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George Wenige: Still Running
wenige at microphoneby Christopher Doty

Born in Detroit, future mayor George Wenige first arrived in London as a trick bicycle rider around 1900. He stayed on to found the area's largest bicycle dealership - boasting he was the man who made walking expensive.

Wenige's career is a litany of outrageous publicity stunts. He once ordered a contractor to build his new bicycle store in a record 30 days. To make sure the deadline was met he hired a brass band to provide motivation music for the construction workers. As a stunt he rode a bicycle from London to Halifax - at a time when most of the roads were unpaved. He taught his two-year old son to ride a bike and then forced the child to pose for publicity photos.

First elected mayor in 1922, Wenige brought his populist vision to the public office. He claimed to have views on every subject - and never hesitated to express them. He once campaigned on the promise to re-establish civic bingo games, forgetting that they were illegal. When elected he instituted them anyway.

"The newspaper had painted George Wenige as a rather nasty, uneducated man but I found that his main interest was in doing things for the public of London - that he was more interested in the underdog than anything else," said former city clerk Reg Cooper.

Common men and women always had the final say on Wenige - whether he was breaking up a Port Stanley bootlegging operation or introducing city-wide garbage collection. Out of 18 runs for the mayor's office, George Wenige would be elected nine times. No London politician has ever come close to matching his stamina at campaigning.

wenige for mayor 1925"All down through the years the indefatigable George Wenige has been businessman, citizen and city leader performing the obligations of all these offices thoroughly and with integrity," wrote his old nemesis, The London Free Press. "Somehow the city of London and George Wenige seem to go together."

Wenige was on hand to welcome Boy Scout founder Lord Baden Powell, Olympic skater Barbara Ann Scott and Hollywood actorHume Cronyn. As a boy, Cronyn had purchased a bicycle on credit - though Wenige couldn't recall if he ever paid off the balance.

In his 16th election campaign, Wenige faced an unexpected opponent. In July of 1950 Wenige had fired police detective Allan Rush. An outraged Rush, egged on by his wife, ran for mayor that fall.

"Daddy and Allan and the Chief (of Police) were the only ones who knew why got fired. The people wanted to know, even my mother wanted to know but (my father) promised he would not tell and to this day I don't know and I don't think anybody knew. So with that Allan Rush got elected," said Hilda Love.

Wenige could not accept the fact that Rush was the man who defeated him. Despite warnings from his doctor about his high blood pressure, Wenige launched his final campaign for mayor in the fall of 1952. The 78-year-old candidate had lost none of his old fight.

"I haven't any apologies or any excuses to make," he told reporters. "Let's get back to good sound government."

Wenige lost - badly. Four weeks later he succumbed to a massive heart attack.

"He was a successful businessman and he I think he must have been a damned good mayor - to be in and out the way he was," said Love. "No other man got that."

Thanks to Hilda Love for the preparation of this Web page.