Bert Holmes invented re-invention here

The McEvoys and Holmes came here from the mighty Miramichi and knowing the woods and rivers of New Brunswick, also knew a good thing when they saw it here in the ’30s.
They enjoyed our surroundings so well that one of them served repeatedly as mayor of Fort Frances and showed us how to run things better.
Bert, or B.V., Holmes was not a big man as lumberjacks went back then but he could be forceful. One day, he went down to the railroad to talk turkey with the CNR president, Donald Gordon.
Accompanied by several local leaders, Bert asked the railroad to give us a pile of unused road fill in Rainy Lake for the start of our highway Causeway. The dirt had not been needed by CN.
Gordon was a physical as well as financial giant. He could recognize a gambler in Holmes and played his trump card with authority.
“Mr. Holmes,” he thundered down from his great height, “I might get my throat cut [referring to highway competition to CN] but I won’t hand you the razor.”
Then Holmes rallied our local forces and went ahead with crossing Rainy Lake anyway. Year after year, he took our leaders to Toronto to battle the Ontario Good Roads Association until—with our MPP Bill Noden ensconced as Speaker of the House and the full Chamber of Commerce on the attack—our feisty little mayor won the day as we all expected he would.
This was the man who, about 30 years earlier, wanted to know why more than 100 men were lined up every Saturday for a block down Portage Avenue to collect town relief cheques at the height of the hungry ’30s.
Becoming mayor on this theme, he put a lot of them to work for the municipality and gets credit here for creating the Public Works department.
Later on, his brother, Ray, afflicted with much of the same ambition, took the district’s young men overseas to work in the forests of Scotland as part of our Second World War effort. Major Ray headed the 17th Forestry Corps, which also acquitted itself well on the battlefields of Europe.
Ray was a popular storekeeper while Bert, besides his bush camps, is said to have invested in his friend Clarence Wright’s town busline, which outlasted Bert.
And he had other interests, such as the career of our senior hockey Canadians, which he would back in anyway possible. On their first sally into the Allan Cup finals at Owen Sound in 1951, Bert was mayor again and dying to be there to visit with his friend, Colin Russell, our old boatbuilder who have moved his plant and workmen from here to Georgian Bay.
As much as Bert wanted an official Fort Frances presence at that series, he held himself back and told town treasurer Earl Calder to write the cheque for expenses to me to report on the games—and then obtained town council approval next meeting.
Bert could throw away the red tape better than anyone back then.
Of course, not that this was well-known or talked about, our town was behind the Canadians through the recreational council in financial matters whenever possible, along with our papermill company (everything being quite confidential, you understand).
Those were the years of our coming of age as a community that stood together in all things and open-handed Bert made it all hang together very well, dealing with enthusiasm all the way.
His friends were everywhere when he needed them and yet he had to watch his step on town affairs because there was plenty of opposition around, too.
Here again, for this man and a few others, someday there should be statues built as the ancients were fond of doing in the long ago days of the earlier Atlantis.
• • •
While we are sitting around waiting for our first snowfall, Allan Kielczewski returned a couple of weeks ago from wading in waist-deep snow up in Nunavut to bring back two caribou.
The air trip was made with a Chicago friend in a plane, piloted by one of the flying Mosbecks from Emo.
Of course, Allan, a commercial fisherman, is one of our great hunters and wife, Rita, sometimes wonders where he will find wild game they have not yet eaten.
• • •
John Paul Albanese, a lad the town practically adopted to help cope with his lung ailment as a child, has enrolled at Moorhead, Mn., University for a course in mass communications after serving with distinction as a Chez Rendez-Vous waiter.
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Thanks to a Winnipeg lady, Margaret Mauthe of East Kildonan, and the Prince Edward Legion branch, my recent stay in the Health Sciences Centre there was brightened by her visit and several chocolate bars she brought around to the war veterans.
(The candy helped make up for several items lost there through carelessness in the unfamiliar surroundings).
• • •
If they’re carrying on with re-inventing Fort Frances, let us see those oversized boxcars on rubber banished to back streets.
So many monster trucks are making car drivers nervous and there are bound to be serious accidents, especially around the construction zones necessary on our streets because of the heavy traffic!
The preposterous proportions of these white monsters everywhere you turn has been giving nightmares.
Most local motorists understand that Ontario owns our main roads in town, but why not make a better effort to recover our streets which are becoming more expensive and dangerous every year?
Mayor Bert Holmes had the answer years ago when he wanted to north-end highway bypass.
• • •
Someone has heard somewhere that Osama Bin Laden of Afghanistan was a woodworker in this area not so long ago. This does not account for anthrax discovered in this district last year because that deadly disease is usually found only where there are cattle—and not delivered from the post offices!
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At their annual fall tea Sunday, the La Verendrye Auxiliary was busily working in the Red Dog Inn dining room on its half-million dollar pledge to replace 63 local hospital beds, having already provided the first $100,000.
All across Ontario, the auxiliaries are putting new beds in about 180 hospitals at up to $10,000 per bed!

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