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Gertrude, the Peg, and a banquet hall: a sort of pilgrimage

July 12, 2011

Dear reader,

If you’ve noticed I have not posted anything for a few weeks, it’s because I was on a road trip west to Calgary, and points on either side of the border along the way.

One of the things I was looking forward to was visiting Winnipeg where Marshall grew up (born in Edmonton, but moved to the Peg at a young age). There were two destinations: the University of Manitoba, where there is a Marshall McLuhan Hall, was one of them. I had imagined this might be a lecture or study hall, perhaps a library. In fact, it is a banquet hall which the person in charge of catering at the university assured me is in high demand as the premier such hall on campus. I don’t know if that was particularly disappointing, but it was a bit of a surprise. In any event, it was nice to see where Marshall began his ‘university experience’.

The other stop was encouraged by my work in cataloging the library. So many books from his university days (as readers of this blog may recall) were inscribed along the lines of “M. McLuhan 507 Gertrude Ave. Arts 32 Locker 66”. I did not have the time to attempt to track down what building on campus may have housed locker 66 (though that would be a cool artifact to seek out) but Gertrude Avenue was not difficult to find at all.

It is a nice little house, in a nice neighbourhood of Winnipeg, near the river. Across the street is the Gladstone School (1898) where Marshall attended – but as they were out for the summer, no one was available to receive my pesky questions. It looks like it’s undergone extensive renovations in the ’50s or ’60s but you can see the cornerstone in the lower left-hand corner of the picture.

The house in Gertrude Avenue is smallish, but it was a bit of a rooming house. At the time, it was common for someone with an extra room or two to rent it out. From what I understand, the house was owned by Marshall’s grandfather and when the family moved from Edmonton, they moved in with them. I also am told by Eric that at one point a room was rented out by none other than Roy Brown, who was credited with shooting down Germany’s infamous scourge of the skies, the Red Baron! (Apparently there is some contention of this fact in recent years). Another known resident of Gertrude Avenue was Canadian cancer hero Terry Fox.

I would have liked to have visited Edmonton, where Marshall was born, and to have had the time to explore more of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba campus, but our trip was only two weeks and we had a lot to do.

Thanks for reading, and I will return soon with more McLuhan miscellania from the library of Marshall McLuhan.


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