It Happened in Manitoba: Stories of the Red River Province


216 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Index
ISBN 1-894856-42-2
DDC 971.27






Reviewed by Norma Hall

Norma Hall is a historian who specializes in colonial era settlements in
Newfoundland and Manitoba.


Don Aiken combines craftsmanship and curiosity with pride of place to
produce a rich and insightful history of his home province.

The author and his subject are well matched. The Winnipeg-born Aiken
was raised in Scotland. As a young man, he saw the world from a
deckhand’s viewpoint. After circling back to Manitoba and teaching in
a one-room schoolhouse, he navigated aircraft in World War II.
Journalism dominated Aiken’s subsequent career. He rounded out work on
the Winnipeg Tribune and editorship of the Dryden Observer with editing
books, composing poetry, and researching local history. Readers familiar
with his “Heritage Highlights” in the Winnipeg Real Estate News will
welcome this collection.

Each of the 44 pieces (together spanning 400 years of history) is
illustrative of Aiken’s ability to spin concise, informative prose
into an entertaining yarn. He writes with a journalist’s eye for a
story and a historian’s appreciation of the telling detail. More than
one mystery is presented and statistics are furnished on everything from
political party proliferation to the Golden Boy’s dimensions.

Life’s ironies are not lost on Aiken. He portrays a past not
dominated by heroes and villains, but experienced and shaped by a
diverse range of “ordinary” yet colourful human beings. While their
actions occasionally suggest greatness, as in the case of Marcus Hyman
and Canada’s first human-rights bill, there are counterbalancing
descriptions of failure, such as the collective callousness toward the
people of the St. Peter’s Indian Reserve. Always there is a sense of
indomitable human spirit.

Past and present are well served with this multifaceted portrait of
Manitoba and its people.


Aiken, Don., “It Happened in Manitoba: Stories of the Red River Province,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024,