Arnes Farmer’s Market


Gimli Life: The farmer’s market on Salt Spring Island attracts people by the thousands. For many people, the summer Farmer’s Market defines Sal t Spring. That’s in spite of their having to pay anywhere from 50 to a 100 dollars to take the ferry from Vancouver Island to Salt Spring. The vendors sell everything from art to cheese to locally made musical instruments. Local musicians perform. It is, as they say, crazy busy. It is a happy place. I love going there. I never intend to buy anything but I always end up spending money. I mean tie dyed underwear, organic tomatoes, gluten free baking.

Everyone benefits. The market raises awareness for local products and producers. It has had a large impact on increasing Salt Spring’s visibility. Visitors buy meals and snacks from local vendors, pile into local restaurants, visit souvenir shops, throng the ice cream and chocolate shops. People come to have a good time and to spend money. Going to the market has become an event to be anticipated, planned, enjoyed.

I was thrilled when I heard that there was a farmer’s market in Arnes. I’d never heard of Dennis Bobrovich but I thought, thank goodness, there is someone around who understands what it is that people want and has set out to meet that demand. People are fed up with big box impersonal stores. Thank goodness for someone who wants people to have a good time.

Farmer’s markets, filled with jam makers, pie bakers, potters, perogi pinchers, antique promoters, bird house builders, sign designers and a host of others, are a place to relax, to have an  hour or two’s strolling in the sun. Today I bought chokecherry jelly and a lemon loaf. I wish I’d bought the Saskatoon pie from the Mennonites.

I had the pleasure of watching Kirk Creed as he worked on a wheel  creating a jug. He is so good a potter that he made it look easy.  I think it is great that I got to watch him create his fine pieces of pottery,  that he gets to demonstrate his skill and knowledge. As he worked, a group gathered and asked questions. Kirk answered the questions, helped to make the visit to the market enjoyable and memorable for those visitors.  His pottery, as one young woman said, is beautiful. Every home should have a piece.

Some people have criticized the municipal council for encouraging people to sell at Arnes rather than at the Gimli harbour. However, the municipal council, now that it represents a much broader area than just Gimli, may feel that to encourage a farmer’s market in town will just increase problems with parking, overcrowd the restaurants, and deplete the supply of Viking helmets.

A friend said to me that the Arnes Market gets better every year. I’m glad to hear that. Camp Morton, Arnes, Hnausa, Finns, Riverton, got a raw deal when Hecla was taken over by the government and highway eight was built without any concern for the impact on the New Iceland communities. These communities with their long histories, their unique cultures, were no longer viable. People in Western Canada have always known how critical the road or railway was that went through town. There have been instances of entire towns being moved because a rail line was going to be built away from them. The builders of highway eight to Hecla must have known that history. It grieves me because Camp Morton, Arnes, Hnausa, Riverton were an important part of my Icelandic heritage.

Dennis, keep building, keep innovating. Nelson Gerrard get more of Riverton’s history up where people can see it and experience it. Let’s get people back on the New Iceland highway.


Monty Hall Called


The phone rang. A woman said Monty Hall would like to talk to you about your recent blog about a Revue held in Gimli in 1944. Monty Hall! Monty Hall? Holy smokes! Wait until I get a pen, I said. Sure enough, it was Monty Hall calling from Hollywood. He’s now 93 but you’d never know it from talking to him. He’s as pleasant, affable, personable as he was when he was hosting Let’s Make A Deal.

In the 1944 Revue program he is Monte Halparin, the boy from Winnipeg, the part time employee of CKRC. He still lived in Winnipeg’s north end.  He told me that after he graduated from university, he worked full time for CKRC but that ended when his boss called him in one day and said, “You need to quit and go to Toronto. If  you stay here, you’ll end up going nowhere. You’re better than this.” He went home and told his parents, Rose and Maurice Halparin, that he was going to Toronto. It was 1946. They wanted to know if he had a job. He said no but his boss had said he should go and so he was going. He said at first it was a struggle but he succeeded, then went on to New York and started the struggle all over.

He found a niche in hosting game shows. He guest-hosted game shows like Strike It Rich on CBS. He hosted numerous shows but the one I remember best is Let’s Make A Deal. How successful was this Winnipeg boy who remembers Winnipeg Beach and Gimli with great fondness? In 1973, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Government of Canada gave him the Order of Canada. His awards are many.

He said a number of times that to be successful you must be able to face rejection and you must believe in yourself. When he was performing in Vegas, a comedian came to him, devastated because an agent had told  him to quit trying to make it. He didn’t have what it takes. Monty said to him you are only out when you believe you are out. Not until then.

He has fond memories of the beautiful Icelandic girls of West End Winnipeg. He had a real crush on at least one of them.  He had high praise for the people he worked with on the Revue. It was not just a Gimli revue. Mrs. Zimmerman organized and ran this revue that was performed every weekend with the performers traveling by bus to military bases one to two hundred miles away. They did three performances in a day. One for the officers and two for the enlisted men. Monty acted, sang, performed in skits, MC’d. Great experience for his coming career.

Mom! Mom! I hope you are listening. Monty Hall called. He’s a really nice guy. I got to talk to one of the people we listened to on radio, watched on TV, a Winnipeg boy from the North End. He made my day.



Priorities of 1944: Variety Review


Jim Anderson calls them ephemera. They’re the kind of thing people throw away after a play or musical event. And, yet, programs, program notes, cast lists, summaries, advertisements are important because they are often the only record we have of past events, the only record of who participated, who supported these events.

When my cousin, Dilla Narfason, showed me “Priorities of 1944 Variety Revue” sponsored by the Gimli Women’s Institute, I was immediately curious. I was held a the Parish Hall, the very Parish Hall where we held our school drama night and where I danced in a circle dressed as an elf. It, the revue, not my being an elf, was held on Monday, the eleventh day of September nineteen hundred and forty four. It was produced by Mrs. W. H. Zimmerman. We know, or at least can guess, that Mrs. Zimmerman was married to W. Harry Zimmerman. Harry, if I may be so bold, has an ad in the program in which he encourages fathers to invest in a policy for their sons’ educations. No word of any daughters. The illustration is of a father handing his son a golf club. Don’t be incensed. It was, after all, 1944, one year before the end of WWI. Harry was representative of Great-West Life

Dilla was a teenager at the time. She and her friends attended the revue. I expect it was a big event. Famous stars from the city coming to perform, stars that people heard on the radio every day. After the event was over, Dilla’s friends dared her to go up to the front and ask the performers for their signatures. She did and the result is a program covered with autographs.

The variety show was supported with a whole page ad from Armstrong Gimli Fisheries which resided at 807 Great West Permanent Building. Phone numbers were still short: 93 047.

In 1944 C. B. Johnson operated Gimli Photo and Dr. K. I. Johnson was one of the local Physicians and Surgeons. Gimli Garage provided a taxicab service at all times. You could phone them at 23.

Greenberg’s coffee bar provided light lunches and H. P. Tergesen was the local general merchant. Tergesen’s is still around seventy years later but the Gimli Bowling Alley on First Avenue is long gone. I have fond memories of it. It was a steady summer source of income because I spent my evenings setting up pins.

T. Eaton Co is long gone. So is Lakeside Trading Co. Harold Bjarnason operated United Stores Ltd, a general store, with deliveries made. I remember those deliveries because Harold Bjarnason, the younger, was a friend of mine in high school and I sometimes went with him delivering groceries from the store’s panel van. I had an accident in that van because of distracted driving. I was distracted by a very attractive girl so much so that I was kissing her and driving at the same time. I ran into the rear fender of a truck parked on the road.

H. R. Tergesen was the local druggist and Dr. F. E. Scribner had come to town. Dr. Frank’s wife, Margaret, was Icelandic but he was of German background and there were rumours that he was a spy. WWII had been going on since 1939 and there were prison camps all across Canada filled with men whose only crime was their name or nationality. The war effort had recruited everyone in defence of Canada. Dr. Frank became our family doctor and friend. G. H. Thorkelson was jeweller and watchmaker. The Marlborough Hotel took an ad even though it was in Winnipeg. A lot of Icelanders stayed there. It was a favorite of my father’s.

The Hotel Como’s proprietor, H. Dougloski promised friendly and courteous accommodation. The Como was located directly across from the train station where the Co-op gas station is now. Manitoba Hydro promises to share the fruits of “our labour”. They were probably better liked then than now.

Grey Goose Bus Lines took a full page ad. Buses in those days were packed. Few people owned cars and the airport was thick with young men traveling back and forth to Winnipeg. I know. Although I was a little kid, I was shipped by bus to Winnipeg on a regular basis, mother to grandmother, grandmother back to mother. The buses were so packed that the driver put folding seats in the aisle.

Dr. A. B. Ingimundson was the dentist and Arnason’s Dairy promised milk from government tested cows. Einarson’s Dairy promised pure, wholesome milk. Was this a suggestion that someone might be providing unwholesome milk?

Brown’s Bread from Selkirk must have sold bread to the local stores because they have an ad. There’s an ad from a Dr. and Mrs. M. Rady. They are a complete mystery. Dominion Business College has an ad and you can tell local fishermen sell fish to Independent fish Co. on Sherbrooke Street.

The Dutch Grill, and I felt clever because I knew about the Dutch Grill. Anne Chudd had told me how they started a café and how she made pies for the OBU (One Big Union) camp just north of Gimli. Then they moved to Centre and Third as the Dutch Grill Central Bakery and bus depot. John Chudd was the proprietor as well as being a blacksmith and, later, a Chrysler dealer and garage owner. Insurance was provided by Anna M. Jonasson. If you wanted a meal you could go to the Gimli Café on First Avenue. They provided hot meals and lunches all day. Gimli Transfer also rented out cottages and provided ice and wood. And, if that wasn’t enough, they also provided taxicab service that was courteous and prompt.

Keystone Fisheries was big. Along with Perfection Net & Twine Company they took a full page ad. They “extend our congratulations on your splendid achievements and accomplishments in the War effort. We sincerely hope that permanent Peace will soon be restored, with complete Vicotray.”

Mrs. Zimmerman was a powerhouse with good social connections. She got Monty Halparin (Monty Hall) from CKRC to be the master of ceremonies. She got Jean and Joyce Salel, the popular juvenile entertainers to come, along with Audrey Gardiner, the Personality Girl, along with Ed. Winnick, CKY Baritone plus the Whistling Billy Mack. There was the “Manitoba Quartette” and CBC concert pianist Beatrice Robinson from Montreal.

There was the Great Haldane, a magician, comedy tumblers, “Boogie Woogie” with Bernard Golsdoff plus Jean Ramsay, Manitoba’s “Snow White” There was a trumpet Solo by Gail Hall and a dance by Gladys Forrester, Canada’s leading dance exponent. It all ended with Harold Green CBC orchestra leader at the piano.

This was a family project because the stage manager was W. Harry Zimmerman and the producer was Mrs. W. Harry Zimmerman.

Which leads to the question who was Mrs. W. Harry Zimmerman? Cousin Dilla said, “She has to have been a local Icelandic girl.” She picked up the phone and confirmed yes, she was Icelandic, her mother and father lived on third avenue two doors down from the Benson house. The Benson House in those days was on the corner of third beside the artesian well where Moscow Gunna hung around handing out propaganda pamphlets from a shopping bag. Our source thought Mrs. Z’s first name was Elsabet, so Betty, but we were unable to unearth her family name or her parents’ names.

1944. There is still a year to go before WWII is over. The town is jammed with air force personnel being trained to go overseas and defeat the Axis. The Gimli Women’s Institute is raising money for the war effort. This revue is a big operation for a small town. However, the co-presidents of the Institute, Mrs. H. R. Tergesen and Mrs. N. Stevens, representing the upper end of the retail and fishing business are quite capable of getting out an audience. It sounds like it was a fun evening but it also was a serious cause.

(If anyone can identify Mrs. Zimmerman, I’d appreciate an email or a phone call, 204-642-7235.) or a message on my blog.


Robbed? Read this.


The insurance agent sells you a policy. Years go by and it gets renewed. If you’re like me, you don’t really pay much attention to it. It’s not exciting reading. Not much plot. No interesting characters. It only becomes relevant when something goes wrong. In my case, that something was my car window being smashed and my beloved camera (SonyA33 plus a new zoom lens) were stolen. It was a smash and grab in an area in which I felt my car and belongings were safe. I lived in Winnipeg for a number of years and worked there sporadically for two years recently. I knew the area around Portage and Main was dangerous even though it is politically incorrect to say so. I didn’t know that that danger had spread all along Portage west until it reached past my alma mater, University of Winnipeg. When I worked as editor of the Icelandic paper, Logberg-Heimskringla, which has offices at Smith and Portage, I was told that, under no circumstances was I to stay in the office past 5:30. There was physical danger in doing so. That risk has now spread the length of Portage, past the Hudson Bay which is where I parked.

When I returned to my car at 10:00 p.m., the window was broken and my photography equipment stolen. I’ve never had anything like this happen before. There is shock. Disbelief. It seems impossible. It takes a while to sink in. I had to decide what to do. I thought I should report to the police but didn’t know where the closest police station was or whether, with a broken window, it was safe to park on the street. Luckily, although it was chilly, it wasn’t raining. I had no way of sealing the broken window. One doesn’t carry duct tape and plastic just in case one’s car has a window smashed.

I drove sixty miles to Gimli, Manitoba, because that is where I am staying for the summer. The next morning, I asked if I could make a report to the local RCMP. They would not make out a report on a crime committed outside their jurisdiction. I checked on line and discovered I could make a report via the internet. Except that the website didn’t work. I wrote down the phone number from non-emergency numbers. I called and waited and waited and waited. Property theft is so prevalent that after an hour I still hadn’t been able to talk to anyone. I called again. The same thing happened. Later in the day I called again. This time I reached a woman who said their lines for reporting non-emergency crimes are so busy that I had to stay on the line no matter how long it took. I was on for over an hour.

I finally contacted a constable. He took down my information but I didn’t have the serial numbers for the camera body and the lens that was in the camera. I had the serial number for the zoom lens because I had just bought it. I did have the serial numbers but they were back home in Victoria, BC. After some cogitating, I thought to call The Camera Store in Calgary. That’s where I had bought the camera three years earlier. Sure enough, they had the serial numbers and sent them to me by email. I called the Winnipeg police and gave them the numbers.

I called my insurance agent in Victoria. HUB. Discovered, to my chagrin that I didn’t understand my coverage. I thought that I was covered by ICBC for theft from my car. Nope. Theft is covered by my house insurance with its $500.00 deductible. That was a surprise. My ICBC deductible was $300.00. That insurance covered replacing the damaged window.

I called the local Ford dealership because I have a Ford Escape. They were pleasant and helpful but they refuse to deal with Manitoba car insurance, AutoPac. They sent me to Geisbrecht’s garage. I made an appointment with Geisbrecht’s.

In the meantime I’d talked to a couple of people regarding the theft insurance. At one point I got a call from a man with a thick East Indian accent. I could not understand what he was saying. He tried. I tried. Finally, I realized, he just wanted me to confirm that I was the person who had his photography equipment stolen. Normally, this would not bother me but when a person has been involved in a smash and grab, lost something that really matters to them, is feeling violated, is angry and upset, having to deal with anyone other than a Canadian is unnecessarily stressful. I finally got an adjuster in Naniamo, BC. He is Canadian. He spoke English clearly. It was a great relief.

I was told to start checking Kijijji, something I knew nothing about. I checked for two nights in a row and, sure enough, there was my camera bag, camera and zoom lens still in its box. The seller wanted $300.00. I phoned Winnipeg. After waiting some time, I got to speak to a constable. He explained that just because I thought the equipment was mine, they could not kick down the person’s door and demand to see the equipment. Nor would he try to buy the equipment back for me. I said that I’d try to buy back the equipment. He didn’t think that would be a good idea. He said I should come into Winnipeg and talk to a detective who might be willing to do something to get a look at the serial numbers.

I had got the car back with the window replaced. I drove to Winnipeg the next morning. I waited (they’re really busy with property crime reporting) but got to see a constable at the desk. He went on Kijijji and found the items I claimed were mine. He printed out pictures of them. In one, the hand holding the box with the lens had a clear tattoo on the inner wrist. I expect that person is known to the police and easily identifiable. The constable said there was a chance I’d get my equipment back.

I’ve had no call from the Winnipeg police. I expect that even though I provided serial numbers that they just filed a report and forgot about it. Property crimes are so low on their list, I’ve been told, that all they do is take reports and file them. They are more concerned with crimes where people get hurt. They leave the settling of property crimes to the insurance companies. People have said that when they’ve had equipment stolen from a vehicle, nothing was done beyond providing a number for an insurance claim. It’s like this is a low level business that involves, petty thieves, the police, the insurance company, and the victim. The thieves steal, the police write reports, the insurance companies pay out claims above deductible, and the victim is hapless and forgotten. Nobody represents the victim.

Given that no one is going to try to solve a crime, no one is going to try to retrieve stolen goods, I think that insurance policy holders should get a list that the selling agent should go over with the policy buyer.

  1. It is your house policy that covers theft from your vehicle. A deductible that seems reasonable for your house may not be reasonable for theft from your vehicle. Think about what might be stolen from your vehicle and set your deductible on that basis.
  2. Do not leave items in your vehicle where they can be seen. A thief doesn’t care if it costs you five hundred dollars to replace a window so he can steal an item that is worth fifty dollars on the street. It cost him nothing. The amount he gets is all profit.
  3. Try to find out what the crime rate is like in an area where you going. I knew that the area around Portage and Main were high crime areas. I did not know that this high crime rate had extended to areas much further south along Portage Avenue.
  4. Do not park on parking lots that do not have attendants. Place emphasis for parking on security rather than convenience. If you are going to be in an area try to find out local knowledge about when it is safe and not safe to park. Often, parking is safe during the day but not once the working day is over.
  5. If your vehicle is broken into, you must make a report to the police. Non emergency crime events are so common that some police departments accept reports over the internet. They will give you a report number to give to your insurance company.
  6. You can report a crime by telephone. Get a report number, you will need it.
  7. Police, RCMP, will not make out reports for areas outside their jurisdiction.
  8. Have the your insurance company’s name and phone numbers with you. Call them.
  9. Your agent will help direct your next phone calls. Damage to your car goes to your provincial insurer. In BC that is ICBC. Theft goes to the provider of your home insurance.
  10. You will not be dealing with the person who sold you the insurance. He works for the agent that represents a number of insurance companies. You will end up dealing with a number of people before you are assigned an adjuster who is working for the insurance company that actually insured you. When you get to this stage is when you’ll want to have receipts that show what you paid for the items stolen. When you buy things, keep receipts.
  11. The adjuster will make an offer based on the original cost, the discount because of age, etc.
  12. Don’t waste your time worrying about whether the police will get your belongings back. They won’t. They’re busy with crimes against people. Robbery, home invasion, assault, rape, murder, arson, etc. You’re losing a bunch of items, even if they are important to you, isn’t at the top of their list. In the time that my camera was stolen and I was reporting and hoping I might get it back, there were a number of people attacked in violent crimes.
  13. Items are stolen to be sold. My equipment appeared on Kijijii. I might have got it back for the three hundred dollar asking price if I’d moved quickly enough. I needed to know someone I could pay to buy back the equipment. In Victoria, my home city, I’d have known who to call. In Winnipeg, I didn’t. By the time I figured out who to ask to make a phone call and arrange a buy, the equipment had disappeared from the site.
  14. The thief’s job. Steal your belongings. The police’s job. Make a report. The insurance company’s job. Pay for the stolen equipment. It’s nobody’s job to try to catch the thief or to get back your belongings. You are on your own.

Desperate Manitobans

032They’ve survived the coldest winter since 1889. The temperatures plunged to minus fifty. It was colder than Siberia. Snow drifted until it covered windows. They could hear the houses cracking and creaking as the cold squeezed the joints. Ice formed on the lake until it was six feet deep. Winter began early and didn’t end until spring was nearly summer. People stood at windows and stared longingly at the sky, hoping for a peek at the sun.

They survived. After all, they are Manitobans. They still remember stories told by earlier generations of climbing out of two storey windows onto snow drifts, of driving in trenches of snow ten feet high, of cattle frozen to death standing up in the fields. Like the bears, they hunkered down, became drowsy in front of television sets, watched a life time of rented movies, raised the birth rate in the coming fall, dreamed of green grass and stood longingly in front of store displays of flower and vegetable seeds. They nurtured geraniums in pots. Summer will come, they whispered to their children as they put them to bed.

Spring has come and gone. It’s been a spring of dark clouds, cold rain, late melting snow, the kind of spring in the days when local farmers grew their own food, caused nightmares of a hungry winter to come.

Summer is here and desperation is everywhere. It’s in the farmers’ eyes, farmers who can’t seed their fields, farmers who have seeded their fields, fields that are now underwater. It’s in the wearing of shorts and rubber boots and determinedly eating an ice cream in spite of the rain while wading through puddles.

Manitobans are defiant. There were three women in bikinis lying in deck chairs at the hotel outdoor pool. In spite of the wind, in spite of the rain, in spite of the ominous clouds. I kept waiting for them to start singing “We will overcome.” One of them was so hopeful that she was rubbing on suntan lotion.

The guy who rents bicycles, tricycles, quadracycles was animatedly explaining to a father, mother and two children the advantages of seeing the town under pedal power. The father kept looking skeptically at the dirty grey clouds. Rain started and ruined he salesman’s pitch. However, Manitobans wouldn’t have called it rain. Rain here has to reach a certain level of drops per square foot before it is considered rain. This would be considered a gentle sprinkle. I remember my mother saying to me, get out there and deliver your newspapers and me saying, “In that?” and her saying, “That’s nothing. It’s just a little sprinkle.” I thought it warranted the building of an ark.

It is dispiriting to watch a man eating a soft ice cream cone dipped in chocolate in the rain. Especially when he’s wearing bright tartan shorts and a lemon yellow golf shirt. He has a determined, bulldog look. He is not seeing, feeling or acknowledging the rain. I think he should move under a canopy before the cone gets soggy.

Is there any sight sadder than a beach with hardly anyone on it? Beaches are not complete without people lying on blankets and towels, gamboling in the waves, playing with brightly colored balls, flirting, squealing, building sand castles. Today, five determined souls were wading about the shore. They couldn’t be locals, I thought. We were taught by our mothers that black clouds often harbored lightening and lightening is attracted to the highest object on a flat surface such as a lake. I kept waiting for a lightning bolt to turn them into lightning rods. However, they had come to the beach to frolic in the water and frolic they were going to do, lightning or no lightning.

When the sky was sprinkling and a bit of wind was blowing, everyone disappeared. In a few minutes, the sun shone through a hole in the clouds. People reappeared like magic, a cascade of brightly colored clothes, lots of bare skin searching for vitamin D. They weren’t there and then they were there. The hole in the clouds closed but people sitting at sidewalk tables at Kris the Fish refused to go inside. They kept eating their pickerel fillets and French fries. I thought, good for them, although, personally, I don’t like my French fries sodden with anything except vinegar and lots of salt.

I love Gimli. I admire Manitobans. They ignore the bad stuff and celebrate the smallest moment of sunshine in their lives. That’s what got their ancestors through the horrors of being a pioneer in the swamps and on the lake in winter. They live on hope. Tomorrow will be better they say before they fall asleep. And it will, unless it isn’t, but then the day after will be better and it will. Summer will come and be celebrated. The garden will grow, people will get a suntan, grain will ripen, fish will willingly swim into the net, and next winter can’t possibly be as bad as last year’s.