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Heritage Highlights


Changed Manitoba Agriculture

The corn dryer depicted here, the first in Western Canada, played a pivotal role in weaning Prairie agriculture from its dependence on grain. It led the way to row-crop diversification.The original building was erected by Abram A. Kroeker, a teacher-minister-entrepreneur who farmed seven miles southeast of Winkler, Manitoba.In 1932, Kroeker and his young family planted forty acres of corn. As the first farmer in the province to grow commercial corn, it was not easy to break with tradition and acquired the necessary equipment for the switch to row crops.Abe Kroeker and his oldest son, Walter, adapted for local conditions a system of corn drying used at the University of Wisconsin. What resulted in 1936 was the structure depicted here, Canada’s first corn-drying kiln.

That foray into commercial corn drying became the occasion that same year to formerly organize the A. A. Kroeker & Sons farming corporation, known today as Kroeker Farms Limited. The project was a great success. One farm periodical of the day observed that as a result of the innovative methods used by Abe Kroeker “corn is no longer a gamble…it is an investment.”Within a decade, the corn dryer was surpassed by newer technology, but the stage had been set for other new applications by sunflowers, sunflower oil processing, sugar beets and potatoes. Kroeker’s corn project had assured the development of a row-crop farm economy in southern Manitoba. All information is taken from the write-up that is with the model.Dora HildebrandWinkler Heritage Museum curator

The Victorian Dolls 

32 inch Victorian Dolls

The 32 inch Victorian dolls displayed in the Winkler Heritage Museum were once owned by the T. Eaton Company and are on loan from Linda Peters of Morden. They were made by Ken Cox.I remember as a little girl, going to Winnipeg meant going to Eaton’s as the malls didn’t exist in those days. Eaton’s had the bargain basement which was well visited by my mom and that is where they also had those tasty hotdogs with the soft warm buns! But what I really waited for was to see the window display on the northwest corner of the store on Portage Avenue. I don’t exactly remember these dolls displayed there, but I’m sure they had their turn as well. Oh, those childhood memories! Dora Hildebrand, Winkle Heritage Society. 

Treasures from Dr. C.W. Wiebe 

Dr. C.W. Wiebe has been called “A Beloved Physician” by author Mavis Reimer and he certainly has been that for many people whether in the field of medicine, politics, education or etc. We, at the Winkler Heritage Museum are certainly grateful for the number of Dr. Wiebe’s personal items that have come back to us because they really belonged in Winkler!’ The chest with the many narrow drawers that once stored Dr. Wiebe’s personal records were donated by Dave & Margaret Penner in 2011 when the Museum was first started. Mary Friesen, long time receptionist at the Winkler Clinic remembered it well when she first saw it in the museum. This item was stored by the doctor’s niece Marjorie & husband Jerry Hildebrand for many years until it could be displayed publicly in our museum. Dr. Wiebe gave his last’ black traditional doctor’s bag to his granddaughter Barbara Kirby, in 1996 when she visited him and she had just found out that she had passed the test to become a registered nurse in California. She mailed it to Marilyn Striemer in 2012 with instructions to be placed in the museum in Winkler. Norman & Elva Blatz purchased Dr. Wiebe’s greenish leather office chair years ago at a second-hand shop in Winkler which was run by Gary Jackman of Plum Coulee. They had it professionally restored with black leather, but using the same brass nail heads which were put back into their original holes. The furniture restorer dated the wood back to 1945, the war years.

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The chair came to the Museum in 2016 when the Blatz’s downsized to condo living. The vision tester and glasses with the magnifier were given to Margaret (Derksen) Malinouski by Dr. Wiebe in 1971 when she worked in the Winkler Clinic. On a personal note; I’ve been told that it was Dr. Wiebe who ushered me into this world one cold October day in the dirty thirties when my family lived on a farm near Horndean, Manitoba. He also was my mother’s (Mary (Dueck) Blatz, 1899-1978) grade VIII school teacher in Schoenthal near Altona. As a result, she was invited to his wedding in 1916. Their wedding invitation is in the Winkler Heritage Archives. Dr. Wiebe taught in the Kane Consolidated School in the months of May and June of 1921, the first year of the school’s operation. I believe he taught the grades from I X. This is the same brick school building where I had my first eleven years of education. Dora Hildebrand, Winkler Heritage Society.    

Mysteries from the Past (The story of Peter & Helena Dyke (Dyck?) Friesen) 

From time to time we will receive an email or phone call from someone who had a connection to Winkler and they have questions about their family history. They had found us on the web! We had such experience early in the new year when a parcel arrived at the Society’s mailbox addressed to Dora Hildebrand. It contained three pictures and a letter from Gina Germani Statesboro, Georgia, USA. She had ancestors from Italy, the American South and Canada and now wanted to find a permanent home for her precious family pictures that had hung in their living room for 41 years.

The two women in the photo were “Winkler Mennonites in the 1870s or 1880s”. One was her paternal great grandmother Helena Dyke (Dyck?) Friesen and the other was Helena’s sister. The other two pictures were of her grandfather Peter C. Friesen; one as a youth and then in middle-age. The Mennonite Friesen family came to Canada from either the Ukraine or another Russian region in the 1860s or 1870s. Her great grandparents Peter & Helena Dyck Friesen had a crop farm and a windmill in Manitoba. Her grandfather Peter C. Friesen adopted the ‘C’ as a middle initial shortly after marrying her grandmother Clara Wilson in 1923 in Oklahoma. Peter was born on July 11, 1892 and died in 1961. He remembers being forced to climb up the windmill for maintenance or cleaning even when hating heights. He also told stories of helping with kitchen chores while also rocking younger siblings to sleep with one end of a string tied to his foot and the other to the rocker. He left the farm, got a law degree at University of Chicago, practiced law until about 1945 in Oklahoma and Los Angeles, and then did what he set out to do when he left Canada he found the “warmest place in the world” to settle down. He moved his family to El Centro, California where he founded and ran until his death, Imperial Savings & Loan, one of California’s largest Savings institutions until its demise in the 1990s. All this information was gleaned from Gina’s letter to us. When local history buff Joanne Bergen got a hold of this information, she set to work filling in the details with the help of various members and volunteers and utilizing the resources of the Winkler Heritage Society. Peter & Helena Dyke (Dyck) Friesen were married December 30, 1883 and went from the Reinlaender to the Bergthaler church. The Friesen family came to Canada on the S.S. Peruvian on July 13, 1875 and settled in the Rosenthal area south of Winkler. Helena Dyke (Dyck) Friesen’s parents, Wilhelm & Elizabeth Friesen Dyke (Dyck) lived in Osterwick. Gina Germani’s great, great grandparents were Peter and Helena (Thiessen) Friesen. It does get a bit complicated, but that is the way it works! If anyone can shed some light on this Friesen family, we would be glad to hear it. Dora Hildebrand   

Mr. George G. Siemens 

My father, George G. Siemens, was the principal of the Kane Consolidated School from 1934-1944. In addition to his administrative duties in the three-room school, he also taught grades 9-11 and served as school janitor, heating “engineer”, snow remover and occasional groundskeeper. In these last four duties he was assisted substantially (in the later years) by me and by my older brother Reynold, whom he paid the princely sum of 25 cents each per month for sweeping three classrooms daily, cleaning out the trash and performing other odd jobs. In the evening hours and during many summer months he studied towards his BA degree, both through correspondence courses (imagine doing advanced calculus by correspondence!) and at summer schools. He was also frequently invited to serve as an official “marker” of final examinations for the Department of Education. My mother, Tina, raised her two sons and performed various social duties such as organizing sewing circles and hosting Red Cross fundraising activities in the teacherage. Together with my father, she played the guitar and the two of them frequently performed duets at teachers’ socials in the Kane Roland – Lowe Farm areas. My mother died in 1957, and my father after re-marriage in 1975 died in 1984. He taught in the Winkler Collegiate from 1944 until his retirement in 1967. Throughout his years in Winkler, he was active in professional societies, and in the governance of the Winkler Co-operative Society, and the Winkler Credit Union. He also served as secretary-treasurer of the Winkler School Board for over twenty years. — by Lloyd Siemens and written for the book “Kane The Spirit Lives On … ” in 2000. Submitted by Dora Hildebrand (Lloyd passed away some years ago)   

Always the Doctor! 

Dr. Cornelius W. Wiebe who passed away in July of 1999 at the age of 106, and was a long time doctor in Winkler, was my substitute teacher in the spring months of 1921. He earned his way through medical school this way. One day he took us kids into the basement of the school and let us look at his microscope. He dissected a fly and put the parts under the microscope and showed us how big the legs and feet looked. To me, a kid of eight, the feet looked like huge suction cups. Then he said, “Just look at that! First they go outside and crawl around on the cow dung pile, and then they come in the house and crawl on the butter!” Well, that day when we got home from school, my mother had just finished churning butter, but somehow my appetite for fresh butter had disappeared. By David Penner as written for the book, ”Kane – The Spirit Lives On…“ in 2000

Arnie Neufeld

(This plaque hangs in the Faith & History section of our museum honouring Arnie Neufeld.)

Arnie Neufeld (June 16, 1944 May 28, 2012) was born in Winkler to George W. and Justina Neufeld who farmed north of Horndean throughout most of Arnie’s childhood and youth. These years were fondly remembered and crucially important for fostering many of Arnie’s guiding passions which included the prairie landscape, service to the local community and involvement in the church. Arnie’s deepest desire was to work on behalf of the gospel of Christ Jesus. He did so in a variety of professional settings: as a school teacher, as an Instructor of historical theology, as the owner of a Christian bookstore, and as a pastor to congregations in Alberta, Ontario and Winkler. Arnie married Trudi (nee Klassen) on June 21, 1969. They had three children; sons Matthew and Michael, daughter Christine and two grandchildren, Liam and Bronte .Arnie, with the help of Bruce Wiebe, started the Stones & Stories project where they took photos of tombstones in the Winkler cemeteries and matched them up with pictures of the deceased and their obituaries. This information was put into alphabetically arranged binders and can be viewed in the Museum and Archives. In May of 2012, Neufeld and Wiebe were recognized by the Association of Manitoba Archives for their efforts on this project and won the 2012 Manitoba Day Award. “It is so important that we do the work now to preserve those life stories while we still have access to these materials” said Arnie. Due to his failing health, Arnie was unable to attend the celebration and Marj Hildebrand, also of the Winkler Heritage Archives read his response which in part said, “Bruce has taken photos of all monuments in our cemetery a huge assignment! Ed Falk, our archives curator, and Grace Schellenberg, located a large number of obituaries and tributes of persons laid to rest in our cemetery, and shared them with me. Stories, documents, photos, newspaper clippings, wedding invitations, and a wide range of fascinating memorabilia all helping to keep memories of departed loved ones alive, have come to us from families, community history, newspaper files, church records and friends”. Arnie Neufeld passed away as a result of complications from a chronic heart condition in the end of May in 2012. Heritage Society chair Jerry Hildebrand at the time said, “With the recent passing of Arnie Neufeld, our organization has lost an important and vital volunteer. Arnie was the vice-chair of the Heritage Society as well as the chair of the Museum committee. Arnie was instrumental in Winkler finally getting a museum. He worked tirelessly until we were able to open in the Southland Mall last summer, and then continued to volunteer there and to find sponsors until his health no longer allowed him to do so. We are missing his gentle ability to push us to do things we didn’t think we could do”. Our Winkler Heritage Society strongly supports the comments the family said of their loved one, “A humble, quiet, gentle and gracious man, Arnie was a model of thoroughness, faithfulness and lovingkindness. His was a beautiful soul that blessed many lives. We will never forget him”.          


These portraits of Mennonite pioneers in southern Manitoba appeared in the Altona-based Red River Valley Echo as a regular feature from 1974 1981. The first 101 were edited by Lawrence Klippenstein, then teacher and pastor in Altona, and the rest of the 202 were edited by Elizabeth Bergen (known as Isby to her friends), a columnist with The Echo for many years. The photos and information were almost always supplied by interested relatives of the pioneers or other history buffs. This collection forms a modest tribute to the energies and contributions of the early God fearing settlers who first made southern Manitoba their home. We have a complete set of the 202 portraits, mostly originals, mounted on a display stand in our museum with an alphabetical index to make it easy to find the family you are searching for. Most stories include the birth and death dates of the couple, when they left their home country (mostly Russia), the number of children with them, the route they came, perhaps the name of the ship they travelled with, where they settled first in Manitoba (East or West Reserve) and where they moved to next to settle down and also included are the names of the spouses of the children and if the original couple remarried after the death of a spouse. Very informative! Each portrait is numbered and dated as to when it was printed. Much of this information was taken from the internet. Dora Hildebrand, Winkler Heritage Society.  

Frank & Aganetha Giesbrecht #111

Frank Giesbrecht, son of Jacob F. and Margaretha (Van Bergen of Holland) Giesbrecht, was born in Heuboden, South Russia, on November 4, 1844. Aganetha Gerbrandt was born October 24, 1845, in South Russia to Johann & Anna (Dueck) Gerbrandt. Frank & Aganetha Giesbrecht were married in Russia on November 6, 1866 and came to Canada in 1874. The last lap of their journey was on the International from Fargo to Fort Garry, Manitoba, where they landed on September 15, with five children. They settled in the East Reserve. At the first opportunity, however, they took up a homestead in the Neuhoffnung district, west of Altona. A sod house was their first shelter. Later they built a frame house and a log barn. Years after they sold the farm and moved to the Rose Farm district, near Lowe Farm, where they continued farming until they retired and had a small house built near their children Aganetha & Jacob Blatz. Mr. Giesbrecht died here on June 1, 1912, at the age of 65 years. Mrs. Giesbrecht died on January 4, 1920, at the age of 74 years. She had her home with her children Jacob & Margaretha Wiebe during the remaining years of her life. The Frank Giesbrechts had 12 children: Johann (1867-1953); Jacob (1868-1951); Aganetha, Mrs. Jacob Blatz (1871-1953); Anna, Mrs. Cornelius Stoesz (1873-1896); Frank (1875-1959); Henry (1876-1963); Helena, Mrs. John Kehler (1881-1974); Katarina, Mrs. Jacob Groening (1882-1950); Isaac (1884-1960); Margareta, Mrs. Jacob Wiebe (1886-1960); Maria, Mrs. David Unrau ( 1888-1967); and Susanna, Mrs. Johann Wall (b. 1890) resides in Winnipeg. Photo and information: courtesy of H. Hildebrand of Morden. March 23, 1977. Dora Hildebrand, Winkler Heritage Society. 

 Giesbrecht, Franz & Aganetha (Gerbrandt).  


Through the years we have had many group tours, individuals or couples visit our museum and we often tell them that each item has a story and most of them we don’t know, but it is always there. One such story unfolded right before our eyes when Mrs. Margaret Elias and her daughter Dorothy entered our rather crowded space, pushing a shopping cart full of family treasures and Margaret began her story. Margaret Heide grew up in the Hochfeld area and being one of the five daughters that were born into the family first; she got to help her dad on the fields working with horses. She remembers the crops of rye, oats, wheat, barley, corn and sunflowers. When the seven sons came later, they were already using tractors .Margaret Heide and Henry W. Elias were married in the Old Colony Church in Blumenfeld on September 25, 1949 and for their honeymoon they went to Winnipeg and stayed in a motel. This was double the excitement for Margaret as she had never been to Winnipeg and now she was going for the first time! While there, the newlyweds toured some stores and came across the red plaid dress in Eaton’s department store. Henry liked it so much that he bought it for his bride! (She doesn’t even remember trying it on.) Later Margaret saw a similar dress in the Simpson’s catalogue for $7.95.

(Simpson’s became Simpson-Sears and then Sears as we know it today.) The Elias’ settled down in the Haskett area and raised their family of three; a boy Bob, and two girls, Dorothy and Bertha. It might seem like a rather strange idea to buy a dress for the bride on a honeymoon, but had he bought her chocolates, they would have been gone in short order. Flowers? They would have dried up in a few days or lasted a week at best. But the red plaid dress will be there for generations to come and for them to admire and hear the story. This dress is on display at the Winkler Heritage Museum in the Southland Mall. By Dora Hildebrand,  Heritage Highlights, supplied by the Winkler Heritage Society, introduces readers to the people, places and things that still impact us today. The Winkler Heritage Museum is located in the Southland Mall and is open Tuesday to Friday, 12 to 4 p.m., Saturdays 10 am 4 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday evenings. The Archives located in the Winkler Centennial Library are open Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. For appointments call archivist Ed Falk at 204-325-8929. The Stones and Stories binders are on display at both locations. One way of showing support for the Winkler Heritage Society (Archives, Stones & Stories and Museum) is by becoming a member of the Society. Forms may be picked up at both the Archives and Museum. Website:

THE Royals Retire to Winkler 

As a young girl growing up on the almost bald Canadian prairies my mind often went to the stories of kings and queens, princes and princesses. And as collecting things almost came second nature to me, I began to accumulate the pictures and stories of the British Royals. After all, we were part of the British Commonwealth! I filled a number of scrapbooks with fairytale like stories of Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret Rose, and also the elegant Queen Mary with her fancy heeled shoes and Queen Elizabeth with her pearls. The weddings and baby christenings were such special events and everyone was dressed in their finest. But then, they also had their tragedies, deaths, scandals, and rather embarrassing moments. Maybe they aren’t really that different from us, it is just that now adays, the whole world knows about them while we can remain anonymous. In November of 2010 we went to Branson, Missouri, to take in the many musical shows and came across a new museum-like theatre called the Diana Exhibition . We saw a large room set up very attractively with Diana memorabilia. What I found most interesting were her gowns. We have been back to Branson many times, but the exhibition was gone.

When we moved into a condo in Winkler in the spring of 2018, I knew I had to find a safe, permanent home for my royal family, and what better place than the Winkler Heritage Museum (overflow) in the Southland Mall. Our first display features Charles & Diana’s wedding. As time goes by, other Royals and their events will show up in the enclosed display area. Dora Hildebrand, Winkler Heritage Society.  

The Burwalde School Models

The Burwalde village situated WNW of Winkler, Manitoba, came into existence in the spring and summer of 1878. The Dead Horse Creek runs through the area and the now #3 highway crosses it from the north. By 1884, the village and school district #529 covered about 30 quarter sections. There were about 30 families living in Burwalde. Classes were first held in a log house and then in 1890 the first Burwalde School was built, but burned down in January of 1937. It was located on the north side of Dead Horse Creek on Highway #3.The second Burwalde School #529 was built in 1937 after fire destroyed the first school. It was built on the south side of Dead Horse creek on Highway #3 where the Winkler Bible Camp is situated today. The school closed permanently in 1977 and the building was moved to Carman. Most information is taken from Reflections of a Prairie Community compiled and edited by Marjorie Hildebrand. We have her book in our museum. The school models are on loan from the Pembina Threshermen’s Museum and are also on display in our museum. Dora Hildebrand, Winkler Heritage Society          


The history of bowling in Winkler starts around 1950. Harold Rietze, who was the brother to my father Fred Rietze, owned and operated a billiard hall in Winkler. This was located on Mountain Avenue, between 4 th Street and Main on the north side of the street, approximately where the Chicken Chef Restaurant parking lot is today. In 1950, Dad had a building added to the east side of the billiard hall. That same year he purchased four used bowling lanes. I’m not sure where he got them from. A lot of you might remember that a couple of the lanes were a little warped. A straight throw down the alley ended up curving slightly on its own. In the beginning it was mostly five-pin, however shortly thereafter 10-pin was introduced to the bowling public. Some of you may even remember a game called Duck Pin.

For obvious reasons the pins were short and kind of fat and resembled a duck. That particular type of bowling was short lived. There were no automatic pin spotters in those days. You used to sit on the ledge about four feet off the ground behind the pit where the pins and ball landed. You jumped into the pit after each throw, cleared loose pins off the lanes and put the ball on a return rack which ran above the ground between the lanes. I remember doing some pin setting in those days. I believe we received three cents for five-pin and four cents for 10-pin. So if you do the math, it gave us between 20 and 30 cents a game. I remember some of the pin spotters in the back actually throwing the ball back down the alley to the bowlers if they thought the bowlers threw before they had a chance to vacate the pit area. Some of the bowlers in those days were Nick Letkeman, (who probably threw one of the fastest balls in those days). I remember he lobbed the ball, and the ball would hit the alley about 1/3 of the way down and when he hit the pocket, the pins would literally explode. He used to have the pin spotters ducking in the back. I remember my father was a fairly good bowler, along with people like Klass Friesen, Jim Carlson, Len Pelser, Jack Keilback and my dad’s brother Howard. Part of the fun of having your father own the alleys, was that on Sundays, when the lanes were closed, we would be allowed to go to the bowling alleys and bowl to our hearts content. However, we would have to go into the pit to reset our own pins after each throw. In 1961 Winkler had the big fire which destroyed most of the east side of Main Street between Mountain Avenue and South Railway. The bowling and billiard hall was spared this time. I remember my Dad telling me that we were lucky that our building was spared. The following year in 1962 our luck ran out. The fire started next door at the Hi-Spot Café Restaurant and spread to the bowling alley. As the buildings were only two feet apart and with the oil on the lanes to keep them in shape, the fire burnt quite rapidly giving the fire department little chance of saving the building. There were not a lot of records, trophies, etc., left because everything was destroyed in the fire. Of all things, we saved a cigarette machine, 35 cents for cigs was on the tags. A lot of the bowlers continued to bowl by going to Walhalla and Carman to continue their love of the game. I remember teams like the Winkler Corner Pins, Pembina Hillbillies, Border Kings and the Great Southern. These teams played in a Canadian league in Walhalla, USA. In 1974 the current Valley Bowl was constructed. As written and presented by Randy Rietze at the Winkler Heritage Society banquet in 2009.


I would like to give you a brief history of the Winkler Curling Club. The first meeting that we know of was held on January 5, 1932 with Scotsman, John Coltart, the owner of the Winkler Creamery heading the meeting. This organizational meeting elected John Coltart as president, W.S. Edger as Secretary-Treasurer, A.K. Friesen, Joe Herba, Herb Dick Sr. and Fred Hill as committee members. At this time it was decided to purchase 8 pair of rocks. On January 12, 1932 another meeting was held, and it was decided to build a sheet of ice on the south side of Monarch Lumber Yard, which was on the SW corner of Mountain and Main. It was an open- air rink with a board fence on one side. I presume the other side was the lumber yard. On January 14, 1932, several curlers went to Morden to “learn the game”. The first game in Winkler was played on January 16th, just 4 days after they started making ice. It seems they didn’t waste any time in those days. The first teams were Mr. Fulton of the local bank, played Frank Braun and John Coltart challenged W.S. Eder, manager of the local bank. Five years later in 1937 there were 10 teams in the local curling schedule. Some names that maybe familiar to you are Peter Bueckert Jr., Herb Dick Sr., John I. Dyck, Jack Felde, A.K. Friesen, P.T. Friesen, E.H. Mann, G.W. Neufeld, I. Sirluck, R. Ulrich, Fred Hill, and Max Gladstone. Forty years later 3 of these men were still curling, namely G.W. Neufeld, P.T. Friesen and Jack Felde. I had the pleasure of curling against these gentlemen. During that time, they had added Bill Toews to their rink. We called them the “teenagers” and they enjoyed the game. My family and I came to Winkler in 1958. I curled with George Pauls, Walter Hildebrand and Albert Schulz. We curled in that second shelter on the east side of the area. Then in 1959, the Curling Club built a 3-sheet curling rink on the north side of the water tower. The rink had a nice canteen that the Ladies Club ran. I remember the home-made pies they used to serve. In those days the rink was always busy with men’s curling Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday was Ladies Night and Friday was Mixed Curling. In 1980 the club decided to build the present 4 sheet rink. With interest rates ranging from 12 to 15%, I sometimes wonder how we managed to make the payments. However, we sold advertising on the walls and sold raffle tickets and always had good support from the local businesses. Some of the many highlights in my curling career were first of all curling with and against the many different curlers of this area and playing in the MCA bonspiel in Winnipeg with John and Henry Peters and Herb Dick Jr. And winning TV’s at the Morden Men’s Open with Jake Bartsch, Jim Hiebert and Laurie Stewart. As written and presented by Henry (Terp) Thiessen at the Winkler Heritage Society Banquet in 2009 with information taken from Frank Brown s book, “A History of Winkler” 1892-1973.


There is evidence of a league forming in 1913 as we have minutes from that meeting. Fastball continued to be played into the 20s. During the Depression years of the 30s, they switched to softball as it was less expensive for equipment. My Dad, Hank Doell, played with the Royals in the 40s and had the unique option to play against some of the teams from a Negro league. They came into Canada to play ball and perhaps because they felt more accepted here. In one of these games, Hank Doell of Winkler played against the now famous Hank Aaron! The Pembina Valley Men’s Fastball League began back in 1959. Plum Coulee, Reinland, Reinfeld, Blumstein, Greenfarm and Winkler were some of the teams that played in the league over the years. The Winkler team was called the Flyers. They won the League championship in 1962. Some of the players on that team were John Penner, John Dyck, Bill Enns, John Enns, Pete Thiessen, Jim Thiessen, Vic Ens, Harry Dyck and Bert Friesen. They were coached by Abe Dyck. Most of the Flyer games were played at the Schanzenfeld school grounds. In 1966 the Winkler Cardinals joined the league, giving Winkler two teams. The league faded out in 1968, but came back for another 5 years from 1971-1975 before shutting down. The Winkler Cardinals left the PVMFL to join SEMFL and became the Winkler Voyageurs in 1968. Teams from Thames, Dominion City, St. Jean, Halbstadt, Morden, Altona and Glencross all played in the league at one point, providing south central Manitoba with one of the more competitive softball leagues around. The Voyageurs went on to win the league 4 out of 5 years in early 1970s, led by pitcher Bernie Wiebe. Bernie was one of the dominate pitchers in southern Manitoba along with Vern Wiebe from Glencross. The Voyageurs had many exciting games with Thames and Glencross for a number of years, as well as meeting them in the finals in many tournaments. Some of the players on the Voyageurs those championship years were Menno Wieler, Bernie Wiebe, Pete Klassen, Harold Dyck, Randy Rietze, Don Bergen, Bill Luptak, Dave Hoeppner, Barry Peters, Dave and Pete Dueck and Bill and Pete Thiessen. The Voyageurs also won the Manitoba Sr. “B” championship in 1971 defeating the Winnipeg Tigers in the finals. The Winkler Voyageurs left the SEMFL in 1976 to join the Manitoba Sr. “A” league, playing against teams from Brandon, Steinbach, and a number of teams out of Winnipeg. They won the Sr. “A” championship the following year defeating Steinbach in the finals. Some of the members of the winning team were coach and pitcher John Peters, Fred Hamm, Jim Hamm, Bernie Wiebe, Menno Wieler, Len Wieler, Ron Penner, Dave Klassen, Pete Thiessen, Alfred Peters and Terry Ridley. As written and presented by Karen Doell at the Winkler Heritage Society banquet in 2009.

WOMEN S FASTBALL from Karen Doells notes

1961 was the formation of the Skylarks with Betty Enns Dyck and Mary Enns Dueck instrumental in the initiation–1968 they beat Lindal School District in the league final–1969-70 the Orioles were formed and supplied competition for the Skylarks–Henry Hamm and Victor Krahn coached Pembina Valley Ladies Fastball League continue to supply the area with quality fastball.–in 1978 the Skylarks won provincial “D” championship–coached by Peter Thiessen–Laura Klassen, Sharon Friesen, Helen Froese, Janet Friesen, Eleanor Friesen, Carol Wiens, Dorothy Ginter, Rita Klassen Friesen, Maggi Hildebrand–A core group of players remained into the 80s and were joined by the likes of myself, Marge Elias, Cindy Rempel, Sharon Wall, Bev Thiessen, Marge Thiessen.–1981 won Provincial “c” championship–successful for 4-5 years league champs–into the late 80s Laura Klassen backboned the last remnants of the Skylarks winning Since then fastball has died in our area, but has thrived at some minor levels in other parts of the province. 


I am thrilled to be a part of this great evening. I have been asked to represent possible hundreds of soccer players from Winkler in the 20 th century. I couldn’t be more proud to do it. I just hope I don’t let anybody down. The first meeting I went to, Grace Schellenberg had a paper clipping from 1899 which talked about a soccer game between Winkler and Plum Coulee. We lost 1-0. Ken Loewen looked at me and said, “I guess the Blitz wasn’t he first soccer team in Winkler!” My first recollections of soccer were of 1966. I remember watching the high school practice after school with Mr. Hank Messmann, the coach, and I remember being able to kick around with them. I loved that. The next year, 1967, I was in grade VIII and the high school asked our principal, Abe Dyck, if I could play for them this season. He said, “Okay!” I was very excited. Well, one day the high school team bus rolls up and it could have been Danny Hildebrand that came to the door and said, “Couch Busse says we got to get going”. Well, I Iooked around and no teacher was around, so I took off to the bus and off we were. By the time we got to Carman Mr. Abe Dyck had already called the Carman principal and said, “Tell Busse, George can’t play”. Well, Mr. Busse came to me and said, “I’ll talk to Mr. Dyck, just get out there and play”. We won the game, but I was in a bit of trouble the next day when I got back to school. But it worked out. That was a great year. We never lost a game in Zone 4 play. The next four years in high school 1968-71 were fantastic! The soccer program kept getting better and better. Our skill level really improved; our confidence kept growing and we never lost a game in our Zone 4 league. The group of us we had those years was unbelievable. The heart on this team was so big nobody wanted to let the next guy down. Guys were willing to run through a brick wall for each other, but I will say that was a tribute to Mr. Wayne Busse. We made it to the provincial finals every year. I could tell ten stories just like that, but I’ll tell just one. We went to Brandon for the finals and everything was fine; we won our first game. Then it was off to bed. Well, the next morning we wake up and there was a foot of snow on the ground and game time is in two hours. We went through our warm-ups, we come to the sidelines and Mr. Busse tells us to take off our sweats and roll up our sleeves. So, we did. The other team kept their sweats on and we clobbered them. We learned a great lesson that day. You don’t give up just because things aren’t perfect, you meet them head on and dig in. There have been many times in life where this lesson has really applied. The one team that our team could never beat, and we met them in the championship game three or four years in a row, was Daniel Mac. We always lost by one goal. Heart-breaking! Well, then came the day when we graduated. We said our good byes and off we went into the world. A lot of us lost touch with one another. Some went on to become architects, doctors, lawyers, school teachers and furniture guys —- some got married and had children. Then one day in 1976 some of us heard about the Manitoba Games being held in Neepawa that summer. We started calling around to see if there was any interest and who actually was still around to make a team. Well, the response was unbelievable. The guys said, “Yes, let’s do it!” We practiced hard; we did a lot of our own running as well. You’ve got to be in top shape to run for ninety minutes on the field and a lot of us hadn’t run in a while. We had to beat Morden in two-game total goals for and against. We won both games 6-9 and 5-1 and off we went to Neepawa. We were there for most of the week staying in a dorm. We had a lot of fun off the field as well. We had only twelve players, but by the time we got to the finals some guys had concussions, some shins the size of balloons, ankles like muffin tops, cuts to the head and walking wounded, but not one guy quit. We played our heart out against Brandon. What a great game, even though we lost 2-1 in the final. After that tournament we knew there was still a lot of soccer left in us. That winter a few of us got together and wondered what it would take to get into Manitoba Amateur Soccer Association (MASA) in Winnipeg. ( Here Vern Reimer came up ad told how he got them into the league.) That’s how the Winkler Bionics were born. We played a number of years, just coaching ourselves. We had great success against Winnipeg teams. Our soccer team became very popular and a lot of new players wanted to make this team. We hired a coach who would be unbiased and soon a number of new and exciting faces were on our team, not just our nucleus that had started this whole thing. For some of us veterans things started to change a little. Frank Dabbs, our new coach, had a different approach to the game than us older guys. It took a while to feel comfortable and with a number of new faces in the lineup, it all took a while to gel. But we did just fine!In the midst of all that, we decided to change our name to the Winkler Blitz. For the next number of years, we played with that name. I loved that name. The people who played for the Bionics and the Blitz should be proud for the way they represented Winkler. People far and wide got to hear about Winkler because of this team. There was good sportsmanship, fair play and hard work. It took a lot of work to keep everything going and it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t mention Mr. P. L. Reimer, Vern’s dad, for the tremendous financial support he gave our team. Year after year they would give their house and yard for us guys to have a fantastic wind-up. I know every one of us appreciated what he did for our team. I wish the Winkler Storm and Hurricane tremendous success as they write the next chapter in Winker soccer history. Thank you and may God bless you. As written and presented by George Klassen at the Winkler Heritage banquet in 2009.


The information gleaned herein came largely from Herb Dick, Eugene Letkeman, Evelyn Janzen and George H. Ens (Presented by George H. Ens.)The first golf course, six holes, came to be in Winkler in the late 1940s. Winkler golfers played this sport in Morden, Walhalla, USA, Carman and even in Winnipeg and elsewhere, prior to this time period.The people who were instrumental were, S.K. Friesen, Menno Kroeker, Leonard Pelser, Bill Janzen, H.H. Janzen (grain buyer), Henry Loewen (tin smith) and his brothers John and Jake Loewen, Jake Neustaiter, P.W. Enns, Johnny Doell, Dr. Warkentin, Klaus Friesen and I’m sure there were others. Not only did this little 6-hole course serve as a golf course, but it also accommodated three baseball diamonds and even tripled as a landing strip for local light air craft. Green fees were 25 cents per round and the annual membership was probably in the $5.00 range, but you need to consider that we only offered 6 holes and that was only the case when no ball games were being played or if the golfers were patient enough to allow an inning of baseball to be completed so they could tee-off during the time the outfield changed from one team to another. Humble beginnings? Sure!

Their annual budget was so small that they did not even bother putting it in writing. Grass was cut by volunteers or those who couldn’t afford the 25 cents per round. The oil that was required to firm up the sand was taken from used crankcase oil donated by local service garages. The required oil was carted to the sand greens by lawn mowers. You need to understand the organization did not own a tractor, nor a trailer, never mind a truck or Gator, as we would suggest today. The mower had an improvised makeshift platform, which served as a cargo area for a container of oil. When the mower, which was powered by a loaned tractor, from Henry’s Auto Wrecking on Pembina, just west of our new Fire Hall site, made is rounds, would stop at each green and oil the sand on the greens. Yes, it had to be well mixed with the sand on the green in order to do its job. This had to be done in order that the sand became firm enough so that: #1, the ball would not sink out of sight when it landed and #2, that the sand could be properly leveled, with a scraper, so that a smooth path would be created for proper putting. I’m told that Herb Dick Jr. now city Councilor, would ask his dad for 25 cents so that he could play a round of golf. His dad would say, “no way, that’s a waste of money. If you want to play golf and spend that kind of money, better go earn your own”. And, so he did! He would mow the grass on the course in exchange for golf or go and do other odd jobs so that he could practice and perfect his golf. Yes, this determination and hard work has resulted his great success in this sport. In 1960 the course was closed because they needed the area for baseball. A few years later in 1965, a monetary grant of $15,000 was made available from the Town of Winkler, called the Winkler Centennial Grant. Eleven thousand of this money was used to purchase 54 acres of land from John Epp, Eldon Toews and H.W. Bergen. This course was officially opened July 1, 1967 and is still known today as the Winkler Centennial Golf Course. Again, a very large part of the work was done by many of the local golf enthusiasts, some of the same ones as named earlier. People that I remember as having been very much involved were the Loewen brothers, Henry, Jake and John, Bill Janzen, Len Pelser, Jake Neustaiter, Herb Dick, Klaus Friesen and numerous others. The first building was an old school house which was moved onto the present location and served as club house for approximately 5 years. Cost of this building plus a small shed for maintenance were purchased for a total of $2,000. Total cost of developing the first 9 holes including the land, shed and clubhouse was $18,308. Amazing how times have changed. I am told that just the rebuilding two of those greens, #18 (formerly #9) and #8 (formerly #3) just this last fall, was over $100.000 for the two of them. In approximately 1972 the present restaurant came into being. At the start the pro-shop was located at the south end of the basement and later the pro-shop became part of the cart shed as we see it today. Yes, many volunteer hours, free use of farm tractors and equipment plus other free materials were made available by golfing enthusiasts to make this all come together. The land for the development of the second nine holes, 80 acres, (50 acres from Jake Ginter, 20 acres from Bill Fehr and 10 acres from Abe Derksen) was purchased by the Town of Winkler in December of 1991 for a price of $5,000 per acre. Cost of development was in the (?) million dollar range plus a fair amount of voluntary labor, plus a considerable amount of Gifts in Kind, such as three fantastic bridges for access to greens #s 4, 9 and 12, donated by Triple E and numerous cash donors for funds to build cart paths, tee boxes, etc. The official opening of the second nine was on July 1, 1995. Much work to complete the course, such as the bridges, cart paths, tee box upgrading, planting of the outside perimeter trees, improving drainage, etc., all happened after the official opening. One thing I can say about a golf course. It is never in a state of completion. Just when you think things are done, someone comes up with a great idea or suggestion. Just last year, well over $100.000 was spent in upgrading two greens, one tee box and extended cart paths. A golf course seems to always be in a state of change and improvement. I believe the people of Winkler and area, and especially those who enjoy golf, should be complimented for their strong commitment to volunteering of their time and efforts to golf as a sport. The City of Winkler has been a great supporter and without the city these things would not have happened. Today as we remember this sport, we need to know that the city owns the land and the Club owns the improvements to it, as well as the equipment to service it. High achievers and very active golfers in their time? Honourable mention as to frequent club champs, tournament winners, and otherwise long standing high achievers in the game of golf would include people like Herb Dick Jr., Eugene Letkeman, Bill Wilms, Nick Friesen, both Senior and Junior, Tim Friesen (son of Nick Jr), Bill Janzen, Nick Letkeman, Frank Thiessen, Jim Krahn, Randy Rietze, Abe Ginter, Don Traub, John Hildebrand, Kevin Thiessen, Vic Rempel, Shaker and Eileen Ediger, Abe and Norma Wiebe, Margaret Ens, Ninette Derksen and many, many others.


  1. Herb Dick, now city councilor, holds the record for most consecutive tournament wins . Can you believe that Herb won at least one tournament per year in southern Manitoba or northern USA for 41 consecutive years! He started this streak in 1960 and ended it in 2001. I know he has won many more since, but these were won in consecutive years. Herb is probably the Winkler golfer with the most achievements over the longest time period.
  2. Eugene Letkeman, another Winkler man, who started his golfing career somewhat earlier, holds numerous golfing accomplishments. Allow me to name a few:
  3. At age 15, in 1956, he won the Corn and Apple Men’s Golf Tournament. He took first place with a score of 103 on 27 holes, winner out of a field of 83 golfers!
  4. At the age of 17 he accomplished this again.
  5. He had won the Oakview Club membership 9 times by 1980. Not sure how many times after that. At least 5 were won in consecutive years.

My findings would indicate that Herb and Eugene may well represent the winningest Winkler born golfers in the last 55 years. Other golfers who have had great success in later years, will be recognized in the Golf Booth and can be found posted on the internet.

Developers and Designers of our courses:

When I look into our golf facilities history, names like Bill Janzen, Henry and Jake Loewen probably came up more than most. If I were to name 2 people that were most instrumental in the development of the facilities for golf, I would have to name Bill Janzen (merchant) and Henry Loewen (tin smith).Please feel free to visit the booth later and perhaps you can correct me on a few issues, or I can share some other findings with you. My apologies to all the others that should or could have been named, but weren’t.

One short story:

Did you know that the first 6-hole course still holds the record, probably province wide, for the most “holes-in-one”. After more careful examination they discovered that the gopher holes caused this unrealistic record. Solution? The Fire Chief was part of the executive and quickly a fire truck, loaded with water, was dispatched and the greatest gopher evacuation of all times took place. Hence no more gopher holes and no more “holes-in-one” were recorded! As written and presented by George H. Ens at the Winkler Heritage Society banquet in 2009.


Hockey has been a big part of the community for many years. The early 1900s saw pleasure skating and hockey confined to open air rinks. One of the first rinks was located on Mountain Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets. Around 1926 Peter Bueckert, who was the mayor at the time and the owner of Winkler Lumber, erected a covered skating rink on the east side of Main Street. After 4 years of use the privately owned rink, built in a hurry, was condemned and dismantled. Later an open-air rink with a board fence around it and a shed for dressing was flooded and prepared for skating and hockey. This was located south of the current city offices on Main Street, approximately where the Heritage Manor sits today. There are not a lot of records of hockey being played in the early 1900s. There is, however, a picture you noticed on the power point of a team of players from around the 1917s. Players on that early team were; I. Miller, P. Hiebert, G. Hiebert, Ed Loewen, Math Miller, Dr. Weatherhead and W.G. Graefer. There’s also the intermediate team of 1935-36 season. Players on that team were Eric Pelser, Walter Nauer, Harv Loewen, Bill Bueckert, Walt Miller, Fred Rietze, George Doell, Harold Wonnick, Herb Loewen, Bill Hiebert, Roy Nauer, J.R. Walkof and coach Bill Schulz. The Winkler Arena was built in 1950 on the location south of the current city offices and opened on December 14th of that year. The SEMHL was started in 1951 with teams from Letellier, Emerson, Morris, Altona and Winkler. Winkler Royals first were sponsored by Gardenland Creamery and wore purple and yellow-gold colours. Bert Woods (father of Earl and Arnie Woods) was one of the early builders of the league. The Winkler Kinsmen got involved with the hockey program in the late 50s as they sponsored minor hockey. They supplied the uniforms and took care of the coaching for the teams. In 1956-57 the Royals won their first SEMHL championship. They followed that with a 1957-58 Intermediate Sr. “A” Provincial Championship. Some of the players were Jake Penner, Elmer Wiebe, Ross Williams, Hank Wiebe, Dick Wiebe, Ron Leiding, Nick Neufeld, Earl Woods, the Thompson brothers, Harry Hildebrand and others.

Jake Penner story:

Jake was one of the better players for the Royals in the 50s. He was known for his goal scoring and his play making ability. He was also very determined. One game he was coming down the wing with the puck. Now Jake was a player who also never got hit when playing. This game, however, it was a little different. If you remember, Jake played with glasses and a brownish helmet, kind of like an old aviator helmet. Well, he got hit at the blue line. Helmet went one direction, glasses another, stick still another direction and Jake hit the ice with a thud. He was up also before he hit the ice, got his helmet, put on his glasses, found his stick and away he went. That was the desire and fortitude Jake had. The late 50s and early 60s saw the team suffer as far as being a winning team. 1964 saw the team rebound as Hank Neufeld (who had played for Toledo of the AHL) come back to Winkler to become playing coach.

Hank Neufeld story:

We were playing a game in Pilot Mound in the mid to late 60s and Hank was the playing coach. All through the game there was a fan that was heckling Hank. Well, somewhere in the third period the puck was shot into our zone, close to where the fan was that was heckling Hank. Hank made it look like he was going to get the puck, but instead he jumped over the boards. The crowd dispersed. (It looked like the parting of the Red Sea). Half went one way and the other half the other way. There, all by himself was one fan. Hank starting raining blows on him. Not sure if he was the heckler, but he paid the price. Piot Mound had a defense man by the name of Rusty Duncan, who was also the police chief of Pilot Mound at the time and he went into the crowd after Hank. Well, that started it. Some of our guys went into the crowd followed by the Pilot Mound players. They had to stop the game for a while to calm things down.

Jim McFadden story:

I have to tell you a story about one of my first games for the Royals. It was 1964, about my 4th or 5th game with the team and we were about to play the Miami Rockets. Their best player was Jim McFadden who was to be in the line-up this night. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, Jim McFadden, he played in the NHL with Detroit, won the Rookie of the Year award in 1948 and the Stanley Cup in 1950. Hank Neufeld, our coach, decided that our line was going to shadow their big line. Jim McFadden played right wing and I played left wing at that time, so he was my responsibility. Hank said to go wherever he went, don’t bother trying to score, just stay with him so he doesn’t score. I thought I’m a young kid at 17 and Jim at this time was 47, so I didn’t think it would be too hard to shadow him. The first couple of shifts went well; as it appeared that he was kind of out for a pleasure skate. Well, about the third shift we turned over the puck and in the blink of an eye he was 10 steps past me, picked up a pass and went in and scored, I thought to myself where did this come from. So, I thought, okay, I’ll skate ten steps ahead of him and let him actually catch up to me. Same results, he was by me in a flash and again took the pass, went in and scored. Somehow, I managed to stay with him the rest of the period. We get into the dressing room which was quiet. We were losing the game and my man, Jim McFadden, had scored two goals. I turned to Hank and said, “I can’t keep up with this guy, you’re going to have to find someone else to shadow him.” Hank at me and said two words, “We noticed”. That was the end of my back- checking career. In 1966 the arena burnt to the ground. We all had our equipment lost in the fire, but the SEMHL league had a benefit game between the SEMHL all-stars and the EMHL all-stars with the money going to the purchase of new equipment. The Royals finished that season playing their remaining games in Morden and Miami.

In 1967 the new arena was built where it still sits today. Total cost was around $195,000. It was completed in 1968. In 1968-69 season, Bill Wilms and Wayne Busse, who were school teachers in town, played for the Royals and helped rebuild the team. Bill and Wayne were also responsible for the creation of the Zone 4 High School Hockey League, along with Marshall Kennedy from Carman. Bill Wilms was the top scorer in the league for the two years that he was here, the Zodiacs went on to win many high school championships. They have won a total of eight championships in their history to this point, with their first coming in the 1979-80 season and the last one just last year. In 1970-71 the Royals won their second championship. Led by Wayne Stephenson in goal, and Dave Richardson and Doug Dyck on forward. Crowds were very good with attendance, upwards of 2,000. Wayne came to the Royals after a fine career with the Canadian National Team. We had only 11 players on that winning year. Terry Bulin, Gary Toews, Mad Dog, Wayne Busse, Dennis Wiebe, George Klassen, Clarence Dyck, Bernie Wiebe and Ross Browne also played on that team. Many of you might remember Wayne’s backup with the National Team, and that was none other than Ken Dryden of Montreal Canadian fame. Stephenson left the flowing year to play with the St. Louis Blues in the NHL.

Mad Dog story:

Some of you might remember George Penner, we called him Mad Dog. The best way to describe George would be to say that he was the Eddie Shack of the SEMHL. George used to jump off the back of the players bench on a line change, sometimes narrowly missing the players on the ice. He also did his little spins on the ice when he had the puck. This particular time the puck was shot into the opposition’s zone in the corner. George was the first one in to get the puck. The goal tender was peeking around the corner of his net, waiting to see what Mad Dog was going to do. Well, George just wound up, fired a slap shot from behind the net, hit the goalie in the mask, dropping him straight to the ice. Their trainer came on the ice to administer to the goalie. As George came back to the bench someone asked him why he shot from behind the net. All George said was, “I thought I saw an opening”. That was George. The Royals final championship came in 1989-90 season. They were able to build a team with the graduating Flyer hockey players. Some of the players on that championship team were Steve Harder, Randy Klassen, Ed Penner, Scott Legary, Scott McGregor, Warren Dyck, and goal tender Paul Mignacca. John Trinke was the coach. Due to lack of fan support and with the emergence of the Flyers junior hockey, the Royals folded in the early 90s. 1980-81 saw the formation of the Winkler Flyers Junior Hockey Club. The idea was to keep our better young players in the area. Individuals like Dan Giesbrecht, Frank Schaak, Phil Ens, Harold Reimer, Terp Thiessen, Ray Downey and Al Ens, to name a few were the builders behind the team. Prior to getting a franchise, Winkler was asked to hold the all-star game which was held on January 16, 1980. Reports are approximately 800 paid tickets for the game, as well free tickets given to the kids in the community. The game was a success and as they say the rest is history. Dan Giesbrecht scouted players in the surrounding area in anticipation of building a team. They applied for a franchise in the MJHL and were granted a team. Actually, the Winkler team received the franchise formally known as the Brandon Travelers. The club was owned and operated by 40-45 individuals from Winkler and surrounding areas. The cost of a franchise in 1980 was $25,000. Not sure what it is today. The first coach of the Flyers was Rod Collins. Some of the players on that first team were Brian Thomson, Harold Schlemp, Brad Sutherland, Frank Enns and Chris Knapp. The Flyers had a lot of success in the early to mid-80s. Steve Harder, Paul McDonald, Don Gibson and Ed Belfour were some of the key players for the Flyers in those years. Steve was scoring champ a couple of years. It took the Flyers till 1991 to win their first championship. With much the same team the Flyers won again the following year in 1992. Some of the members of that team were Robin Cook (goal), along with coach Peter Derksen and players like Dane Litke, Ryan and Pryce Wood, Jamie Penner, Maurice Neufeld, Jeff Dyck, Jody Wielgosh, Derek Robertson and Frank Bialowas to name a few. The Flyers also won the Anavet Cup in ’92 which was the Sask/Man Championship. They went onto the Centennial Cup and got all the way to the finals before losing that final game. They won their 3rd championship in 97-98 season. Some of those key players were Jeff McGill, Dave Burgess, Laird Laluk and Jaret Harms. Coach that year was Jeff Wiest. There are many stories of games played against key opponents, like Dauphin and Selkirk, time not permitting to get into all the details, suffice to say that the flyers had many years of competitive and entertaining hockey as well as producing no less than 30 players from Winkler over those years. The success of the hockey development in the area was instrumental in getting Hockey Day Winkler on February 9, of 2008. We were fortunate enough to have Don Cherry, Ron MacLaine, Dick Irwin and Wendell Clark to promote the event. I’d like to acknowledge some of the individuals who have gone on to bigger and better things in the hockey world. Winkler has produced a lot of talented hockey players some of whom have gone on to greater achievements. Hank Neufeld who played with Toledo Blades, Terry Friesen (Saskatoon Blades , drafted San Jose) Steve Harder (Ohio University), Larry Dyck (Minnesota property, K.C.), Joe Suderman (Kelowna WCHL), Matt Suderman (Saskatoon Blades WCHL), Jason Klassen (P.A. Raiders), Blaine Neufeld (WCHL, Vancouver Giants Medhat Tigers), Dave Schulz (Swift Current and Spokane), Bryon Froese (drafted Chicago. NHL experience), Don Gibson (Vancouver), Wayne Stephenson (St. Louis, Phil, Wash), Eric Fehr (Washington), Dustin Penner (Edmonton Stanley Cup, Anaheim), Brent Krahn (Calgary Dallas with Texas), Ed Belfour (Chic S J Dallas Stanley Cup Toronto Florida), Ray Neufeld (Hartford Jets Boston). Ray and Ed (Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame).Future of hockey? Looks good! We have a successful minor hockey program and the High School hockey team has been successful on the ice as well as academically. The Flyers have provided the community with many years of entertainment and continue to ice competitive teams. One of the problems upcoming is the growth of the community; by 2020 the population is we continue to grow at this rate is supposed to double. We need another ice rink, as well as other facilities for the sports to continue in their growth. I think we have the work ethic in the community to help sports to continue to be a drawing card for the city of Winkler. In short, “sports” has been a big part of helping to put Winkler on the map. In closing, I leave you with this thought. After losing a game when I was in Pee-Wee hockey, my father who happened to be our coach that year saw that I wasn’t taking the loss too well. He turned to me and said, “you know son, you play the game to win, but first and foremost, you play the game to have FUN!” As written and presented by Randy Rietze at the Winkler Heritage Society banquet in 2009.

John J. Elias (1912-2011)

John J. Elias was born on September 21, 1912 to John M. Elias and Maria Elias (nee Braun) on the Elias homestead in Winkler. From an early age he displayed a curious and inventive streak, often frustrating his conservative parents. His inquisitiveness continued until he passed away.

Education and the search for knowledge were always evident in his life. Having completed his grade twelve in Winkler, he furthered his education by attending the University of Manitoba and graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture. During the summer, while going to university, he worked at the Morden Research Station, a time which he greatly enjoyed. Although his dream was to become a chemist, the war and the death of his father prevented this from becoming a reality, he also worked as a field man for the Manitoba Sugar Company for many years. After a long courtship, he married the love of his life, Esther Marie Pelser. They were blessed with three daughters – Shirley, Frances and Mildred. He took great interest and pride in the activities and accomplishments of not only his children, but his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His wife Esther developed Alzheimer’s when in her early sixties and it was his desire to give her the best quality of life possible until her demise at age ninety. A major interest was traveling. This included trips to Scotland, England, Wales, South America, Alaska, Mexico and many other points in the USA. One of his favourite places to travel was Saskatchewan. He made many trips there with his wife. Daughter Mildred took him on his last trip just four weeks before he passed away on October 10, 2011. Some of his other interests included music and playing piano until the age of ninety-five. He was an avid reader and writer and had two books of his life stories published – “I Remember When…” volumes 1 & 2. He enjoyed gardening and some of his landscaping talents are evident in and around Winkler. Community involvement included serving on various boards, such as, the Credit Union, Co-op, Stanley Agriculture Society, the Winkler Canary and the Winkler Creamery. He also enjoyed constructing models with Meccano and the Winkler Heritage Museum was gifted one of his many accomplishments.


Jerry Hildebrand

Jerry Hildebrand was born on January 10, 1929 in Friedensruh, near Winkler, to Bernhard and Helena Hildebrand. At age 15 he accepted the love and lordship of Jesus Christ, whom he followed faithfully for the rest of his days. Throughout his life, Jerry had great respect and reverence for God’s Word and read through the Bible many timesJerry was a studious person and he memorized Scripture and poetry. He spoke English, German, Low German and Portuguese, and also was an avid student of New Testament Greek. He graduated from Winkler Collegiate in 1948. There he met his sweetheart Marjorie Wiebe and they were married on August 21, 1952. Jerry was a practical man who enjoyed building projects and yard work, making things straight, level, square and firm. He was also musical and loved singing hymns around a piano. He also taught himself to play the recorder and the guitar. Dad was careful with his money and enjoyed being generous, especially to missions and to persons in need. Jerry greeted all with enthusiasm and always enjoyed a good laugh; he was honest, trustworthy and faithful. After high school Jerry was a teacher for a year before attending Tuxedo Normal School, where he graduated as valedictorian in 1951. After teaching for a few years, he decided to deepen his theological education in preparation for ministry, by completing a Bachelor of Theology degree at Mennonite Brethren Bible College. He was ordained as an Evangelical Mennonite Missions Conference (EMMC) minister on June 26, 1955 and taught at Winkler Bible School 1958-1960.In 1961 he and Marjorie and three of their children, left Canada for three terms of service, totaling 16 years, as missionaries to Brazil with the West Indies Mission. Their ministry included language study, evangelism and church planting, a radio ministry and teaching. Even while overseas he continued to study by “distance learning” and in 1966 received a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Manitoba. In 1976 the family moved back and settled in Winkler, where Jerry served as the EMMC Missions director until 1985. A lifelong learner and consummate student, at age 56, Jerry decided to pursue post graduate studies, securing a Master of Arts degree from Wheaton College Graduate School and a Doctorate of Missiology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. They returned to Manitoba where he served as a professor at Steinbach Bible College from 1987-97.Jerry was also a writer. After finishing his doctoral dissertation in 1997, he wrote a history of Steinbach Bible College, the history of the Winkler EMMC, and Exploring the Word: A Self-Help Manual of 21 Lessons on Bible Doctrine. He was a much loved speaker and teacher. Following his teaching career, Jerry served as a volunteer with Mennonite Disaster Service after the Red River Flood of the Century. After that Dad and Mom volunteered with Mennonite Central Committee in Aylmer, Ontario, working with Low German speaking Mennonites from Mexico. When they returned to Winkler, Jerry served as associate pastor at the EMMC church. After his retirement in 2003, he continued to teach Bible classes and studies, he worked with the Evangelical Anabaptist Fellowship and with Marjorie at the Winkler Heritage Society. He volunteered with the Winkler Heritage Society until his sudden death at Winkler on 12 July 2016. During the 13 years he was a member of the WHS Board he served for some years as secretary and later also as chairman and as member of the Museum Committee.– by son Bruce Wiebe


Jerry Hildebrand was a great asset  to the work of the Winker Heritage Society especially in our early years . His quiet gentle ways were always an encouragement in his roles as secretary and chair of the Winkler Heritage Society and chair of the Winkler Heritage Museum. We will always look back at those memories with great appreciation of the community builder. by Dora Hildebrand on behalf of the Winkler Heritage Society   

“Flower Annie”

“Flower Annie “was a citizen of Winkler who walked the streets years ago, selling paper flowers to make a living,  Her real name was Annie Neufeld, but people referred to her as Flower Annie.  She approached people on the sidewalk and offered them her crepe paper flowers. In summer people might be sitting in their car, waiting for family members to finish shopping. They would get a  visit from Annie, trying to sell some flowers.

Young people in Winkler do not remember her, but their grandparents surely would, since she was well known around town in their day.

Orlando and Grace Sukkau sing a song called “Flower Annie”, written by Orlando, both the words and the lyrics, imagining how her life      evolved into becoming the woman who sold paper    flowers.

There’s a lady in our town, she walks along the street

Handing pretty flowers to everyone she meets

They’re only made of paper, but you know it doesn’t matter

The memory is sweet

Flower Annie, Flower Annie, living  in the dream of yesterday

Flower Annie, Flower Annie, Somebody listens when you pray.

She used to be a little girl, sat on Mama’s knee

Her mother asked her, what would you like to be?

She said I’d like to be a princess in a Kingdom fair,

Handing pretty flowers to all the people there.

Her mother said, now Annie that is a pretty dream

But when you’re getting older, life’s not always what it seems

You’ve got to make a living, you’ve gotta work in the land.

Some day Ann, you’ll understand.

She doesn’t walk along the streets of this town anymore

She’s gone to better places, to a city on that shore

Walking along the streets in her kingdom fair,

Handing pretty flowers to all the  people there.

Orlando Sukkau 2005 ©️

The Entrance of the Train

When the Canadian Pacific Railway Company started building the transcontinental railroad, Mr. Cornelius Van Horne, the engineer, promised that “he would build 500 miles of the road on the prairie” in 1882. The village of Hoffnungsfeld which was located about 11/2 miles to the south-west of the present town of Winkler, was by-passed by the construction of the C.P .R. in 1882. From 1882 to 1892 passenger and freight trains did not stop at Hoffnungsfeld Siding, as Winkler was known at that time. In 1892, a box car with the name “Winkler” was set off here. There was no agent until the station was built.

When Mr. Valentine Winkler. who in 1890 became the first reeve of Stanley Municipality, traded his quarter section for the Wiens quarter section, he had the latter surveyed into lots for a village site.

The understanding with the Canadian Pacific Railway was that Mr. Valentine Winkler was to give the Company every second block of land in the village site. In return the C.P.R. established a station there which they called “Winkler”. For a number of years it was only flag station. An old box car without an agent served the purpose. In 1898 the station was erected. The first station agent was Mr. W. J. Wells. In fact, Mr. Wells had served as the local agent even before the new building was erected. He was followed by Mr. J. M. Davis, who in turn was succeeded by Mr. Thomas S. Acheson.

The Winkler Train Station built in 1898, sold and moved in 1972.

For a number of years Winkler was served daily by two passenger trains. In 1929, the C. P. R. began a second passenger coach service from Winnipeg through Winkler by way of Carman and Plum Coulee. This train left Winnipeg at 6:30 p.m., and since it was a mixed train carrying freight as well as passengers, it arrived in Winkler at 11:30 p.m. However, after a few years this passenger coach service was discontinued.

However, because of increasing competition from Thiessen Transportation Bus Lines and Grey Goose Bus Lines, as well as from privately owned automobiles on highways 3, 14, and 75, the daily passenger service to and from Winnipeg was reduced to three passenger trains each way per week. Finally, on October 25, 1958, the C.P.R. almost eliminated the passenger service by providing only one mixed train on a tri-weekly basis. This consisted of adding a passenger coach to one of the regular freight trains. However, the mail was delivered to the local post office by truck even before the passenger and express trains were discontinued completely on October 25, 1959. Today, the town of Winkler is served by the C.P.R. with freight trains only.

In the 1930’s Mr. George Hiebert provided special bus service for short trips as well as for extended tours to California and Mexico. Because many members of the Old Colony Churches to the south of Winkler emigrated to Mexico in the middle of the 1920’s, there was considerable interest in these tours. Mr. Hiebert used an improvised bus that seated about twenty passengers. By 1936, he was giving daily bus service to Winnipeg. However, this bus route was discontinued when Mr. Hiebert moved to B. C. Then in August, 1946, Mr. A. J. Thiessen inaugurated a bus service from Gretna and Winkler to Winnipeg. This bus line was known as Thiessen Transportation and later amalgamated with Grey Goose Bus Lines.

Winkler has no bus service today.

Excerpts from The History of Winkler,1973 p.12-13

The Town in 1943

The town of Winkler has an estimated population of 1300 people, 90% of which are Mennonites. Only the railroad agent, the section gang supervisor of the railroad, the druggist  and two Jewish merchants are non-Mennonite. There are some Lutherans living in the surrounding areas, many of whom were neighbors to Mennonites in Russia. There is occasional intermarriage between Lutherans and Mennonites in the community.

One of the interesting activities to the visitor in Winkler, as is the case in many of the other Canadian towns, is the practice of herding all the individually owned cows to and from the common pasture each morning and evening. On the edge of the town of Winkler I counted about 75 head of cattle. The pasture is privately owned and the grazing privilege rented to each owner. At a certain hour in the morning and in the evening , usually about eight and six o’clock respectively, the cow-herd blows his whistle or rings his bell and the people turn out their cows to join the growing herd as it moves down the street of the village toward the common pasture. In the evening the cows are brought back and each cow knows where to turn off the main road and head towards its stable.

One can count ten to fifteen teams of horses in town almost any time during the day and on week-ends many more. In Winkler I priced gasoline at  the local filling station and found it selling at 35 and 37 cents a gallon, which has about five quarts to the gallon according to United States measure. Automobiles that sell under $1000 in the States sell from $1500 to $1700 just across the border into Canada. This explains the large number of horse-drawn vehicles that one still sees in Canada.

On the outskirts of town I counted between 75 and 100 small one-room and two-room cabins or small dwelling houses that represent efforts of the young married couples and those in lower economic brackets to find a place to live in the home community. The employment opportunities are definitely limited to agriculture and the commercial services since there are no large or small industries in town.

An article from the “Mennonite Weekly Review”, November 4, 1943

The Winkler School District

The Winkler School District  #747 was formed on April 22, 1893 with an enrolment that fall of 62 pupils with Mr. Cornelius B. Fast as the first teacher. A year or two prior to that there were some private schools held where the main objective was to teach religious instruction and the three Rs.

The first one room public school building in Winkler was erected in 1893 on the corner of Mountain and Sixth.  By the following year there were 106 pupils and a second teacher was hired. In 1899 the enrolment rose to 131 and a two storey structure was added to the first building. This  was later sold to Gerhard Hildebrand near Schanzenfeld and stands there to this day, occupied by  his grandchildren.

The brick school building built in 1912 demolished in 1954.

By 1912, with 150 children enrolled, a new brick building was constructed on the same lot. The problem of enough room for the growing school population continued and in the summer of 1929 a “new four-roomed school building of framed construction” was built. The brick building was used exclusively for high school classes from 1949-1954. In 1948, after the high school was classified as a collegiate department, since 1929, four teachers in the upper grades were employed, raising the status to that of a Collegiate institute. In 1954,   the brick school was demolished  and a new 14-room school and auditorium was built to accommodate the increased school population which had risen to 552 by then.

During these early years  country schools dotted the countryside, such as the Burwalde School #529 north-west of Winkler in 1888 and the Birkenhead School south-east of town in 1921.  But by 1967 many schools had a dwindling  school population and the Garden Valley School Division was formed with children being bussed in from their farm homes to the town schools. As the country  schools closed the school buildings were either moved away, demolished or used for other purposes.

In 2010 the official school enrolment in the nine schools which make up the GVS division, was 4,304 with 297 teachers plus numerous Educational Assistants. The need for a bigger high school is urgent. Parents have expressed their concerns over the extreme crowding issues at Garden Valley Collegiate, which has 1,200 students crammed into a facility with a basic infrastructure for closer to 750, not including the 20 portable classrooms on-site. A new high school, the Northlands Parkway Collegiate, is being planned for 2013 to be built north of highway 14. When it does get built, the 112,400 sq. ft. school will include 2,400 sq. ft. of dedicated choral space.

The Neuenburg Homecoming

The weekend of July 27-29, 2012 was set aside for the homecoming of former residents of the village of Neuenburg and surrounding areas. Friday evening was registration and a time of meeting people who had come from far and near. Residents from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario came to recall time spent in the village and in the Birkenhead School located at the west end of the village. This school functioned from 1921-1992. Former teachers and students met and recalled memories of days gone by.

Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. a parade passed down the village street and crossed the former schoolyard where people were seated in the big tent set up to host the visitors for the program of the day. The  parade was made up of tractors and cars of long ago. Some tractors pulled hayracks loaded with children seated on straw bales. By the time the parade was finished it was time for a lunch of watermelon and rollkuchen.

At 2:00 p.m. the crowd of about 500 gathered under the tent to listen to greetings of dignitaries, after which the book “Survival of a Community”, a history of Neuenburg written by Henry Unger, was unveiled. Henry revealed why he had named the book as he did. In the early 1900s many families moved to Mexico because they were required to send their children to English government schools, and they wanted them to stay in their private German schools. It left the village with only six families. Then immigrants moved in from the Ukraine and the village survived.

A cairn had been put up at the south-east corner of the school yard and the whole crowd moved out to witness the unveiling after which all chimed in to sing “O Canada”.

Bus tours were offered with the compliments of Beaver Bus Lines, with Henry Unger as the tour guide. The tour took three full bus loads through the village, to the former Sirluck acres known as the Jueden Plon, past Elm Grove Farm to Kroeker Farms and then back to the former school grounds via the road crossing the small creek where young boys used to go skinny dipping years ago.

On Saturday evening the tent filled up again to listen to special singing by a local boy Kevin Elias and Kim,his Mohawk/Seneca wife. The interest of the evening was the Low German drama De Olle Komood.

Sunday morning was a worship service with congregational singing, a solo by Jayda Wall and a message by  Jerry Rev. Hildebrand who spoke on “The Ministry of Touch”. He mentioned that a touch can be either a painful or a healing one. Many expressed their appreciation for his words.

The afternoon featured the Kornelsen Family singers, a skit by Frank Unger and an open mike. A free Faspa of buns, cheese, cookies and fruit was served, ending the planned program of the weekend.


The village of Hoffnungsfeld, began in 1876 by Jacob Wiens with nineteen families, and was one of thirty-four villages of the West Reserve, located one mile due south west of the present city of Winkler. The beginning was difficult. Some spent the first harsh Manitoba winter in earthen huts. People who did not have sufficient financial resources were fortunate to obtain loans from the federal government backed by their ilk from Ontario.

Its sons and daughters distinguished themselves as farmers, professionals and business people, as well as religious leaders. Of note was its Bible Movement which attracted  men like H. S. Voth and David Dyck from the USA who became influential in the formation of three Mennonite denominations and the spawning of mission outreaches. It was a “centre of religious reform and renewal.”

But Hoffnungsfeld was not only an influential place; it was also a beautiful one. The Morden Monitor of February 26, 1890 noted that “The pretty village of Hoffnungsfeld, probably the finest in this part of the country, is to be broken up by this spring, the owners of the houses will move them to their farms, and it will not be many years before a Mennonite village will be a curiosity.”

Some 70 years after that, the remaining vestiges of the former beautiful village now are but a half mile street lined by rich stately trees on either side of the road that can be seen even today, 137 years later.

The demise of the village can be attributed to two reasons. Villagers were turning a blind eye to the control the church had put on them to live in the village. They broke away from the open land-holding system and began to move their homes on to their own properties or to the Hoffnungsfeld Siding, which later became the Winkler Siding, some even at the threat of excommunication from the church.  That was the result of the railroad opening up in December of 1882 when the CPR ran a line from Winnipeg to Manitou, crossed over villager’s land and  introduced them to a much wider surrounding outside.  New towns and new people, other than Mennonites, in addition to Hoffnungsfelders, resettled on greener pastures.

Gradually Hoffnungsfeld did become a curiosity. But a healthy one which has led to inquisitive thinking, exploration, investigation and further learning.

Winkler Telephone Office

Winkler’s first telephone office began in John J. Wiebe’s store. Located on South Railway Avenue next to Wilton Bros. Drug Store in 1905. The office started with only two phone numbers and a single switch board operated by Justina Esau.

Sisters Tilley, Tracey Bertha, Hattie, Frieda and Edna Graefer teamed up to run the next telephone office in Winkler.  It was located between their father William Graefer’s blacksmith shop and their residence on the west side of Main Street. The Graefers operated the Telephone Exchange Office for 34 years when a new office was built.

The new office was opened by Manitoba Telephone System in April 1948 on 650 Mountain Avenue. This building was used for 16 years. It is now located at the Pembina Thresherman Museum Inc. The telephone booth in this building is the original one.

In 1965 a new building was built on the corner of 3rd Street and Mountain Ave. This office was equipped with electronic equipment required for the dial system. The Honorable Mattland Steinkopp, Minister of Public Utilities and a native of Winkler, officially opened the new system on January 28, 1965. Deputy Mayor Herb Dick Sr. placed the first long distance call out of the new dial exchange office.

This telephone office is still in service today (2013).Changes are being made on existing equipment and new equipment is added as necessary.