Football brings us around

Now it’s football time as our Atlantis athletes warm up to a favourite occupation. Today their spectators recall the glories of past seasons and know that nothing beats the charge that follows the first snap of the pigskin.
That hockey will follow is another verity in this land of the vigorous gods of sports, but first let’s become re-conditioned to the fact that Fort Frances cannot be allowed to falter on the speed scene.
Fleetness of foot is one of our main claims to fame.
My memory returns to the long-ago field, now at an abondoned high school. This was our Second World War setting for learning football by the lads who took their feisty spirit to Europe to help save the world.
I’m seeing runners such as Eddy Domanski, Waldemar Zimich, and the late Angus Rutledge scoot across goal lines. Meanwhile, muscular Johnny Mihichuk makes sure I help him hold our line unbroken.
John became a Navy man soon after while his indominitable spirit triumphed again, along with those of hundreds of our other footballers.
I remember John Dronyk going home from the mill and being invited to demonstrate a flying block as he watched a practise. From a standing start, Johnny went into action without bothering to set down his lunchbox first and made watching youngsters bug-eyed.
And when Coach Jim Terry had us lined up to practice the same move, sometimes we surprised ourselves by winning his praise. After Jim retired to Kingston to become an outdoor writer and fine artist, we were disappointed he missed our school reunion.
You wouldn’t recognize the Muskies of today in our rag-tag team wearing not enough gold and purple sweaters (those colours went to the neighbouring International Falls team while ours somehow became black and gold).
But one of our alumni, Frank Pearson, went to UCLA to become a team trainer and managed to send back our team a load of California football pants. They kept us respectable while we ran over Kenora and Rainy River teams that year (1940)!
Our Kenora car trips up the new Heenan highway were memorable, too, with herds of deer on the gravelled road that had so many bends and twists, and I believe we saw our first cheerleaders in those games.
Car riding was always a major bonus for for many of us whose parents had not yet invested in cars, other facts of life intervening.
Old chum Ed Kryzanowski, now of Atikokan, was one of our stars before he joined the NHL, but then Ed was a true all-around Atlantis figure along with other professionals we bragged about, the Fawcetts and Treftlins and Mitch Pechet for instance.
We have come through a whole lifetime since those times, grateful for the memories as well as the friendships forged from our football days. Our gratitude is alive again this fall as we reap the benefits of our Atlantis experiences.
• • •
Now we pause to thank Alvin Alexander of Rainy River for searching his memory on a hard-to-believe connection with the Dawson Trail.
This came about because someone said that our Lost or Last Island is the bottom of the same trail we always thought belonged with goldrush stories in the Yukon.
Alvin reports a story in his neighbourhood has the Dawson Trail crossing Lake of the Woods, but going just where is not clear. It is remembered around Arbour Vitae because a homesteader there named Jim Smith had a story of soldiers from possibly the Boer War burying gold nuggets in the muskeg near his home.
Jim was a poet in both French and English who lived just north of Pinewood, and once made a great chair of moosehide and cedar.
• • •
Thanks again to the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club for another well-attended and free fish fry Sunday up at Sunny Cove Camp.
Again, we admired the great W.T. Russell Hall at the Kiwinas resort while reflecting on the fact that Sybil Russell, his wife, had a local institution named in her honour and our music festival also bears her name.
Quite a couple!
• • •
I’ve known some rugged people but Allan and Inez Anderson of Devlin may have most beat. A four-mile hike as they do every morning would not appeal to many of us, but it may be exactly what I need to straighten out my walking (what a dream!)
Maybe I should invite Cecil and Shirley Wilson of Barwick to go along because they can match most for ambition. Cecil, as everyone knows, continues looking good at almost 80 as the popular reeve of Chapple.
• • •
When the story of the late John O. Herrem’s ski factory came up in the Times last week, it did not mention his participation in St. Patrick’s Day activities with the other Kiwanis oldtimers.
That “O” in his name was once considered an ancestral Irish giveaway although John passed as a Scandinavian.
It also should be noted that his handicap of missing fingers on one hand, like many good carpenters, was no handicap at all. We could watch him working in a Scott Street window, some evenings, apparently when his regular shop was too crowded.
A number of teenage boys worked for John willingly with few other jobs available before the Second World War.
• • •
Louis Councillor returns from Marquette University in Michigan to help train native youngsters at Big Island reserve near Morson.
One of my most cheerful students in Program Five at Fort High years ago, Louis is best remembered as a Culturama hoop dancer which he may revive again for district entertainment.
• • •
The flora and fauna of our Atlantis neighbourhood must be changing. As well as our profusion of regular critters including mosquitoes and bears, we are watching “humming bird moths” and sometimes a tall, black and white bird that may be a magpie.
This bird was spotted alongside the Vanderhorst farm on the west edge of town the other day. Magpies are detested for their harmful habits wherever they appear and some farmers in Manitoba will destroy their nests.

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