Monday, December 5, 2011

A Bath of Bubbly in Brandon: Captain Vivian bathes in his Profits

Few writers can top the late Pierre Berton in the use of colourful anecdotes to add life and interest to the history books.  His work on the construction of the C.P.R.'s main line, The Last Spike, is one of the most readable books in Canadian history.  His account of a certain Captain Vivian, in the heady days of 1881, when the C.P.R. thrust its main line due west from Winnipeg, and real estate speculation was in its heyday, is worth re-telling.  Vivian was English gentry in bearing, sported a gleaming monocle, and spent a thousand pounds on a quarter section near Brandon.  As Berton recounted:
Rosser St. and 6th Ave. Brandon, 1882.   MHS Source: S. J. McKee Archives, Brandon University, Lawrence Stuckey Collection C1

"Vivian sank the entire sum into a quarter section homestead in the Brandon district, which he proceeded to sell at inflated prices.  By February he was said to be worth four hundred thousand dollars.  Unable to drink up all the champagne he had purchased, he filled a bathtub with it and invited his friends to watch him splash about.  The affair cost him seven hundred and fifty dollars."

Berton reports that the Brandon real estate boom was so sudden that no cemetery was planned and the dead had to be shipped back to Winnipeg.

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