Tuesday, August 24

Upcoming 100th Anniversary of the Regina Tornado in 2012

I have had a few discussions lately with local heritage tourism stakeholders about developing a meetings & conventions strategy around the theme of the 1912 Regina Tornado that would aim at attracting national and international organizations that could be tempted to host one of their meetings in Regina in 2012. There are market-ready product and customizable solutions available today for meeting planners if they decided to bring their meeting to Regina.

Great Excursions owns a number of these products, and ownership is shared in other product with business improvement districts, cultural organizations & museums at local and national levels. As Regina’s longest established destination management company with internationally-recognized expertise on that particular aspect of Regina’s heritage, we would certainly be ideally suited to work collaboratively with our tourism partners and local hospitality businesses which are asking us to consider working with them regularly. We have already started to approach potential partner associations and organizations about this. I believe there is an opportunity here to harness a virtually untapped potential. Time is of the essence.

In a different but slightly related vein, Joanne Browne of Regina shared her thoughts about Regina's heritage and what it represents to her and her family recently. She gave me permission to reproduce an excerpt below:

"Claude-Jean, you won't remember me, but I certainly remember you, and I love getting your updates on adventures.

My name is Joanne Brown and I'm a member of the Regina Archaeology Society. I was at the presentation you gave on Regina (as a CPR) "town," and how the layout of the city helped with the clean-up after the 1912 tornado. I was also very impressed with your maps of existing buildings at the time, and the details, including the make up of facades on various buildings in Regina.

In the very early 1930's, my grandfather bought the property at 1766 Osler Street, a livery stable at the time, built circa 1904. All rural folk coming into Regina for "supplies" parked their horses, buggies, wagons, and what-ever across the street. Although it was one of the oldest buildings in the city, it was never deemed a historic property; it was just a barn. My grandfather turned the building into an auction room. My father bought his father out in 1951. A few years ago, the building was demolished to make way for the new STC depot. Fitting in a way. It started out as a transportation hub, and it has returned to one. At the time the building was razed, I was working for RPS. It was all fenced in, but I went there and begged a worker for a number of bricks. I told him my story, and he complied.

When my father was a young boy, he met another young boy across the back alley of their father's businesses. The Broadway Theatre was on Broad Street, Brown's Auction Rooms on Osler. Murray Bercovich was two years younger than my father (and it just so happened he was in the same kindergarten class with my mother (at Strathcona School). I have their class photo. In that photograph Murray was dressed to the nines, showing off his fine toy sailboat. My mother is depicted in a drab dress (probably her best), holding on to a rag doll.

Many years later he hosted a party to expose this photograph to their many mutual friends. My mother was both horrified and delighted. He had it enlarged and placed on an easel inside the entry to his home.

My father and Murray Bercovich became the best of friends.

Murray's father was a legend in this city. He was nick-named Scotty, and the writing on his tombstone states: Scotty was a Showman. It's one of the "stops" on one of the tours of the "Old Regina Cemetery."

One more tidbit about Regina history before I give you the gist of this correspondence. In the mid 1940's my paternal grandparents bought the house, still standing, on 1800 block Halifax Street (I think the # is 1876). It's the house immediately south of the martial arts studio.

This house has a huge history. It was built in 1929, by the owners of Army and Navy Department Store, to accommodate Jewish men from central Europe recruited to work for them. The house was built as a boarding house. My grandmother turned it into a "rooming house." Upstairs and basement residents did their own cooking (on hot plates). There was only one electrical outlet in each upstairs room, and only one of those rooms had an actual closet.

It had two kitchens, one of them kosher. I was conceived in this house and it was my home until my parents were able to build a home of their own in 1954. My parents and three of us "little Brown girls" lived in one room, the best room, being the front parlor. Many other relatives lived there as well, and there were boarders, some who stayed for years, others who were fleeting. My grandmother lived in the house until the late 1960's, and me and my older sister visited often.

I still dream about that house.

By chance I got to re-visit that house about eight years ago. Very little had changed. I was able to answer questions of the current owner. She had some vague knowledge of the history of the house, and was delighted to meet me and learn more. Yes, some tacky reno's had been done since the 1960's, but all of the original light fixtures were still in place, as were the French doors into the parlour, and crystal door knobs were still in place.

I know this house has been renovated again, and I hope the new owner has respected the integrity of it.

There was a grand bannister leading upstairs, that me and my older sister used to shimmy down on. It was still there when I last visited, polished to a gleam (from our little bums).

Sometime between two to five years after my grandmother sold the house, someone (a woman) was murdered there.

Now for the gist.........
A recent acquaintance asked me if I knew if anything was being planned for the anniversary of the 1912 tornado? I didn't know, but it made me immediately think of you and all the work you had done. That is why I am writing. Is anything being planned? The graves of the young Blenkinsop couple who died so tragically that day, are on list of monuments to stop on one tour at the Old Regina Cemetery.

Thank you for this Joanne"
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