Portage la Prairie, MB –
A short trip to Portage from Winnipeg to pick up an online purchase turned into a three-day odyssey for Bill and Susie Labossier.
The couple purchased an oak china cabinet through a popular internet shopping portal and thought picking the item up would be the easy part.
“We hadn’t been to Portage before but figured how hard could it be to find the place in a small town,” Susie Labossier said.
The majority of Portage uses a grid system of dull, uninspiring number based street names except for the prestigious areas in the south part of the city. The Labossiers were seeking a residence on Estate Street but since they don’t have a data plan with their cellular phones they stopped on Saskatchewan Avenue to ask for directions.
“The first person we asked said he wasn’t sure but said if it was a name it would be in KoKo Platz or Mellenville,” Bill Labossier explained. “We thought the fellow was drunk and figured Mellenville was another town and KoKo Platz was, well, we didn’t know what the heck it was.”
The Winnipeggers met other Portagers willing to help. They directed them to the south part of the city by following Crescent Road.
“They told us Estate ran off of ‘the Crescent’ so we followed Crescent Road but got lost when it turned into River Road and Wilkinson Crescent,” Labossier said. “We didn’t find Estate anywhere so we had to ask someone else.”
The visitors came across Barry Smitherson out for his nightly walk along the lake.
“I told them Estate wasn’t in Koko or Mellenville and that it is an address at Southport,” Smitherson said. “I explained exactly how to get there. Go past the Boys Home. You’ll come to a road leading to the Republic of Manitobah Park. Don’t turn there. You’ll go by the old MTN building on your left. Keep going down the 240. You’ll go over the by-pass and then the turn to old bridge road. That is the old road to Southport. Don’t turn down there cause they took out the bridge years ago. Keep going until you pass the river and come to the Hoop and Holler road and the St. Claude highway. Don’t take either one of those. Keep going south and you’ll come to the base.”
To the Labossiers, Smitherson was speaking in some kind of local tongues. Despite Smitherson’s help the Labossiers did make it out to the former Canadian Forces Base, Southport a day later.
“We had to stay the night because it was getting late by that time and there was nobody around to ask for directions.”
The next morning the couple found more directions that took them to Newton, Oakville, Poplar Point and High Bluff. Estate street still eluded them. The following day while roaming around Bowes trailer court the couple found someone who used to live on Estate Street.
“We came across this odd woman and her dog who claimed she knew what we were talking about.”
The strange woman was life-long Portager Evelyn Baggs and she told the couple exactly how to find Estate Street in Portage’s northwest corner.
“The place they were looking for was just two doors down from where I used to live,” Baggs shared. “Okay, I said. You want to go down the old highway because the Trans Canada is closed at the tracks. Once you take the old hwy turn at the road to McCains and follow that. There will be an old lagoon on the left we used to shoot skunks at, go right on past that. You’ll see the Peony Farm on the right. My aunt used to live there. She had a big garden with raspberries. After you pass McCains you’ll go by the old Hips plant turn at the next stop sign and turn right. You’ll go right by the school I used to play slow-pitch at. The diamonds aren’t there anymore and you’ll want to keep on driving. At the end you’ll come to third turn right. You’ll come to the Manitoba School. Turn left and keep going ‘til you get to the Delta highway. Turn left and then go by the old Chus-a-Treat another block until you get to Centennial Hall. Turn right and keep going straight. You’ll come to Estate Street in the Skerwood mobile home park. You can’t really read the sign anymore but if you get to Campbell Soups, turn around because you’ve gone too far.”
Even though Baggs provided exact directions the Labossiers ended up lost in the city’s north end for another day.
“We decided to camp at Beaver stadium for the night and managed to find Estate street the next day,” Bill Labossier said. “We got our china cabinet and got the heck back to Winnipeg where it’s easy to get around.”
While the Winnipeggers still feel it was poor directions that caused them to be lost for three days in Portage la Prairie, it would be difficult to blame the Portagers involved after hearing the detailed help they provided.
“Hell if you can’t find your way around Portage, you won’t find your way anywhere,” Baggs said. “I don’t think they educate them very well in the city (Winnipeg). I can tell you how to find anything in Portage but I can’t fix stupid.”