Tucked inside a 101 year old former police station and fire hall in south Winnipeg is a historic gem. The walls of the building and display cases set-up are filled with artifacts and stories connected to the history of St. Vital. Some treasured pieces dating back to the early 1800’s.
It’s like a journey through time when you walk through the doors of the museum. There’s so much to see. And it’s all about a community that began as the second oldest permanent settlement in Manitoba.
From stories of the flood of 1950 that led to the evacuation of nearly 100,000 people in Winnipeg, to tributes to world-class athletes, war veterans and musicians – like bass player Jim Kale of The Guess Who.
Old clothes, household items, trophies and photographs fill the eclectic space. There are even two rusty keys said to be from the leg irons and jail cell in Regina of Louis Riel – considered a founder of Manitoba and executed in 1885.
“Anything to do with Riel from back then is unbelievable. I feel very honoured to be holding them (the keys) in my hand,” says Bob Holliday, the president of the St. Vital Historical Society.
Holliday came across the keys in the basement of the museum along with many other items that have been donated to the organization over the years, waiting to be unpacked.
“They were stashed away somewhere with a little bit of a write up on an envelope. And then we did a little bit of digging. They weren’t on display,” explains Holliday with a jolt of excitement.
As Holliday walks through the museum he references a number of the people from St. Vital who are featured there. Individuals like actress Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), NHL star and two time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Toews, rocket scientist Yvonne Brill who received many awards including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2011 from U.S. President Barack Obama, as well as one of Holliday s favorites – Butch Goring, who played for 16 years in the NHL.
“One of the most overlooked athletes in Manitoba – Butch Goring won four straight Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders including taking 40-stitches to the mouth. And he only missed half a period of hockey against the Minnesota North Stars.”
One entire wall is dedicated to the success of The Guess Who – a band that found international success in the 1960’s and 70’s with hits like American Woman and These Eyes. Eight gold records given to bass player Jim Kale are on display.
Kale grew up just down the street from the old police station that now houses the St. Vital Museum.
“I’m just a kid from a working-class neighbourhood that bust his behind and got lucky and sold some records,” says Kale. “Maybe somebody else would like to do that too. I wasn’t the only young boy with a dream. And maybe it’ll serve as an inspiration to somebody else.”
It’s a similar hope that motivates many others who donate artifacts to the museum and volunteer their time to ensure the collections keep growing.
Part of the building is undergoing structural renovations but the museum is still open to visitors. Find out more about the St. Vital Museum at their website here.
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