MHS Centennial Organization: Winnipeg Press Club
On 12 February 1887, a strong representation of Winnipeg’s newspaper publishers, editors and reporters gathered in their club rooms at Winnipeg City Hall to elect the first board for the Winnipeg Press Club. They could not know that night that the club would, in the 21st century, reign as Canada’s oldest media club, and one of the four oldest in the world. Elected as the first officers of the club were Thomas Hiram Preston as President (the runner-up was Charles Acton Burrows), William Edward Maclellan as Vice-President, Archibald McNee as Treasurer, and Charles Wesley Handscomb as Secretary, with an Executive Committee consisting of John W. Dafoe, George A. Flynn, and A. P. Wood.
The early objectives of the Winnipeg Press Club were similar to those of the present-day club: 1) to promote the professional, social, cultural and educational interests of its members and encourage professional exchange and development, 2) to provide a united voice to the practice of journalism and freedom of the press in Winnipeg, and 3) to establish fraternal relationships with fellow press clubs and media associations around the world.
Originally a private club for members of the newspaper fraternity, it grew to become an organization with members across many media. Broadcasters joined its ranks in 1953. The first women journalists became members in 1970.
The WPC is perhaps best known for its annual satire show “Beer and Skits,” which still stands as North America’s longest-running revue. Beer & Skits formed in 1933, put on two shows in 1934, and staged a show every year thereafter until the final production in 2006. For the first 50 years, the show was restricted to men only, in both the cast and crew and the audience. Women became part of the show in 1984. B&S presented the fun-loving side of media personalities, and many of the same people who were involved in the often slap-stick B&S comedy also played a key role in Winnipeg’s Schmockey Night, an equally slap-stick fundraiser for Manitobans with disabilities. WPC’s contribution to Schmockey Night’s success was acknowledged with the national Ability Fund Award in 1972.
In 1890, the Club left its rooms at City Hall, and followed a vagabond existence until 1953, when the Club opened the doors of its first club room and bar, on the third floor of the Northern Life Assurance Company at 300 Main Street. For 47 years, from 1961 through 2008, the Marlborough Hotel was its home. The Club no longer maintains its own rooms. After having a temporary home with the Irish Association of Manitoba on Erin Street, as of 2011 the Club holds meetings and events at The Royal Canadian Legion, St. James Branch #4, at 1755 Portage Avenue.
The prestigious Winnipeg Press Club Presidents Award was established in 1997 for “Someone Who Made a Difference” in the community through their achievements and contributions in both their private and public lives. Past recipients include “Cactus” Jack Wells, The Hon. Duff Roblin, Mary Kelekis, Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, Bill Norrie, The Hon. Pearl McGonigal, Sam Katz, Janice Filmon, Gregg Hanson, Babs Asper and Val Werier.
On 3 April 2005, an MHS Centennial Organization Award was presented to the Winnipeg Press Club by Lieutenant-Governor John Harvard, Jacqueline Friesen, and Gordon Goldsborough. Around 2014, the Winnipeg Press Club ceased operations and deposited its records in the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.
“Talented newsman, talented father [Steve Halinda],” Winnipeg Free Press 26 October 2019, page B1.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 6 December 2021