Manitoba History: Cool Things in the Collection: “Signing In” - The Press Club Guest Books

by Garry Moir
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Number 70, Fall 2012

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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For an autograph collector, they are a veritable treasure trove. Names from around the world appear on the pages of the Winnipeg Press Club guest books, illustrating the prestige the Club once held when it was the place to see and be seen. The guest books contain the signatures of entertainers, athletes, politicians, and of course broadcasters and journalists.

How big were the names to show up at the Winnipeg Press Club? You don’t get much bigger than “Bud” Abbott of the famed Abbott and Costello comedy team. He was in Winnipeg in 1961 as part of a North American tour. Abbott was attempting to resurrect his career and by this time had a new partner, Candy Candido, known for his work with Jimmy Durante. Candido also signed the guest book.

There was no doubt a “whole lot of shakin’ ” going on when the recording group The Crew Cuts dropped by for a visit. Best known for their 1954 hit song “Sh-Boom,” the New York-based foursome from Toronto was in Winnipeg for a concert. With them, they brought another contemporary singing sensation, Anita Bryant, from Miami, Florida. Other prominent entertainers whose names appear in the guest books include Larry Linville of “M*A*S*H*” fame, country and western stars Homer and Jethro, Harry Douglas and the Deep River Boys, Robert Goulet, and the husband and wife musical team Les Paul and Mary Ford. On 4 March 1975, Linda Susan Boreman stopped by the Winnipeg Press Club. She signed in using the name for which she was best known … Linda Lovelace.

On the sports front, legendary Winnipeg Blue Bomber coach Bud Grant dropped by the Press Club on several occasions. His archrival Eagle Keys, the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos, also put in an appearance. The entire Hollywood Ice Review, which included a number of US Olympic figure skaters, was at the Club on 8 December 1955. The signatures of former NHL stars Terry Sawchuk, Bill Juzda and Alf Pike can be found in the guest books. Then there was the night the professional wrestlers showed up, led by “Canada’s greatest athlete” Gene Kiniski, the villain “Mad Dog Vachon”, and all around “good guy” Greg Gagne.

Judging by the guest books, the Club was an ideal place for politicians and journalists to rub shoulders and share drinks. Premier Duff Roblin was a fairly regular visitor. In fact, virtually every Manitoba premier showed up at the Club at one time or another, as did many provincial cabinet ministers, civic politicians and members of the police department. NDP leader Tommy Douglas no doubt entertained the members when he visited in 1961. The Ambassador from Ireland dropped by, as did the Japanese Consul and New Zealand’s High Commissioner.

Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter who helped unearth the Watergate scandal and bring down President Nixon, signed the guest book. So did cartoonists Ben Wicks and Lynn Johnston, and political columnist Charles Lynch, along with a host of other working journalists from around the country and indeed around the world.

Santa Claus signed the guest book … probably more than once. A couple of other signatures, however, are much less believable—those of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, both of whom supposedly dropped by the Club. Didn’t happen, but had either of them ever been to Winnipeg, there is a very good chance they would indeed have signed the register at the Winnipeg Press Club.

Page revised: 12 March 2023