Young Man Is Rebuilding Downtown
Broadway Optimist Community Centre.
back of a man rummaging in a garbage
can on the walkway.
It's not an uncommon site around the
Broadway Optimist Community Club.
The community centre is about as
downtown as one can get!
It's boundary takes in the whole city
area from Main Street west to Maryland
Street bounded by the Assiniboine River
and Portage Avenue.
The area isn't what one would describe
as an ideal place to bring up children.
Thats why Broadway Optimist is
Children who grow up in the business
section are more exposed to concrete and
garbage pickers and other unsightly
human conditions than children in the
suburbs. They need the community
centre's programs even more. Broadway
Optimist has had a salty past.
The Winnipeg police went there one
Saturday in 1961 to break up a fight
between two womens's hocky teams!
The club has a tough reputation. It had
it's heyday in the early 1960's and there
are pennants on the wall to prove that
some of the athletes did well.
But the 1970's brought a wave of
transient residents into the once
residential area. The club became tough.
People in the fashionable East Gate,
West Gate area didn't send their children
Eight months ago John Robertson
happened on the scene.
As club supervisor he feels that the
club has a chance to make a comeback
on the terms of the area it is supposed to
Mr. Robertson is a promoter. Nothing
short of good promotion will bring back
some strength to the community centre.
But there is one more major problem
that John Robertson is trying to get his
teeth into. He knows that 80 per cent of
the children from the neighborhood are
from one parent families.
“You ask a a 10 year old where his
father is, or why his mother isn't at his
game and the usual answer is they don't
have either one or the other! Community
centres all over Winnipeg have problems
getting parents to take part.
There are 28 community clubs in
Winnipeg. All are given the same
opportunity to make the club hum with
fun and involvement.
“ The biggest attraction at the clubs is
bingo,” Mr. Robertson said. One may be
under the impression that bingo was the
forte of churches. But it is a winner in
the community clubs also and it makes
There is hockey and baseball and
tennis and bicycle safety and the wading
pool and what ever other programs that
the club is approached to include.
But the biggest need is people. “We
find that the largest part of the area
population are university students and
day time business people,” John said.
He feels that both could be a good
source of volunteers. “There are lots of
children but not enough of volunteer
adults to go around. Mr. Robertson
believes in looking after promotion in a
big way and has had some successful
Foot hockey and outdoor volleyball
tournaments have gone over well. The
foot hockey tournament was remembered
for the brutally cold weather in January
in which eight teams took part for a
small cash pot. Then again in February
another foot hockey tournament.
And Mr. Robertson arranged a
successful outdoor volleyball tournament
and the turn out brought teams from all
over the city. The difference was that the
teams were young and older adults that
didn't need anyone to drive them around.
“You've got to look after these people
also. Not everyone gets a chance to play
foot hockey and volleyball once they
John knows what it is like to have a lot
of people around him. He sometimes
sleeps in the premises to make sure that
the ice has the right coating in winter.
John comes from a family of 16.
“When we wanted to play baseball, foot
hockey, football, soccer, we had the
Robertson teams!” And they still play
Brian Freeman is a co-ordinator for
three clubs in the inner city and says
there is a difference in the Broadway
Optimist area. “ Some of the other clubs
like the Orioles, is so organized it has
committees to handle the different
activities. The kids parents are right
behind them. You don't have that kind of
participation at Broadway Optimist but
we are trying to change that.” Brian said.
He said that the area was central city
and the children do grow up fast. He said
the club is a tough place but isn't a draw
back. “ I'm not saying it's good to be
tough but there is nothing wrong with
having a tough reputation in the sense of
competitiveness,” said Mr. Freeman.
People make a community club
tick.Children ned someone to cheer on
the snowbanks when it's a bitter day
outside. They need people to talk to in
the informal atmosphere a community
Small towns seem to have more
people involved as do the suburban
areas. Some of the suburban community
clubs have put up beautiful warming
shacks for hockey and their diamonds are
At Broadway Optimist there is little
room for baseball or football. There is
black top and a popular wading pool and
a few swings. “You can put up all the
equipment you want and construct a new
building but without people coming
forward to regenerate the spirit of the
community, then we'll just struggle on,”
John also says that the club is looking
for support from businesses in downtown
Winnipeg. They could use baseball and
hockey uniforms. The city does not pay
for uniforms, contrary to popular belief.
Broadway Optimist is just a postage
stamp sized lot in the business district off
the corner of Broadway and Young
Street. Most people drive by day after
day and never know it's there except for
the tell tale hockey lights in winter.
John Robertson wants it to thrive
again. And if grit, honesty, passion, and
enthusiasm will bring this about, then
Broadway Optimist is already on it's way
This 1975 Winnipeg Free Press article conveys the roots of
Canford Sports of Winnipeg! And 40 years later, on Feb 7th