Summer holidays at Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg, circa 1920

Some years ago, my father and I did some research on, and corresponded with each other about, three snapshots which had come from my grandfather Leslie Payne’s collection. I have previously discussed our tentative conclusions about the locations of these photographs in a series of articles written about my grandfather’s early years in Canada, both prior to and after the Great War, here and here. The publishing of Jasia’s very readable 74th COG Swimsuit Edition on Creative Gene and several other recent posts with beach holiday themes in the blogging community has prompted me to look at these again, as I have done many times over the years. I was particularly keen to examine them in light of my discovery a couple of years ago, in my paternal aunt’s photo collection, of a number of related pictures. I can’t really explain my need to discover exactly where and when these photographs were taken, and who my grandfather’s friends were, but to many of readers I’m sure I don’t really need to find substantive reasons or make any excuses! It’s part of the genealogical journey of discovery.

Image © and collection of C.B. Payne
Boulder Photo
A group of young men and women seated on a large boulder at a rocky beach, near a large body of open water, Leslie Payne seated 2nd from left, c. 1919-1921
Print © and collection of C.B. Payne
In 2000, I wrote the following:

I have persuaded myself that these – unfortunately unannotated – photographs must have been taken during the period that Leslie Payne lived in Winnipeg between 1919 and 1921. Is it possible that they were taken during an excursion to the shores of either Lake Winnipeg or Lake Manitoba. The large boulder in [this] photo appears, to both my father and I (amateur and professional geologists, respectively), to be a glacial erratic. For this reason, it doesn’t seem likely that the photo could have been taken in England.

Image © and collection of C.B. Payne
Beach Photo
Two couples on a sandy beach, Leslie Payne at left, c. 1919-1921
Print © and collection of C.B. Payne

Image © and collection of C.B. Payne
Rustic Bench Photo
A group seated on a wooden bench at a tented camp, Leslie Payne at right, c. 1919-1921
Print © and collection of C.B. Payne

There is a third photograph showing two of these friends, as well as my grandfather and another unindentified man (at left). They are seated on a rustic looking bench fashioned from saplings. Leslie is at the right, leaning forwards slightly; next are the couple who appeared in both the Boulder and Beach photos. The bench is located against the wall of what appears to be a large canvas tent, situated in a wood. Was it some sort of camp? Where were these three photos taken, and who are the other people (three male and three female) with Leslie Payne. Was the man common to all three a friend from the WW1 Machine Gun Corps, perhaps, and the lady next to him, who also appears in all three, his wife or girlfriend?

Image © and collection of C.B. Payne
Mandolin Photo
A large group seated on a wooden bench at a tented camp, Leslie Payne at right in middle row, c. 1919-1921
Print © and collection of Brett Payne Courtesy of Margaret Pugh
In 2003, as a result of some correspondence with the niece of one of my grandfather’s old Machine Gun Corps buddies in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, she sent me a photograph from her late uncle Pete McLaggan’s photo album. It appeared to have been taken in the same tented camp and at the same time as the “Rustic Bench Photo.” This time one of the subjects was holding a mandolin – presumably they were having a sing-along – and smoke from a wood fire can be seen drifting across the background. After doing a little more research on the history of the beaches on Lake Winnipeg I wrote:

Between 1915 and 1919, in an area at the southern end of Lake Winnipeg already popular with campers, cottages started to appear around an area known as Victoria Beach. This was aided by the arrival of the rail line – and a regular rail service – in 1916, and the formation of a municipality in August 1919, which made Victoria Beach a very convenient and popular weekend destination for Winnipeg residents. It seems probable that all four of the above photographs were taken on or close to the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Contemporary and historical images of Grand Beach and Victoria Beach found on the web suggest either area as a possible location for both the camp and beach photos. However, without first-hand knowledge of the area, it is difficult for me to be sure, and it could just as easily be one of the several other beaches nearby, such as Gimli, Hillside or Patricia Beaches.

The fact that two individuals – apart from Leslie Payne – are common to all four photos supports the idea that they were taken at roughly the same period as each other. Comparison with pre-war photographs of Leslie illustrates that these are definitely post-war.

This narrowed down the potential date to between February 1919, after his demobilisation from the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Winnipeg, and May 1921, when he returned to Derbyshire, England. I also identified a couple in the “Mandolin Photo” from other annotated photos in my Dad’s collection as Laura and Stewart Morris, friends of Leslie from his time in Winnipeg. Stewart Morris appears to have been a fellow employee at Eaton’s Department Store.

Digital image © Ken Gillespie & courtesy of the Canadian Geographic PhotoClub
Victoria Beach, Manitoba, on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, 20 October 2007.
Digital image © Ken Gillespie and courtesy of the Canadian Geographic PhotoClub
However, there were still several other unidientified people, and I couldn’t really be sure about the location. As shown by historical and more recent photographs of the area, including the stunning shot of a sunset at Victoria Beach by talented Winnipeg photographer Ken Gillespie shown above, there were and still are several sites which might have had a mixture of such rocky and sandy beaches.

Picasa Album: Charles Leslie Lionel Payne in Canada, 1912-1921
In my aunt’s collection, which she kindly allowed me and my brother to scan in October 2007, I made the exciting discovery of an additional 21 snapshots in the same group as the four described previously. I’ve uploaded images of these, together with others relating to Leslie Payne’s years spent in Canada between 1912 and 1921, to my Picasa Web Albums. This enabled me to sort them out into groups arranged roughly by date and setting.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Leslie Payne (back row, left), Stewart Morris (back row, centre) and four others
Probably at Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
I was able to separate them into two groups, based on photographic printers batch numbers stamped on the reverse of the prints. The bulk of them have a “C 21” stamp, while three have a “B 21” stamp. These latter three are obviously contemporaneous with the others, and it seems likely that they were taken by a different photographer in the group. Every photograph includes my grandfather. Although most have inscriptions, these have been made by my aunt, and only relate to my grandfather – none of the other subjects are identified. Two photographs, including the one shown above, are similar to the “Boulder Photo.”

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Leslie Payne (seated at right), Laura Morris (standing at right) and four others
Probably at Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
There were also two photos (one of which is included above) showing the same group of six that was featured in the first “Boulder Photo,” but standing or sitting on a smaller boulder partially submerged in the water.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Leslie Payne (standing at right) and three others
Probably at Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Next there are two photos with similar, although not quite identical, attitude and subjects to the “Beach Photo” described earlier.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Leslie Payne (front row, second from left) and eight others
Probably at Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
A further seven shots are in a similar vein, of various groups of between three and eleven people lying, seated and standing on a sandy beach, but apparently taken looking in the opposite direction, away from the water. While all of them appear posed, some have a more conventional portrait structure than others. Some are perhaps a little later in the day, as several of the subjects have donned more layers of clothing. Several are of somewhat poorer quality, either out of focus, poorly framed, or with subjects turned away from the camera. The example above is one of the better ones, with only one chap ignoring the “say cheese” request. In the background can be seen some partly vegetated low hills, possibly sand dunes, telegraph poles, other groups of beachgoers (one of them looks as though he might be eating an ice cream cone), including a child, and a bandstand, gazebo or small pavilion.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Leslie Payne (second from right) and eight others
Probably at Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
This more relaxed pose was probably shot only a few minutes after the previous one.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Leslie Payne (right) and two others, with Dancing Pavilion in background
Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
The next two photos are similar, showing Leslie Payne and two others lying on the beach, but have a different background view, possibly to the right of the others, which includes a very large building with a rounded roof.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Detail of Dancing Pavilion, Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
It is this building, shown enlarged in the image above, which has provided, at least for me, incontrovertible proof that at least some of these photographs were taken at Grand Beach.

Image © and courtesy of Grand Beach Visitors Guide
Dancing Pavilion, Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg, undated
Image © and courtesy of Grand Beach Visitors Guide
The Grand Beach and East Beach Visitors Area web site has an article on the history of the area, apparently based on a book Grand Beach – The Grand Old Days by Susan Lemoine and Tim Barnfather (publ. 1978, Manitoba Department of Tourism, Manitoba). Several photographs are displayed, presumably taken from the book, two of which are included here.

Image © and courtesy of Grand Beach Visitors Guide
Interior of Dancing Pavilion, Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg, undated
Image © and courtesy of Grand Beach Visitors Guide

The grandest of all the buildings at Grand Beach was the Dance Pavilion. Rumour has it that this was the largest Dance Hall of its time in the Commonwealth. Until its destruction by fire in 1950, this was the major source of entertainment and the central meeting spot of the resort community. Entire families and all age groups would enjoy the music of the band hired by the railway for the entire season. Admission was originally free, but in the Twenties “Jitney” (a nickel a dance) dancing began.

Image © Western Canada Pictorial Index and courtesy of Manitoba Conservation
Boardwalk & Dancing Pavilion, Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg
Image © Western Canada Pictorial Index and courtesy of Manitoba Conservation

A boardwalk was built over the years that extended from the station to the lagoon along the beach front. Hot and crowded during the day, lit up at night, the boardwalk provided sure footing for shoe-clad feet and food for hungry beach-goers. The first hot dog and soft drink stand was built in 1923. Under the boardwalk the shade was welcome. Treasure hunters could be rewarded with some loose change. Itinerant travellers found the boardwalk an ideal shelter. They say Sandy is the name given to a girl-child conceived under the boardwalk. Whatever the recreational preference, the boardwalk offered a variety of diversions.

The carousel was an awesome and magical building. Filled with hand-crafted animals: studs, mares and ponies, whirling in an endless circle to the tinkling music, their manes flying, teeth bared, hooves raised, forever frozen in time.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara EllisonImage © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Leslie Payne (back) and friends, probably Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
There are two photographs showing a group of six beachgoers posing in a line on a wooden pier. In the left-hand image Laura and Stewart Morris are at the head of the line, while my Grandpa is at the back, but I have not yet been able to identify the other three. The electric lamp hanging from a pole at the end of the pier suggests that it might be part of the boardwalk system described above. There is also part of a rowing boat visible in the background.

I’ve included the second, very similar shot, because it appears that the photographer of the first picture has gone into the line (fourth from the front), and Stewart Morris has taken the second. I think we can assume that one of these two characters is the primary photographer in all the shots with “C 21” batch stamp. Since Stewart Morris only appears in two shots in the entire collection, and the other man appears in a great many, I think it very likely that it was Stewart who owned the camera and took the photos during this holiday period. The three from the “B 21” batch may have been taken with a different camera by another member of the group, although the possibility exists that one of the batches actually consists of reprints from the same original negatives as the other batch.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Leslie Payne (at right) and friends, at a tented camp
probably Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
The final group of five photographs is from the tented camp in the woods, previously illustrated in the “Rustic Bench” and “Mandolin” photos above. Two of them include a much older couple, and I have speculated that they are possibly parents of one of the young people and owners of the property.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Leslie Payne (at right) and friends, at a tented camp
probably Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
This photograph is another view of the wooden bench and canvas tent, but from a slightly different angle. Hanging from the awning of the tent are two flags, a Union Jack on the left and what appears to be a version of the Canadian Red Ensign on the right.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Detail of Canadian Red Ensign flag
Paper Print © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
Nigel Aspdin has discussed the history of this design at some length on his vexicological blog, What’s that flag.

Image courtesy of 'Orange Tuesday' and Wikipedia
The “Nine Provinces” Canadian Red Ensign of 1907, unofficial flag of Canada from 1907 to 1921
Image courtesy of ‘Orange Tuesday’ and Wikipedia
It appears to me to be a slightly modified or unofficial version of the “Nine Province” Canadian Red Ensign of 1907 after Alberta and Saskatchewan had been added, as illustrated in this Wikipedia article. Sharp spotted readers will notice, however, that the lower left and lower centre sectors have been switched around. Alistair B. Fraser in his The Flags of Canada – The Country: Chapter IV, describes the genesis of the Canadian Red Ensigns and the design of the 1907 Nine Province badge. He also discusses the rise in use of the Union Flag (or Union Jack) after the turn of the century, and the common simulataneous use of the two flags before, during and after the war.

It appears to me that Leslie Payne spent a few days, or perhaps several weekends, during the summer of either 1919 or 1920, with a group of friends camping at Grand Beach, an easy train trip from Winnipeg, during which time they spent a good deal of time at the nearby beach. There are at least a dozen individuals in these photographs, some of whom were probably in the same camp, while others may have been staying nearby. I have mentioned Stewart and Laura Morris, who I identified from annotated photographs of the same era. However, I don’t know who any of the others were.

My grandfather received a book in October 1921, after he had returned to England, from someone who signed themself as “P” living at 43 Fawcett Avenue, Winnipeg, with the following inscription, “fulfilling a promise made two years earlier.” My aunt believes this was a girlfriend named Peggy, but has no further information about her. Perhaps Peggy was one of those in the photographs. I’m hoping that some day, someone from the Winnipeg area will recognise a family member in the images included above, but I will admit that it’s a long shot.


Today’s article is my entry for the 5th Edition of the Canadian Genealogy Carnival hosted by looking4ancestors.

Advertisements

~ by gluepot on Monday, June 29, 2009.

7 Responses to “Summer holidays at Grand Beach, Lake Winnipeg, circa 1920”

  1. >I enjoyed reading your post very much. It is simply amazing how much information you have found from these photos. Wonderful that the photos are on Picasa to share with everyone!

  2. >Thank you, Jean, I'm glad you've enjoyed the photos and article. The photographs posted on your blog Forget Me Knots and the letters from Harry Buzzell during the Great War are very interesting! Are you going to be affected by the closing down of the Geocities web sites? I hope not. Regards, Brett

  3. >What a wonderful collection of photos! I really enjoyed your post, having been a Winnipegger for eight years (way back).

  4. >Greetings Brett,Your diligence in researching your grandfather's whereabouts in these photos certainly paid off. I enjoyed your articles and the photos very much. Thank-you for participating in this edition of the Canadian Genealogy Carnival. Kathryn

  5. >Thanks, Brenda, for dropping by, and Kathryn, for hosting the carnival.

  6. >Very interesting. Certainly looks like the east side of Lake Winnipeg and Grand Beach, one of the finest beaches in North America, is unmistakable.Ancestry.com happens to have the 1922 edition of the Winnipeg Henderson's Directory on line. The family living at 43 Fawcett Avenue then (using data that would likely have been taken in 1921) was that of Thomas A. Watters, an Irish-born accountant who had emigrated to Canada in 1909. He and wife Elizabeth had a daughter Kathleen (b. 1905) and a son Thomas. No "P", alas. 43 Fawcett was a very respectable address just west of Winnipeg's downtown area. The house, built in 1905, is still there.

  7. >Thanks, Andy, for your research and contribution. It certainly does lok a picturesque part of the world, and perhaps one day I will get the chance to visit.Sadly, "P" remains rather elusive. Perhaps she was only living there for a short while, and may have been a boarder, I suppose.Regards, Brett

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: