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Portage Avenue:
Dreams of Castles
in the Sky


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SCRIPT

"PORTAGE AVENUE:
DREAMS OF CASTLES IN THE SKY"


Produced for Prairie Public Television ©2004
Written By George Siamandas
This document is copyrighted and may not be used or excerpted without the permission of the author.

NAR: This is Portage Ave. It runs from the corner of Portage and Main, through Winnipeg's central business district, and out west, past city limits. Once known as the Portage trail, it extends west almost 800 miles to Edmonton. It’s a wide street originally laid out at 132 feet. Four lanes of traffic each way. Portage Ave. contains a mix of elegant architecture from its golden era and an eclectic collection of newer structures that speak of today.

The year is 1905. Winnipeg is entering a fabulous new era of growth. And it's all happening along Portage Ave. Its warehouse district around old city hall is already well built. Banks and shops from the 1880s and 1890s line Main St. for miles. But a new light is shining on Portage Ave. And the path is being blazed by the new Eaton's store. At five stories and occupying an entire city block, Eaton's will start a flurry of new construction that in 10 years will transform Portage Ave and truly make it Winnipeg's main street.

DEBRA JOHNASON YOUNG, FORMER EATON'S MANAGER
Eaton's started in 1905 it was a huge building and it employed many many people. It employed generation after generation and in some cases families of people. Everyone you run into when you say you've worked at Eaton's they say either I know somebody or I've worked there too. I actually met my husband working at Eaton's 27 years ago.

NAR: Eaton's lead is followed by 2 more important players. The new Winnipeg Post Office and the Bank of Nova Scotia, both leave behind Main St's Banker's Row, to take up prominent places on Portage Ave. And at the corner of P&M, railway developer John Duncan MacArthur will build Winnipeg's first skyscraper, The MacArthur building better known as the Childs building. Portage Ave. fast becomes Winnipeg's new Avenue of Dreams:

BUBBLING WITH LIFE
NAR: Portage Ave. bubbled with life. Filled with shops, theatres and restaurants. Fuelled by the draw of two major department stores: Eaton's and the Bay. Fifty other stores found success located between these two retail giants.

EATON'S
DEBRA JOHNASON YOUNG
The Winnipeg downtown store was 865,000 sq. ft. It offered everything. It was like a full line mall housed in one big store.

CURRIE MCMILLAN, HERITAGE WINNIPEG
I can remember working at Eaton's before WW2, Eaton's was a very, very busy place at the time. I think they accounted for 2/3 of the retail sales in the city of Winnipeg and they would put on special sales. One they had was the Trans Canada sale, and at 9 o'clock when the gong went off, people literally stampeded into the store. They ran up the stairs with the pounding of feet and up the elevators. It was quite a site to see them pouring into the store.


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