Grace (Murphy) & George Stephen.  This cottage was located on Hansson Street and was later relocated (in the early 1980’s) to the corner of Benedict and Anna.  (More details about this move later.)

Lorraine & Val

Lorraine & Val


"Meadowood" Cottage

“Meadowood” Cottage now owned by Val & Brian Verity

Marg and Jean, and their daughters, spent their entire mini holiday on the First Beach and loved it.  ‘First Beach’ was at the end of Benedict Street.*  It was on 1st Beach that Lorraine met her lifelong friend – Valerie Verity (nee Sobkowich).

Vic and Betty Sobkowich’s cottage, “Meadowood” was (and still is) located on the South West corner of Benedict and Third Avenue, just up from First Beach.

The spring of 1958 Doug and Marg purchased their lot located at 16 Benedict Street. The lot was well treed.  Dad cleared the entire lot with an axe, as chain saws were not available at that time or the price to purchase one was not in the budget of the young couple.

16 Benedict

Hicks ‘Ravendale’, 16 Benedict Street

Their neighbour directly to the West, by the name of George, took all the wood for firewood.  George and his wife were full time residents of South Beach.  It as a win win all the way around – Dad got rid of the wood and George got free firewood for the winter.

Once the lot was cleared, Dad would build as time permitted.  Dad was a Winnipeg Police Officer thus did not get weekends off nor did he get summer holidays.  Dad’s vacation time would be in the early spring or late fall, not conducive to building.  But by 1959 our cottage ‘The Ravendale’ was somewhat livable.Ravendale

While Dad was building the cottage, we rented the ‘Veranda’ for $1.00 a day from Mr. & Mrs. Stephens.  This cottage was on the South corner of Anna and Benedict.

The main cottage was called ‘Dorrery Lodge’.  This cottage was demolished around 1990’s for the new cottage that is located there today.  Dorrery LodgeThe original sign – ‘Dorrery Lodge’ still hangs on the new cottage. Grace and George Stephen owned this cottage and at the time it was built it was intended to be used by family and friends coming to South Beach.  This cottage was later passed down to Grace & George’s son – Allan and Sheryl’s children – Jeff, Craig & Allison.

By 1959 Jean and Cec had purchased their cottage – ‘Gallaway Bay’ on Benedict Street as well.

The ‘Veranda’ we rented looked directly into Aunty Jean and Uncle Cec’s yard. Outside the ‘Veranda’ was a horseshoe pit.  The men played many a game of horseshoes.  I can remember being in bed and hearing the clanging of the horseshoes.  The men would pull a car into the yard and turn on it’s headlights so they could conclude the game.IMG_4573

In those days Benedict Street stopped at the intersection of Benedict and Anna.**  Dad would have to carry all the lumber, etc. in by foot to build the cottage.1953 South Beach Map

The first summer we lived in the cottage, we had buffalo board for windows and a door.  Things were very primitive in the early 60’s.  The women had no fear of intruders. We did not have electricity for the first couple weeks we stayed in the cottage.  Thank goodness for sandwiches and puff wheat cake.

During this time, the women and children would spend the entire summer at the cottage.  We arrived July 1st and did not return back to Winnipeg until Monday of the September long weekend. I remember the husbands and fathers leaving Sunday night to go back to Winnipeg and we would wave to them on our walks.

By this time my younger sister, Heather was born (Sept. 1960).  I remember my Mom heating a bottle at Auntie Jean’s cottage, wrapping it in a towel to keep warm for Heather’s night time feeding.

Life was very simple then.  We lived on the beach all day, weather permitting.  On days when the weather was not that great, we would work on puzzles and do paint-by-number.

By this time Val and I were about 6 years old. We did not require that much supervision and were trusted to stay out of trouble.  We had our bikes and spent hours riding, swimming off the main pier over to the small dock, and fishing for minnows which we would then sell to the fishermen on the pier daily.  This money was used to go to the show in the evening.

Gimli Theatre - photo credit Linda Vermeulen

photo credit Linda Vermeulen

The Gimli Theatre played one show Monday & Tuesday, another one Wednesday and Thursday and a third show Friday and Saturday.  Our selling of minnows paid for our 25 cent admission to every Elvis Presley movie that came to Gimli, and there were lots of them.  Thus to this day Val and I continue to be Elvis fans.

The cost of an adult show was 50 cents.  We did manage to see our first Adult movie – long before being adults.  The movie was called  “Shot in the Dark”.

My parents had made many friends in the area.  A couple by the name of Rod and Eileen (Murphy) Pennycook purchased a lot and built their summer home on the corner of Anna and Ethel the same summer my parents did. They called it “8 Pennies”.  The only difference was they hired a contractor to build their cottage thus it was finished much faster.

When Rod & Eileen Pennycook first arrived in South Beach they had four children – Stirling, David, Kathleen and Margret.  The cottage was named the “Six Pennys”.  Later to be changed to the “7 Pennys” with the arrival of Moira and once again to be changed to “8 Pennys” when Christopher arrived.

Eileen Pennycook was the sister of Jean French.  Marilyn French and Kathleen Pennycook – played as friends and cousins for many a summer.  The ladies golf together now and remain good friends.

Jean and Cec, Eileen and Rod along with my parents, Marg and Doug, played penny poker each and every Friday and Saturday night from the May long weekend until the September long weekend.  Many a penny exchanged hands for years.

Doug Hicks was the President of the South Beach Campers (now South Beach Property Owners Assoc.) for a term in the late 60’s, early 70’s.  It was during the high waters.  Dad and many other men would spend many hours sandbagging and pumping out the water in the Moonlight Bay area.  Later the dike was erected and the flooding of this land was over.

My parent’s had purchased 6 lots in the area over the years.***  Dad built his 2nd cottage on the North corner of Anna and Benedict in the early 70’s.  A stranger by the name of Waivve Nisbet purchased it.  Waivve was single and had no family living in the area.  We took an instant liking to her and she gave us permission to call her ‘Auntie’ Waivve. We had no family living in the province so it was great having an ‘Aunt’ right across the street.

Waivve enjoyed her cottage and her extended ‘family’ for many years.  She sold her cottage in 2002 and took up residence in the Rotary Towers in Gimli.  Waivve then suffered a stroke and moved to Betel Home, latter passing away in June, 2009.  Bob and Barb Letchford purchased the cottage and enjoy South Beach to this day.

South Beach was full of Stephens and Murphys … cousins, Aunts and Uncles everywhere.  Luckily for us the clan treated us like we were family and do to this day.

In 1989 George’s home (west of ours) was torn down and a new one built.  This later became the home of Mr. & Mrs. Hanson.

On the East side of our cottage is the Harman’s cottage.  This was the cottage I mentioned earlier that was re-located around the mid 1980’s onto the property and an addition built on it in 1986 I believe.  The cottage was purchased by Grace’s sister, Isabell (Murphy) Harman.

Isabell and Bud Harman spent many a summer in South Beach.  They had two sons – Ron and Rick Harman.  Rick and Patti built their cottage, around 2000, on the North East corner of Anna and Benedict.  The two lots were originally owed by Jessie (Stephen) and Stan Murphy.

The summer of 1959 my mom, Marg Hicks (Sept.), Jean French (Nov.) and Eileen Pennycook (Jan.) were all expecting.  I can remember Mom covering up while walking down the street to get to the beach, as pregnant ladies did not show off their bodies like they do today.

Heather Hicks was born in September 1959, Randy French in November, 1959 and Moira Pennycook was born in January 1960.  The summer of 1960 brought another new bunch of babies to South Beach.  These three little people played for many years.

Heather, and her husband John Titley, now own a cottage at Falcon Beach.  Randy French owns a cottage on Ethel Street and Moira and Ian Farrer own a cottage in West Hawk Lake. My older sister, Corinne Larsen, owns a cottage/home on Willow Island.

Lorraine Hicks married Craig Walton and had their first son, Reid, in May, 1986.  Reid spent his entire first summer on 2nd Beach sleeping in his pram in the shade. Neil Walton was born in May, 1990 and he too spent his first summer sleeping in the shade of the trees on 2nd beach.

Ethel beach

Ethel Beach, AKA 2nd Beach

Kathleen (Pennycook) Coe and her two sons – Scott and Shawn grew up on 2nd Beach as well.

Harvard Trainer

Harvard Trainer

While spending my summers in South Beach I can remember the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Base being located in Gimli.  Daily you would hear and see the jets flying over.  Gimli was where the jet aircraft pilot training took place. (Gimli’s association with the R.C.A.F. began in September, 1943, when Number 18 Service Flying Training School opened to train pilots from the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The school built up to a strength of 1,337 officers, airmen, and civilians, including 240 trainees, and was the largest school in Manitoba. A total of 622 pilots graduated from 18 S.F.T.S. for the war effort. Ref. Gimli Saga page 137).

Many of the air force families rented housing in South Beach for many years.  Once the base was closed many air force personel relocated to the base leaving rental property available for others to use. The base closed in 1971 (Ref. Gimli Saga, page 2) and became known as the Gimli Industrial Park.  Part of the park became Aspen Park and the living quarters became condominiums that were sold to the public.

Another sight that was very common in downtown Gimli was to see ladies dressed in white and red uniforms.

BC Fish Packers

British Columbia Fish Plant workers

These women worked at the British Columbia Packers Fish Packing Plant, which was located at the dock.  Val and I knew at a young age we were not going to work for them when we grew up.  The plant closed down in 1969 (see Gimli Saga, page 242.)

Our family lost a dear friend – Cec French in Sept. 1996, followed by his wife Jean in June 12, 2009. Our other cherished ‘Aunt’ Waivve Nisbettt passed away on June 8th, 2009. Eileen Pennycook and Rod Pennycook still make a couple trips each summer to see friends and family in South Beach. Kathleen (Pennycook) and Ken Coe have made the family cottage the “8 Pennys” into their permanent home.

My Mom will be 90 in November 2017 and Dad turned 92 in March 2016.

Marg and Doug Hicks continue to use their cottage every weekend and enjoy the ‘Piece of Heaven’ they purchased so many years ago.

16 Benedict guest cabin

16 Benedict Street guest cabin

I look forward to sharing these stories with our grandchildren.

*The ‘numbering’ of beaches was a thing the cottagers did in the 50’s and 60’s. The first place the public could easily access the water was at the end of Benedict, so it became 1st Beach. Thus 2nd Beach was at the end of Ethel. 3rd was at the end of Howard and 4th eventually became Moonlight Bay. To this day many old-timers still refer to the beaches by numbers and not names.

**Benedict Street was named after Benedict Jonasson, father of Ethel Helgason (nee Jonasson), wife of Herbert. Ethel inherited a large part of South Beach from her parents. Ethel Street is named after her. Ref. Gimli Saga p. 116

***Two of these undeveloped lots were sold in 2016 and 2107, one on Ethel St. and one on Benedict St. (purchased by Marcel Gervais).

Editor’s Note: It is due to the good-hearted benevolence of Doug Hicks that our neighbourhood enjoys it’s little ‘public’ beach on Ethel. The Ethel beach property, owned by Mr. Hicks, lays mostly in the lake now.

Edited by Ev Ward de Roo

South Beach Tribute – Maxine Ward

Maxine Ward

Maxine H. Ward


One of the longest summer South Beach residents, Maxine H. Carter Ward, died on April 26, 2016 in Winnipeg. She spent almost every summer of her life in South Beach.

Born to Percy and Winifred Carter (nee Harris), Maxine grew up in the north end of Winnipeg with her sister, Sylva. They attended Tabernacle Baptist Church, all of them singing in the choir. Maxine had a beautiful soprano voice and did vocal and piano duets with her sister, performed lead roles in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, competed in music festivals and sang with The Triphonic Singers girls choir.

At Baptist youth camp, Maxine’s attractive smile and beautiful voice caught the attention of a young chemist who had recently arrived from Toronto, Bill Ward. They were married in 1949 and soon after followed Doug, Don and Evelyn.

She was the consummate stay-at- home mom. If she wasn’t at the kitchen counter preparing meals and baking, then she was at her sewing machine making clothes for herself and her kids. One of the ways she expressed her love was by baking, especially her apples pies & the famous Ward ‘Googly Buns’. Her interests included decorating, millinery and knitting; she created many afghans, beautiful sweaters for her grandkids, and until very recently, scarves for Siloam Mission. She had a childhood pen pal in England with whom she faithfully corresponded for 50 years. As a teen she enjoyed tennis and later she was a ‘good sport’ at golf, though her sons would call her a duffer. She enjoyed walking for exercise. In midlife she discovered reading and spent many hours devouring devotional material, becoming a student of the Bible.

One beautiful thread that ran through the fabric of her entire life was the dearly-loved family cottage in South Beach, Gimli.

19610042 cottageMaxine started coming to Gimli as a child because her uncle, Percy D. Harris was one of the first summer residents, having already built Whippoorwill Cottage at 34 South Colonization Road (ref. Gimli Saga). In 1938 her father, Percy Carter, built his cottage close by on Benedict Ave, three lots west of the lake.

Red Cross stand

Maxine and Sylva’s lemonade stand in South Beach in support of the Red Cross, 1940.

Women and children would pack up after the final school bell in June and move to the lake until Labour Day. The fathers would join them on the weekend, bringing what few provisions were not available in the well-equipped town of Gimli. Maxine remembers her mother baking pies on Fridays in the wood stove, to be ready for Percy’s arrival from the city. Water was carried by pail from the numerous artesian wells dotted throughout South Beach.

Max, Sylva & Coutures

Carter and Couture kids

The Carter/Ward, Strachan, Stephen/Pennycook, and Couture kids all played together in the water and sand. Their progeny have been fixtures of South Beach for the last 80 years.

Carters, Strachans & Coutures

South Beach gang ca. 1938

Maxine’s much older cousin was the teacher Florence Harris, who inherited Whippoorwill Cottage and never married and had no children. Along with her teaching ability, she had a generous heart and regularly invited all the children from the neighbourhood over to play. She had the most interesting and unique toys; a huge farm set out on the grass, Betsy McCall doll and clothes. She developed treasure hunts, crafts, games and served KoolAid in plastic cups carried in a wire rack. The invitation to come to Whippoorwill were the days when Miss Harris would fly a Union Jack flag on the front of her cottage. She was not a well woman, so days when she was not up to having kids around, no flag would be present. Even until the early 1960s the Union Jack would fly on the odd day.

Max & Sylva at Florence's

Craft time at Whippoorwill Cottage

During World War II, Maxine and her sister hung out with British airmen training at the Gimli Air Base, some of whom were billeted in South Beach.

After the war, on that same beach, Bill proposed to Maxine.Bill & Maxine

In some kind of prophetic vision, Percy bought a half acre lot at the corner of Hansson and South Colonization Rd in 1954 and moved his cottage from Benedict before the lake level rose. He died in South Beach in May 1967 while raking the lawn right in front of the Carter cottage (now Ward de Roo, 6 Hansson St.)  His body was found by Mrs. Evans, the owner of Evans Store just a few lots away (corner Anna and Hansson).

Percy W. Carter

Percy W. Carter

Maxine inherited the cottage and it was here that she and Bill lovingly hosted family and dear friends, enjoying many happy hours, long beach walks, deep theological reflection, laughter, games of Scrabble, Password and Dominoes around the Franklin stove. It was here that she got to spend the most time with her eight grandchildren. They will remember her as the most gentle, caring gramma any kid could ever wish for. She had that rare ability to genuinely listen to anything they wanted to tell her, and also to keep it just between them, a memory they each will cherish.

50th Anniversary Gimli

50th Anniversary of the cottage

Maxine’s life was deeply impacted by her Christian faith. Every Sunday found her in the choir loft at Broadway-First Baptist Church. In later years, she was music coordinator and elder at Willowlake Baptist Church. Even though she didn’t consider herself to be a public speaker, her willingness to share her faith in Christ opened doors to leadership and speaking engagements with Christian Women’s Club and many personal growth retreats with Faith At Work.

She was very active in volunteer service including Parr Street Mission, P.E.O. Sisterhood, Seniors Centre at First Presbyterian Church, Camp Shanti, Covenant Home, Inter-Varsity International Christmas, Baptist Women of Western Canada, letter-writing to missionaries and hosting them on furlough. As a double breast cancer survivor she shared her gift of mercy in volunteering for Reach for Recovery to help other women living with this disease.

Maxine was gentle, soft, kind, patient, generous, sincerely apologetic for any wrong, and keen to make amends. She was entirely without suspicion or malice. She never raised her voice in anger. She tried to accommodate any request and never said a word against another human being, practicing goodwill and tolerance. She loved people and wanted to bring joy and comfort into their lives. She welcomed folks around her table with delicious food and deep conversation. Her gifts of mercy and compassion were exercised while listening to young people and countless hours on the phone offering her support to friends. She always left the house beautifully coiffed and dressed, which helped her feel good, especially during her dark times and struggle with cancer. Her example encouraged you to be the best you could be.

Her marriage to Bill, for over 50 years, was a beautiful example of love, forgiveness and “being there” for each other. As helpmates they complimented each other’s gifts. She was the best wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and friend anyone could ask for, and was always willing to help in anyway she could. Though she herself would not boast, she was a model of discipleship, unconditional love and acceptance, a listening ear and a tender embrace.

Maxine is survived by her children; Doug (Meredith) of Kanata, ON, Don (Sheri) of Winnipeg, MB, Evelyn (Bert) of Petrolia, ON. And the very best grandmother to; Lydia (Kevin), Jennifer, Laura (Peter John), Katie (Tom), Meghan (Paul), Cameron (Angela), Lukas and Matthew. And great-grands Carter, Jacob, Maya, Jadon, Brienna, Benjamin and Ezra.

You are invited to a Celebration of Life, June 15, 1:30PM at Willowlake Baptist Church, 45 Willowlake Cres, Winnipeg.

submitted by Evelyn Ward de Roo

Camp Sparling, South Beach, Gimli (ca.1911)


Camp Sparling can be seen in the bottom left hand corner.

Written by Ken Kristjanson

On a recent weekend I was indulging in my favourite hobby of post card collecting. I visited Irene and Judy at the Gimli Farmers’ Market at the harbour. Coincidentally their booth is almost on the spot where the CPR had its Terminus to pick up fish from Armstrong Gimli Fisheries plant in the 1940’s.

Going thru their well stocked wares I spotted a photo of Camp Sparling. The camp was so named for a prominent Winnipeg cleric who became President of Wesley College and later United College, now the University of Winnipeg. This camp was part 33 Fresh Air Camps operating in Manitoba.

Camp Sparling was located in the South Beach area of Gimli. Camp Robertson was located in Loni Beach on Gimli’s northern border. Camp Morton and Lakeside Camp were located further north. The B’na Brith and Salvation Army Camps were located in Sandy Hook.

The Fresh Air Camps were all part of a movement to give disadvantaged kids a chance for some much needed fresh air and nourishment. The movement started in England and quickly spread to the U.S . For whatever reason, it did not come to Canada until 1900. That year Major Mrs. Jennie Southall of the Salvation Army set up a tent city for inner city kids and their mothers in Norwood Grove in St Boniface across the river from Winnipeg. The cost of assembling tents, cots, food, water, clothing and medicines was to prove a challenge. Undaunted from this humble beginning other congregations took up the challenge and Camps spread throughout Manitoba. (I am very grateful to Dr. Jim Burns, Southall’s grandson and Dr. Gordon Goldsborough for their extensive research into the movement.)

The CPR pushed its successful rail system to the Lake Winnipeg beaches eventually reaching Gimli in 1906. This opened up the pristine beaches and affordable land for the Fresh Air Camps.

Bathing at South Beach, Gimli, in front of Sparling Camp (Methodist), Gimli, circa 1918. Photo by Kristin Johnson. Archives of Manitoba, Still Images Section. New Iceland Collection. Item Number 365. Negative 11357.

Bathing at South Beach, Gimli, in front of Sparling Camp (Methodist), Gimli, circa 1918. Photo by Kristin Johnson.
Archives of Manitoba, Still Images Section.
New Iceland Collection. Item Number 365. Negative 11357.


As near as I can determine, Camp Sparling was built and began operating around 1911. The property, going from memory, would have been the size of a city block.

Camp Sparling Building

As the photo indicates, the main building was quite large. The building was set back from the Lake with a large lawn in front. The property sloped to a magnificent sand beach to the east.

It would have held over 80 mothers and children in a dorm-like setting. The original formula was to bring the children to the camps with their mothers. This not only helped with the care of the children but also gave the mothers a break. The stay was two weeks. Every summer over 1000 children and mothers would make the trek from the CPR station located on Centre Street and Highway 9 (in front of where Sobey’s is now located) to the Camp at the foot of Hansson Ave in South Beach. A distance of about three quarters of a mile.

I well remember seeing these weary travellers passing by our home at 127 Fifth Avenue many times. On one hot and rainy day a group came along the muddy road. They had been all morning in the CPR Station in Winnipeg waiting for the train. They asked directions. I instinctively pointed to a nearby artesian well with its community drinking cup. Many were to drink the pure, cold Gimli water that day. The leader was carrying a heavy suitcase, wearing long clothing and a large ladies hat. I offered her my new wagon which she accepted. I was to be reprimanded for this act, but the wagon came back.

As my brother Robert and I delivered the Tribune newspaper to cottages in South Beach, we often stopped in at the Camp to deliver a free paper. There was always noise, laughter with children running, swimming or just having a good time. Many local farmers and businesses donated milk, eggs, and other groceries.

Trouble was unfortunately looming for Camp Sparling. The buildings were built when the water levels were low. In the 1940’s the lake would begin to rise. Long time South Beach residents Bob Strachan and Paul Couture remember well trying to fight the lake. Their cottages were located three lots in front of our property on Benedict, now under water. Many, like the Carters, Strachans, Coutures and others had no choice but to hook up a tractor and move their structures. Camp Sparling was too big to move. The United Church spent a great deal of money erecting a break water, but to no avail. The Lake was beating against the main building. The Church gave up in 1949 and sold the little remaining property to the McKelvies, Strachans, Coutures* and others. These residents along with us and others were able, with little Government assistance, to erect a formidable sea wall and stabilize the shoreline. As economic conditions in the 50’s and 60’s improved, the Camps were deemed redundant. Rising costs contributed, as well as the general condition of the Camps, to their demise. The last Camp closed in 1975. Their existance a footnote in the minds of those who for two glorious weeks enjoyed some carefree recreation and healthy food.

Unfortunately the need today is as great as it was at the beginning of the Camp movement. 

Camp Sparling, ca 1941 Sylva Carter, Stuart Carter, Maxine Carter Ward (photo credit – Evelyn Ward de Roo)

*Until fairly recently, one of the last remaining smaller Camp Sparling buildings was on the Couture’s property on Third Ave.

South Beach Tribute – Sobkowich’s

Vic Sobkowich

Vic Sobkowich

This year South Beach lost another one of its originals.

Vic Sobkowich died March 30, 2013, predeceased by his beloved Betty who passed away on October 17, 2011.

Betty Sobkowich

Betty Sobkowich

Since 1959 they were pillars of South Beach on the southeast corner of Third and Benedict.

"Meadowood" Cottage

“Meadowood” Cottage

Lorraine Walton (Benedict St), a long-time friend of the Sobkowich family gave the funeral eulogy.

Lorraine & Val

Lorraine (Hicks) Walton & Val (Sobkowich) Verity

This is an excerpt from the tribute:

Mr. Sobkowich came from simple beginnings; he enlisted in the navy as a young man, returned home safely at the end of the war, worked his way through university and graduated from The University of Manitoba in 1950 as an Architect.  

In 1949 married the love of his life —  Betty Field and a couple years later Vickie was born followed by the twins Vincent and Valerie.

Mr. & Mrs. Sobkowich purchased their cottage in South Beach, Gimli in February of 1959.  My parents, Marg and Doug Hicks, purchased their lot on the same street that spring and started building their cottage. That summer all the young moms and their children spent many hours on the beach.  

It was that summer Val and my friendship developed. We remain best friends to this day.  

It became a common practise that as the Sobkowich’s drove by our family cottage on a Friday night; Mr. Sobkowich would honk his horn to let us know they had arrived.  Within minutes I would head down to their cottage to see Val. To this day the friendly practice of honking the horn still takes place.  I often hear my Mom or Dad say, Vic has arrived or Val & Bryan just drove by.

Val and I spent all our waking hours together during the summers thus the Sobkowich’s became my 2nd family. As a young man Mr. Sobkowich enjoyed going berry picking and on a couple occasions Val and I joined him.  Not too often mind you as Val and I found berry picking uneventful. Mr. Sobkowich enjoyed the odd game of golf.  Well, we joined him only once, once was enough.  At a young age Val and I decided golf was not a hobby for us.  To this day neither Val nor I golf. 

Vic and Betty loved to dance.  They took up ball room dancing many years ago.  They formed the Westview Dance group, which is still active today.  Once a year Vic & Betty would show their hospitality and invite the dance group to come to their cottage for a weekend of music, dance and laughter.  This became a yearly event for several years.

In the late 60’s the Sobkowich’s purchased a motor boat.  Something that was rare to see in South Beach.  We finally found a hobby we would enjoy doing with Mr. Sobkowich.  The family boat rarely left shore that I was not in it. Mr. Sobkowich spent many hours pulling all the kids in the area behind his boat.  Many of Vickie’s, Vincent’s and Val’s friends learnt to ski thanks to Mr. Sobkowich.  Never once did I hear him utter a word of complaint about the time spent or cost of gas.  He was just happy we were all having a good time. 

Not being a natural skier, I remember at one point he joked with me and said I made a great spotter.   A spotter is the person that sits at the back of the boat watching the skier and notifies the driver if they fall!!  But I was to be a skier, because Mr. Sobkowich was blessed with a lot of patience.  It took two summers for me to learn to water ski!!! I still remember the day I finally got up and stayed up on those darn skis.  When Mr. Sobkowich completed the circle on the lake he motioned for me to let go of the rope.  I was so excited I forgot to let go and he took me around the lake one more time.  When I finally did let go, Mr. Sobkowhich was as excited for me as I was.  

The Sobkowich’s had many beach friends over the years.  I remember the Rothwells, the Lavendures, the Johnstons, sitting around the table sharing a cup of tea, playing cards or just visiting.  It was common to hear music and laughter coming from within the cottage.  

The Sobkowich family are pet lovers.  Over the years they owned 4 dogs and 2 cats, not to mention a horse.  Their pets were loved and well cared for. If a lost cat or dog was fortunate enough to arrive at the Sobkowich’s home, they were always taken in, given food, water and shelter until they were reunited with their owner or until a new owner was found.  Sox’s Vic’s dearly beloved cat has taking up residence with Val & Bryan.  It was a promise that Val made to her aging parents.  And the tradition continues of caring for animals.

Mr. & Mrs. Sobkowich loved to walk.  They walked many miles up and down the beach over the years. I remember on the return of their walks Mr. Sobkowich would often have a piece of drift wood in his hand. One time I asked him what he was going to do with all the pieces of wood he had collected.  His reply was he would someday make a picture with them.  Sure enough one day I entered the cottage and on one of the walls was an arrangement of mounted varnished drift wood.  To this day those pieces remain on the wall and they still fascinate me.  Mr. Sobkowich had a gift  —  a gift to see how simple pieces of drift wood could become a piece of art.

Val and her Dad enrolled in painting classes a few years ago.  The time Val spent with her father cultivated a bond with him that she did not feel she had as a child.  They spent many hours together enjoying this new found hobby.

As gentle as Mr. Sobkowich was, he was strong of character and mind.  It made him a good Dad and a good leader.  He wanted the best for his children, and wanted them to make good decisions. Every moment was a teaching opportunity, and his children today are blessed with the lessons of a lifetime that he shared with them.

As time has passed Vickie, Vincent and Valerie have grown up, become parents and grandparents of their own and realized the importance of the many lessons their father taught them when they were children. Mr. Sobkowich could not have been prouder of the generations that followed his children in his family.  His grandchilden and his great grandchildren were the sources of light, love and pride for him. He cherished their love, and was sustained even in the difficult days of these past few weeks by the family that surrounded him.

I ask that you do not forget Mr. Sobkowich.   Please take a moment, think back to your association with Vic and remember how he touched our lives.  How he made us laugh, his pleasant smile or the friendly wave of his hand. 

I believe in my heart that Vic’s biggest fan Betty is waiting for her dancing partner in a new life. 

Let’s be thankful that they are together once again, dancing up a storm with many of their friends who have gone before them.

Thanks Mr. Sobkowich for the wonderful memories. 

May you rest in peace.

Read Obituary.

Links that Last – Creating Community

Annual Picnic 2010

from DailyOM by Madisyn Taylor

Creating community is an important part of receiving the support we all need to navigate through life.

Since the modern Western lifestyle can isolate us from one another, it is often difficult to forge meaningful connections. Self-protection and mistrust prevent us from reaching out to neighbors and peers, and we consequently feel like we don’t truly belong anywhere. Yet creating community can be as simple as reaching out within our own neighborhoods. To form the bonds that eventually solidify into long-lasting friendships, we must first be willing to rise above the walls of suspicion and doubt dividing us from the individuals who inhabit our neighborhood, block, or our building. We are taught from childhood to fear those we do not know, but community is as much a part of survival as safety. When we take a proactive approach, we can harmoniously unite our neighbors and build a network of support that contributes to the well-being of all involved.

Your overtures of community needn’t be complicated. If you are new to your neighborhood, sending letters of introduction to your closest neighbors can ensure that their curiosity about you is partly satisfied. Consider telling them a bit about yourself and how you plan to positively contribute to your locale, even if it is something as straightforward as planting attractive flowers in your window boxes. Or if others have recently moved in nearby, schedule some time to welcome them to the area. By doing so, you can calm any misgivings they have while demonstrating that your neighborhood is a nice place to live. It is much easier to meet people while outdoors, so try to take frequent strolls or sit on your stoop or porch if you have one. Say hello to people who pass by, and you will likely get to know your neighbors speedily. And one of the easiest ways to build a sense of community is to organize neighborhood projects and events that bring people together in service or in fun.

Even if you have little in common with your neighbors, your proximity to one another can offer a wonderful opportunity to pursue new friendships and working relationships. You may not see eye to eye on matters of spirituality, politics, or lifestyle issues, but each of you understands that community helps people feel connected. As you grow to know and then to like one another, the city or town where you reside will truly become your home.

South Beacher Supplies Sled Dogs for Famous 1914 Antarctic Exploration

(One of a series of articles about the history of South Beach and its families)

by Holly Frantz

sled dogs

Other than the fact that Sigurjon Isfeld had a wonderful reputation for raising sled dogs, nobody really knows why this early pioneer of South Beach, and Larry Frantz’ (Howard Ave) great grandfather, supplied more than one hundred of the dogs for Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to the Antarctica. Sigurjon Isfeld, J.B. Johnson and Jack Castleman, two other Gimlites, were hired to transport the dogs to England. They were carried in individual crates in three cattle cars to Montreal, and after a 16 day voyage on the Montcalm, arrived in England. The dogs delivered, they spent 10 days in luxury, paid for by Sir Ernest, who offered them a week’s holiday in Belgium if they wished to return by the Montcalm. However when Germany invaded Belgium they were told to leave Britain immediately if they wished to return safely to Canada. Sir Ernest invited Sigurjon to accompany him to the South Pole, and he wired his wife for her advice. She wired back, “Come home”: Luckily for Larry, or he may not be here today.

Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctica expedition of 1914 – 1917 is one of the most incredible adventure stories of all time. It is remarkable even for an era and region that already has far more than its fair share of incredible tales of heroism and fortitude in the face of appalling hardships.The intention was to cross the Antarctic continent from one coast to the other via the South Pole. In the event, the expedition never set foot on continental Antarctica. The expedition managed to survive the loss of their ship in the middle of the Antarctic pack ice at a time when there was no chance of contacting the outside world, let alone of being rescued. It is a classic tale of leadership and heroism.

Click here for more on the expedition.dogs

Of the 100 dogs purchased for the Endurance expedition, only one perished en route during their shipment to England. Of the surviving 99 dogs, 69 were put on board the Endurance as draft animals for the planned trans-Antarctic crossing beginning at the Weddell Sea. All perished following the entrapment of the Endurance in pack ice. The remaining 30 dogs were put on board the Aurora to be employed as draft animals for the purposes of setting cache supplies along the planned expedition route from the Ross Sea on the opposite side of the continent. Of these only three survived and were later retired to homes and zoos. The dogs weren’t any specific breed but were described by members of the expedition as a mongrel mix of half-wild, undefined, half-breeds, not many degrees removed from wolves.

Sigurjon's son, Steve Isfeld with some of the 1933 Byrd Expedition Team dogs

Sigurjon’s son, Steve Isfeld with some of the 1933 Byrd Expedition Team dogs

Sigurjon also supplied dogs for Rear Admiral Richard Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition in 1933.

Shackelton Watch

Shackelton Watch


Inscription in watch

Inscription in watch

These four commemorative stamps were issued by the Crown Agents Stamp Bureau for use in British Antarctic Territories. The theme of Shackleton’s dogs pays tribute to the mens faithful friends who sadly perished on the expedition. The largest dog, Samson, is also among those featured, together with Shakespeare and Soley.

What happened to the dogs?


(photos by Holly & Larry Frantz)

edited by Ev Ward de Roo

South Beach is Changing

by Evelyn Ward de Roo

Demolition 1 Hansson St

In a matter of hours this old cabin on Hansson Street met its demise. Short work of over 70 years of cottage history.

Demolition 1 Hansson St

Old cottages are getting torn down. It’s a difficult thing to see. Yet with the advent of sewers this trend will no doubt continue. The flavour of the beach is changing from seasonal to permanent residences. It may become more difficult to hold on to our sense of neighbourhood. Let’s hope not.

Harvard Trainer

by Evelyn Ward de Roo

Harvard Trainer

Who would ever have thought that South Beach would play a part in the Second World War? Ray Roper (Hansson St) has in his garage the propellor from this plane, the Harvard Trainer.

Harvard Propeller

Ray Roper (died 2012)

It was one of the many aircraft used at the Gimli Air Force Base back in the 1930’s. Where did Ray get this piece of aviation memorabilia? He picked it up in South Beach, in a field, somewhere on Benedict St when he was a little boy. Apparently one of these planes crashed there. He dragged it home and kept it.

Harvard Propellor

Harvard Propeller

One end of it is damaged but Ray doesn’t mind. He still keeps it as a childhood trophy, a treasure hunt find from a very special day in his early childhood. His uncle, Mike Evans (of the famous Evan’s Store, corner of Anna and Hansson), rented their cottage at 17 Hansson Street to a Polish pilot, who was training at the base. Other airmen frequented South Beach too, dating local girls and cottagers.

Harvard Propellor

Harvard Propeller