Wednesday, March 10, 2021

639 - 641 Broadway - Templeton's Hair / WannaBees Diner

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Google Street View

Place: Templeton's Artistic Hairdressing / Salisbury House / Wannabees Diner
Address: 639 - 641 Broadway (Map)
Constructed: 1934
Contractor: S. Lanktree Thompson

Broadway circa 19-teens (Berman Postcard Collection)

The first urban development on this site was a house constructed around 1895.

At the time, this stretch of Broadway would have been a sparsely populated, suburban setting with just fourteen addresses - all houses - on between Good to Sherbrook. Many of the surrounding streets still had larger estates waiting to be subdivided. (The landmark Young Methodist Church was not built until 1906 and 1910.)

1901 Census of Canada, (Library and Archives Canada)

The first resident of the house was Ernest H. Bissett and family. He seemed to do double duty as manager of Northern Fire Assurance Company and the Winnipeg Water Works, the latter was a private company not the city department. They stayed here until around 1900.

 It was then the turn of John D. McMurray and family. He was a gold miner born in the North West Territories with a wife and three children. Also living with them were the Bedsons, Mrs. McMurray's brother and his family, plus a domestic servant.

The McMurrays were gone by 1906 and after that the house saw many residents. Checking in every four years in street directories show a different lineup of people living there each time.

The final lineup of residents in 1934 were: William Rayner, labourer, who may have been the owner, and lWinnipeg odgers, Robert Clark - janitor, J M Reid, and John Lee.

August 29, 1934, Winnipeg Tribune

Great change came to this intersection in August 1934 with what appears to be two permits granted for new buildings.

The Winnipeg Tribune of August 29, 1934 notes that a permit was granted to S. Lanktree Thompson “to erect a store at the north-east corner of Broadway and Langside” measuring 32 feet x 56 feet. He was reminded that if he built to the street line he would be required to remove the front seven feet of the building when the street was eventually widened. The owners of the property appear to be Ryan Bros.

The same duo of Ryan Bros. and Thompson got another building permit that week for a two-storey building at the same intersection.

October 19, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

Samuel Lanktree Thompson was a former high school track star turned home builder. In 1929, he started S. Lanktree Thompson Ltd. and specialized in quality, middle class homes primarily on River Heights streets such as Borebank, Elm, Oak, and Cordova. He teamed up in 1931 with Eaton's to build show home at 149 Elm Street finished with an Eaton's interior. In 1939, he had ten houses on the go at one time on Borebank.

There are few mentions of Thompson building commercial properties. The examples appear to be all on Broadway, such as the two at Broadway and Langside and the Safeway, now Pal's Grocery, at Broadway and Young.

Thompson awarded the subcontracts for 341 Broadway in September 1934 and work began soon after.

The first to call the new commercial building home was George. V. Templeton who opened Templeton's Artistic Hairdressing in February 1935. It's unclear if he bought the building or just rented the space.

Templeton was from Austin, Manitoba and came to Winnipeg as a young child with his family. Prior to striking out on his own he worked as a barber at New York Hair, a large shop with more than a dozen stylists at 375 Portage. He lived at 221 Spence Street with his wife, Annie Louise Baines, whom he
married in June 1934.

The hair salon was the only occupant of the building until 1939 when it was subdivided into two spaces with Templeton in the smaller, western portion at number 641 and a larger space at number 639. (This required some renumbering of buildings as prior to 1939, 639 Broadway was on the east side of Langside.)

October 23, 1943, Winnipeg Tribune

The new space became Maxwell House cafe in late 1939. This was its second location, the first was at 102 Sherbrook Street, now Sherbrook Delicatessen, run by Mrs. Pearl Brown of 120 Sherbrook Street. (In case you're wondering, yes, Maxwell House coffee was already a regularly advertised brand of coffee.)

The chain seems to have changed hands in 1942 to S. Knight and in 1943 - 44 the proprietor of the 639 Broadway location was G. Dvorak.

In late 1944, the cafe was renamed Broadway Lunch which appears to have lasted only a year or so.

July 2, 1946, Winnipeg Tribune

Salisbury House took over the restaurant space in 1946. This would be the fifth location of the local chain which was established in 1931. The others were at: Portage Avenue at Spence; 254 Kennedy Street; Broadway and Osborne; and a coffee / cigar stand in the central bus depot on Graham Avenue at Hargrave.

Templeton closed his shop in late 1946 or early 1947 due to poor health and eventually relocated to Vancouver. In 1959, he moved again to Calgary where he spent the last four years of his life at the Calgary Bethany Chronic Hospital likely suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. He died in Calgary in 1964 at the age of 56, leaving a widow and two children.

Salisbury House then took over the 641 portion of the building as its personnel office and called this building home until 1983. Permits were taken out for interior renovations in 1955, 1960 and 1978.

There were a couple of notable items during its time as a Sals.

May 1969 protest, Winnipeg Tribune Photo Collection, U of M Archives

In the 1960s, the West Broadway and Osborne Village areas became "hippie" hangouts. Some were locals but many were travellers hitchhiking across the country. For Sals and some other traditional businesses in the neighbourhoods the hippies were a problem. In the case of Sals, they would arrive in the morning and use the restaurant as an all-day hangout preventing other customers from eating there.

In 1969, "About 40 long-haired picketers paraded outside the Langside and Broadway Salisbury House Wednesday evening after they were refused service", reported the Winnipeg Tribune.

December 20, 1975, Winnipeg Free Press

Those "problem hippies" had a lasting impact on West Broadway and Osborne Village.

In West Broadway, Klinic Community Health can trace its roots back to serving this group. Its creation, in turn, surely meant that the last grand home on the street, Wilson House (also see) at 545 Broadway, has remained standing to this day.

We can also thank the hippies for creating what we now know as Osborne Village.

In the 1960s, that section of Osborne Street was run down, and city planners wanted to demolish it to end the traffic bottleneck south of River Avenue. The low rents attracted hippies and soon businesses catering to their needs began to spring up; everything from cafes and jewellery makers to clothing stores and health food shops.

The alternative vibe of the neighbourhood made it a popular place to visit and more businesses moved in. Merchants began marketing themselves as the "Osborne Street Village" in the mid-1970s and hopes of demolishing the block and its eclectic collection of shops disappeared.

April 29, 2016, Salisbury House ad

Tom Starr arrived in Winnipeg in 1947 from the Interlake knowing no-one and with only a few dollars to his name. He got a job as a dishwasher at Salisbury House and worked for the company for nearly 60 years. For a time, he was the manager of the Broadway and Langside location.

The above anecdote about being crowned "The Duke of Broadway" must have taken place in July 1970 as that is the only time the Queen visited during Schreyer's tenure as premier.

Starr died in 2011.

Salisbury House closed this restaurant in 1983 in favour of a larger location at 699 Broadway. After nearly a decade as a Chinese restaurant, 24-year-old Karen Ashley and business partner opened their WanneBees Diner here in 1993. The business partner left after a couple of years and Ashley has been a one woman show ever since.

The 1990s were not stellar years for the West Broadway neighbourhood. It was often in the news for its gang activity and crime - including the occasional homicide. As for why she would choose such a neighbourhood, Ashley explains, “I was looking for a small space and only had a limit amount of money” and admits, "I went through a learning curve on life as it was all new to me coming from the suburbs!"

As for the name of the diner, Ashley says, “everyone is a wannabee”.

After 28 years and counting, Ashley and Wannabees have become neighbourhood institutions and an important part of the history this intersection. In its 126 years of urban development, only Salisbury House at 37 years was here longer !) 

Looking back, Ashley says, "If I learned anything in life from being on this corner every day (it's that) everyone has a story. I love my job !!

The 31-seat diner is open Monday to Friday from 7 am to 2 pm and Saturdays from 8 am to 1 pm. it's a cash only joint !

Also see:
WannaBees Diner Facebook page
WannaBees Diner Dining with Donald

For more about West Broadway history, see A Divided Prairie Neighbourhood, Rising to the Occasion, and this West End Dumplings series.

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