Evans Store

Written by Evelyn Ward de Roo

Evans Store on Hansson Ave, at the corner of Anna, was a fixture to every kid in South Beach, Gimli. Forever. 

Evans Store Building in 2017. Put out to pasture behind 15 Hansson Avenue, Gimli.

My first memory of spending money was at Evans Store. My grandpa Percy would give me a nickel or dime and I would be allowed to walk by myself the 50 feet down the gravelly road to this tiny little convenience store.

Ev and Grandpa Percy, 1960

A wee brown paper bag was given to me to select my candy. Loose candy was laid out in the very boxes it came in from the wholesaler. Three for a penny. Five cents would yield 15 mint leaves! Bright green leaf-shaped gummies, the size of my thumb, covered with crystalline sugar. Liquorice ‘cigars’, blackballs, pixie stix, and the famous Koko bars. Old Dutch Potato Chips, Hawkins Cheezies and sunflower seed bags were neatly displayed in rows on a metal stand with little clips.

And soda pop. I don’t remember my mother ever buying pop at home in the city. Maybe we would be allowed one if we went to A & W. But in the summer I was allowed to go to Evans Store to buy pop.

A similar Coca Cola dispenser at Hnausa General Store.

Depositing my coins in the slot and extracting my pop meant sticking my hand into the ice cold water of the red Coca-Cola dispenser and grabbing the protruding bottle neck. There was a rag hanging on the side of the cooler to wipe the water off the bottle. Cream Soda, Orange Crush or Seven-Up.  A summertime treat.

Evans Store was owned by Anne and Mike Evans. The store was only 12 x 17 feet, really a glorified fruit stand. Judging by its construction it was no doubt built around the same time as Camp Sparling, the fresh air camp on the lake directly at the end of Hansson Ave. Farmers donated food to the fresh air camp but Evans Store serviced the camp staff for their treats. And cottagers for their staples. (In the early days cottagers were called campers.)

Mike and Anne, were of Ukrainian descent. Their name was undoubtedly changed from Ewanchuk.

Evans Wedding

Mike was a fisher and added to his income doing carpentry and odd jobs taking care of people’s cottages in the off-season. The store was in direct competition with Mike Shewega, his wife’s brother who had an identical camper’s convenience store only two blocks away on Colonization Road. However the Evans were reputed to have the best ice cream in the area.*

It had one of those screen doors with a metal band across as a push bar, the type which sported advertising. Evans Store was Coca Cola all the way. Ice cold coke in glass bottles. We would scour the ditches for empty pop bottles which could be redeemed for 2 cents a piece. Which meant more candy!

Eileen Evans, circa 1940

Opening the screen door would activate a lively bell which alerted Mr. or Mrs. Evans of a customers arrival. Hung inside among the sticky fly-catching strips coiling down from the ceiling was bologna and other quality deli meats from Manitoba Sausage. And great wieners for roasting over a bonfire. Mr. Evans would cut bacon slices individually off a big slab with a very sharp and well-worn knife. Shallow shelves nearly to the ceiling were lined with canned goods; coffee, jam, Red Rose tea, Klik, Spam, soup, Del Monte vegetables and fruits, pickles, cat and dog food. And fresh bread, milk and butter. Most of the basics needed by cottagers. When South Beach girls got old enough to need feminine hygiene products we could count on Evans Store to get us out of a jam. They were wrapped in brown kraft paper for discretion!  And of course Evans carried the ubiquitous cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigars, no doubt the real profit makers.

In the 1940’s the Evans girls Eileen and Eleanor’s friend Marie Isfeld took a path all the way from the south end of Colonization Road through the wooded field to the store. Or Marie would meet them at the end of Hansson Ave and walk to school with them, either following the Arnason Dairy truck to break trail in the snow or riding on it. And much later her son Lawrence would be sent by his Afi (grandfather in Icelandic) to get cigarettes at the store, on credit. Credit was extended, graciously to most people in the area. When the South Beach mink ranchers sold off their pelts in November they would pay off their debt to the Evans.

All the overstock cigarettes and paper goods were stored in a shed behind the store, secured with a simple padlock. Evan’s granddaughter Lois remembers occasions when she would sleep over at her grandparents in the 1960’s waking up in the night to the sound of someone breaking in to the shed, mostly to steal cigarettes. In the winter the Evans would move the store into the porch area of their house directly behind the wee store. In later years burglars came in the early morning hours, terrified the elderly couple by tying them up and threatening them with a comb (though they thought it has a knife or gun) and robbed them. It made the Winnipeg radio news and that’s how their daughter Eileen found out about it. 

One day in May 1967 Anne Evans happened to look west down Hansson Ave. She saw a man lying on his front lawn. That man was my grandpa, Percy Wallace Carter. He was dead from a massive heart attack. The rake beside him. He’d been raking leaves in the early spring. Dead beside a cotoneaster bush. My grandmother napping only a few feet away in their cottage. Anne Evans called the R.C.M.P. who contacted my mother in the city. Anne Evans, the woman who stayed and comforted my grandmother.

Percy W. Carter, 6 Hansson Ave

Up until 1980, when my own father had heart problems, we never had a phone at our cottage. No one did. We always walked uptown to the harbour where there was a pay phone booth near the pier. But in an emergency everyone in South Beach knew they could use the Evans phone. It was in their house, right behind the store.

Anne and Eileen, ca. 1934

Anne Evans a stern, well-dressed woman. Mother of Eileen and Eleanor. Awarded a life membership in the Gimli Women’s Institute and noted best canvasser for the Cancer Society.** She herself died of cancer June 12, 1972 at the age of 69. The store had been closed before that when Anne had to go live in Winnipeg with her daughter Eileen due to ill health. Mike passed away in the early 1980’s.

The fact that my grandpa died raking leaves on the front lawn of what is now my cottage is actually a beautiful, comforting memory to me. Of course it was a traumatic event for my family, what death isn’t, causing all sorts of repercussions. But I will always remember Anne Evans and her compassion. And I will never forget Evans Store where I received my first education in financial literacy. 

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Foundation of Evans house, 2018

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Evans Store Building, 2018

Sources:

* “The Stores of Gimli”, by David Arnason, Interlake Pulse, 2013, pp. 44-45.

** Gimli Saga: The History of Gimli, Manitoba. Gimli: Gimli Women’s Institute, 1975, pp. 275 and 336.

Many thanks for the black and white photos, memories and fact checking of Evan’s grand-daughter Lois Bergman Marotta.  Also memories of Lorraine Hicks, Marie Isfeld, Lawrence Frantz, Susan Woodruff, Julie Ewanchuk, Sheryl Stephen, Wendy Rothwell Dunlop, Dan McKelvey, Barbera Buffie, Ken Kristjanson, Val Sobkowich Verity and Joanne Couture Burns.

Howard Beach Approach

New beach-approach staircase was installed this week at Howard beach. This is one of a few which the municipality are providing along the lake, including Brewster Bay and Lochwoods.

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The aluminum stairs were manufactured by Zag Fab Boats in Riverton, MB.

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Kent Zagozewski and his son Lawson were the fabricators and installers.

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Hecla Island Observation Tower

Observation Tower, Hecla Island

Observation Tower, Hecla Island

A favourite day trip is Hecla Island.

They have just built a new observation tower on the Northpoint tip of the island at Gull Harbour Point. Great view! Now you can see for miles over the treetops. Looks like they will be adding interpretive boards eventually on top like the ones near the picnic area.

Three of the seven interpretive signs. Photo: A. Klassen.

Three of the seven interpretive signs. Photo: A. Klassen.

From here you may be able to see Black Island. Corning Glass mined silica here for years and shipped it by barge to stockpile in Selkirk.Hecla bench

Check out this fascinating article on why we have so much sand on Lake Winnipeg. Click here.

Black Island

The Winnipeg Formation is exposed in the large silica sand pits on Black Island. Photo: Graham Young, Curator of Geology and Paleontology at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg

 

Gull Harbour Area

Gull Harbour Area

Hidden Gems of the Interlake

 

a high-walled, limestone crevasse located near Pine Dock, Manitoba, photo by Heather Hinam.

a high-walled, limestone crevasse located near Pine Dock, Manitoba, photo by Heather Hinam.

by Heather Hinam

Heather is the owner of Second Nature Adventures in Discovery, a tour company which offers visitors customized Interlake Experiences. She can be reached at 204-619-4119 or by visiting www.discoversecondnature.ca

I have always been driven by the desire to explore new places and discover new things, whether I am in a different country or my own backyard. Questions like: Where does that trail go? or, What’s around that bend? can fuel hours of engaging adventure. Here in the Interlake, there is no end to the fascinating people, places and things you can unearth if you are willing to take yourself off the beaten track. To spark your imagination, here is just a tiny sampling of some of my favourite Interlake hidden gems and where you can find them.

Take your travels off the main highways. A particularly fruitful journey is the one just up Provincial Road 224. This winding gravel road branches off Highway 8 between Riverton and Hecla. Marked with signs denoting a winter road and Pine Dock, it doesn’t really give you any hint to the treasures you might discover along its 80 km stretch.

Enjoy a picnic and panoramic views of Lake Winnipeg’s Washow Bay, at Beaver Creek Provincial Park, before heading further north. You can then venture way off the beaten path and pick a trail over the rocks, going south from the town of Pine Dock. When the water levels are low, you can scramble along the shore to a whole new world. The further you go, the taller the cliffs get. Suddenly, crevasses open up, inviting you to explore the hidden nooks and crannies in the limestone, from small caves to high-walled corridors, reminiscent of Tolkien’s Road Under the Mountain.

Once you pull yourself up out of the caves, this road still has more secrets to share. Continue north and eventually you will reach the water’s edge. It may seem like the ends of the earth, but you can still venture further. Hop aboard one of the only cable ferries left in Manitoba and discover Matheson Island.

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fishers gloves drying on a covey near the shoreline at Matheson Island, a picturesque fishing village north of Pine Dock, photo by Linda M. Goodman.

This fishing community of about 100 people offers a picturesque combination of yawls, buoys, gulls and the occasional eagle as you travel along its shore. Come in the fall and watch hundreds of bald eagles as they take a break before winging their way south for the winter.

Actually, shorelines all over the Interlake offer up all sorts of hidden treasures, not the least of which is Sandy Bar. This thin strip of land curves out into the lake just east of Riverton, reaching its fingers over to a matching isthmus that stretches down from Hecla Island. Strolling along the shore on a late summer’s day, you would swear that you had been transported to the Caribbean.  Just take care to hold off your visit until August to avoid disturbing any nesting shorebirds.

As a resident of the eastern Interlake, I sometimes forget that we actually have two lakeshores to explore within our region. For a taste of something completely different, head northwest to Steeprock. Although they are carved out of the same bedrock, the waves of Lake Manitoba have left the Steeprock cliffs rounded and smooth, unlike their jagged counterparts to the east. To get there, follow Highway 6 north of Moosehorn and turn left onto Provincial Road 239. The cliffs can be found by hiking south of the docks.  It’s well worth the trip as you weave your way through tunnels and crevasses and clamber up to the top of the cliffs to view a stunning sunset.

Timing can make all the difference when searching for new adventures. Sometimes places we know well can offer up a whole new experience when we visit them at a different time of year. When you think of the Narcisse Snake Dens, most of us envision the yearly spring pilgrimage made by thousands of people in May to view the slithering masses of mating, Red-sided Garter Snakes before they disperse into the surrounding scrublands for the summer. A spring visit can be a little overwhelming, especially on weekends, with busloads of almost as many people as there are reptiles.

However, if you swing by the dens in September, you’re in for a treat. Most people forget that the snakes have to return in the fall. They have yet to discover the wonder of spending a warm late autumn afternoon marvelling at the equally large masses of snakes soaking up as much sun as they can at the mouths of their dens before having to slip into the darkness for the winter. If you time your visit on a weekday, you can sometimes have the place to yourself and take in the spectacle at your leisure.

While getting off the beaten path, both in terms of time and space, are great ways of finding hidden gems, you actually don’t have to go very far to make amazing new discoveries. Sometimes, just adjusting the way you look at things can reveal a wealth of new discoveries. Take aspen for example.  We see these trees every day in the Interlake, white trunks a bright contrast against the green leaves of summer. However, there is a lot more to these ubiquitous and, to some, unremarkable trees, than meets the eye.

As you stroll among their trembling leaves, you’re actually walking among clones. Trembling aspen reproduce by sending out runners beneath the ground, shooting up new trees. Entire woodlots are often one organism, with all the trunks genetically identical. While each individual tree might only live a hundred years or so, the entire clone can exist for centuries. Some are thousands of years old. So by shifting your lens ever so slightly, you can go from a simple walk in the woods to communing with the ancients.

But how do you know where to look? How do you decide which trail to take and where do you learn about those special little details that can shift the context of your experience entirely? Talk to people. Locals know and are often more than happy to share their insights into the places they call home. The fishers, farmers, artists and everyday people, all have stories to tell and many are willing to share them. Ask around and you might be surprised by the places you’ll be inspired to visit.

Take advantage of technology. With GPS units finding their way into most peoples lives, it’s easier than ever to explore some of the lesser known corners of our region. Searching for geocaches is a great way to find new areas to explore. Geocachers often place their treasures in unusual areas and more communities than ever are using geocaching to promote their special places. Check out geocaching.com to find the hundreds of caches awaiting your discovery in special locations all over the Interlake.

Get a guide. Publications put out by groups like the Interlake Tourism Association, Travel Manitoba and Manitoba Parks, and the H2O Guide you are holding in your hands, are all full of great ideas for places to begin your journeys and can be used as a springboard for more detailed explorations. There are also tour companies in the Interlake geared to helping people reconnect with the world around them and discover the people, places and interesting details that make this region unique.

So, whether you go it alone or you have help, just remember to keep your mind open to new possibilities, your sense of adventure and your inquisitive nature primed and you will be certain to enjoy yourself as you explore the fascinating ­hidden gems of Manitoba’s Interlake.

Story originally published in the 2012 edition of the H2O Gimli and Beaches Adventure Guide.