A popular Christmas story here!

George Hampton, a great story-teller and father of our local MPP, Howie, insists that Mable (Ma) Flinders knocked over our town Christmas tree in three or four different years whereas I can remember only once.
The biggest and best Christmas trees anyone could find would always be positioned in the centre of the Scott Street-Portage Avenue downtown intersection in the years before we had traffic lights, only stop signs.
Mable drove her milk delivery van winter and summer while making friends all across town back in the 1930s and ’40s. The way George spins this legend is that those many friends would sooner go to jail themselves than have Mable punished for knocking our beautiful tree over.
He says someone reminded our then police chief, Louis Camirand, of the many free bottles of milk that Mrs. Flinders was known to leave on doorsteps of customers she knew who lacked the coins or tokens to put into the bottles sometimes.
Why, if she had to be fined for her troubles with that tree, the town might even stage a riot or small revolution!
After all, Mable was known as “Ma” Flinders for the best of reasons and her heart was considered at least the size of her milk wagon. Her friends would always protect her, it was known, and there was never any charges laid.
But then again, it came out that Mable may not have been always the erring driver.
So the unlucky tree eventually found a safer Christmas location on the post office lawn in recent years, much to the town’s relief.
Now Mable and her milk cows aren’t around anymore but still well remembered up to the days before “Hamburger Alley” developed, when her black-and-white Holsteins pastured across from her home and dairy.
Mable’s sons, Ed and George, along with their dad, stayed in business for many years and she still has a grandson operating the A&W restaurant here.
And the affection for Mable still lives on!
• • •
Can anyone remember the “Fort Frances Polka”? This subject came up when I suggested it would be great to have our own song, such as “Sioux City Sue” down in Iowa where my eldest daughter resides.
I had never heard about our polka until someone reported this was a song from our former songstress, Fran Murray.
If Fran still gets our paper, maybe she will send us the song. I still appreciate the record she sent me after moving to Saskatchewan!
• • •
But say, put George Hampton and Smokey Kawulia discussing hockey and two fans with better memories never got together!
• • •
There was this Port Arthur couple I met (and I’ll continue to call it that city no matter how long it remains in Thunder Bay). Anyway, this man knew many of the same places where I worked as a youngster, including Kettle Falls up Rainy Lake, Steep Rock, the Port Arthur shipyard, and Noden Causeway.
He had been an old Paul Laurence Construction Company worker who remembered my father as a cement finisher—and all this goes back over half-a-century!
No matter how happy the New Year becomes, we’ll never turn our backs on all those “good old days”!
• • •
A veteran Canadians player, Gerry Martin, makes a powerful case for all the influence Fort Frances has had on U.S. college hockey over the years.
He named more than a few local players who entered the American system and states today we still are taking leadership in two of the six U.S. hockey commissions.
For instance, the names of our Bill Selman, Julian Brunetta, Joey Armbruster, Bill Borlase, Guy LaFrance, Gino (Johnny) Gasparini, both “Brush” and “Huffer” Christiansen, and Art Berglund are all spoken with respect south of the border—and there are others to be mentioned, Gerry reports from having known them all at one time.
Then he brings up names of younger players, such as John Gustafson and his own son, Bob Martin. And there are others toiling on U.S. rinks to be learned about later!
And what could the U.S. colleges be doing without us?
• • •
Bert Oliver, while showing me miniatures of his great local artwork, said he spent five wartime Christmases in Holland and two more in Italy with the 37th Battery of the 17th Field Artillery, along with 50 other soldiers from this district.
As an artillery veteran, it’s no wonder Bert had to spend $5,000 for his hearing aid!
His paintings show local farms owned by the Caul and Busch families close to town.
• • •
Pamela Oliver, wife of the artist Bert, after 60 years and five children, can give you plenty of reminiscenses as a war bride from South Wales, England, one of many overseas girls who likes our boys!
• • •
Where would we have been without the satisfaction of the old Northern Hockey League, including the Iron Range teams of Hibbing, Eveleth, and Duluth who helped our Canadians get in shape to chase the Allan Cup around Canada, west and east, every spring.
And at this time we have to hold back the tears over our lost players and coach Joe Bolzan, including Harry Barefoot, our goalie, Ike Eisenzoph, Ed (Dun) Sampson, Mike Hupchuk, and, just lately, Willy Toninato.
Here again, Gerry Martin, their teammate, helped with the names.
• • •
During Gerry Martin’s informative visit, I learned he recently had talked to Bud Hebert and his well-remembered sister, Eileen, and found them both still doing well and busy.
Remember Bud’s Office Supplies store, which he started after winning several cash contests? He hit the jackpot so regularly that Bud decided to quit working with me at the Times!
Then Gerry brings up his recent trip back from Minneapolis and how often departure delays were being announced before his plane managed to take off. This was a Sunday trip, for one reason, and visibility reports kept changing for hours!
• • •
The untimely death of our popular fireman, Ralph Fulford, only 55, spoiled the spirit of this season for many. And at least half the people we met were making the same comments on how well liked Ralph had become here after arriving from Emo!

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