A proud tradition of recording the district’s stories

My grandfather, James Cumming, and his partner, Russ Larson, arrived in Fort Frances during the Depression, buying the Fort Frances Times.
The paper had been in trouble and the town was in trouble. The mill did not have full orders and was shuttered as much as it was operational. But the two partners found hope in Fort Frances and moved their families from Saskatchewan, and began publishing the newspaper.
Russ was a salesman. He began his day by travelling the roads of the district having people sign up to receive a year’s subscription for $2. Jim, as my grandfather was known, was the publisher and typesetter.
The pair made a commitment to the people of Fort Frances and district. It was a simple commitment. They committed to using the newspaper as a vehicle to promote the health and vitality of the communities.
The paper would tell the stories of the people, their businesses, their hopes, and their successes. It also would report the sadness and failures.
In most years through to the 1950s, a single reporter supported the editor. But that didn’t mean that the news wasn’t covered. The Times relied on people like Mike Kosowick, who operated Johnny Canuck’s at La Vallee, Lillian Kellar from Devlin, Mary Bottenfield from Barwick, Gladys Smith from Stratton, and Milt Guba from Emo to write the stories of people and their families. In 1936 there were over 40 district correspondents writing each week in the paper.
Those district correspondents told the stories of people home from leave during the war, and the family celebrations at the end of the war. Lillian Kellar told the stories of the tragic Dance Fire and its aftermath.
After Mike Kosowick moved to Fort Frances, he continued to write and was the correspondent for the local Rotary Club to promote its activities. His last memorable writing was following Team Canada to Moscow for the 1972 “Summit Series,” telling their story to the district and his impression of Russia.
Our correspondents told of family home for the holidays, births, engagements, weddings, and funerals. We learned when community suppers were being held and who attended. They told us about crops and harvests.
4-H members told us about gardens, potatoes, cattle-raising, and home-making skills.
From their correspondents, Russ and Jim shared the stories of families in the newspaper.
In many ways, today is very similar to 1934. We continue to rely on our correspondents, including Dave Ogilvie in Emo, Robin McCormick in Devlin, Rick Neilson from Barwick, and Jack Elliott in Rainy River. They continue to tell the important stories of the district.
Even though our correspondents and reporters are out and through the community, they cannot be in all places at the same time. As such, the newspaper also looks to others to share the stories.
We seek the help of teachers to take and submit photos of school activities. We look to families to take pictures of Christmas concerts. We look to coaches and parents in youth hockey and soccer to bring us the scores and stories of their children’s games.
We look to leaders in youth groups to tell the stories of their organizations.
The Fort Frances Times is the recorder of families in the district. We look to continue to serve that role.

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