Anyone for skiing here?

While our community continues attracting more snow than we care to handle, where are all our skiers?
In my boyhood, we spent a lot of our lives on skiis! Of course, I’m taking you back again to Mine Centre. There, we used a frozen lake for our skating rink and our natural endowments also included a centrally-located ski hill, which doubled as a footpath between the village and road south to the lake.
This was as a small mountain, mostly bare rock which was sheeted with ice and a scant snow cover for several months every year—and simply irresistible for boys with skis.
Our skis lacked harnesses, but toe straps were good enough and our ski poles—if we had any—were saplings without hand straps.
But we had the fundamental skis, which usually came for Christmas and made a joyous rattle going over those bare rocks—and also got us down the roads to school every morning.
Then we could hit that hill again for an hour before darkness set in at suppertime.
If our equipment was shy on the regular accessories, and maybe needed replacement occasionally because of its rough treatment, well, we had a professional ski-maker in Fort Frances. John O. Herrem, who also turned out doors and windows as a sideline, could be coaxed into a deal on a pair of his great skis.
John eventually built a small factory on Victoria Avenue, but for years we kids watched in fascination while he worked on our skis in his Scott street store window.
John had lost all his fingers on one hand, but managed very cheerfully despite his handicap.
We had a convenient source of skis and a very capable dealer to discuss them with. John was Scandinavian and knew his business from birth.
At the bottom of our run down that Mine Centre trail, you had to steer clear of Tim Harlem’s big sleigh dogs tied up inside his yard. Tim was a trapper who depended on his dog team and could talk for hours about his adventures.
He also let you know his dogs included some timberwolf breeding. Although I never heard of them actually attacking anyone, we were careful to remember that fact.
On Saturdays, our skis would carry us down another hill to our lake rink, where we built a campfire for discussions on world affairs and those with the popular battery-operated radios at home might consider the Olympic ski events.
But mostly we watched the folks crossing the lake from the Golden Star Mine which operated spasmodically. They might be using snowshoes and we wondered why not skis, which were so much faster.
Few boys owned snowshoes—the preferred mode of travel being either skis or dog team.
With the exercise, we got a bonus—freedom from adult supervision so important to boys. Most adults were not fond of skiing.
Since those long-ago winters, I discovered that skiing could be enjoyed in Fort Frances and so my skis spent time on Flinders hills by the river in the west end. Those hills were safer than the ones I knew before, usually being plentifully covered with snow.
This made us wonder, especially with this kind of winter, why skiing ever died out around here.
Considering all the local funding always available for skating and hockey facilities, it could seem that a good ski hill should not be out of reach!
We’ll go on hauling all those beautiful piles of snow off the parking lots when they could become sheer recreation—and there is still plenty of room available for permanent ski hills.
I doubt we would ever regret developing a ski resort in this region. And then just watch our winter tourism really flourish.
It’s high time for us to start capitalizing on everything nature gives us here.
• • •
If anyone wonders why those morning phone calls from the West Coast seem to proceed for an hour or more without any concern about big payments sneaking into the long-distance conversations, well I solved this mystery the other day.
A lady who lived here as a girl checked in for a leisurely talk until I wondered whether she could afford it—but yes indeed. She explained that if the phone connection started before 8 a.m., why then that call can proceed free of charge! Imagine.
Bell here has a somewhat different approach to business as you are well aware.
My most recent caller from Vancouver Island was Della Mae Coward, whose step-father was Albin Anderson and uncle, Rudy Anderson.
She remembered being grateful for a ride through the Shevlin lumberyards, east of Robert Moore School along with seven or eight other kids also hitching a lift through the old, cold winters!
The teamster, who called her “bluebird,” even would bring blankets along for the East End kids he picked up.
“One of my good memories was being taken through the lumber piles in warm weather,” Mrs. Coward recalled. She also discussed Eric’s Lund, the McIrvine showplace created by Eric Ericson and how well he ran his grocery store.
She filled me in on other local personalities including our only midget, Melvin Edberg, who died on a B.C. island at Nanaimo, and scattered other names, including the Horsfalls and Cowards through her hour-long talk.
But if she thinks I intend to pursue this new friendship with a similar long phone call, well, I don’t think so. She and others can work the phones to us back here all they want to!
And we appreciate those long calls!

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