The Gimli Breakwater

(This article was originally published in 2013 under the title The Gimli Seawall.)

One of the unique parts of Gimli is its seawall or breakwater.

We’re not talking here about the Main Pier. We’re talking about the paved strip of path from South Beach to town, one of the treasures we locals love.

Section from Colville Dr (formerly 4 Street S) looking North

Section from Colville Dr (formerly 4 Street S) looking North

Its history is stitched with layers of municipal politics and weather events.

It has been a fixture since at least 1956.

furthest southern portion

furthest southern portion

Following the curve of the shoreline along the south basin of the Gimli harbour.


Photo credit, Dorothy Keizer

The seawall and the Viking seem to go hand in hand, inextricably tied.

Its creation was a Gimli Chamber of Commerce centennial project. Designed by Gissur Eliasson of the University of Manitoba, it was constructed by George Barone, the creator of other Manitoba statues, at a cost of $15,000. It was unveiled in 1967 by then-President of Iceland Asgeir Asgeirsson. The finished statue is 4.6 meters or 15 feet tall, constructed entirely of fiberglass.


The requisite photo with “the Viking”

Historically the breakwater was a dike, paid for by the Federal Government who bequeathed it to the town to maintain in perpetuity. (Geez, thanks Feds).

finished breakwater in front of Betel Home

looking north towards Betel Home



Breakwater construction, original section 2016


Historic section in front of Betel Home

This historic section, in front of Betel Home, is one of the only remaining parts of the old wall.

The Gimli Town Council wanted to upgrade the waterfront as part of a master plan. With various twists and turns, including land agreements, harbour improvements, street surveying, and preparations to host the Pan American Games the seawall remained forever intertwined like a thread holding together an old quilt.

When the Betel Home was rebuilt, it necessitated the moving of the Viking statue. Originally Town Council was hoping to move the statue to the little jetty of land where the New Iceland heritage plaque sits. But this would have meant rerouting of streets and major public discussion. The Viking was moved instead to a little triangular lot which became town property.


old section, the ‘architecture’ of which was three stones across

In preparation for the Pan Am Games Sailing venue in 1999, they finished dredging the harbour to a 12 foot depth and subsequently built a hill with the dredgate (affectionately referred to as “Bill’s Hill” after then mayor, William Barlow) to the south of Betel. The dredgate was so wet that it took a long time for the hill to settle.

Historic section in front of Betel Home

Historic section in front of Betel Home, Bill’s Hill to the right (south)

Thankfully the town left the old breakwater exposed.

It still shows through the grass and is still used as a bike path.

Feels like our own little slice of Hadrian’s Wall.


looking northeast by the Viking Statue

The original ‘dike’ was so skinny, you would never think of actually walking on it for fear of falling in the lake.


Historic section in front of Betel Home looking southwest

Sometime between 1956 and the 70’s the wall was widened to about 4-5 feet across and paved, covering up most of the original architecture.



One homeowner’s addition to the seawall

Third Avenue homeowner's garden

Third Avenue homeowner’s garden

During the high water events of 2006-2007 and subsequent Provincial government diking fiasco, the wall was backfilled and had to be shorn up against a wooden parapet.

2006 construction

2006 construction

It does remain somewhat of a bastion of defence against the 3-day Autumn storms.

IMG_1135 IMG_1136

Major cracks have developed this year making it almost treacherous for cyclists and joggers.

IMG_1331(Town Council please take note!)

Even though this year the Town paved the part of the path which bridges the south culvert (or what we used to call the Municipal Ditch), nothing has been done to maintain the southernly-most portion into South Beach.


In the 1960’s the seawall stretched all the way to Morkill Street, if memory serves.


Ultimate south end of seawall stretching in front of Isfjord’s


Ultimate north end of seawall, running into the yacht club locker building

Over the years the seawall has been upgraded, but never maintained as the most beautiful scenic footpath from South Beach and the tourist-drawing treasure which it could be.


Perhaps it was due to this blog post that the Council saw fit to repair the breakwater!

seawall update

Submitted by Evelyn Ward de Roo. Thanks to Bill Barlow for filling in the gaps.

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. 


Foundation of Evans house, 2018


Evans Store Building, 2018


* “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.

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



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.

Leigh Cottage

Leigh Cottage 1937 Historical Plaque

Leigh Cottage 1937 Historical Plaque

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

South Beach has a new honour. One of our cottages has been recognized for its historical significance. A new blue plaque was put up this week on Hansson Ave.

Front view, facing North

Front view, facing North

Leigh Cottage, 22 Hansson Ave is owned by Glenn & Alanna Rossong. As far as anyone can remember it’s always been painted yellow. It sits on a beautiful big treed lot on the east end of Hansson Ave.

Leigh Cottage

It was constructed Mr. Leigh, Glenn’s grandfather, in 1937 and it a perfect example of a slice of time and summers back then. It’s a typical wood frame cottage.

Back, facing lake side

Back, facing lake side

The type of structure is pyramidal, square, but with small gables at top of roof. It has a gable veranda added at front and a small shed with a shanty roof at back. Everything is original except some plywood sheeting on some walls.

There are screens only on the West side and veranda addition. The apertures on the front have some multi-pane windows, some screens and shutters. The windows, siding, doors, shutters, floor are original, as is the half wall separating the common room and the bedroom. At the time the cottage was added to the historical list it had no water or sewer.

Glenn and Alanna own an antique shop in Middlechurch, Candle Co. So they have a keen sense of historical value.

South side

South side

This building was surveyed and added to the historical list of area cottages in 2011 by Wally Johannson on behalf of the Gimli Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee (MHAC). Thank you to Mr. Johannson for providing this information. The MHAC has published a Historic Cottage Owner’s Handbook to help folk maintain old cottages. It may be purchased from MHAC who host an annual Open House Information Day in the summer.


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

Amusement Park

by Ken S. Kristjanson, May 2011

Amusement Park

(first printed in Logberg Heimskringla August 1, 2011)

Growing up in Gimli in the 40s, we were fortunate to have the whole town as our playground. The harbor was always busy and we could go swimming or just watch the boats come and go. Our adventures were limited only by our imaginations (and occasionally by our parents!)

Next to our house, Kristjanson Brothers had a large warehouse that housed all the nets and other gear necessary for 3 seasons of commercial fishing. There were cans of paint, hammers, saws, kegs of nails, lumber, coils of ropes and dozens of other wondrous things. A kid’s imagination could find enough raw material for a hundred adventures to entertain from dawn to dusk. Outside the warehouse there were hundreds of wooden fish boxes and, usually in the company of our trusted ally John Kressock, we made them into forts, aircraft carriers or airplanes. We regularly re-fought the battle of Britain, destroying the entire German air force in one afternoon.

One hot summer night, a big storm brought fierce lightening and a bolt struck a giant oak tree in the vacant lot across the street from our house. (Street is a bit of a stretch, it was really just a trail where the streetwould someday go.) The next morning, we couldn’t wait to get outside for a closer look. As we explored the damage to the massive tree we could see that the lightning strike had taken the top of the tree clean off. Racing to the warehouse, we retrieved a long ladder and placing it against the tree we were able to climb to the new top of the sheared oak. Our collective imagination immediately kicked into high gear and we sped back to the warehouse for tools and supplies.

In short order, a pulley was affixed to the top-most branch and a rope was used to hoist lumber up the tree. In no time a platform was built and we had our very own observation post for keeping track of the enemy’s movements.

We stood on our platform far off the ground and looked over at the warehouse. Inspiration struck and we nearly simultaneously came up with the idea of an aerial ride. By fastening a 2 x 4 to the warehouse we figured that we could tie a rope to it and then string it over to our newly built platform, a distance of about 150 feet.  A Gimli Gondola.  Back to raid the warehouse once more.

We chose the rope carefully: a new coil of 1/2 inch howser rope that was to be used to tow skiffs up north for the fall fishing season. We salvaged a 100 pound fish box from Armstrong fisheries. (The box was socalled because it could hold 100 pounds of fish. All Armstrong’s boxes were made by Thorkelson, the master box maker, so we knew that they were very strong.) Next we found 2 lifeboat pulleys and by drilling holes in the box we were able to make a harness. The pulleys were hooked up to the box harness which would roll easily on our rope over to the warehouse.

We were all set. As we envisioned it, a person would climb the tree, get into the box and have a thrilling ride across the street the come to rest against the warehouse.

Our own amusement park ride!  Soon many other kids heard about our ride and came to see for themselves. We decided to get set up to charge admission when suddenly Gramma Annie came to check on the commotion. One look convinced her to go straight back into the kitchen. She re-emerged with a huge butcher knife, walked swiftly to the ladder leaning against the warehouse, ascended with great purpose and with a swing of the big blade she decommissioned our wondrous aerial ride before its maiden flight.

Everyone agreed that this was a dirty trick and that she clearly worked for the enemy. We decided to return to the top of our platform in order to keep a close eye on her activities while we plotted our next adventure.