Historic Sites of Manitoba: Toilers Memorial Park (46 Riverside Drive, Winnipeg)
In 1913, members of the Winnipeg Toilers Basketball Club purchased this Fort Garry property and built a clubhouse. They dubbed the riverside retreat “Toilers Camp” and used the sites as a gathering place for club members and their families. The Toilers won many city and provincial basketball championships and were the Canadian Senior Men’s Basketball Champions in 1926, 1927, and 1932.
On 31 March 1933, two team members were killed in a tragic plane crash, along with aircraft owner J. H. “Jack” O’Brien, team business manager Roy H. “Ray” Bonynge, pilot Avlie H. Hakes, and co-pilot H. E. Eggens, all of Minnesota. All other members of the team were injured in the crash. The team had been returning to Winnipeg from Tulsa, Oklahoma where they had played a series of games. Their tri-motored aircraft crashed in a rain-soaked farm field at Neodesha, Kansas.
In later years, Toilers alumni and crash survivors Walter “Waddy” Ferguson and Charles Harold “Steppy” Fairman owned the property and sought to have it designated as a public park to commemorate their deceased teammates and to preserve the memory of their team. On 30 October 1965, their plans came to fruition when Fort Garry Mayor Leslie Raymond “Ray” Fennell officially dedicated the Toilers Memorial Park. Attending the ceremony were Fort Garry Parks Board Chairman Gary Ross Hobson, former team captain George Wilson, team padre Gordon Maclean, and local residents. A bronze commemorative plaque was unveiled in the park but was later removed. In 1990, it was replaced with a new plaque by the City of Winnipeg and the Fort Garry Historical Society.
“Who Toilers are,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 April 1933, page 8.
“Memorial to famed Toilers,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 October 1965, page 24.
“Memorial honors Toilers,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 October 1965, page 57.
“Story of the Toilers,” by Bruce Boreham, Winnipeg Free Press, 30 October 1965, page 57.
We thank George Penner for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 19 November 2022