My Small Town, Virden Manitoba



When I grew up, one thing I thought was common everywhere was that everyone was enthusiastic about where they grew up.  Not so true as I have discussed that with a lot of young people in the beautiful city where I now live in the mountain City of Cranbrook BC Canada. Most actually wanted out to a bigger center. No matter, I have a visceral loyalty and love for where I grew up. It was a little town of 3,500 and in the middle of a vast, cold empty prairie.  It was the one of the best things to ever happen to me.

My hometown was founded in the late 1800’s.  When I grew up there though, somebody found oil in the early 1950’s and there was a huge influx of young adults after WWII and the resultant huge number of young children of whom I was one of the horde.

Literally, I had similar-age friends everywhere.  And with the innocence of the 1950’s and 196o’s, we had the run of the town.  My mother kept some track of us, but I was free-roaming well before I started school (age 3) and I have been a sort of free Libertarian ever since.   Some of my earliest friends were the Higginbothams and Carruther’s…..less than a block away.  Then there were the Forster’s, also less than a block away who formed “The Sombrero’s” (what does that mean?) gang of whom I was a “member” and we were more like superheroes than bad guys.  I do remember running smack into a telephone pole as part of that gang.  We raided a few crabapple trees to establish our gang cred but it was all in fun.  The idea of damage and destruction never entered our minds. We just wanted to do stuff.

This sort of “community” isn’t so common today but this isn’t a complaint.  Kids are safer today than ever because of parental precautions.  I was vulnerable except for mumblings from my peers.  This info didn’t come from my beautiful parents, it came from the “street”. Regardless, I survived, and in large part due to a small, isolated Manitoba town where citizens looked after their own.  Still, I cannot believe my good fortune today to be brought up in Virden, Manitoba…..Canadian cold Prairies.

Such a tiny town yet we boasted of the founder of Reader’s Digest, the inventor of the JukeBox, and Jim Treliving, the Dragon founder of Boston Pizza we all know and love.  His dad used to cut my hair at Ted’s Barber Shop when his 2IC Lyle was too busy.  Oh, and hey my old friend Neil Campbell is CEO of Landmark Theatres today…a guy who has forgotten more about movies than I will ever know!

A huge number of great people came out of this beautiful little “nowhere” town.  I will always be greatful for it. Why?  We had the love.




7 thoughts on “My Small Town, Virden Manitoba

  1. I enjoyed your musing about Virden, I am also proud to call it my hometown.
    We did not move into town from the farm until I was in grade seven but I too remember the freedom of being able to go anywhere and I do not recall anyone ever saying don’t go into “that part of town”. It was the late seventies and early eighties when I was free to roam and like you I had friends who were Carruthers and Forsters along with many others.
    After bringing up my own two girls and having lived in many towns and cities of varying sizes, the one thing I found different according to size, was the ability to walk (or bike) wherever I wanted to go. If you wanted to skate, you walked to the rink, if you wanted to swim you walked to the pool, Some days I was fortunate enough to beg rides to school in the morning from neighbours and friends but almost always I enjoyed the walk home. We lived on the opposite corner of town from the high school, so the morning walk was not my favorite, but the walk home was never lonely, someone was sure to be going your way or at least as far as down town. I have fond memories of going uptown at lunch and stopping in at the Bakery for an Éclair.
    There was a sense of prosperity in the stores along seventh avenue then, before the chain stores of the world offered unbeatable deals. I recall a trip to Brandon being an all day event and heading to Winnipeg or Minot was worth making a weekend of it.
    We were Co-op members, my parents both had small businesses at one time or another. I knew the people who worked in and owned most of the businesses we shopped in. I like the feeling of knowing everyone and them knowing me. I am sure there were times in my teenage years when I didn’t feel this way but in retrospect I think it kept me honest. I know that being hired for my first jobs was due in large part to the hard-working people my parents were.
    I too feel grateful to have grown up in a such a wonderful place, a place I still consider home even though there have been many towns in my past. Even after moving away I have always felt like there was somewhere that I belonged.

  2. I was born in virden and lived out by the white owl. I also have many fond memories…I was friends with the Cosgrove family and Nelsons. We moved when I was quite young but I attended mary Montgomery until I was 10.
    I still feel a strong connection to virden.

    • We knew them well Kristie. For years, my parents had a painting of your grandmother’s in our living room….. depicting the Assiniboine Valley. She was quite talented. Brock is 1 year older than me so we hung a lot when were kids, living only about 6 houses apart.

  3. I live in the old Higginbotham house across from Mary Montgomery school. If anyone has any old pictures of it inside or out, let me know where I can get a copy. I graduated with Brocks son Dustin, and one if his daughters Stacy, lives just down the street.

    • Cool. Has Google Maps done Virden? You might get some pics there.

      I’m not sure which house you are referring to. Brock grew up 1 block away from Mary Montgomery, on a corner lot across from the park. Corner of Lyons and 8th Ave. Mary Montgomery (Virden Public School when I went there and Mary was principle) is Lyons and 9th to 10th, one block away. I grew up a half block away from Brock’s place toward the main street….7th Avenue.

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