Located east of Regina's booming downtown is the former Germantown. The boundaries of this historic neighborhood have fluctuated much over the past century, but it constantly sits between Broad and Park Street, and South Railway Street and 13th Avenue. Winnipeg Street unofficially splits the neighborhood into two sections: West and East Germantown.
Unlike the rest of Regina, Germantown was populated with non-British immigrants, such as Ukrainians, Romanians, Poles, Greeks, Serbians and Germans (hence the name "Germantown"). It would later also be home to Japanese, Chinese and Korean families, and today is home to many Middle Eastern families, particularity the recent Syrian refugees.
While Saskatchewan is very Conservative in their political policies, Germantown has always been Liberal, always supporting more immigration and more social services, especially for new arrivals. This makes Germantown very unique, and thus very different, than the rest of Regina.
It is due to these drastic cultural, ethnic and political differences that Germantown was often overlooked at the beginning of the 20th Century. An example of this can be seen in a 1912 brochure that boasted Regina had city-wide running water, but it failed to mention that it wouldn't come to Germantown for several more years. Some historians would argue the reason running water wouldn't arrive in Germantown for another decade isn't because the city didn't care for the people of Germantown, but because their houses were nothing more than small shacks and couldn't handle the plumbing. Photographs of the neighbourhood in the early 20th Century confirm these claims, as Germantown was the poorest area of the city.
However, that isn't to say there wasn't a lot going on in Germantown. The neighborhood had over 40 stores, including 7 dance halls, with every house having an average of 8 people living in them. Families at the time could also raise their own cattle and chickens, so it was common to find livestock wandering the roads of the neighborhood. Alcohol was also very common, due to the high number of Germanic families, which naturally caused some conflict during the Prohibition era.
Since it was first established, Germantown has been used as a cultural springboard for new arrivals into the city. As the families grew up, they would eventually move away and a new family would take their place. This constant movement of people would lead to very little historical information being written down and thus very little being known about the daily ongoings inside Germantown.
However, some stories do persist. One story revolves around the current Old Number 1 Fire Hall, located on 11th Avenue. While the building today is a stand-alone structure, in its earliest days it used to be the entrance to the Regina Market Square. The Regina Market Square was a massive square where people from all walks of life sold their wares and produce; much like the modern Farmers Market does on Scarth Street today.
When the fire hall was first erected, the fire department had "fire horses". These horses were actually farm horses that were trained to run to the fire department when the fire bell began ringing. Over the years, however, the horses were replaced with vehicles and something needed to be done with the horses. Instead of putting them down, the horses were used to clean up garbage around the city. This worked out very well until the next fire broke out and the bell began to ring, which caused these loyal horses to charge towards the fire hall, flinging garbage out of their carts and throughout the streets of the city. The scene today is comical to think about, but it was mortifying at the time.
Another story takes place during World War I. With Canada actively at war against the Germans in Europe, many people in Regina were suspicious of the people in Germantown, who spoke a different language, attended a different church and even had a different newspaper, Der Courier. These "Enemy Aliens" were seen as a threat to the safety of Canadians, and there was growing Anti-German sentiment against them. Several individuals in Regina even attempted to burn down the house of the printer of Der Courier, wanting to silence the newspaper. They failed, but the divisions between Germantown and the rest of the city were clearly felt that day.
Concerned about the "Enemy Aliens" that might be living in Germantown, the military requested permission to enter Germantown and to look for and prevent retaliation by the Germanic people. Mayor Robert Martin vetoed the military's request, claiming they would not enter the neighborhood as the citizens in Germantown were welcome in his city and were as law abiding as anybody else.
Once the war ended, the citizens of Germantown hoped the four years of suspicion that hovered over the community would disappear. Imagine their surprise when, only a few months later, police officers would be knocking on the doors of every house in the neighborhood, asking a dozen questions and handing them documents written in English, which they were unable to read. These documents were pamphlets created by the Canadian Government informing citizens about the Spanish Flu pandemic, which would kill more people worldwide than the war did. At this time, the Spanish Flu had reached Regina and was on the way to kill just over 1% of the population – or around 300 people. In an attempt to count the number of sick and dying people in the city, the police figured it would be easier to visit each of the houses in Germantown instead of calling them, since many of them did not have a phone.
It quickly became apparent to the police that the four years of Anti-German sentiment in the neighborhood caused the Germanic people to no longer trust the police, and their good intentions appeared sinister. With a language division between the English speaking officers and the Germanic people, the police required the use of neighborhood children to help translate their message. It turned out that while much of Regina was struggling with the Spanish Flu, Germantown was not. It was believed then, and is still a theory today, that the high amount of garlic in the food they ate kept the illness at bay.
It is important to remember that Germantown wasn't just people from Germany, but also people from Asia. 10th Avenue, for a time, was colloquially referred to as "Little Japan", and today is known as Regina's Chinatown, due to the high number of Asian restaurants and shops that are in the area. One of these restaurants, Ngoc Van, is actually my most favorite restaurant and I visit it almost once a week.
Being one of the oldest neighborhoods in Regina, Germantown is also full of incredible architecture, from a variety of different time periods. From the beautiful Marian Centre, to the towering Municipal Justice Building, to the gorgeous German Club, this area is punctuated with buildings from the 1920s to the 1960s, showcasing a variety of murals and brickwork that can be seen nowhere else in the city.
While Germantown has improved much since the 20th Century, there are still some areas of the neighborhood that need some help. There are abandoned houses, boarded up windows, and homeless people living on the streets. While the neighborhood does have some problems, there are also many local businesses such as Souls Harbour and the Salvation Army which are trying their best to improve the lives for the people in the area. Germantown is a historical neighborhood in the city that has seen many challenges since its conception, and I am excited to see the direction it will go in years to come.
If you're interested in volunteering or donating to Souls Habour, please visit their website or call them at 306-543-0011. As well, if you're interested in volunteering or donating to the Salvation Army, please visit their website or call them at 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769).
Have you ever visited Germantown? I would love to hear some stories, so feel free to leave them in the comment section below!
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
Last autumn I visited Kingston, Ontario for the first time in about seven years, and while I mentioned I had been there before, I never explained why.
Several years ago I travelled to Kingston to represent Southern Saskatchewan at the NEXT Generation Leaders Forum. The purpose of this international forum was to discuss urban planning in the mega-cities of tomorrow. We had to think outside the box and solve problems like housing, garbage collection, employment, energy and transportation. When the forum was complete, and we submitted our ideas to a panel of judges, my group won the "Global Vision" award for our ideas on improving housing for the future.
For seven years that award and my time in Kingston sat on my bedroom shelf collecting dust, and while the experience was memorable, it never amounted to anything.
A few months ago I entered a contest for a trip for two to visit Philadelphia on Two Bad Tourists. Normally contests like this are limited to United States residents so when I saw this one was open to Canadians I jumped at the chance. I've never won something like this before, so I actually forgot about it until I got the emailing saying I had won. Two Bad Tourists then worked alongside Visit Philly to organise the trip for me and my mother to explore Philadelphia for three days. Visit Philly paid for our flights, hotels and gave us a VIP Pass to experience the city to our heart's content. It is thanks to them that this trip is possible.
Several movies and television shows have tried to capture the essence of Philadelphia over the years – from the boxing Blockbuster Rocky, to the paranormal thriller The Sixth Sense, to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and even Boy Meets World – but each described the city differently. There is no easy way to approach a city as dynamic as The City of Brotherly Love. With countless layers of art, history, religion and the paranormal, Philadelphia is a city unlike any other throughout the United States.
One thing that surprised me the most about Philadelphia was the history. The city was founded and designed by William Penn, who is also the state of Pennsylvania's namesake. Born in London, England in 1644 he lived through The Great Fire of 1666 and The Great Plague of London from 1665-1666. Both events shaped Penn's life so he designed the city to be strictly stone buildings (to stop fires from spreading) and to have plenty of space between the buildings (as to prevent illness from spreading). This led to the older areas of the city to have winding corridors between old stone walls.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.