A Close Call – 1950 Flood

Winnipeg’s Norwood Bridge on May 15, 1950 – Harold K White Studio

On May 10, 1950, a Winnipeg Tribune a front-page photo shows the overflowing Red and Seine rivers into St. Vital residential areas forcing the evacuation of 20,000 people. “There is no cause for panic, but there is good reason for you to act as outlined,” says the mayor. A mass evacuation of Greater Winnipeg begins. Families including the DICKIES FROM GUNTON: CANADIAN BROTHERS IN TWO WORLD WARS leave their homes as the water rushes in.

It is quite an experience for Percy’s daughter, Lollie, who captures one of the exciting stories of the times in a report for school:

The flood waters of the Red had risen perilously, threatening the whole of Winnipeg. The city had been in an uproar, people had evacuated, leaving their belongings to the onslaught of the merciless river! Two tired university students, Rod Pennycook and Jimmie Murphy had hustled home to eat a hurried supper, and then had returned to the dikes. Finding their services not required at one, they jumped into the canoe and headed for the next. After three miles of their treacherous journey, the canoe had upset! Jimmie had been thrown clear, and had struggled to the surface, but Rod, having placed his feet under the brace, had been caught, and being weighted down in heavy hip boots, had been pinned beneath the canoe. Jimmie had been carried away by the current, which was too strong to fight. After what had seemed like an eternity, Rod had risen to the surface. How he had managed to free himself, he never knew! The current, by that time, had carried them toward the bank and after several unsuccessful attempts to grab anything to check them, and to keep Rod from going under for the last time, they had managed to cling to a clump of willows. A bystander, having seen their sorry plight, had hurriedly set off for help. For a half hour, the two had hung on, defying the grasping, icy river! After what seemed like hours, they were hauled to safety. How lucky they were, at escaping a watery grave, only they knew!