Thursday, February 07, 2008

A once fitting tribute

Here is an advertisement from Holt Renfrew in the official programme for the City of Winnipeg's 75th anniversary celebrations in 1949. (Click to enlarge.) While HR has always had fine advertisements, it is hard to imagine that the text of a clothing retailer could offer words of such grace and formality--a mere 60 years ago. It is harder still to imagine that they were bestowed on Winnipeg.

Winnipeg, of course, is no longer the fourth largest city in Canada. Worse, it doesn't seem to posess enthusiasm, busy streets, a proud and important stature, a genius for industry, thrift and happiness, or a desire to regain any of this.

What Winnipeg has also lost, of course, is Holt Renfew itself, who moved from Portage and Carlton to Portage Place in the 1980s. After down-grading to a discount outlet (under the name Holt Renfrew Last Call), they've recently abandoned the increasingly marginal and violent Portage Place, leaving downtown altogether.

I had initially thought the mention of the year 1783 was in reference to the year Fort Rouge--the first fort in modern-day Winnipeg--was built on the south side of the Assiniboine River at The Forks, but Fort Rouge was actually built there years earlier, in 1738. I am unsure of the significance of the year 1783. Perhaps it is a typo, and the year 1873 was meant to be used.

Another thing Winnipeg has seemed to have lost in great numbers, are sartorially proficient young men. Here are four dapper guys walking in front of Holt Renfrew circa 1915, when the store was still located on Main betwen Portage and McDermot.


Here is another ad from a trade show in 1934, advertising the Royal Albert Hotel. (click to enlarge) The Latin phrase in the coat of arms, ne plus ultra, translates into "nothing like it", which for different reasons, rings just as true today as it did then.


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