Portage - Our big wide avenue

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By chance, I got into conversations with a couple of folks who were late-comers to Portage la Prairie many years ago. I asked them what their memories were at the time. One was a farm boy who was used to shopping in a small village; he felt that we were a big city with the streets SO wide, especially Saskatchewan Avenue.

Another lady said that when her Ontario friends heard that she was moving to Portage, they chuckled. All they knew about the place was that the main drag was so wide one had to pack a lunch before thinking of crossing over to the other side. My dear old Grannie would attest to that, for she would never even step off the sidewalk if there was even one vehicle coming-and-going on The Avenue.

Yes, Saskatchewan Avenue is extra-ordinarily wide. But then Broadway, which is our Fifth Street East, is broader than most streets, too. The old story is that the former had to be that wide to accommodate all the ox carts coming through town, with each one making its own ruts in the mud. Or something like that.

Getting more famous

It seems that the name of our fair city is getting more known far and wide, for one reason or another. Our very own Terriers Hockey Team has hit the headlines quite often. Not too long ago, a tragic incident on a Greyhound Bus got our name mentioned on the national news. Let’s not talk about that though….. And now our new pea processing plant, Roquette, is hitting the news, with someplace called Portage la Prairie being mentioned as the location. Portage la what?

Anyone researching the names of the past prime ministers of Canada will surely come across the fact that Arthur Meighen, though not a native son started his political career here, and what about the present premier of Manitoba, Mr. Pallister.

Let’s not overlook our very own Portage la Prairie Mutual Insurance Company, started in 1884 by local farmers right here on the Portage Plains, with its head office here and branch offices across most of Canada. Someone once asked why it did not shorten its name instead of giving a geography lesson. It never did, though it is often referred to just as “The Portage”, with most of us simply refer to it as “The Mutual” or maybe “PMI”.

Quarantine – That’s a word

For a little boy in grade school, to spell it or even pronounce it would be a chore. But now it is coming into common use again. Yes, I was in Grade Two and again in Grade Three when I got “quarantined”. It seems that my little sister caught the measles and then the scarlet fever…..we got a sign nailed on the front door……and I could not go to school for the month of June. Dad and my brother had to move in with the neighbor, while Mom and the grandparents and me had to remain cooped-up. Except for the inoculations and the resulting red hives, we were all okay at home, including the wee patient. Yes, I got passed into the next grade, but for two years in a row, I missed the party on the last day of school, ice cream and all!

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