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The Winges Family - Good Neighbours
by Dorothy Helferty - Mainstreeter - October 1990
Editor's Note - this article appeared in 3 parts in the Mainstreeter.
For two brothers, Arthur Winges, 87, and Gerhardt Winges (Gai), 81, Ottawa East has always been home. They agree it a pleasant place to live, among family and friends of many years, and alive with memories of their happy childhood.
They were born in the attractive white house at 228 Main Street, corner of Herridge and Main, where Arthur still lives, now with his daughter Gloria and son-in-law Garry Ryan. Arthur is a widower now. Gai lives on Springhurst Avenue with his wife
The house where Arthur and Gai and their five sisters and four bro-thers were born was built in the 1880s by their father, Wilhelm with help from several friends in the district. He came to Ottawa East from Trusetal, Germany, and was married to Henrieta Stolzman in Ottawa.
Originally the house was fifteen feet longer than it appears today, and included a summer kit-chen, a familiar and convenient adjunct to houses in those days. Over the summer kitchen was an unheated room where their own smoked meats were hung, and where vegetables and fruit were stored for winter use.
Main street Then
Main street was an earthen road when they were young, dry and dusty in
summer, muddy when it rained and rut-ted and snow-filled in winter. There
were wooden plank sidewalks. The street was lined with shade trees and
bushes along much of its length, with wooden and brick houses - some of
which survive today, and many with white picket fences. A pretty little
town, they remember.
Horse-drawn buggies and wagons proceeded at a leisurely pace where now motor-cars, trucks and buses speed madly along. They remember another kind of Main street than the one we know today.
Blacksmith Shop and others
There was a blacksmith shop on Main, opposite Oblate Avenue. Here Arthur age nine got his "first job". He relates, "I thought I'd like a job - one that I'd be paid for." So I asked for work at the blacksmith shop and spent the morning sweeping out. And for my morning's work got one cent in pay. I didn't go back in the afternoon - that seemed to be that!" .
Near Hurdman's Bridge on the Rideau River was an abattoir which supplied meat to the district families. "We often saw Main street thronged with cattle off-loaded from the railway at Harvey street and herded down to their fate," they recall.
The Old Town Hall was built in 1895 to serve as headquarters of municipal and local government and had a jail cell in the basement. In addition, the building was a rendezvous for public meetings and social gatherings, and held the first public school kindergarten.
Across from the Winges home were, and are, what is referred to locally as the "church proper-ties" where St. Paul's University is located. Arthur spoke of a great oak tree right across the street and still visible from his living room windows. "One day when I was a boy, I saw that tree planted, and never thought that that tree and I would grow old together. It has seen a lot of summers, but then I guess, So have I," he laughs.
South of their house on Main was an area of orchards and pasture know as Slattery's Field. Now it is filled with neat attractive houses; streets and crescents run down to the Canal. In the Winges's youth it was a "playground" where they played their games of Hide-and-Seek, ball and fort building. They "helped themselves" to apples and had wonderful times.
Arthur and Gai agree their leisure time was full of fun and child-hood games, sports, picnics and visiting back and forth with cousins and friends. "We were always busy. I never remember being bored in our quiet times. There were books to read, studying to do. We had good lives, and still do, for that matter," they claim. Gai remembers the brickyard south of the "church properties" on the east side of Main and opposite Slattery's Field, (from about Clegg street to Beckwith Road by today's measure). Bricks for homes and buildings in Ottawa and Ottawa East were made there. Clay was quar-ried from the yard and fired into bricks in the huge kiln that extended from Main to the Rideau River.
"I learned to swim in one of the great holes quarried from the ground," he says. But the serious swimming for children was, of course, at Brantwood Beach. "We thought the glorious days of swimming and fishing at Brantwood would never end," Gai says. "We had little knowledge or even thought of pollution in those days." He added that he "feels rather sorry for today's children" denied the simple pleasure of swimming in their own Rideau River.
In the Spring the Winges children would watch ice being cut from the Ri-deau into huge chunks and stored in huts for needed "refrigeration" of early days: When ice was needed the blocks would be distributed in ice wagons and "it was fun sneaking rides on the wagon and, with our pocket knives, hacking off bits of ice from the blocks to suck as we rode gleefully home in style."
A Long Walk
Arthur and Gai, (with their cousins, school mates and sisters) walked
across the railway track, and past many of the shops on their way to school.
And it was a long walk: down Main street, Greenfield to Nelson, and up
the steep hill to their school, St Paul's Lutheran at Nelson and Laurier.
"I don't remember thinking it. was too long, every-body walked to
The family went to church at St.Paul's Lutheran at Wilbrod and King Edward. "I learned my catechism in both German and English," Arthur remembers.
Not All Play
It was not all play for the children when they were home from school - there were chores to be done. Garden work was constant from early Spring planting through Summer and Fall. Weeding the garden, tending the apple trees, situa-ted in the lot just north of the home, was day-by-day work to ensure an efficient garden plot. Vegetables and fruits from the well-laden gardens that fed them all summer were harvested and stored for winter eating.
"We had berries from the garden for our fruit treats, and apples
to munch and to enjoy made
"Women had to be efficient cooks and bakers then and Mother was certainly in that cate-gory. We were particu-larly fond of a sweet bread she used to bake, called 'Kuchen'. This had a wonderful sugar topping made with fruit, a supreme joy to eat. We all loved it and still have the pans, fifteen by eighteen inches, that she use to make it," Arthur relates.
"And there were animals to tend - a pig and a cow, and usually chickens. We never seemed to find time hanging heavily on our hands. Our parents saw to that and, again, like walking to school, just part of a day's routine. "We never thought we were put-upon by our tasks. The chores were there and we did them. It was as simple as that."
The Coming of Winter
As with all families early in the century, the Winges's plans for winter had to be made and tasks completed well before the first snow-fall. Wood had to be cut or bought, coal "in" and the home secured against winter cold.
"We would buy a pig, usually one that weighed about 125 pounds,
but-cher it, have the meat cut and smoked it in our smoke house,"
Arthur recalls and says it "cost about $7.50 in those
The present garden, as it did in former years, comprises the whole lot adjacent to and just north of the house. In Spring, Summer and Fall it is a neighbourhood showplace of beauty and delight, the personal creation of Arthur, Gloria and Garry. Flowers, stone paths, lawns and hedges, a trellis-walled gazebo next to the house, the pristine white of the buildings present a scene of beauty to the family, neighbours and passerby.
Arthur and Gai Winges supplied us with such a wealth of information on their early life in Ottawa East that we de-cided to make a special feature of their story. The next issue of the MainStreeter will des-cribe their games and activities and the one following, a tour of Main Street, 1914.
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