sunset vs sunrise

A friend invited me out to Victoria Beach the other day where she'd been granted an art retreat. Driven by curiousity, I jumped at the opportunity to enter through the gates into this restricted and historical beach resort. Victoria Beach, on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, has had a reputation of being unfriendly to immigrants. 

Until the 1950s, cottages throughout Manitoba were accessed by trains. One track ran up the east side of Lake Winnipeg serving Grand Beach and Victoria Beach (along with smaller resorts) and the other track went north along the west side, serving Winnipeg Beach and Gimli areas. The different routes also meant that sun-seekers didn’t have to mingle with other races, ethnicities or classes. 

East side of Lake Winnipeg at Victoria Beach

To have a cottage at Victoria Beach meant you were a ‘civilized’ person who was escaping into nature because you had earned it … you were successful. It also meant you were probably British. You were definitely not Jewish or East European. East beach people got to walk sandy beaches and watch sunsets.

Meanwhile, the rest of us … the immigrants, the poor, and the dis-inherited … established beach communities on the west side of Lake Winnipeg. Here, we got to watch sunrises and collect stones on the rockier shoreline.  The really well-healed holiday-ers headed out straight east to Lake of the Woods, a lake offering up islands for total privacy. Again, a different train route. 

Nowadays, of course, cottage communities don’t depend on trains. A network of highways created access to many summer resorts throughout our well-laked province. Even campers like me have access to beautiful beaches. 

My parents, 1950s' immigrants, could never own a Victoria Beach cottage but that didn’t stop them from dreaming of a west side cottage.  My dad helped build enough of them in his early years here in Canada but it wasn’t until I was in high school that his own cottage finally became a reality on Valhalla Beach. 

My dad (left) at a cottage construction site, 1950s

Nearby Gimli had a thriving community of Icelanders, Winnipeg Beach welcomed Jews, and Ukrainian and Russian settlers built up other spots on the west shoreline.  Yes, the east side still has better sand and idyllic sunsets. It still holds on to a nostalgic past that still charms its privileged vacationers by keeping out the public. 

But the west side has great rocks, good fishing and ordinary people. The sunrises are amazing and promise a future that assumes equality amongst all ethnicities. 

West side of Lake Winnipeg near Gimli

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