Many great memories of ‘RL’

The Rainy Lake Hotel is down to a pile of rubble.
For decades it was the social and cultural centre of the Town of Fort Frances. Huge balls organized by fraternal or sorority groups filled the ballroom with party-goers and dancers. Regional conventions booked up the rooms.
Brian Mulroney was interviewed in the Causeway Room. Robert Stanfield stayed on the second floor, as did Flora MacDonald, when they were running for the Conservative leadership and courting local votes.
As you descended the stairs to the ballroom, the aromas floated out of the passageways from the kitchen under the authority of Matt Rogoza. The ballroom was decorated with wall murals, arrangements hanging from the ceiling, tables covered in cloths, and waitresses rushing around to make everything perfect.
In the 1940s and ’50s, sales representatives arrived by train and their large trunks were hauled to the basement and opened. Clothes were hung on racks for businesses selling men and women’s clothing to make decisions on ordering for the next season.
Some trunks were carefully unpacked and gift goods were displayed on tabletops circling the outside of the rooms.
Several brokers often arrived at the same time and the hotel was the hub during their stay. An outside entrance led down from the sidewalk to the basement, and the town paid for the operation of public washrooms in the basement.
For the longest time, the Rainy Lake Hotel’s dining room was the choice for both locals and visitors. Many a family arrived for fishing, staying either at the hotel or a motel in the neighborhood, and their first meal was the walleye supper at the “RL.”
A fresh turkey was cooked every morning and a hot turkey meal always was available, as were hot turkey sandwiches, where the meat was sliced fresh off the bird.
It was the twice-daily meeting location for the Retail Merchants Association and members of two coffee clatches. Those coffee groups spawned great business friendships and promotional ideas.
Throughout the years, various groups including the Lions, Kiwanis, Jaycees, and Toastmasters used the Mill Room, Club Room, and Causeway Room for lunch or dinner meetings. A piano often was played in the Club Room with rousing voices booming out “O Canada.”
The meals were inexpensive and hearty. The pies that followed were eagerly anticipated—and often the banana cream or Boston cream pies quickly ran out.
After the bar was changed over to allow both men and women to enjoy a beverage in the same room, the Rainy Lake hosted some great entertainment—perhaps the most remembered by my generation was the “Lady and the Gentlemen.”
The room was packed and the dancing floor jammed at night.
There are many great memories that grew in the activities at the hotel and even though the building no longer exists, those memories will remain.
The murals on the wall also have been salvaged so that a piece of the Rainy Lake will live on.

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