Dear sir:
Hi, this is “Rapid Robert,” you know, “the old guy with the plaid tam.” I have been approached again and reminded that I’ve not written in the Times for a long time.
I have been thinking about the place of my birth, nearly 83 years ago, namely the town of Rainy River. The most difficult task is to try to get across what I’m trying to achieve.
First of all, I will be writing about people who have been “laid to rest” for many years. People who are very vivid in my mind and meant so much to our family, at the time, but I write of them with all the respect that I can muster.
I do not intend to offend anyone.
Finally, I would like people of today in Rainy River to think and talk about the people who I will name and say, “Yes, I remember him or her, or it.”
Cam Coulter and Mrs. Coulter pop into my mind. Mr. Coulter always wore a blackish grey suit, and the gold watch chain always hung neatly draped from one vest pocket to the other.
My next recollection was about 1929 or ’30 when our big house burned on the farm. Mrs. Coulter brought us the biggest roast of beef and gravy that this “kid” had ever seen. Kindness and concern.
Fields general store, on a corner of main street across from E.D. Calverts drug store, was owned by Hyman Field—a very generous man who, believe me, kept us in groceries out on the farm. I can hear Mr. Field telling my dad, “Now Harvey, don’t you worry about the family on the farm.”
Yes, I can still see the grocery bill, and also recall my mother walking to Rainy with a dozen eggs (if the chickens were laying) and possibly a couple of pounds of butter (if the cows were milking).
We are talking about the “Dirty Thirties.” Dad, at the time, was among the builders of the Heenan Highway to Kenora.
When Mr. Field heard that dad had a tourist camp in mind, he said, “Harvey, you’ll need sheets and blankets. You just come and get them.”
Needless to say, Mr. Field eventually got paid in full.
I’d like to group the three butcher shops in Rainy at that time (we are talking the ’20s and ’30s). Paul Spiegel’s was one, Mr. Spinarski was another, and Andrew Byncoski’s was the third.
One thing common to them all was cleanliness. When you opened the door, fresh, clean air hit you. Mr. Spiegel had sawdust on his floor—a common thing for butcher shops.
We can’t forget the red-headed barber, Bill Frazer, with the toupee. Bill had the nicest 1931 Oldsmobile convertible—with the biggest chrome headlights you ever saw. It was tan in colour.
While on main street, I must mention Mr. and Mrs. Hebert’s store, across from the Corona lumber yard. Mrs. Hebert would rock in her old rocking chair all day long.
They were a lovely couple, and Mrs. Hebert’s hair was always neat and in a bun.
We can’t forget the Gaiety Theatre, run by Barny Theviarg, a great citizen and fundraiser for functions. I never got to the movie theatre. After all, admission was 10¢.
While on main street of Rainy, we can’t forget Frooms Cafe. I still can see George Froom dishing up ice cream. I’d watch him dish up my occasional one( hoping he’d take one more stroke with the scroop and maybe get a little more ice cream on it.
After all, cones were 5¢ each while the package of Turret cigarettes and sweet caporal were 5¢ for a package for five. The 20-cigarette package was out of sight at 20¢ each.
I must close soon or I’ll have a book, but feel I must mention a few more names: Dr. Cameron, who, on Mach 20, 1923, brought me into the world; Dr. McBain across the street next to Field’s store; and Mr. Swagstraw, who had one of two bakeries in Rainy, was located where a restaurant is now.
The second bakery, which burned down, was owned by my sister and brother-in-law, Charles Helliar. And I mustn’t forget Sander Moe’s grocery and just south of it, Tyne Motors, where a grocery store is now, I believe.
I must mention Mrs. Theviarg’s eating place down closer to the river. It wqas owned and operated by Barny’s mom and put out the best food imaginable.
I must close. I know I have left out many people and places, but time is catching up. Anyone wishing to correct me or comment on this writing, please feel free to do so.
Bob Cottam
Box 489
Emo, Ont.