Reason 12/338 of Why I love Winnipeg!
I’m enchanted and entranced with days of old, and I feel an odd twinge of sadness when I think about all the amazing acts I’ll never see, and a point in time that is quickly disappearing, as if it never really existed at all. I fear in the blink of an eye, it will be gone.
A neat little piece of Winnipeg history. Did you know that at one point in time, Winnipeg was perhaps the most important theatrical city in North America?
“Why Winnipeg you ask? Well the answer is quite simple. The great vaudeville circuits of North America were divided into two distinct groups, those who operated East of the Mississippi River and those who operated West of the Mississippi River. The Kieth, Schubert, and Loew theatre chains dominated the East while the Orpheum, Radio and Pantages chains dominated the West. Alexander Pantages, builder of Winnipeg’s Pantages Playhouse Theatre in 1914, is quoted as saying “all my acts originate in Winnipeg and move around the circuit.” If an act died in Winnipeg it didn’t go on the road. The majority of the vaudeville acts would make the transition from the Circuits of the Eastern United States to the West at Minneapolis, taking the Burlington Northern into Winnipeg to play the big time.”
We’ve hosted all the greats. From Bob Hope, George Burns and Laurel and Hardy to Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin.
Bob Hope has often spoke about how he learned to golf here in Winnipeg.
In fact, there are whispers that Groucho Marx first met Charlie Chaplin here in Winnipeg at the Empress Theatre. It was apparently during a 3 hour stopover between Minneapolis and Edmonton that Groucho found he had nothing to do. After taking a stroll down Main Street, he paused outside the Empress Theatre to listen to the loudest laughter he had ever heard. Inside, he stood captivated by Chaplin, introducing himself backstage after the show.
A year later, they toured together.
That’s a pretty damn fantastic snippet of info, no?
If this is your bag of tricks, I highly recommend heading over to the Manitoba Archives Building and digging around through history. I went once with the intention of being in and out, 4 hours later I was immersed in a Winnipeg I never knew existed.
I can’t wait to go back.
Yeah, I love Winnipeg. Our History is teeming with awesome, and we barely even know it.