A long lost industry is recalled!

Among the many memories that came out of the past 100 years since this charming community was first established, I believe possibly our first serious industry has too long been forgotten.
Look around this town and you will recognize few major buildings of red brick. But the fact there are at least a dozen early businesses and government buildings of that style can make you wonder where that product came from—and why it seems to have gone out of style more rapidly than in most centres.
I don’t believe I heard the story of our brick-making factory more than once. It came to me from a man long since deceased, but he made it sound convincing without claiming to have been personally involved in this industry.
He seemed to know the exact site on the lower river, at least a mile down, where someone discovered the red clay that few of us have ever noticed since.
With some knowledge behind him, he went at it to produce the bricks used in our railroad station and several older hotels that have vanished in recent years, as well as certain prominent, two-storey homes.
The style was catching on so well, you might wonder why there weren’t more of these strong and stylish structures erected before our early bricklayers gave up, but the only reason I was given concerned the breakage.
The bricks were loaded on horse-hauled wagons on steel wheel. But the early roads were extremely rough and sometimes it took several loads to yield only one load of unbroken bricks.
The distance to the station for loading onto boxcars and exporting the bricks made the business prohibitive without insurance available for the risky hauling.
I sometimes wonder whether I have the digging site right because down the railroad a mile or so west of the present natural gas centre, where a fellow named Markell once maintained a slaughterhouse for beef cattle, there is another site that might give you the idea that bricks had been made there, too.
Perhaps years after the horse wagons quit hauling to the station, it was decided to make bricks much closer to the railroad.
We discovered this second site while searching for raspberries one hot summer, having harvested a surfeit of blueberries from nearby Blue Mountain, which became the town’s garbage grounds long ago.
Today, many may not remember picking berries in that vicinity although we trudged back and forth for that purpose all summer long. Later in the fall, we also got our cranberries from that same patch of muskeg.
The brick-makers here, if that happened, left considerably heavy old machinery there to rust away and it’s likely to be found there yet. Also, I can guarantee that if you want to avoid being attacked by wasps, that would be the place not to go.
A farmer named Watson once ran cattle in that neighbourhood and disliked trespassers there, but I wondered later how he managed because I don’t remember seeing his fences.
This is not a memory being shared by many of your surviving oldtimers because the rough walking was not the most popular feature of berry picking in those times. So don’t ask me to go in there again, jumping the railroad ditch and searching the brush for evidence to support this story.
Just take my word for it about one of our earliest industries being brick-making. Mind you, berry picking was always better known here.
• • •
John Makarenko reported Saturday that our most unpopular pests (he calls them army worms while others say tent caterpillars) already were appearing around Rainycrest.
So get ready for another nauseating early summer in the outdoors and don’t bet on the cool weather making any difference to these varmits!
Sometimes they can be thick enough to skid trains off the tracks and, or course, swimming can be out of the question—along with green leaves—for a long while!
• • •
The yellow rain jackets populating our cemeteries this early summer all deserve your appreciation because their struggle is producing great results.
One of them, Chad Hanson, a member of the well-known Nestor Falls family, paused for a moment to accept congratulations for his squad’s efforts, which have managed to work wonders despite the inclement weather.
• • •
There was a shock wave in the air at the Legion’s monthly supper Friday, the last for this season, when it was announced that Gwen Westover was retiring from action on the kitchen brigade.
The well-attended event demonstrates that the Legion Ladies Auxiliary can still attract hundreds of pleased patrons—and much of their pleasure has been directed towards Gwen as the auxiliary meals manager.
There was no mention of her husband, Glen, having any similar plans to withdrawn his equally capable assistance or there might be a serious drop in membership.
Volunteers like the Westovers don’t come along every day!
At the supper, Cora McEvoy was showing photos of Mine Centre ladies of years ago, including one with my mother prominent in a corner. First photo I have seen of what I believed was the Women’s Institute of the ’30s.
Cora remembered all the names much better than I could. There were happy gatherings there.
• • •
Concerning that old prison farm at Barwick, which has attracted considerable attention, I got a letter from Mona (Gill) Ralko of Kenora, and originally of Barwick, saying she used to go to that farm when Don Campbell lived there and she was a friend of his daughter, Mary, who now resides at Richmond Hill, B.C.
Mona believes Mary could give us more information on that farm and sent along Mary’s full address for anyone to follow up on this. It’s been a popular topic for sure, also somewhat controversial.
• • •
Another great meal for me came up Sunday at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church as part of the celebration of 118 years service for that church here.
While Fort Frances officially was established in 1903, this church had started 19 years earlier. Scotsmen being strong supporters, they appreciated Dr. Bruce Lidkea bringing his bagpipes and kilts to the Sunday event as he piped the choir members into the service.
The parish has scheduled a busy summer for activities.
• • •
Well, the first despised dandelions arrived last week and I did not notice the pickers out plucking the yellow blossoms for our wine-makers at all this spring.
And how many can remember that the green and white base of the plant before it flowers makes an excellent salad?
My father appreciated the dandelion for both purposes. His salad dressing would be vinegar and olive oil for a real spring treat, but I never enjoyed the taste of dandelion wine which was somewhat bitter.
• • •
And the colossal Calder Clan will re-unite again this Friday evening at Pither’s Point Park, scene of their highly-successful family event last year.
This is right next to newly-named Calder Drive. They expect hundreds!

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