Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Gordon Goldsborough

On the day after Dominion Day, 1922, seven men gathered in the kitchen at 109 Henry Avenue, a couple of blocks from Winnipeg’s CPR Station.

Among them were 39 year-old Wasyl Spachynski and 49 year-old George Antoniuk.

Tensions were strained between the two men, apparently because Antoniuk railed at Spachynski’s claim to be the “boss of Henry Avenue."

Following a short, heated quarrel, Antoniuk took out a pocket knife and stabbed Spachynski in the neck, severing his jugular vein.

Police called to the scene found Antoniuk standing outside, spattered in blood, and Spachynski on the floor inside.

Rushed to the Winnipeg General Hospital, Spachynski died within five minutes.

It is not well known that, in addition to his work taking portraits and documenting special events, Lewis Foote also worked as a police photographer.

Among the collections at the Archives of Manitoba are grisly photos of corpses and crime scenes, most of which have been taken out of active circulation to dissuade “looky loos."

I like this photo — taken by Foote soon after the crime — because, unlike a lot of his photos, it is unposed and raw, showing us what the kitchen of a low-income household in 1922 Winnipeg looked like.

Aside from the blood stains, rags, and abandoned cigarette pack on the floor, it seems lovingly well-tended, with plates and containers neatly arranged on the cupboard, a towel drying on a line, pots sitting on the small wood stove, and frilly curtains in the window.

Justice for the murdered Spachynski was swift. On 17 November 1922, a jury found Antoniuk guilty of manslaughter and he was sentenced to five years in prison.

Today, the scene of the crime is long gone, the building having fallen during construction of the Disraeli Freeway.

- Gordon Goldsborough

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Gordon Goldsborough is Webmaster, Secretary, and a Past-President of the Manitoba Historical Society, and an editor of Manitoba History journal. He is presently working on an interactive map of historic sites around Manitoba, and is co-authoring a forthcoming book on the environmental history of Delta Marsh. He is also an aquatic ecologist in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

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