Manitoba History: “Fresh Air for Kiddies”: The Fresh Air Camps of Lake Winnipeg

by James Burns and Gordon Goldsborough
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Number 66, Spring 2011

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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If ever you wish to go in for philanthropy; if ever you wish to be of real use in the world, do something for children. [1]

Penniless waifs dreamed of joyful times on Lake Winnipeg, in this 1937 cartoon by Arch Dale aimed at convincing Winnipeggers to support the camps financially.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press, 22 May 1937, page 5.

In a glade of poplars and oak in Norwood Grove in St. Boniface, a tent camp had sprung up in July 1900. In the large open area adjacent, a band of children were absorbed in laughter and play. According to the Salvation Army, who helped organize the camp, they were having the time of their lives during a two-week holiday:

[The children] were pleased and happy to get away from the one-roomed dwellings, in the close city tenements, where the bright sunshine only reaches in a suffocating heat; they were glad to be free from restraint, free to roam where they would, restricted only by a wholesome terror of the farmer’s cows browsing peacefully not far away. [2]

This tent-camp experience on the edge of the city was the culmination of plans cobbled together in the preceding weeks. Winnipeg Mayor Horace Wilson had called a special meeting on 29 June. Lady Agnes Schultz, wife of the late Lieutenant-Governor John C. Schultz, chaired the meeting. Also, present were Rev. Charles W. McKim, perhaps representing the Children’s Aid Society; Winnipeg’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Maxwell S. Inglis; federal Lands Inspector E. F. Stephenson; Alderman William G. Bell; Mrs. Major Jennie Southall of the Salvation Army (SA); and several others. Their goal: to organize a fresh air camp for Winnipeg’s poor children.

Mrs. Southall, an attractive 36-year-old mother of three with 15 years’ experience in Salvation Army social work, had demonstrated remarkable organizational skills. The assembled worthies of the community, therefore, were unanimous that she be given charge of her proposed camp, including the finances and daily operations. The Army was an evangelical church, but already a recognized and trusted provider of social services in Winnipeg.

Major Southall's Camp

Major Southall’s Camp. In July 1900, women and children gathered by two large sleeping tents erected by the Salvation Army in St. Boniface, possibly the first fresh air camp in Canada.
Source: Salvation Army Archives, Toronto, War Cry, 11 August 1900.

During the 1890s, fresh air camps for working-class and poor children were becoming numerous in England and the United States, but were virtually unknown in Canada. In a letter to the editor of the Morning Telegram, [3] Dr. Inglis urged serious attention be paid to this problem, because health workers had identified hundreds of cases of city children living in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, and hunger. Prevailing medical opinion pinpointed “bad air” (miasma) as a contributing factor in illness, believing children needed “fresh” air to thrive. Before electricity was widely used, domestic coal- and wood-fired stoves and furnaces made for poor indoor air quality. British efforts to give children a summer country respite away from such conditions began around 1865, [4] and by 1900, fresh air camps and outings were commonplace in Britain, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Social historian Sharon Wall suggests that the camps blossomed in Canada after 1920 because their administrators attempted to serve the dual purposes of promoting public health among poor children and fostering social improvement by inculcating middle class values among the poor. [5] Fresh air camps were a manifestation of the growing belief that society as a whole had a role to play in helping its most vulnerable members. Associated Winnipeg Fresh Air Camps’ President William Whyte wrote of the multiple benefits of camps in 1939:

Our [camps] bring health, happiness and a knowledge of good citizenship to needy, underprivileged children in this community… [and give them] a sorely-needed vacation away from the stifling heat of summer. [6]

In Winnipeg, this movement started early in the twentieth century. In July 1900, in Norwood Grove camp, the SA’s Mrs. Southall took charge, assisted by four SA officers; a modestly paid, newly graduated Nurse McLeod and her five assistants provided care for sick children. Health care was a key part of the camp’s purpose. Dr. Inglis persuaded several doctors to volunteer their services to attend the camp. The large hospital tent, what The Voice called an “open-air hospital,” [7] with its Red Cross symbol above the door, was central. Many of the 82 children and 34 mothers who would attend a one- or two-week stay that summer had been sickly, even failing to thrive. Sadly, three young children were so sick they died in camp. [8]

Capital costs for tents, cots and equipment, plus the cost of food and services, pushed the final budget to nearly $800. Despite the Mayor’s unbridled enthusiasm for the camp, the Winnipeg City Council donated a paltry $200, and even turned down Jennie Southall’s request for a freshwater supply and extra toilets. Canvassing by socialite Mrs. Charles Lane and by Mrs. Southall made up the budgetary difference; and Capt. Knudson sank an artesian well to supply water. Free use of the campsite and a borrowed organ, for singsongs and church services, were welcome extras.

Thus began an institution that went on to serve the children of Winnipeg, in various forms, for 75 years. Norwood Grove may have been the first successful camp of its kind in western Canada. In the Free Press, Mrs. Southall acknowledged donors and thanked Mrs. Lane for her fundraising. She also singled out church leaders Drs. Sparling, McLean, Riddell and Pullar [9]—Methodist or Presbyterian ministers who had endorsed the camp concept. (They would help engineer the camp’s subsequent expansion under church sponsorship.) Inglis was the catalyst.

Methodists Fill the Breach

Perhaps because of a lack of financial resources, no camp operated in 1901 or 1902. In November 1902, as Commander of a short-lived fraternal organization called the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe, Inglis urged the Methodist Deaconess Home and Training School in Toronto to fill the breach and run a fresh air camp the next summer. With Deaconess Margaret Scott (founder of the Margaret Scott Nursing Mission) and Nurse Rathbone, he petitioned City Council in June 1903 and was granted $250 to start up. The transition from Salvation Army to Methodist administration was not seamless but the hiatus was brief.

Norwood Camp 1903 opened under Margaret Scott’s direction while the Knights handled fund-raising. A multi-ethnic mix of girls and boys attended the camp, the only criterion being need: “It is not at all necessary that a child be bowed down by illness to gain admittance to the camp. It is open for the children of the poor who live in stifled atmospheres where the glorious sunshine cannot reach them.” [10] The Winnipeg City Council contributed $250 annually through the next several years, in addition to donations from philanthropic citizens. In those days donor names and their gift amounts were customarily published. The Manitoba Free Press noted donations of $50 each from William F. Alloway and his wife Elizabeth—who later provided the initial endowment for the Winnipeg Foundation—among its list of camp benefactors. [11]

By summer 1907, the Methodist deaconesses had moved the camp to Winnipeg’s west end, along the banks of Sturgeon Creek in St. James, not far from present-day Grace Hospital on Portage Avenue. They welcomed 20 to 40 children per session throughout that summer:

… the little girls … showed that it was rare fun to wade in the creek and fish for crabs [= crayfish?] with tin cans. Other portions of their time are spent in bathing … They also enjoy walking through the adjoining woods and picking wild flowers, and they have swings and various games which they play with zest. [12]

The camp outgrew the Sturgeon Creek facilities after three years, and Methodist church officials sought new pastures. In 1911, another location was chosen at Loni Beach on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, just north of the town of Gimli. The beautifully wooded, five-acre plot already had a few buildings on it, and a bathing beach. Initially called the All People’s Mission Gimli Camp, it was renamed Camp Sparling in 1926 to honour the Principal of Wesley College, Rev. Joseph Walter Sparling, an early friend of the fresh air camps. More than 700 children and mothers attended the camp in 1911.

During 1913, the Gimli Camp took in about a thousand children and a number of mothers. According to the Manitoba Free Press, “It costs three thousand dollars [per year], and those who give the money know they have given happiness and health and beautiful memories to many to whom life was very grey.” [13] The first party of campers, “ranging in age from a pale faced baby of a year old to a stoop-shouldered girl of fifteen,” descended on the place in July 1911. [14] They included recently orphaned, and disabled children; mothers whose husbands had died, or deserted them; families devastated by alcohol abuse.

Among benefits available to campers was nutritious food, and lots of it, but as one reporter cracked, “… no one has yet been known to eat more than four plates of porridge at one meal.” [15] Because almost all of the food was donated by sympathetic farmers, it cost management only $2 to keep a child for ten days. At this stage, the camp was supported largely by voluntary donations from Winnipeg’s Methodist congregations.

Locations of the fresh air camps on Lake Winnipeg and their approximate periods of operation.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society

Presbyterians Join the Roster

Presbyterians from Winnipeg established the next fresh air camp on Lake Winnipeg, south of Gimli at South Beach, in 1913. Named for Rev. James Robertson, a well-known and respected Presbyterian cleric, Camp Robertson would cost $4,000 just to get started. Organizers emphasized the enjoyment experienced by the children:

These small guests used to the city pavement as combined recreation ground and landscape, were quite wild with the freedom of the woods and lake. The birds had nothing on them in getting up in the mornings nor in playing all day till sundown. [16]

Camp Robertson took in hundreds of children that year. The popularity of the camps seemed to be increasing.

Funding the Camps

Donations for the camps began to roll in; novel means to raise money were legion. The Dickens Fellowship, for example—a philanthropic international literary society with a branch in Winnipeg—donated money to the camps, in commemoration of author Charles Dickens’ lifelong interest in easing the plight of poor and disadvantaged children around the world. Through several decades, the proceeds from “tag days,” theatre presentations, lectures, rummage sales, recitals, silver teas, auctions, concerts, candy sales, and sports events like soccer and baseball games and the 1928 Canadian Light Heavyweight Boxing Championship, were donated to the fresh air camps of Lake Winnipeg. On 7 June 1922, in an innovative effort carried over the airwaves, Ed Fitzgerald, chairman of the Finance Committee of the Lakeside Fresh Air Camp, addressed Winnipeggers on the Manitoba Free Press radio station CJCG. He solicited contributions to the Gyro Club’s $10,000 health bond campaign in support of the camp. CJCG was one of the first licensed broadcasters in Manitoba, and had then been in operation for a few months. [17]

Perhaps the most imaginative fund-raiser was a raffle. The enterprising Gyro Club capitalized on the fame of Winnipeg’s amateur men’s hockey team, which won the 1932 Olympic gold medal at Lake Placid, New York. Nine ticket-holders in the Gyro’s raffle would win autographed hockey sticks used by the champions, redundantly named the Winnipeg Winnipegs! Proceeds went to the Lakeside Fresh Air Camp.

By 1917, Gimli Camp and Camp Robertson were still operating, and there would be more camps established in future. It was a grand concept. However, while these two camps were taking in anywhere from 700 to 1,000 children each summer during the First World War, camp news was not as often reported in the media. Money was tight due to competition for dollars with war-relief efforts and sales of Victory Bonds; camp stories vied with stories of broader appeal.

The last job for campers at Camp Sparling, prior to departure, was to spread their quilts on the lawn to air.
Source: The United Church of Canada, Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, Winnipeg, Fresh Air Camp Collection #5.

Newspapers reported modestly, therefore, on the multitude of donors who supported many of the camps. The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) made regular donations of cash and clothing to the camps, and the Women’s Institute of Manitoba helped to arrange the food shipments from farmers across the province. Service clubs, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions and Gyro, made significant contributions.

Obviously, the movement touched many sympathetic hearts. The vagaries of the local and national economies—reflected in fluctuating wheat prices, the big dent in Winnipeg’s commodity traffic caused by the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, and the high cost of living during the First World War—altered many lives, and the children often suffered. Yet, public sympathy for disadvantaged youngsters ran high.

Some Setbacks Were Inevitable

Non-financial forces affected the camp operations, too. In 1918, an unsubstantiated rumour was spread that smallpox had broken out in the camps. [18] Campers and their caregivers were quarantined for a time, so that several group visits had to be cancelled. Even the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919 had unforeseen repercussions for the camps. [19] Postal and rail services were interrupted so that the churches could not mail out requests to previously sympathetic farmers for food donations. As well, the train strike curtailed transportation and disrupted the delivery of both the food and the children to the lakeside camps. The camps therefore suffered a short and unfulfilling season. In 1933, Camp Robertson was again quarantined for a week when an outbreak of scarlet fever threatened to close it. An epidemic was averted when the six infected campers were taken by car to the hospital in Winnipeg, whereupon the camp schedule resumed. [20]

Excited young campers rode the train up the west side of Lake Winnipeg to the fresh air camps in this undated photo.
Source: The United Church of Canada, Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, Winnipeg, Fresh Air Camp Collection #4.

Other Faiths Take up the Challenge

The family of fresh air camps along the shores of Lake Winnipeg began to grow as the fresh air movement spread. Though ostensibly affiliated with churches, the camps were billed as non-sectarian. So, for example in 1917, before they had their own camp, 42 Jewish children were taken to Camp Robertson as an extension of Presbyterian church work in Jewish neighbourhoods in north Winnipeg. Later that year the Jewish community established a tent-village on three acres between Boundary Park and Sandy Hook, with a permanent building erected in 1920. In 1923, more than 600 campers enjoyed a holiday at B’nai Brith Camp. [21]

Archbishop Alfred A. Sinnott, of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Winnipeg, had been looking at some possibilities for a camp, too. In 1920, the church bought a quarter-section on Lake Winnipeg, eight kilometres north of Gimli, with farm buildings and a beach. This was the beginning of Camp Morton whose namesake, Monsignor Thomas W. Morton, was a driving force in its development.

And then there were five. Around 1921, the Salvation Army came to Gimli and set up a fresh air camp at the south end of the Sandy Hook community. This was the first Salvation Army camp in Manitoba since Jennie Southall’s Norwood Grove camp in 1900. Divisional Commander Brigadier William Oake directed SA social work in Manitoba during the 1920s.

Unabashed Pleasure from the Simple Things in Life

Going to camp meant that children could participate in sports, hiking, handicrafts, nature study, and music, all mixed with a little regimentation. Yet, it was more than fresh air and swimming and playing baseball on a grass diamond rather than on pavement. In newspaper reports of camping life, it was argued that the camps provided a glimpse of a life of plenty. A 1923 story in the Free Press told of one youngster’s adventures at the Gimli Fresh Air Camp. “To eat three times a day,” went the story, “was the acme of the enjoyment of the holiday for one laddie who told his teacher last week that it was a new thing for him!” [22] Other stories told of the initial reluctance of many children to try porridge at breakfast; it was never served at home, if they got breakfast at all. One reporter joked about how appropriate porridge was at a Presbyterian camp. The same thing was true of eggs: many kids had simply never eaten them.

Many a child has gone away with the memory of the meals as his greatest camp treasure. And watch them eat! Porridge, toast, jam, milk, bread, meat, potatoes, pudding, eggs, prunes, fruit, rhubarb, vegetables, soup, etc.—they all go with equal relish! [23]

Room for Another Camp

In May 1921, a group of businessmen led by H. Balfour Shaw, Vice-President and General Manager of the Union Bank of Canada, persuaded the bank’s shareholders to purchase the fifteen-acre estate of the late Norman G. Leslie, former manager of the Imperial Bank’s Winnipeg branch. Incorporated as the Lakeside Fresh Air Camp for Children, the new facility was located north of Gimli near the McElheran railway stop, named for the Venerable Archdeacon Robert B. McElheran. This respected Anglican cleric from Winnipeg was one of the camp’s 31 founding trustees, and also a founding director of the Winnipeg Foundation established just over a month later. Although Lakeside was said to be affiliated with the Anglican Church, the point was rarely acknowledged. [24]

Long-standing donors and supporters of the Lakeside Fresh Air Camp were commemorated by the names of buildings in this site map from the 1960s: Ethel Victoria Brown (1896–1982), Alexander Latimer Denison (1884–1955), James Albert DeWolfe (1884–1964), Elbert Walter Kneeland (1866–1941), Murray-Ross (?–?), Charles Frederick Pentland (1880–1963), Frederick William Ross (1879–1968), Harry Eugene Sellers (1886–1970), Harold Balfour Shaw (1873–1944), Jeannette Elizabeth Turnbull (1870–1938), and members of the Winnipeg Gyro Club which coincidentally had been founded nearly simultaneously to the camp, in 1921.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Lakeside Fresh Air Camp Fonds, P4853-4.

The rationale for establishing this new camp was, first of all, the demonstrated need for greater camping capacity. Second, it would commemorate the lives of more than a hundred former Union Bank employees who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War. A huge stone monument, which fronted on the beach, was unveiled in their honour by Lieutenant-Governor James Aikins. Now, there were six camps, and counting.

Boy Scouts of Canada in 1934 opened a twenty-acre camp called Gilwell, three kilometres north of Gimli. The Icelandic community supported several camps around Gimli, including the Hnausa Unitarian Camp established in 1937 and the 160-acre Camp Arnes, established by the Lake Winnipeg Mission Camp Society (Mennonite) around 1948. The YWCA used facilities at Boundary Park and Sandy Hook for various groups including the Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT) programme. The United Church of Canada—a result of the merger of Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregationalist denominations in 1925—organized a number of camps around the province, in addition to Sparling and Robertson, including one at Rock Lake in 1900. In the case of many of these last-mentioned examples, the raison d’être was not so much to accommodate disadvantaged children, as to serve “special interest” groups. A Free Press story indicated that in June 1961 there were “… 33 resident summer camps serving Manitoba and 10 day camps in Winnipeg, sponsored by Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, YMCA, YMHA, YWCA, churches, and service organizations.” [25]

Roughin’ it. A group of boys pose with their councillors at one of the fresh air camps in this undated photo.
Source: The United Church of Canada, Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, Winnipeg, Fresh Air Camp Collection #4.

Rising Awareness and Raising Funds

The years 1920 and 1921 were pivotal for the camps. Public interest in providing a fresh air experience for youngsters was on the rise. The Federated Budget Board of Winnipeg, formed in 1919, was a public means to raise and distribute funds for worthy social works in the city, such as hospitals, seniors’ homes, orphanages and fresh air camps. In 1922, the Board began to manage the Community Chest of Winnipeg—predecessor to today’s United Way. In its first year, the Chest secured donations worth $451,213 for the 33 constituent charities. Disbursements to the Fresh Air camps became essential when the Great Depression struck in 1929, for it became much tougher for them to secure sufficient funding on their own.

In 1929, representatives of the church camps—excepting Lakeside—banded together to form the Associated Winnipeg Fresh Air Camps. Now a single voice, it was organized “for purposes of raising maintenance funds only for five camps associated in an annual effort.” [26] It set about appealing to city residents and businesses for support. By authority of a permit from the Civic Charities Endorsement Board and assisted by hundreds of volunteer canvassers, the first annual Fresh Air Camps Tag Day was held on 22 June 1929, and it netted $4,893.70. [27] Children in the schools were canvassed on their own tag day, adding another $1450 to the campaign coffers. With public subscriptions, the total that year topped the $10,000 objective. Peter Lowe, Secretary of the Winnipeg Foundation, commented that: “The people of Winnipeg are the most generous of any city on this continent.” [28]

To continue its good work, Lakeside Fresh Air Camp officials made their own separate appeal for donations from ordinary citizens and companies. James A. DeWolfe, honorary secretary of the Lakeside Camp board, noted that “It was the wish of the original founders (of whom about four, [my]self included, are still alive) to remain independent of the Community Chest.” [29] They did, however, accept donations from the Winnipeg Foundation.

When banker W. F. “Bill” Alloway, co-founder of the Alloway and Champion Bank, created the Winnipeg Foundation in 1921 with an initial donation of $100,000, he opened the way for grants that would significantly assist “charitable” institutions. Rather than relying on yearly pledging drives that ate up all the proceeds each year upon distribution (e.g., the Community Chest), the Foundation sought donations and bequests, the interest from which could provide critical, stable funding for distribution within the community. Charitable organizations were thus enabled to weather the storms to come.

The first Winnipeg Foundation grants in favour of the fresh air camps were made in 1931. It is small wonder the camps drew the attention of the new foundation, for they squarely addressed its mandate of support for charities and the professional field of social work that was emerging in the 1920s. Over the next twenty-year period to 1950, the Winnipeg Foundation contributed $14,250 to operation of the Lakeside Camp and $45,000 to the Associated Fresh Air Camps at typical annual rates of $500 and $2,000–$2,500, respectively. [30]

From the very modest cost of $2 to support a child in camp for ten days in the first few years of the camps, the price predictably rose through time, to $4 by 1918, and $5 in 1934. Due to several factors, but particularly inflation, the number of campers, and the kind of care received, per-capita costs rose. In the 1950s at Lakeside Camp, cost ranged from $33 and $42 per stay of 10 to 12 days. By 1954, Lakeside Camp had entered an agreement with the Society for Crippled Children to provide a safe and entertaining environment for groups of disabled children and adults, post-polio patients and, later, seniors, but this new direction entailed greater costs. In 1964, Lakeside even accommodated a physically challenged senior couple for their honeymoon! [31]

War is Hell but the Summer Camps Continued

Thousands of kids went to camp during the war, and the support from an ever-generous Winnipeg citizenry kept the camps and the kids’ holiday dreams alive, even in wartime. For the combined United Church camps, Sparling and Robertson, this was their second stretch of wartime operations.

Long walk off short pier. Given their proximity to Lake Winnipeg, it was no surprise that swimming would rank high among activities available to campers.
Source: The United Church of Canada, Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, Winnipeg, Fresh Air Camp Collection #4.

Making an End of It

The Lake Winnipeg camps—developed as models of Anglo-Canadian middle class life, good food, and healthy, moral recreation—did come to an end. Through the years of the Second World War, fresh air camper numbers dropped off somewhat. In 1943, numbers at the five “church” camps dwindled to 2,400 children and mothers, [32] compared to pre-war tallies of more than 4,000. [33] Although B’nai Brith, YMCA and Salvation Army organizers effected the transition of summer kids’ camps into vacation resorts, conference retreats and Bible camps, for example, some were relocated elsewhere, while others simply closed. Camp Morton, established in 1921, was sold to the Province of Manitoba in the late 1960s and was re-established as Camp Morton Provincial Park in 1974. In retrospect, the Brandon Sun noted that “waning interest and the high cost of upgrading the facilities” spelled closure for Camp Morton. [34]

Lakeside closed its doors in 1977. In this case, the Province had bought the facility in 1968 then leased it back to the camp. Lakeside extended its association with the Society for Crippled Children and Adults of Manitoba by leasing the property to the Society in 1975. That arrangement continued for only two more years till the camp closed down. Today, there is virtually no physical trace of the camp. Even its monument to the Union Bank employees who died in the Great War was relocated to Camp Morton Provincial Park. [35]

Camps Sparling and Robertson were the first church camps established on Lake Winnipeg, and consequently they were the longest-lived of all the camps. The United Church had attracted the largest congregations in Winnipeg and so they retained a solid financial base of support. However, even these camps could not survive in the face of changing social institutions and public attitudes. A seventieth anniversary celebration of the Church’s fresh air camp work was held in 1974, but the writing was on the wall: rising costs and other camping opportunities forced the camp closures prior to the 1975 season.

The Salvation Army maintained a presence at its Sandy Hook location for many years. In the 1960s, it had been re-organized to provide “sessions of spiritual uplift and classes of instruction” for child and adult adherents of the Salvation Army, including band camps. The lakefront camp property was sold in the 1970s and a retreat was set up at Woodlands. [36]

B’nai Brith Camp at Sandy Hook closed in 1954 and moved to Lake of the Woods, near Kenora, Ontario. The present-day Camp Massad, which started in 1953 a short distance from Sandy Hook, is a separate initiative aimed at immersion in Jewish language and culture. [37]

Although poverty and the inadequacy of older housing still existed in postwar Winnipeg, post-war economic growth brought improved standards of living for many. Improved social services and programs such as baby bonuses (1945), and local government initiatives such as public playgrounds (the first in 1908) [38], helped to improve living conditions in the city. “Fresh air” spaces became more readily available to inner city kids as city authorities and groups such as the YMCA and YWCA offered programs, and built green spaces, well-equipped playgrounds, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, baseball diamonds and youth centres, right in the heart of Winnipeg. Money saved in the long run would help to extend critical year-round social services instead.

Memories of wartime privations became dimmer as general good fortune grew. For many people, postwar prosperity engendered the era of the summer “cottage” and an upswing in privately-owned lakeside cottage properties. Too, automobiles made almost any destination more accessible and did not entail the long-term investment necessary to purchase a “second home.” Subsidized summer camps for poor kids were being overshadowed by chic camps for children of the well-to-do.

The day of Manitoba’s fresh-air camps for working-class children has come and gone. The first camp, undertaken 111 years ago by Mrs. Major Jennie Southall of the Salvation Army on the little knoll in Norwood Grove, served a necessary and salutary purpose. Some of that camp’s successors—particularly those affiliated with the prominent religious denominations—continued to provide care and recreation to children for seven decades or more.

Gone and nearly forgotten. The overgrown foundation of a building is all that remains of the Lakeside Fresh Air Camp, once one of the largest such facilities on Lake Winnipeg.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough, May 2011


1. City of Winnipeg Archives (hereafter CWA), Civic Charities Endorsement Board (hereafter, CCEB), CCEB Coll. Box A141, J. A. DeWolfe, Lakeside Fresh Air Camp for Children (hereafter, LFACC) to W. Palmer, 8 June 1951.

2. Salvation Army War Cry (hereafter, WC), 11 August 1900, page 5.

3. Morning Telegram, 22 June 1900, page 4.

4. Country Holidays for Poor Children. The Review of Reviews (Sixpenny Monthly), v. 2, no. 7 (July 1890), page 219-227. (Accessed through Google Books)

5. Wall, S. 2009. The Nurture of Nature: Childhood, Antimodernism, and Ontario Summer Camps, 1920–55. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, Toronto. 369 pages.

6. CWA, CCEB Coll. Box A115, William Whyte, open letter dated 28 April 1939 soliciting funds from potential donors to the Associated Winnipeg Fresh Air Camps (hereafter AWFAC).

7. The Voice, 27 July 1900, page 5.

8. WC, 29 September 1900, page 5.

9. Manitoba Free Press (hereafter MFP), 1 August 1900, page 4.

10. MFP, 8 July 1903, page 12.

11. MFP, 11 August 1906, page 5.

12. MFP, 23 July 1907, page 21.

13. MFP, 15 June 1914, page 4.

14. MFP, 4 July 1911, page 22.

15. MFP, 15 July 1911, Women’s Section, page 4.

16. MFP, 10 October 1913, page 9.

17. Vipond, M. 1986. CKY Winnipeg in the 1920s: Canada’s Only Experiment in Government Monopoly Broadcasting. Manitoba History 12 (accessed 8 March 2011).

18. MFP, 13 July 1918, page 5.

19. MFP, 15 July 1919, page 12.

20. MFP, 21 July 1933, page 4.

21. MFP, 10 August 1923, page 13.

22. MFP, 21 Jul 1923, page 20.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. Winnipeg Free Press (hereafter, WFP), 17 June 1961, page 51.

26. CWA, CCEB Coll. Box A115, A. E. Cantor, Hon. Secretary, AWFAC, report to CCEB, 16 February 1939.

27. MFP, 27 July 1929, page 17.

28. WFP, 22 August 1936, page 17.

29. CWA, CCEB Coll. Box A141, Scratch pad note by CCEB secretary, 22 May 1952.

30. Winnipeg Foundation, Minute Books.

31. WFP, 26 August 1964, page 16.

32. WFP, 13 May 1944, page 2.

33. For example, WFP, 22 May 1937 (Fresh Air Camp Edition), page 1; Camps Robertson and Sparling alone took in 1330, 1404, 1307, 1084 campers from 1937 to 1940, respectively (United Church Fresh Air Camps, Annual Reports, 1938–1940).

34. Brandon Sun, 26 August 1995.

35. Historic Sites of Manitoba: Lakeside Fresh Air Camp War Memorial (RM of Gimli), Manitoba Historical Society, accessed 6 March 2011.

36. Debbie Clarke, Salvation Army Youth Co-ordinator for Manitoba, personal communication, 7 March 2011.

37. Brenda Tessler, Asper Jewish Community Campus, Winnipeg, personal communication, 8 March 2011.

38. Macdonald, C. 1995. A City at Leisure: An Illustrated History of Parks and Recreation Services in Winnipeg. City of Winnipeg Parks and Recreation Dept., Winnipeg. 220 pages.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Camp Morton (RM of Gimli)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Lakeside Fresh Air Camp for Children (RM of Gimli)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Lakeside Fresh Air Camp War Memorial (RM of Gimli)

Page revised: 4 July 2015