CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN
The home as it appears today on Fourth Street.
It was 100 years ago yesterday that the Brandon Sun gave away a home as part of a subscription campaign that blitzed southwestern Manitoba.
A Brandon Sun clipping detailing what was up for grabs during the newspaper's biggest circulation contest 100 years ago. (FILE)
Brandon Sun clipping detailing the circulation campaign. (FILE)
Richard and Darlene Shoemaker, the home's current owners/ (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)
The home, valued at $2,400 in 1913, was the top prize in a bevy of loot that included a new car, three Weber pianos and a host of smaller winnings worth a combined $6,000.
WINNERS' LIST• $2,400 Bungalow and lot -- Mrs. W. Dear, Brandon• $1,400 Overland touring car-- Mrs. E.G. Berry, Brandon• $750 Weber player piano -- Mr. J.H. McLandress, Sinclair• $350 Weber pianos -- Mr. Ancel Cressey, Brandon; Mr. Alex Nesbitt, Oak River• 99-piece silver sets -- Miss Ruby Clark, Brandon; Mr. Peter Dick• Scholarships -- Miss Nellie Russell, Shoal Lake; Miss M. McClement, Brandon• $40 gold watches -- Miss B. Powell; Mr. Chas. Wakeling, Brandon; Mr. D.C. Klassen; Mr. J.B. Young, Boissevain• Phonographs -- Mrs. M. Atwell, Brandon; Miss Leota McDonald, Brandon; Mr. C.W. Stevens, Deloraine; Miss E. Londry
Today, the home still stands on the 800-block of Fourth Street and is owned by Richard and Darlene Shoemaker, who bought it in 1988 for $45,000.
Sitting in their living room, the Shoemakers were surprised to learn their home was once given away as winnings in a contest a century ago.
"Wow, that’s really interesting and neat," Darlene said.
"It’s hard to believe that you go back 100 years and this house was on the outskirts of town and up for first prize," Richard added.
The Shoemakers purchased the bungalow as a starter home.
Twenty-five years later, the couple own the home where they raised their family outright.
"We kind of settled in after we moved in and we’re quite happy with it," Richard said.
Throughout their time owning the home, it has been stripped down to the studs and renovated with their own blood, sweat and tears.
When they first moved in, the walls were covered in thin faux wood panelboard in what seems like a rite of passage for any home built prior to the 1970s.
If the home’s walls could talk, they would tell the story of 12 different owners, beginning with Jean Dear, who won the circulation drive.
Dear was the wife of William Dear, who was a locomotive fireman, according to papers filed with the Manitoba Land Titles Office.
Records show the couple already owned a home in the city and almost one year to the date of winning the prized bungalow, the Dears sold the home to Herbert Gratton.
A butcher, Gratton owned the home until 1926. Five years prior to selling it, he purchased the empty lot adjacent to the home and amalgamated the two properties, essentially plotting the home on a double lot — albeit a small double lot based on the size of lots a century ago.
In 1926, George McWilliam, a switchman, bought the house and held onto it for more than four decades.
Through the 1970s and ’80s, the house appears to have value as a starter home for six families.
Only one person, William McKinnon, a nursing attendant, ever lost money owning the home. In 1970, McKinnon bought the home for $9,000, selling it a year later for about $100 less than he paid.
In an odd twist of fate, in 1984, more than seven decades after the Brandon Sun gave away the home, Greg Cullen, a pressman at the paper, and his wife Linda bought the home for $28,300.
Throughout its century-long history, an addition was built to the house that become a home for blue-collar, hard-working Brandon residents.
Three railway employees, two butchers, a plasterer, an apprentice glazier, a pressman, a nursing attendant, a salesman and a barman have owned the home prior to the Shoemakers.
While not in the trade of their surname, Richard is a journeyman HVAC technician and Darlene is manager of laundry services for the Brandon hospital.
As part of the century celebration, the Shoemakers received a free one-year subscription to the Brandon Sun.
The paper also jokingly offered to buy back the house for the original $2,400.
"You’d have to add a couple more zeros to it and that would do it," Darlene said with a laugh.
According to the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator, if the home price followed the same path as consumer prices, it would be worth a little more than $48,000.
This year, the City of Brandon assessed the property at $119,500.
As for the 1913 subscription drive, more than 3,500 people bought new subscriptions to the paper — more than doubling the Sun’s circulation. It was so successful the paper said it couldn’t afford to hold another contest without expanding the printing plant.
More than 170 million votes were cast in the elaborate contest, which awarded votes based on subscriptions sold, nominations and cutouts from the paper.
Sellers who didn’t qualify for one of the 17 prizes were awarded 10 per cent of the total money from subscriptions sold.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 21, 2013