Marjorie Street: Look for the Octopus mural!

Fred Morris
From the desk of a gadfly 


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 Marjorie Street.

Since 2019, Marjorie Street has been defined by the Octopus Mural, created by Jen Mosienko and Julia Beveridge, on the side of Underworld Scuba. Let us look at a little bit of Marjorie Street History.

Marjorie Street South

Between 1934 and 1945, 102 Marjorie was owned by Harold and Catharine Isabella Harris. Catharine (nee Bourke) had earlier sold land a little farther east that enabled Assiniboine School to be built. In 1945, 102 Marjorie was sold to the Winnipeg Bible Institute. The Bible Institute soon decided that Marjorie Street was not for them. By late 1947, the Bible Institute was again on the move to 2 Evergreen Place.

1948 was the last year that 102 Marjorie was listed in the Henderson Directory. In 1949, new homes appeared in the Henderson Directory. However, Marjorie Street south, which lined up perfectly with Marjorie Street north of Portage, was now called Riveroaks. The first Riveroaks residents listed in the Henderson’s were Reginald and Gertrude Williams and William and Mae Montgomery. Jack Roberts, a long-time Riveroaks resident, was a manager for the Great West life Underwriting Service and a Councillor for Dunnottar. The Tyrone Apartment Block at 1806 Portage first appears in the 1951 Henderson Directory. In 1954, the River Oaks apartment Block at 1812 Portage is listed for the first time in the Henderson Directory. During the early 1960s, Ron and Joyce Littlejohn, St. James teachers, lived in the block. 

After our 1975 marriage, 1812 Portage was the first home Ruby and Fred Morris.

Portage and Marjorie

In 1923, the Parkview Theatre at 1823 Portage opened with nearly 700 seats and a pipe organ. Max Blankstein designed the theatre. Sadly, the theatre was destroyed by fire in 1924 and not replaced. 

Many businesses are gone but not forgotten. They include Larry Morris Appel (who was familialy known as Morris Appel) and Joe Schwartz's Parkview Drugs, the Piper's family grocery store, Barber Bert Lenton, Douglas Gibb's Furniture store, James Sim of Sim Cleaners Tailors and Furriers, Rollie Gledhill's Ideal Sharpening, the Pizza Place, and Brothers Restaurant. Jock Oliphant was the proprietor of Hygrade Cabinets. Also, Jock was Canada's First Master Model Railroader. 

The early 1930s archives reveal that St. James’ only Piggly Wiggly store was located at 1821 Portage. The store later became a Safeway. Underworld Scuba, St. James Bowling, Olympia Cycle and the Captain’s Table are current businesses that help the corner continue as a meeting place.

There has been a church presence near Marjorie and Portage for over a century. In the 1911 Henderson Directory, the Church of Christ and a Presbyterian Church were listed on Marjorie. On October 9, 1910, the Church of Christ was dedicated by Reverend A.N. Simpson. The current Church is the Liberty Full Gospel Church. After moving from Banning Street, the Liberty Full Gospel Church held its first Marjorie Street service on September 3, 2000.

During the 1930 Federal Election Campaign, William Kennedy, the Conservative Candidate for R. B. Bennett's Conservatives, held a rally on Marjorie Street. Mr. Kennedy, with strong support in East St. James, defeated the Liberal incumbent. On October 19, 1947, the St. James Kiwanis Club presented the municipality of St. James with the Kiwanis Park at 247 Marjorie Street. 

North of St. Matthews

During the first half of the 20th Century, the dairy industry had a strong foothold in East St. James north of Barry Avenue (now known as St. Matthews). Fred and Jane Sparkes, Charles Edwards, and Arthur Watson operated dairy farms. Also, the Winnipeg Sports Car Club once had their clubhouse north of St. Matthews. In 1965, the Sports Car Club held a Jack Frost Rally. 

The People of Marjorie Street

Marjorie Street residents are listed for the first time in the 1911 Henderson Directory. These residents were Frederick G.H. Orchard, Walter Mitchell, Christian L. Moon, Arthur Hope, John Crolly, William Green, and Alice Climie. Steve Panchuk was another early resident of Marjorie Street. Despite losing both feet and his fingers on one hand, Steve continued working as a wood cutter. In April 1924, Steve died while cutting wood for a north end customer. 

In 1913, Lewis Murphy and his twin brother, Luther, of Parkview Street, started the weekly St. James Leader newspaper. For the next 49 years, the Murphy family ran this newspaper. Between 1915 and 1937, the Leader's office was located at 1830 Portage. 

In March 1962, newly elected St. James Mayor Bill Hanks (Lewis’ son-in-law) sold the newspaper to a St. Vital Weekly, the Lance. Harold Murphy, another member of the Marjorie Street Murphy family, had a long educational career in various parts of Manitoba. Harold taught at Linwood School and served as the principal of Britannia and Bannatyne Schools. Harold was also involved with various community activities including the St. James Chamber of Commerce, St. James United Church, Deer Lodge Curling Club, and the Manitoba Golf Association.

A couple of St. James Legion presidents resided on Marjorie. Joseph Gallaher, one of the founders of the St. James Legion, was president in 1919-20. Henry (Harry) Rustige served as president between 1928-31. 

During the 1950s, Jimmy (1920-87) and Fay King raised their family on Marjorie Street. Jimmy was the musical director for CJAY, wrote a Winnipeg Free Press entertainment column, and played at countless socials. Norm Middleton, who grew up on Marjorie played in one of Jimmy King's musical groups.

There were many Marjorie Street residents with impressive longevity records. Charles Irving was a St. James fire fighter for 28 years. Albert Jeffrey was with the Speers Parnell Bakery for 30 years. Charles Beasley worked 45 years with the City of St. James. Samuel Scott spent 37 years at Winnipeg Electric Railway.

The young people of Marjorie Street often appear in the newspaper archives. In 1926, Doris Ord a Free Press Sunbeam, wrote Runaway in the Sunshine Club Section. In August 1940, during World War 2, a group of children held a circus on Marjorie Street to raise money for the Manitoba Red Cross. The children were Myrtle Davis, Phyliss Sutherland, Kenneth Sutherland, Don Jenkins, Audrey Dawes, and Verna Wright. 

David King formed a band called Marjorie's Children. David became a Vancouver playwright. David wrote songs, including Stevenson Field, about the August 18, 1964, brief visit to St. James by the Beatles during an airport refueling stop. 

Glen Beckett played on the 1967/68 MJHL Championship St. James Canadians. In 1972, Ingrid Roh was Miss Manitoba. During the 1965/66 St. James Collegiate school year, Ingrid and Berry Street's Carol Black (Miss Manitoba 1970) were classmates in the Grade 10 Class of Teresa (Terry) Baillie. Some memories of Marjorie Street can be found in articles written by a couple of people who grew up on Marjorie. A retro St. James Facebook Post by Charles Jonnason, dated March 7, 2019, is titled Drug Store Diner. On June 19, 2021, Randall King the Winnipeg Free Press Film critic wrote about Marjorie Street in a tribute to his recently deceased brother David.

Marjorie Ramsey was an original member of St. James United Church and the Business and Professional Women's Club of Winnipeg. Anne Rock supervised the Kiwanis Playground at King Edward and Ness for a decade. Anne was a Silver Cross Mother. On December 5, 1970, Emmie Rumley's picture was in the Winnipeg Free Press. The article stated that Emmie had 109 descendants.

In 1945, the St. James School Board decided not to build the new St. James Collegiate on Marjorie Street. 

Marjorie Street has had just about everything else.

Fred Morris is a Grandfather, Sports Fan and Political Activist.