Sunday, June 2, 2013

Regent Avenue at Chrislind Street - Hi Neighbour Sam

This post originally appeared in my West End Dumplings blog in August 2009.

Object: Hi Nieghbour Sam
Location: Regent Avenue and Chrislind Street (map)
Installed:August 11, 1968

Artist: Giorgio (George) Barone, Barone Artistics
Cost: $4,150

Barone and Sam, Aug 12, 1968, Winnipeg Free Press, p.3

Transcona's Hi Neighbour Festival commissioned Sam in the summer of 1968 to be their official mascot. Working from a design by Roger Tychonick, artist Giorgio (George) Barone created him for the sum of $4,150.

Barone was used to working on projects of this scale, Sam being 11 feet tall and weighing 1,500 lbs without his base. He had already created numerous mascot statues for towns around the province using his technique of injecting 'vibrofoam' (a synthetic, air filled foam) into a mold. Once hardened, it was covered in multiple layers of fibreglass cloth then topped off with numerous coats of resin.
 November 22, 1966, Winnipeg Free Press

Initially Sam was placed at the south-east corner of Highway 59 (LagimodiĆ©re) and Nairn, in the parking lot of the Crossroads Shopping Centre. Opened in late November 1966, the 17-acre, $3 million, all-weather mall was the shopping mecca of it's day. 

Among its 20 stores it boasted a 128,400 sq ft Woolco, more than double the size of other Winnipeg Woolco outlet. The Safeway was the largest food store in Manitoba at 34,000 sq ft. (By comparison, the Madison Square Safeway is 52,000 sq ft and a new-fangled 'SuperWalmart' is in the 200,000 sq ft range.)

Sam stood tall at this intersection for nearly two decades, eventually chased out by a Chi Chi's Restaurant built in the Crosstown parking lot. His new home was further east on Regent in the parking lot of the Canadian Tire store.

Transcona Sam
In 1987, after nearly 20 years facing the elements and numerous vandalism attacks - most involving the theft of his cane, it was time for some TLC. "He's had kind of a rough life" Pat Louchuk, then head of the Hi Neighbour Festival, told the Winnipeg Free Press in 1987 at the start of the fundraising drive for his refurbishment.

Presumably it was during this makeover that Sam traded in his barbershop quartet outfit consisting of a green and yellow vest and dickie-bow tie to sport the "corporate look" of a Canadian Tire clerk.

In November 2009 Sam was again moved, this time to the boulevard of Regent Avenue near Chrisliand Street. His refurbishment included a new paint job, returning him to something close to his original attire. Lighting was also installed to illuminate him at night.

A History of Hi Neighbour Sam Transcona 100
Hi Neighbour Sam says hi to new neighbours Canstar, Nov 19, 2009
Hi Neighbour Sam Moves Winnipeg Sun, Oct 9, 2009

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