Churchill Reminiscence
Shared Memories and Photos of Life in Churchill
(a reunion page for former residents)

Life in Churchill
(reflections from the late 1960s)

1. My Dad was in the Navy and was stationed at HMCS Churchill. Weird. HMCS stands for "Her Majesty's Canadian Ship." It wasn't a ship. It was a three story building near Akudlik (the Eskimo village) on the edge of a paved road running between the Port and Fort Churchill. The purpose was to provide power to Akudlik, Camp 10 (Dene Village, the Metis homesites), the town (Port) and the suburbs (Fort). Suburbs ... hah! :)

2. The "Fort" was southeast of the Port or Town, about half a mile east of the airport, and was home to about 3,500+ military personnel and civilians attached to the military. The homes were like two-story townhouses in groups of four, forming a block. Each block connected to the next with an above ground enclosed corridor (we called them tunnels). There were about 10 blocks to a row. Further, clusters of rows formed the "areas." My dad was an officer so we lived in "G" area which had only one row running parallel to the airport runway. I watched the Hercules transport planes land every week or so from my bedroom window. "A" area was for the senior scientists and military advisors and was also one row. "E" area was mostly civilians attached to the DND Rocket range. "J" area had over a dozen rows and was home to general military personnel and civilians. The floor plan and decor of the PMQs (permanent married quarters) was universally identical which made the separation a bit laughable. Ah, there's "society" everywhere, I suppose. There were also "bachelor" quarters for several hundred men and, I suppose, a few women, although I recall that an unescorted woman was a rare thing indeed.

3. There were two "private" clubs for the purposes of social consumption of alcohol - the Aurora Club and the Borealis Club. The Aurora showed movies to kids on Saturday afternoon.

4. The Garrison Theatre was a real movie theatre with tilting seats, red velvet curtains, and the works. I saw "To Sir With Love" and many other films (wasn't allowed to see Psycho ...) as well as concerts starring "The Guess Who," "The Moss," and "Three Penny Opera." I don't think the latter two survived very long. :)

5. The "Duke of Edinborough" Secondary school was the answer to the the "Duke of Marlborough" secondary school in the Port. We had "Hearne Hall" elementary school and I regret not remembering the name of the elementary school in the Port.

6. We had 10 lanes of 5-pin bowling. Upon winning the local tourney and beating two boys, one from Gillam and the other from Lynn Lake I believe, I became the Northern Manitoba Champion (age 10 group) in 1969 - woo hoo! A trip to Winnipeg by train for the Provincial tournament was a big adventure. I was soundly trounced but I still have the several vintage Hot Wheels toy cars I bought at the time. As far as recreation goes, there was also a covered ice rink (flood the floors, open the doors, and skate), and a grocery store with a department store outlet and catalogue centre upstairs.

7. We had a 24/7 hospital (my mom was a nurse). In addition to normal hospital duty, mom flew emergency medical visits to Frobisher Bay (Iqualuit), Pangurtung, and other places further North. She also hosted a training course for nurses aides - usually attended by young Inuit women seeking an avenue southward. I think the dentist only came to town once or twice a year. I know the eye doctor was a traveler.

8. Further southeast was the Scout Camp and east of that was the "Rocket Range" - about 10 miles away as I recall - probably 15 miles from what remains of the Port/town. During a scout visit in 1968 I saw a magical device in a shielded cage that boiled a cup of water in a styrofoam cup. Eventually, I, too, would own a microwave oven. The range was described as a joint Canadian/American weather research station (rockets ... weather balloon).

9. Tourism ... nope. Not while I was there. June 30 is my birthday. I have several pictures of me and a few friends, in parkas and beekeepers hats, huddled around a concrete fire pit, trying desperately to cook a hot dog and quickly return to the warmth of the car - remember, June 30. It was pretty tough to toss that image in a brochure and coerce folks to come up and share the experience. Obviously, eco-tourism is a whole new game and Churchill will do well for it.

10. There was a Catholic Church and an Anglican Church in the Fort. Same building, just two offices and different schedules. There was an Alliance Church in the Port (somewhat like Evangelical, I suppose).

11. Business was almost entirely devoted to grain shipment (civilian) or the protection of North America from the Red Menace (military). :) Actually, the Rocket Range was used mostly as a weather research station. I saw many huge silver helium balloons disappear into the clear blue sky.

12. I suspect the Fort Prince of Wales is still there on the other side of the river mouth? An amazing structure considering where it is and the decades it took to build it - and restore it.

13. Speaking of population ... in 1931, over 3,000 men worked to construct the grain processing facilities with a capacity of 2.5 million bushels. In the six weeks of ice-free weather, Port Churchill ships more grain than any other port in Canada. I believe this to still be true.

14. We had taped television broadcasts to each home. The hockey games were always a week old but we avoided "real-time" reports and treated each game like it was live. We had a 1-hour live news broadcast each day. Here I must tell you something that still makes me smile. The boy who was the grade 12 (senior) class president was offered a slot as the Friday news anchor. Now before we get all excited, we're talking about a folding chair, a card table, a backdrop curtain with a picture of Canada ... slightly askew ... and not a whole lot of news fodder other that public service announcements.

To clarify, we had no news because there wasn't any. If it happened in Churchill, we all already knew about it. If it happened elsewhere, we weren't going to know about it for a week or so anyway so it hardly warranted live coverage. So, after a few guest broadcasts, the student was getting a bit full of himself, big TV star and all. So one day as he was detailing the schedule for the upcoming ladies auxiliary tea party he was handed a "flash bulletin" - "for urgent and immediate release." Wide eyed, he began to read ... "... this just in." He looked up, feeling smug in his new importance, and continued, "Persons throughout the Fort are increasingly concerned about the intermittent appearances of a mysterious cat. However, several clues to its identity can be revealed." At this point he wrinkled his brow with uncertainty but decided to plow on ... "ahem, the cat is known to have a wooden leg, a straw hat, and answers to the name of Sir Cuthbert." At this point, a puppet of a peg-legged cat appeared over the backdrop behind the hapless boy and started to dance. The crew was laughing so hard the camera shook. The boy spun around, yelped, and jumped off-camera. A Bugs Bunny cartoon started immediately. It was several weeks before the boy came back to do the job as a humble and dedicated member of the broadcast journalism profession. Brave soul. :).

15. In 1969, we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon within a few days of the actual event due to a "rush" shipment of the tapes.

Cheers.

Contributed by Ian, Victoria, British Columbia



This page is the result of interesting messages from people who have lived in Churchill. It somehow seemed that their memories, stories, and photos should be shared and they agreed. The content of this page is the result. Some have chosen to list their names, while others preferred to remain anonymous. Either way, they have made a contribution that is important and I'm sure those who explore the content of this page will agree.

If you lived in Churchill during the 1950s or 1960s (or even earlier) and have stories and/or photos that you would like to share, please email sphutchens@yahoo.com. Although I must reserve the right of editorial oversight, there is no cost for including your contribution. You can list your name or remain anonymous as you prefer. When you write, please use "Churchill History" on the Subject line.



Churchill Memories ... stories from those who have lived in Churchill

     Two boys, two snowmobiles, and one bear
     A boy and a cannon ball
     Life for a young couple in Churchill in 1963



Churchill Photos ... historic photos from Churchill's past




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(Page created 12/20/03 and updated 9/29/2004.)