Bike seasons beckons

It’s beginning to look as if bicycle season will soon be upon us, and I’ll have to find out whether Ernie or Albert Brunetta may have a bicycle for sale because their father was in the business before the boys turned his bike shop across from the post office into the Midtown Motel.
Of course, Brunetta being an Italian name, bicycles come to them naturally, it seems, because I remember when Camillio (Cam) Belluz won our Dominion Day race which was formerly taken every year by the late Tony Belluz.
Tony didn’t have much chance of continuing his domination in that sport when Cam brought along a great-looking bike when he came from Italy to join his family here.
Then the Brunettas took over that business and the town started filling up with more two-wheelers!
Car rides were few and far between in my family, but suddenly I managed to get to Pither’s Point beach and the river for swimming, and earlier in the season to Carmody’s gravel pit where the water warmed earliest.
Then Blue Mountain, before the town garbage went there, became a popular destination for blueberry picking. The bikes also would carry us to the creeks in springtime for spearing the suckers, which Ned Gosselin would smoke for us for half our catch.
Almost every populated corner of the nearby district also was within reach for us in those days.
I don’t believe boys are quite so adventurous anymore, and bikes have become much more expensive, but they were always an important part of growing up. And when someone would offer money for a day’s work on a nearby farm, such as with Vanderhorst vegetables, we’d soon get there also.
Who needed four wheels when two would do?
But hold on for a week or so before hitting the open road on your bike because March always has been a snowstorm month.
You think we’ve already gone through a memorable snow season? Well, sometimes March piles up the fluffy stuff faster than any other part of our long, long winter.
• • •
I was once grateful for more and more snow. I had taken a room at Ottawa for college and soon was beseiged by offers from the new neighbours to keep their driveways open all winter. I was delighted because college kids need pocket money, too.
But I soon learned that Ottawa is famed for more than affairs of government. This became a non-ending, night and day ordeal while the snow kept coming and coming.
Besides the neighbours’ lanes, I soon was recruited for the college’s outdoor rink, where the president kept a second team—his shovellers! Of course, being new to all this weather, I dared not abandon my duties like the smarter, older students.
I began to believe Ottawa managed its colleges mostly to handle its snow, which kept coming until the snowbanks towered above us, especially around that darned rink.
Our college team, the Ravens, though, became winners that year—largely through our efforts.
• • •
Don’t call me old-fashioned when I remember being happy to be paid 56 cents per hour on papermill construction jobs here.
Now waitresses get seven or eight dollars an hour.
• • •
Al Johanson has been retired for five years now as a Crown land inspector. He came here from Kenora.
• • •
I see the tearing down of the former Canadian Tire store here as a shame. Constructed of steel, concrete, and bricks, and not old, it should have stayed here at least 100 years longer.
Is its disappearance an omen of impending doom for local businesses generally?
Few buildings as large are arriving here lately, but the west end around it seems to be flourishing with both Wal-Mart and the new Canadian Tire here, indicating our future centre of commerce could become “Hamburger Alley” where, at least, we won’t be hungry!
• • •
Sixty years after the Second World War ended, our war brides’ club still had 10 members attending a gathering last week with Penny McFarland, whose former home was Edinburgh, Scotland!
• • •
Jim Chabot went out after his 13th truckload of firewood last week. He heats his garage and workshop with it for his mechanical work.
Others also still depend on burning wood—but not to heat homes in town anymore.
• • •
If you remember, I promised my readers an error or two every week—and not always deliberately! I was corrected for one from last week on a man’s name, but my second mistake slipped by unnoticed apparently!
Have fun!
• • •
Can anyone remember Dave and Francine Borger? Possibly only the ladies because she operated Francine’s Beauty Parlour in the Rainy Lake Hotel basement which, in those days, still had a Scott Street entrance with stairs from the sidewalk down to her popular business.
Dave had been quite a boxer and another fellow named Walter Checkalo was always wanting to put on the gloves with him. So when my dad hired both men to help him repair the dam at Kettle Falls, we wondered if the boxers would soon tangle (especially since we lodged during that job at the Kettle Falls Hotel, owned then by an International Falls man who also ran the popular Falls Dutch Room).
Maybe we were kept too busy wheelbarrowing cement uphill from the lake to the dam for any energy leftover after work because that fight never developed. Aside from any impending entertainment, the hotel food, served by our Polly Kociuba, was excellent.
Besides my dad and I, she waited on three other men, including my friend, Ed Chernaski, and also her husband, Shorty Langford. He lived close there until he bought an air service with Stan Cavell and they eventually moved to Red Lake.
In those days, many men were not settled into permanent employment here. Maybe because the Second World War had started and everyone was anxious and restless.
Anyway, the Borgers remained our next-door neighbours and, along with the Albert Bruneaus, also close by, enjoyed card games with my parents. The popular game in that era was good old 500, which is similar to bridge.
So you got into games wherever you turned and made lasting friendships.
My parents frequently played cards with Frank England, my dad’s construction boss, and his housekeeper, Jennie Sawkins, who lived nearby. I would manage to get home for the lunch every evening afterwards.
Frank and Jenny almost became part of my family.
The ’30s were waning and everyone discussed the war, but were still lacking television and with few cars, folks remained very sociable through their wintertime card games.

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