Explore Life Coaching, Patti Phillips

Hometown Tourist

A couple of weeks ago I had a great experience here in Winnipeg and did a walking tour of the Exchange District offered by The BIZ. It was a beautiful day and our tour guide, Anzel, did a wonderful job explaining the history, architecture, and function of many of the building in the exchange district.

The highlight of this tour was sharing it with my dad. I got a change to hear some stories from him about his early years in Winnipeg that I had never heard before. As a young boy, he lived on a farm near a small town in Manitoba and had to travel to Winnipeg on a regular basis to manage a health issue. Money was tight for his farming family so he was able to catch a ride each time with a trucker who made regular trips to “the big city”. He was again required to spend time in Winnipeg away from his home to complete his high school education as grade twelve was not available in the small town close to his farm. My dad described the rooming house downtown that he shared with his sister for a year. During the Exchange District tour, we heard about the Bijou Theatre that used to occupy a space on Main Street that is currently just a paved, open area. The Bijou opened in 1904 originally as a vaudeville house. The theatre was part of a block of buildings built in 1884 on the foundations of an old courthouse and jail, and, in fact, there were still two jail cells that still existed in the basement of the theatre from the old courthouse building. Later, the Bijou discontinued vaudeville attractions and continued with a movies only format. My dad talked about going to see movies at this theatre in the 1940’s during his year in the city. The Bijou closed as a theatre in 1956 and burned to the ground in 1979 so all that’s left are the stories.

It was very fun to be a tourist in my own city and share the experience with my dad. As he gets older and is less inclined to travel away from home, it is a bonus to have so much history in Winnipeg of which we can take advantage. I spent a year travelling to destinations around the world and experiencing many different adventures. Perhaps it’s time to focus a little closer to home. Please share any recommendations you may have about how to be a hometown tourist.

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