Having grown up in Norwood Grove, we were just a short jaunt from downtown and where the action was. My Dad was in the trucking business and I started going with him when our 1945 Maple Leaf truck was almost new. We were either, tearing down a building, hauling gravel for a new road or building, supplying building material, or moving people into their new home. Trucking after the war was 'cutting-edge' and if you owned a truck, you were always busy.
The one thing that always amazed me about Winnipeg, was that it was a 'bridge city'. By that, I mean, because we had two rivers flowing through Winnipeg, and two major railways also going in and out, we always had to cross a bridge to get to where we were going at some point during the day. If we went downtown, it was either the Norwood or Provencher bridge that we crossed, during the day we would go over Arlington or Maryland bridge, coming back we would either cross Redwood or Louise bridge, or even Elm Park if we were going to our St. Vital property before coming home.
As kids, we crossed these same bridges without parental supervision! In most cases that statement wouldn't throw up any caution flags. A simple walk across the Norwood and Assiniboine bridges would get you to downtown in less than 30 minutes. Our excursion lasted a whole day.
As we crossed the Norwood, we had to go over the rail and down the stairs to the liftmaster's house on the eastside of the center span. It was a room that had leaded glass windows that gave the liftmaster and un-obstructed view of the river as well as the lifting mechanism of the bridge. Although, we never saw it opened in our time, we believed it could, based on all the gauges, switches and levers that we marvelled at looking through the windows. The CN mainline at the Northside allowed us to perform many Jungle Jim antics as we crawled through the web of angles and girders to get up on top of the trestle to use the phone in the shack beside the track. I'm sure that the CNR operator enjoyed the five minute conversation he had with a half a dozen boys trying to disguise their voices to make them sound older, ordering a train to be sent to Norwood bridge for a pickup of passengers.
A quick escape down the steep bank of gravel, cinders and coal usually ended up with a climb on the sign structures that surrounded the old curling club that lay in between the two bridges. In winter time, when the club was active, a look in the 'BUTT BOX' usually netted a few cigar or Sweet Cap's for under the Assiniboine bridge. The clay soil under the bridge was usually dry and the overhead decking offered a sanctuary for us during a freak rainstorm, as well as the hobo's, pigeons, fishing and wild life that lived there fulltime. We spent many a hour under there, rolling up clay mud balls to throw at the pigeons that roosted on the upper deck webbing, some of which returned fire upon us in the form of a green spurt as they took flight. My claim to fame was being able to write my name in thrown mudballs on the bridge abutment, only two letters, ...E......D, but, an accomplishment for me. Another way was, to walk across the girders underneath, which left many a stain in a young boy's pants. An easy venture when viewed from below, a life changing experience when executed for the first time. Besides the roosting pigeons, the maze of cross ties and angled braces, a bridge walker had to contend with, the lure of the flowing muddy water 50 - 60 feet below, the jeers and howls of the wolf pack of friends below, and the ability to find that delicate point of balance in your own mind. Many times we ran from under that bridge, yelling with joy or screaming for our lives, sometimes both at the same time.
Our next venture was just a few steps away at the bus barns, Upper Fort Garry Gate, the grocery store in the basement of Fort Garry Courts, Union Station, or the car lots along south Main Street. As I said before, going uptown could be an all-day venture.