Businesses Part 2 Alexander MB
Businesses Pt2 Alexander Manitoba
One of the best building I can remember growing up in Alexander Manitoba in the 1970s was the community rink. It was built at the beginning of time and they used lots of wood to build it. It is the biggest building in Alexander and has the sloped roof because one side is the ice rink and the other side is the curling rink part. Of course dad and mother join the rink committee to help out since their children will taking part in the activities in the community rink. All Canadian Dads want their son growing up and playing sports because that is the Canadian way. Except it took my dad along time to figure out that I had zero athletic ability other then warming the bench and handle the equipment. When I played on the hockey teams if I got to play on the ice and chase the puck there must have been no else to put in the game. Which didn’t bother me at all because I had other interests.
One of the first things I remember about the community rink that after public skating on Friday nights. The rink committee would have a meeting in the heated canteen area which had big windows to look out on the curling ice. All of us kids would have fun amusing ourselves with out causing trouble. Since the community rink was a sloped roof building it was only natural for us unsupervised kids to slide down the roof of the build which always had snow on the roof. We just start having fun then all the parents are outside yelling at us to get off the roof and we were officially being bad. We are all told to play inside the building and never never go on the roof ever again. Most parents just yell at their kids but dad took me to the windows to look over the curling rink which had fresh snow on the ice. That is how everyone knew that we were on the roof sliding down and having fun was because the snow was falling through the cracks in the roof. They were having their meeting and they could see it was snowing inside the building. It is a good thing we were small and light back then because we could have fallen though the rotten boards and landed on the curling rink. It did not take the rink committer to find the money and get a tin roof put on the old wooden building. The screws that held the tin on ripped our clothes so sliding off the roof was officially over.
To continue our sliding fun we found that the south side of the building was prefect because they would push the snow from in front of the community rink south and around the corner of the building. Since we were only at the rink when it was dark outside and there were no street lights on that side of the building we really didn’t know the snow condition that we were sliding on. Then on a rare occasion, mother drove the family car the 1965 Pontiac 4 door sedan to the community rink to bring supplies. The only parking was at the south end of the building and when she parked we thought it was great because the head lights of the car were shining on our snow slide hill. Mother got out of the car and was yelling at all of us to get off the hill and stop sliding. Some of the other kids ran in to the community rink crying and they came back with their parents. Then when the parents got to see what the head lights were shining on our snow sliding hill they were not happy either. The head lights of the car was showing where the cleaning staff from the community rink were dumping the 5 gallon poo and pee pails from the bathrooms at the end of the evenings. The cleaning staff would walk to the south end of the building and toss the contents from the 5 gallon pails on to the snow hill. Then us kids would show up in the dark to slide up and down the snow hill. The bumps in the hill that was could feel on our ass as we rode our crazy carpets down the hill was the frozen poo. It did not take long for the rink committee to get new bathrooms on the south side of the building with flushing toilets and running water. Plus this also encouraged people from Brandon to rent the rink for fun events.
To enter in to the community rink you used the door in the middle of the building and as you entered to the right was a set of stair to take you to the second level which is only above the change rooms. This was a time capsule in the 1970s because everything from the past was upstairs. At one time there was bleachers set up so you watch what was happen on the main ice area. It must have been a great design on paper because it was set up for lots of people to sit and watch. The only problem was the roof rafter cross supports ran across in front of the viewing area. All you could see was the design of the roof rafters which were all made of wood. If you looked straight down you could see the hockey net and that was about it. If you walked straight from entering in the main door you went straight on the main ice if you did not turn left or right. If you turned right you had access to ladies change room or the visitor team. If you turned left the hallway took you past the men’s change room or home team. The hallway took you in the canteen area which was heated like the change rooms. It was a big room but it would always be crowded when there was functions happening. On the one side of the canteen were the windows to sit and watch the 2 sheets of curling ice. With the sloped roof, the one curling sheet of ice near the north wall had a very low roof. You could not see the other end of the sheet of ice if you were standing behind the people sitting because your view was the roof rafters. As a young kid I could never figure out the ice curling. In my eyes it was an adult drinking game.
Dad and mother spent a lot of time at the community rink which I did also helping out with renovations or the daily running of the rink. There was ice to be cleaned off with shovels which was down with skates on for speed. Then the barrel wagon was filled with hot water and was pulled around the main ice area with the low spray bar wrapped in potatoes sacks that dragged on the ice to get a smooth finish. Yes this is a high risk operation because hot water freezes faster then cold water (Google it) and the potatoes sacks will freeze quickly to the ice surface if you stop. Then if they freeze you have rip them off and make the ice smooth again. In my eyes the barrel wagon was like playing Russian Roulette because the odds have to be in your favour to get the ice surface smooth and the barrel wagon put back in the heated store room without the potato sacks freezing to the ice and have a smooth finish where you start and stop. One of the most noticeable things of the community rink is the doors where the teams enter and exit during the games which is ½ way down the main ice part open out on to the ice not in like all other rinks. With these doors open out in the ice area have hurt a lot of people over the years I attended the community rink. The worse offenders for opening these door and clothes lining the skaters on the ice was the little school kids because they were not tall enough to see if anyone was coming down the ice and they just opened the door. Hitting the door at full skate laid the person flat out on the ice right now. This was OK if you are playing hockey and the door opens accidentally when the other team member skates past. But in hockey there is full protective gear worn.
The hockey teams of Alexander was a bunch of mixed up group of kids because the town was so small it was basically anyone could join including me. The hockey practices were in the evening on week days starting at 7pm because the farm kids could get chores done before coming to town. Then on Saturdays it was the hockey games against the other towns. This is when we found out how much the boards used to build these wooden rinks had shrunk over the years. Alexander community rink was not bad for letting in the outside sunshine through the cracks in the walls. But the Griswold community rink was terrible. Being colour blind the bright light and darkness would screw me up. But it really did not matter because I sat on the bench most of the time. The Souris community rink was excellent to play hockey in. it was a new building so it was painted bright white inside and no sunshine shinning in too. Plus they had the best benches for to sit on and enjoy the game. Then we got to play the game of our lives at the Keystone Centre where the Brandon Wheat Kings lay there regular games. Most of us have been there for the winter fair so we knew the building and we thought the size too. But when you leave the Brandon Wheat King’s changing room and walk down and step on the ice that is when you realize it is huge. The winter fair makes is seem smaller because all the equipment is on the ice area for the rodeos and such. Also the fact that the Alexander community rink is not that big of an ice surface. The size of the big ice and being star strucked at playing where the Brandon Wheat Kings play we lost the game big time. I even got to play on the ice and I liked the benches they have for sitting on. Far the best I sat on during my hockey career. Also we got our skates sharpened at the Keystone Centre because the machine was right there. In Alexander we would have to bring our skates to Brandon and a sporting good store would quickly sharpen them while you wait. That was one of dad’s little things he did because he worked in Brandon everyday and could get the team’s skate sharpened. My skates never got sharpened because I only worn them for the change room to the ice, the around the ice and few times then waited on the bench then back to the change room. I think I had more walking time on my skates then actual skating time. My interest in sports and other athletic actives faded away and I was not really involved other then helping out. My wasted youth showed my athletic abilities was in the bedroom and my high school nick name was “lick” and it was not because of the Rolling Stones.
The curling bonspiel which was a week of hard work but good times. When I was younger I viewed the sport of curling as an adult drinking game because that is all it is. Alexander would host the big bonspiel and teams from all over would come. Dad and mother would put lots of hour in that week because the main skating ice was converted to 3 sheets of curling ice. This was a lot of work because the dividing timbers had to be frozen in the ice surface and more timber placed at ends for standing and to stop the curling rocks that had too much speed. Plus the ice had to be painted with the curling circles then the surface of the ice to made in to curling ice. Curling ice is basically ice with little ice bumps on it like goose bumps on your arm when you get scared or cold. When they send the curling rock from one end to the other end it is riding on on these ice bumps. To make the curling rock go faster, they use a sweeping broom back and forth very quickly which creates heat and melts the ice bumps to form water which makes the curling rock slide faster. This all happens so fast from freezing-melting-freezing is a fine art. That is why all the hard work had to be done because if you put on a good bonspiel and everyone has fun it brings money to the community. Then next year the bonspiel getting bigger and better. After school on Monday which is the first day of the bonspiel, the sister and I have head to the community rink to help out and our payment is supper and pie in the canteen. The food was excellent all the time because the ladies of the community did all the cooking. The bonspiel was know for the best pies around and the people from outside the community who came to curl would have their favorite pie every year. The bonspiel was usually done each night at 11pm so clean up was not that bad but as it became more popular it was later and later when the teams would finish up. Sometime dad would be getting home at 3am which is way past his bedtime. When the week of curling was done it was a big job to change every back and clean up. As young kids we found boozes bottles hidden everywhere which we turned in but the older we got the less booze bottles we found because we never turned them in. We were now the cool kids sitting up in the top bleachers drinking and looking at the rafters.
On main street just west of the post office was the original Ford dealer and garage that was long closed up in business when my family moved there in 1974. I did attend an auction sale there as an 8 year old kid buying stupid stuff for one dollar. This included the ½ ton truck load of coal that dad used to thaw the ground in January to find the water well at the pink house. Then a fellow used it as a repair shop then it sat empty. A family moved out from Brandon to live north on Alexander and start up and auction serve and book keeping business. The family spent a lot of money remodeling the old ford dealer building to make it clean and nice for holding auction sales. These auctions sales sold a lot of items each week. After school when I went to check the mail they might be at the new auction place unloading this week’s sale item. I would walk over and help out plus I could tell dad what was going to be in the sale. These sales were good because a lot of people came to Alexander to buy and spend money. They had a little canteen to buy food and candies too.
We were returning home from a Sunday supper in Brandon with dad’s parents, it was late fall and just getting dark on that rainy night. The fellow who got the auction place up and going let booze take over his life. Dad stopped the vehicle and we all sat there watching as dad went over to talk to the fellow who was trying to get in his book keeping office by the community rink. He was so drunk he was having troubles with his keys. Dad talked to him for a long time in the dark rain as we sat and watched. Then dad came back and got in the car and said nothing. We drove home and as we were getting out of the car, the drunk fellow shows up and parked his truck totally wrong in the drive way of the pink house. But he did not hit anything or damage anything because he was that drunk. We all help him in the house and mother and the sister disappeared. In the Barnes House Hold, booze was only served on occasion and nobody ever got drunk. We were taught “you drink to relax and have fun” not to get drunk. As the fellow drank his coffee in a cup using 2 hands to hold the cup. There were waves inside the cup from the controllable shaking. As a 10 year old kid sitting there watching and learning, I was looking at myself in the future. I went on to become a professionally drinker which no one knew I drank because I was so good at it. It was when I came to work sober that is when people realized I was a professional. As a grown adult sitting there holding a coffee cup with 2 hands and looking at the waves inside the cup. Then to have flash back memories of being 10 years old sitting at the kitchen table in the pink house watching that fellow. That was when I made the choice to no longer be a professional drinker. My dad would always say it is a “life lesson” when you think life is not treating you fairly. The fellow stayed with us for a couple of weeks while he got his life back together.
This was once a 2 story building and they removed the second floor for what reasons I don not know. As a family we would attend dances and suppers at the community hall. The hall would be rented out to groups and such from around the community which brought people in to see the town. The fall supper and dance was the best because the food was excellent. They served you a plate of food and if there was extras at the end you could have more. The bad part of the community hall was everything was in the basement and the food was carried up the stairs to serve everyone. Then all the dirty dishes had to be carried back down the stairs that is where all the kids got a jobs. Once all the dishes were done and everything put away then the dance would start. The band was at the front of the hall on a riser type stage which just the right height to trip and fall going on and off the stage. Once the dance got going and people were enjoying their beverages then going on and off the stage got to be part of the entertainment because people would trip or slip and fall. The more they drank the more dramatic the fall was. Since the dances were always alcohol free due to government permitting. The beverages were served in the basement and you never talked about it. The stairs at the back of the community to go down to the basement were very steep and tricky when you were young and had you slippery dress shoes. All the young kids were slipping and fall early in the evening but once the adults starting drinking the beverages then they were slipping and falling down the stairs but they never seem to get hurt for some reason. If you went to the basement to get your coat because we were going home, all the adults in the basement were always hiding their beverage bottles when they seen you. When we got older and stayed later at the dance the Barnes House Hold did not dance because none of us had rhythm. But we did help out with making the dance a success.
In 1983 which was the 100 year cerebration of the RM of Whitehead becoming a municipality. They decided to drag out a tent that was stored in the back of the community hall and set it up. The only problem in setting up the tent was the last people who set it up were no longer around or in Shady Pines Retirement Home. They left it up to us young teenagers to figure it out. It was an adventure because there was no Google to help us so it was trail and error. The tent was in very good shape and lasted the weekend celebration. To this day I can still remember the smell of that tent being in storage for so long.
Sept 2020 -- My Wasted Youth Alexander MB Book 5th book
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