Historic Sites of Manitoba: Centennial Torch (Memorial Boulevard, Winnipeg)
This 12-foot, free-standing structure on Memorial Boulevard in Winnipeg, also known the Centennial Flame or the “fire of friendship,” was erected in 1967 to commemorate the Canadian Centenary. Designed around May 1967, the frame was built by the Western Tools & Industries Limited and and the original flame nozzle by the Eclipse Fuel Engineering Company. It replaced a pair of five-foot, foil-wrapped, propane-powered torches, one used for an indoor ceremony and the second for outdoors. Both of the temporary beacons were lit on 31 December 1966 during a ceremony to mark the new year. Following a ceremony at the Civic Auditorium, where speeches were given by Premier Duff Roblin, Lieutenant Governor Richard Bowles, and Provincial Secretary Stewart McLean, the festivities moved outdoors to Memorial Park where Acting Mayor Slaw Rebchuk lit the second torch before a crowd of 3,600 that included Manitoba Centennial Corporation Chairman Maitland Steinkopf.
Mayors of Manitoba municipalities attending the 1967 ceremony were encouraged to light torches from the Centennial Torch and take them back to their communities. Assiniboia Mayor John Harold Belows took a torch to the outskirts of the municipality where it was relayed to Westwood Collegiate athletics notable Robert Bell, who carried it to the Westwood Shopping Centre and lit a community bonfire, kicking off a large party. In Tuxedo, Old Kildonan, and West Kildonan, torches were brought to their respective Municipal Halls. St. Boniface Mayor Joseph-Philippe Guay lit a torch on the local civic plaza from which five local torches were lit, carried by Boy Scouts to each of the city’s five community clubs. In Fort Garry, Mayor Ray Fennell carried the flame back to the Fort Garry Municipal Building where a bonfire was lit amidst fireworks. St. Vital Mayor Jack Hardy arrived at the Glenwood Community Club to light a bonfire on the grounds. The festivities in St. James were held at Bruce Park where the torch brought by Alderman J. Frank Johnson lit a bonfire of cut-up telephone poles. East Kildonan celebrations were held at the East Kildonan Municipal Office on Henderson Highway where a local flame was lit, accompanied by a 100-gun salute. Mayor Art Moug of Charleswood brought a torch to the Municipal Office where it was presented to Mary Grace Kelly, wife of Daniel Joseph Flood, a local resident since 1906, before a crowd of over 500 residents. While the North Kildonan delegation returned to their municipal event via helicopter, the torch for Transcona was brought to Arthur Day Junior High School where it remained lit for over a year. Winnipeg officials brought their torch back to City Hall, where it burned for a few days until the first council meeting of the new year.
The Centennial Torch remained lit until it was extinguished in early December 1967. It was used again during the 1970 Manitoba Centenary, after which limited available information suggests it was not officially used in any capacity over the following decades. In preparation for the locally-hosted 2017 Canada Summer Games, the Torch was removed, overhauled, and upgraded in the spring of 2017. It was restored to its former location in early June and officially lit later that month, remaining so during the Games in July and August.
Photos & Maps
Plans and shop drawings (GS 0100), Centennial Flame shop drawings and site plans, 1956-1979 (GR 3290), Archives of Manitoba.
“Centennial plans reviewed,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 December 1966, page 3.
“Friendship fire,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 December 1966, page 3.
“Ceremony to start Centennial year,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 December 1966, page 12.
“St. Boniface to mark Centennial,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 December 1966, page 3.
“‘67 ceremony in Transcona,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 December 1966, page 8.
“Citizens of Ft. Garry,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 December 1966, page 17.
“Many colorful events to usher in New Year,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 December 1966, page 18.
“There are all kinds of ways of welcoming,” Winnipeg Free Press Saturday Magazine, 31 December 1966, page 3.
“3,600 salute start of ‘67,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 January 1967, page 1.
“Fireworks, flames, frolics usher in Centennial year,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 January 1967, page 3.
“3,600 salute centennial,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 January 1967, page 4.
“Year starts with flame in Dauphin,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 January 1967, page 4.
“Modernize your home wiring now [A centennial torch, Furnasman], Winnipeg Free Press, 11 February 1967, page 2.
“Coffee break with Bill Trebilcoe,” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 December 1967, page 3.
“Centennial special on Manitoba radio,” Winnipeg Free Press Television and Radio Diary, 27 December 1969, page 10.
“Sensations of Centennial,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 December 1969, pages 1 & 2.
“Centennial torch lit,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 January 1970, page 1.
Obituary [Mary Grace Flood (1885-1972)], Winnipeg Free Press, 21 July 1972, page 29.
"Centennial Torch to be lit on Wednesday in honour of Canada Summer Games", CTV Winnipeg, 19 June 2017.
Centennial Torch Lighting Ceremony [Official program, 21 June 2017], Downtown Winnipeg Biz.
We thank staff of Manitoba Finance (Accommodation Services Division) for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 4 January 2019
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