Just over a hundred years ago, Regina boomed. The population exploded, the city expanded, and Saskatchewan was one of the most prosperous places in Canada. Regina's downtown was quickly covered in theatres; all complete with balconies and twelve piece orchestras. These theatres – the Lux, the Grand, the Princess, the Broadway, the Roxy and the Capitol, among many more – transformed Regina's downtown into a theatrical hub. As the city grew, the auto industry moved in and the GMC assembly line opened, employing nearly a thousand people. The arrival of GMC kickstarted the dream of Regina becoming a "Detroit of the West", with many believing Regina would continue to lead Canada in economics and trade for years to come.
The 1930s shattered that belief. The Great Depression paralyzed the auto industry, forcing the GMC plant to close. Drought and severe dust storms raced across the prairies, and "black blizzards" rocked cities, decreasing visibility down to less than a meter. The storms covered the majority of North America, spanning from Canada to Texas and as far east as New York. The Great Depression along with the "Dirty Thirties" stalled the growth of Regina. Programs were put in place to create sustainable work, but farmers were still frustrated and a riot broke out downtown, killing two people. This riot punctuated just how far Western Canada had fallen in a matter of years.
Regina, along with the rest of Canada, entered World War II in 1939. The former GMC assembly plant became a munitions factory, and air hangers were built to defend against Japanese fire bombs. From 1939 to 1945 the city was a war machine.
Post World War II, the city tried to recover and regain its former status, but the economy had transformed. Immigration brought in more people and the city continued to grow, but without jobs many looked for employment elsewhere. Downtown's theatres struggled and one by one they were sold, closed down, destroyed or burnt to ash. The jewel of the city, the Capitol Theatre, also struggled to compete with the larger box office cinemas and was forced to close its doors. The death of the Capitol was the end of theatres and art in downtown Regina.
This is how the city would remain for twenty years.
Lately, however, Regina's downtown has seen a revival. New venues are popping up throughout the area, all embracing Regina's long forgotten dream. One of these places even decided to revive the former Capitol Theatre, but with a 21st Century twist: no longer would the Cap be a theatre, but a tapas and jazz club! The new Capitol even pulls menu items from nearly a century before, such as their signature "Four Mushroom and Cheese Toast" (which is delicious) and a great variety of cocktails. Even the entrance of the Capitol is reminiscent of the original theatre, with a bright yellow sign and period typography.
The Capitol also has live jazz twice a week, one on Tuesday (yes, tonight! Are you going?) and another on Saturday. With a relaxing, speakeasy-esque atmosphere, the Capitol revives an era long forgotten by most Reginans: one of flapper girls, suit jackets and lively music.
While the revival of the Capitol is very exciting, it isn't the only place that is grasping the anniversary of the 1920s. Malt City, another restaurant downtown, occupies one of Regina's most iconic structures, the former Canada Life Assurance Building. Embedded in a Chicago-styled structure and adorned with rare coloured terracotta emblems, the restaurant is homage to Regina's past. Sporting mouthwatering dishes such as "Big Crunch Wings", "Shrimpin' Fries", "Cheese Toasties" and "Club Crunch", their menu is a blast from the past full of unique flavors and local treats.
However, it isn't just the restaurants that have embraced the ‘20s jive. Music venues across the city are featuring incredible artists such as Carlo Petrovich and Kaitlyn Semple, daughter of the award winning Jack Semple. This past summer Kailtyn did trio of shows across Saskatchewan, with her finale being in Regina's iconic Darke Hall. She advertised her show, Speak Easy, as "an entertaining evening of toe tapping tunes and fun loving choreography that will transport you to that dangerous and cheeky prohibition era."
The Regina Jazz Festival put on their annual JazzFest this summer, with Israeli artists Ester Rada and Halifax-based group Gypsophilia opening the show. Over 40 local artists performed during JazzFest, in various venues around the city before and after their headliners. These artists include groups such as the Ryan Hicks Trio, the Red Wagon Gypsies, the Pile O' Bones Brass Band, Christine Jensen, Little Miss Higgins and the Dead South.
If prohibition era trumpets, saxophones, drinks and dances don't get you jiving, Regina also hosted the "Roaring 2020s – Regina Edition" this past November at the Exchange. This performance by "four dapper DJs" from Winnipeg -- Nathan Zahn, Chris Komus, Manalogue and Lotek -- brought with them a new twist to regular jazz and swing music: electrojazz and ghetto swing. The timeless genres of ragtime and jive were infused with todays' electronica to become a style of dance that is taking the world by storm. "A retro vibe with a future twist!" is how the show was described, and the reviews live up to it. Roaring 2020s was one of the biggest performances to hit Regina in years, and couldn't have come at a better time.
With forgotten 1920s buildings being brought back to life, prohibition drinks overflowing cocktails glasses, jazz taking over the streets and musicians from around the world coming to perform, Regina is roaring back to life, much like it did nearly a century before. With one of the country's leading economies and in the midst of a population explosion, Regina has once again become the bees' knees.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!
For many of us in Saskatchewan, summer means it's time for an Alberta road trip. Although the endless stretches of prairie have their appeal, there is nothing quite like seeing the mountains rising over the horizon.
One challenge that comes with taking a summer road trip is the heat. Much like on this side of the border, it isn't uncommon for summer temperatures to get to the extreme. I know a few people who have had car problems in the heat, and my family is one of them. Nothing ruins a trip more than an unexpected visit to the mechanic.
Thankfully, Alberta has a myriad of places to go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or fishing. This not only gives your vehicle time to cool off, but also gives you a chance to escape the heat as well.