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 the Courts of St. James.
The Courts of St. James has been a meeting place in West St. James for over a half a century.
On August 11, 1966, St. James Mayor Bill Hanks turned the sod for this joint venture of Confederation Life and Lakeview Development. The complex has addresses on Portage Avenue, Booth Drive, and Ronald Street. The three apartment towers are named Hampshire, Lancing, and Bronte. Many amenities are available to residents without having to venture outside. The complex is professionally managed by Globe General Agencies. This story will deal with a small part of the history of this city within a city. I will make a couple of references to 2705 and 2741 Portage Avenue, a couple of now demolished separate buildings on the front parking lot.
The businesses in the Courts
Many businesses are no longer in the Courts but certainly not forgotten. Joan and Cecil Sneesby operated Joans Flowers. D'Arcy Bain is an award-winning physiotherapist who worked on the medical teams on five Olympic teams and as the chief therapist for Canada's National Racquetball Team. During the middle 1980s, Darcy had an office in the Courts. One of Darcy's four current offices is located at 3025 Portage Avenue just west of the Courts. Dominion (it is mainly because of the meat) and IGA provided grocery stores for most of the Court's history. The Bank of Montreal and the CIBC at 2741 Portage Avenue provided residents easy in-person access to banking services. Both these banks have permanently closed.
“Where have all the bank branches along Portage Avenue gone?”
Morton Nemy practiced law in the Courts. Morton served as an Alderman for the Municipality of Assiniboia. Dr. Allan Goldstein, who delivered 3,500 babies, had an office in the Courts. The Kings Plate, Windsor Jewellers, Stewarts TV, and the Manitoba Golf Association are other businesses that are gone but not forgotten.
The Courts Financial Group gives individuals and small business financial advice. The Company was founded in 1977 by Ed Kurtz. It has been located in the Courts since 1986. The Winnipeg Pet Rescue, a no kill animal shelter, is located right inside the front doors. Carla Martinelli Irvine is the Executive Director.
Other businesses currently operating in the Courts include Dollarama, Red Swan Pizza, Stella’s, Bar Burrito, Lux Leaf, Legend's Restaurant, Ronald Pharmacy, Hearing Life, Innovative Medical Supplies, Elite Sports Injuries, Liberty Tax, Kenneth Friesen Accountants, the Courts Financial Group, Ozturk Financial, Jack Rabkin Law, Giant Panda, and the Frontier Center for Public Policy.
Some of the people who have lived part of their lives in the Courts
Residents during the Early Years of the Courts
Max Hurtig was the President and co-founder of furrier, the Hurtig's of Vaughan Street. William Gershman was the President of Famous Motors at 951 Portage Avenue. David Cass Beggs a hydraulic engineer served in senior Hydro executive positions in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and British Columbia. In January 1970, David was appointed the Chairman of Manitoba Hydro. In the 1971 Henderson Directory, David and Barbara Cass Beggs were listed as residents of Courts of St. James. Barbara was a music teacher who specialized in music education for young children. Barbara collected folk songs and used these folk songs as an important component of her teaching.
Gus Nanton worked for CKY and CKND. In 1995, Gus joined Jack Wells, George McCloy, and other long-time broadcasters for a four-day CKVN broadcast at Deer Lodge Hospital commemorating the 50th Anniversary of VE Day. Barry Burns was a Global and CJOB News Anchor. In 2006, Barry went to Afghanistan to report on the Canadian Mission for Chorus Radio. Bill Gorrie was the station manager of CKRC. One of Bill's initiatives was a Friday Night open line show, In Touch with Today, featuring Pastor Bill Fehr of St. Stephens Lutheran Church. The show was reminiscent of CKY's Ask the Pastor featuring Pastor Harvey Egler of the West End First English Lutheran Church.
Larry Denef was the Executive Director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada. The Reverend Canon James Gordon Fairclough was an Anglican Pastor who served various parishes in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and England. At the time of his 1980 passing, Gordon was assisting at St. Andrews Anglican across the street from the Courts.
In 1970, Winnipeg Police Chief George Blow retired after 40 years on the Winnipeg Police Force. During their retirement years, George and Mina lived in the Courts. George was a life member of the International Association of Police and Chiefs. Bruce Chegus, a Great West Life lawyer, resided at the Courts before becoming a St. James Assiniboia school trustee. Bruce served in many different roles including chairperson during his 33 years as a school trustee.
The Deer Lodge Neighborhood
Several old friends from my days in the Deer Lodge neighbourhood moved to the Courts. Margaret Sellinger was a business entrepreneur who operated Bilmars at the corner of Portage and Mandeville. Margaret also worked in trucking, insurance, and antique businesses. Bill and May Johnston owned King's Florist. Bill and May were married for 70 years. Bob and Vi Lane were married for 70 years. The Lanes were involved with the Khartum Shriners, the Daughters of the Nile, the St. Andrews Anglican Church, and many different political campaigns. Audrey Harden was a tireless volunteer for the Deer Lodge Community Club. Earlier in 2023, Audrey, Vi and Bob's grandson Rich Harden a former Major League pitcher was inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. After retiring as the office manager of Monk Goodwin, my Aunt Steinunn Bjarnason, lived in the Courts and continued to host many memorable family gatherings. District Fire Chief Ted and Mildred Dallman moved to the Courts as seniors. Mildred was involved in various organizations including the Daughters of the Nile, and Eastern Star. Ervyn Houck, a retired educator, lived at the Courts. Erv had served as the Principal of Bannatyne, Assiniboine, and Strathmillan schools.
Otto Koch was synonymous with Chicken Delight. After purchasing the rights to the St. James store at 1855 Portage, Otto eventually became the sole owner of Chicken Delight franchise rights in Canada. I fondly remember the bonus that Otto gave me for keeping the Chicken Delight on St. Annes Road Store open during the 1986 blizzard. Mike Bachinsky another one of my friends from the restaurant business had a long career in the restaurant business in Winnipeg, Selkirk, Brandon, and Australia. When we were welcoming the 1980s, Mike was managing the Hickory House at 2705 Portage Avenue.
Sports stars who lived in the Courts.
Dale Esopenko was the long time Golf Pro at Assiniboine Golf Club. Also, Dale served as the President of the Manitoba Golf Association. Dale advised golfers, “The less clubs you have, the less chance of making a mistake; besides less is not as heavy to carry!” (Page 85 Alan Hackett's book Manitoba Links)
Barry Fry and Gordie Sparks of the 1979 Manitoba Men's Curling Championship team both lived at Courts. Winston Warren the Lead of the 1980 Manitoba Men's Championship also resided at the Courts. Ralph Lyndon, a teacher at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, is a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. Ralph excelled in hockey, football, and lacrosse.
I am sure there are dozens of other people who can be added to this story. Your feedback is welcome. Please remember to pick up your copy of Lifestyles 55 right outside of the front door of the Courts.
Fred Morris is a Grandfather, Sports Fan and Political Activist.