Hey! We missed Labour Day!

And how we missed our old Labour Day celebration this year! With our newly-inaugurated sisterhood of Fort Frances and International Falls not pouring a happy and noisy parade across our intervening bridge—and then forgetting all about sleep that night!
You see, legend has it that the Falls was created to slake the thirsts of all those Canadian lumberjacks needed by our woods companies. Our own seating in hotels here, although greater than today, was considered wholly inadequate!
As a result, the sunny side of the bridge took on the festive looks of a wall-to-wall soiree, with its bars running at least two to six to a business block before stretching east along the river to places like memorable Slab Town, which was opposite our Sorting Gap, and beyond to Ranier.
All this was attractive to our visiting woodsmen as much for the local celebration atmosphere as for the wages paid here—and remember, an estimate on their numbers was about 3,000 in the mid-’30s compared to about a 5,000 population in all Fort Frances.
Being located on what we always considered the “respectable end” of the bridge, Fort Frances was not involved in the partying so much until Labour Day, when we joined our hospitable neighbours.
That’s when we most enjoyed their downtown places like Swede Charlie’s, the Dutch Room, the Log Cabin Inn, the Palm Gardens, and Bill’s Bar long before the Border Bar opened to modern popularity.
An extra lure to these premises was the presence of slot machines and quite open gambling on wheels and tables.
The Falls has long since banished all those devices—in fact, deplored them to the extend it now has young people who refuse to believe that games of chance ever existed there. But the older crowd might still miss that action yet today.
Yes, Labour Day was different here then, even compared to the former decade when, while the gambling has faded away for probably 50 or more years (which is when I last witnessed it in the Dutch Room), there was still day-long partying to be enjoyed.
It always happened after the parade and the Fort Frances band helped spark the spirit—especially those of our musicians popular in the bars as the little Dutch band.
• • •
A huge and difficult research job was undertaken by Joe Puszynski, a wartime sailor himself, to find information and names on the Fort Frances contribution of our naval strength. And now Joe will be coming out with a book.
In glancing through his sources, and knowing so many of the names myself from our school days together, I found my football sidekick, the late John Mihichuk. I will always be grateful to John for playing next to me on the line as the tackle while I was assigned by coach Jim Terry as guard.
I’m sure Joe’s book will be much appreciated by this entire community for bringing up all those names, but what I could never get over is why we sent out so many mariners when Fort Frances is located so far from salt water!
• • •
Great to see our streets under repair again here and there, but who is the detour mastermind everyone wants to know while shaking their heads going around various work sites.
Never mind, all that will settle down before the next roadwork comes along.
However, that must include the long-awaited bypass for all those huge trucks scaring everyone lately. This by-pass originally was planned for across the north end of town and normally should have been in place long ago!
• • •
I stand corrected concerning one of our old auctioneers listed last week. Frank Warner’s main occupation was with real estate sales, not insurance, and was across Scott Street from John Reid’s old office (Cousineau’s today).
Which gives opportunity to recall that John Reid Sr., before he went into hotels and home sales in Iron Town, had established our radio station here (CKFI before it became CFOB).
Driving a gorgeous Thunderbird convertible when he came back to clerk for the district school board, John said that car was about all he still owned.
Our long-time federal MP back then, Bill Benidickson, was John’s business partner in Atikokan. He managed to pass on his political mantle to John Jr. and younger brother, Pat, the provincial member here, and both brothers served for term after term.
• • •
Don and Colleen MacEachern’s daughter, Tara, is very keen on soccer, her dad reports. Recently, she took it on herself to play three games at Minneapolis—in this hot weather!
Tara can practice all alone, if necessary. If you knew Don, this might sound familiar because his mineral prospecting also is a gruelling and solitary diversion.
• • •
Willy Kempf promised to hand in a story on the latest success of his radio announcer son, who was called the “Bird Man” at CFOB here. There has been a special Nevada honour bestowed on him lately.
• • •
Maurice Vaillancourt, who appears much younger, made it to his 94th birthday on Aug. 18 and suggested that this hot weather soon will be over while we go from air-conditioning to furnaces.
Meanwhile, Lucien Bremault, formerly of Pinewood, is now in hospital here. At 66 and apparently not yet retired, Luicien has built 22 homes here, there, and in Dryden so far.
• • •
Greensides General Store in Devlin has customers who wish it would go back to wrapping its egg cartons with tape for hanging in the store’s traditional way instead of using twine.
Ask me no more, but these customers seem serious!
• • •
When our power went off right across town here last Thursday because of the noon-time storm, the restaurants expected a drove of diners but everyone was disappointed for more than half-an-hour.
Small gas burners did provide a little hot coffee, but I went from Harbourage in the east end to the other end at A & W for a meal. I got lucky as power returned, although others must have been sadly out of luck.
That’s exactly the time to win friends and receive attention with everyone lined up roaring and hungry!
• • •
Mine Centre-ite Tom Kelly, the goldminer who found his brother on TV, in my Aug. 7 column, died on Christmas Day last year, his daughter wrote me in appreciation from New York. Tom had reached 96.
Daughter Juliann is a professional musician.

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