Amherst Street, Winnipeg’s lane of heroes

To celebrate the 100th Anniversary of St. James (starting just west of St. James Street to Sturgeon Road) breaking away from Assiniboia to form their own municipality, I am doing street profiles. This column features Amherst Street.

Fred Morris
From the desk of a gadfly

Between 1930 and 1942, Amherst Hall had a brief but memorable existence. 

The Reconstruction, Social Credit and Conservative parties all held political meetings at 201 Amherst Street. 

On April 4, 1936, Premier John Bracken, Manitoba’s longest serving premier, opened a three-day arts and handicraft display at Amherst Hall. The show raised funds for the Cenotaph at Bruce Park.

Farther up the street, an April 9, 1955, a Winnipeg Free Press Story mentions a new Kiwanis Wading Pool at the corner of Ness and Amherst. The park became known as Amherst Park. In 2019, Amherst Park was renamed Kapyong Park. The park remembers the sacrifices of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry in the 1951 Korean War battle of Kapyong.

People who have lived part of their lives on Amherst

In the 1913 Henderson Directory, Albert A. McCurdy was the first Amherst Street resident listed. 

On the front page of the February 23, 1952, Winnipeg Free Press, Bobby Terhost, age two, son of Richard and Elspeth, is pictured holding a miniature Oscar. Richard had joined other toddlers in a Winnipeg film test. Henry and Mollie Englehart (1964), and Harry and Jean Patteson (1968) are featured in the newspaper archives on their 50th Wedding Anniversaries.

Several sports stars have lived on Amherst Street. Norm Houck won championships as a both a skip and a third. Houck is in the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame. In 1960, Norm’s rink won the first ever Charleswood Car Bonspiel. In the 1962 Brier, Norm Houck Manitoba Men’s, Curling Champions finished eight and two and in a three-way for first. Houck was eliminated in the first one game tie breaker by Alberta’s Hec Gervais. Gervais went on to lose to Saskatchewan’s Ernie Richardson. Between 1986 and 1991, Houck won four Strathcona Senior Men’s Championships 1987, 1990, and 1991 led to Canadian Senior Men’s Championship. In 1998 and 1999, Houck won the Manitoba Credit Unions Masters. 

Gordie Sparkes played second for the 1979 Barry Fry Manitoba Championship team. Gord is a member of the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame, and an honorary life member of the Deer Lodge Curling Club. Jeff Ryan as the third on Kerry Burtnyk’s team won the 1995 Men’s World Curling Championship. The 1995 team is in both the Manitoba and Curling Halls of Fame. Ryan and Burtnyk won the 2001 Manitoba Championship. Ryan and Burtnyk lost in the 2001 Brier Final to Alberta’s Randy Ferby. Jeff as an individual curler is a 2021/22 inductee into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame. Sandy Campbell Sparkes won the girls under 18 championships at the 1971 Saskatoon Prairie Regional Tennis Championship. Jack Thompson served as President of Baseball Manitoba and on the Board of Baseball Canada. Jack became known as the voice of baseball in Manitoba. 

As the voice of baseball in Manitoba, Jack used his own equipment for the PA announcer for Manitoba baseball games. The Manitoba Junior League Baseball League awards the Jack Thompson Trophy to the Rookie of the Year. Also, Tom Thompson is in the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame. Tom, as a baseball coach, won six provincial championships at the Bantam, Midget, and Junior levels. Also, Tom has a long career as a hockey executive. Tom, while working for the St. James Canadians, won the 1981 MJHL Manager of the year. Tom won the 1989 Stanley Cup as a Scout with the Calgary Flames. The 1989 Flames were the only visiting team to win a Stanley Cup championship game during the long history of the Montreal Forum.

Allan Plesh and Doug Titterton played against each other in the first St. James Civic Centre Hockey Game. Jack Thompson worked the PA. Alf Palindat was an arena attendant during the early days of the St. James Civic Centre.

Other Amherst heroes

 During my political adventures, I was often joined by Amherst Street residents Jim Jones and Don Smith. We often questioned city councillor Jae Eadie. Eadie was at that time a former resident of Amherst Street.

Jack Bastable was the long-time owner of Parkview Solo grocery. Tom Killberry founded Killberry Industries which evolved into MacDon. 

Doug Nicholson worked for 45 years at the Winnipeg Free Press. Doug worked as a manager of the circulation department back in the days when many of us delivered papers after school. Peter Cowtun worked in the Cowtun Family Pharmacies at 1843 and 2059 Portage Avenue. 

Annette Buchan, and Phyliss Youell worked at Canada Drugs. Ed Johner owned two Windsor Plywood franchises. His daughter, Melissa Johner, is currently involved in the management of the business. 

Joan Thompson served as president of the Deer Lodge Community Club. Also, Joan was long time member of the Grace Hospital Nurses Alumni. 

Several pastors of St. James Presbyterian Church including J. Keith McGown, James Bishop, Douglas Hill, and Samuel Hill lived on Amherst just behind the church.

 In conclusion, I would like to mention a different developing story: The Descendents of Jon Vopni (1864 to 1956) is asking the city to reinstate Vopni as a Winnipeg street name. In August 2017, I wrote a Lifestyles 55 story about the unjust changing of Vopni Avenue to Park Lane. 

Please share your thoughts on this issue with the Mayor, City Councillors, and the Candidates for 2022 City Elections. I can be contacted me at fredmorris@hotmail.com.

Fred Morris is a grandfather, sports fan and political activist.