It’s time to stop and appreciate

The turn of the years always brings up nostalgia time for me—and with it this old, old song: “When You and I Were Young Maggy . . . I wandered today through the hills, Maggy, to watch the scene below. And I thought of the days that are gone, Maggy, when you and I were young.”
So with my constant companion, my old blue truck, I went over some of those scenes, starting with Pither’s Point Park and its great beach, where I suffered one horrible sunburn at the age of eight but went ahead that same evening to sing in the Anglican Church choir (where I almost collapsed!)
Then I wended my way around town to see Portage Avenue, where I grew up just beyond the CN subway and remember the older ladies sweeping out boxcars to find grain for their chickens in that north-end neighbourhood.
Some even carried wood drills to allow the wheat to flow into their pails beneath the cars.
Further down the tracks stood the coal dock, close to today’s liquor store. There, a fellow we knew well would spend all his days without benefit of a shower, then ride his bike home looking like he came out of Africa.
Close by there was one of our urban farmers who kept cows and sold milk as a sideline—only one of our people whose cows and gardens seemed to supply much of the town before the pasteurization law was passed.
Then only “Ma” Flinders remained with her Holstein herd, out along the highway, delivering the bottles to your door early mornings.
From my old home, we could walk for miles out to Blue Mountain, which supplied all the berries you would ever need from the same locale that later became the town’s garbage grounds.
That area also provided many loads of firewood, which you could hire a local teamster to haul to your home when that was about our only heating fuel except for coal for the furnaces in wealthier homes.
The saw-machine owners would be patrolling the back alleys to find and cut up the firewood for you. The coal probably would come from Jim Tyne or maybe Bob Kitowski.
Heating was a subject dear to everyone’s heart in those old, colder winters before the advent of fuel oil or gas or electric heat.
Turning away from Blue Mountain and Frog Creek Road, and crossing to the highway, finally took me through McIrvine. There, my newly married years included births of the first two children for our home at the bottom of Biddeson Avenue.
This street started at the school and ended in my driveway overlooking the river. That was the beginning of a happy half-century of riverside dwelling and somehow made it seem natural to move later to a farm further out.
So I drove down River Road back to my old farm for the first time since selling out only this past fall.
When the memories became too strong for me, I got my companion turned around and returned to town past the homes of three generations of Koskis and the operators of the old corn patch, the Loweys and Vanderhorsts.
I may have wiped away a tear or two, but seeing the CN station reminded me of our regular use of train travel to reach my childhood home in Mine Centre. That one-room log cabin would look silly on my farm against my large two-storey dwelling.
But my thoughts were cheerful in both places.
A note of regret comes in reflecting on how our red brick structures have lost so much respect around town! If you think about this, starting with the CN where our servicemen were waved good-bye in two world wars (and many for the last time), it’s easy to imagine why red brick did not continue to be a popular building product here.
Our big old brick courthouse is still in service, for sure, despite lingering memories of that terrible triple hanging and burial in its front yard after the infamous “hot stove” murder, which the books on Canadian crime still recall occasionally.
And my memory puts faces on the men executed here, especially since I had worked with two of them when we were all boys!
But the red brick has begun disappearing at the old high school, which was sold earlier this year for other purposes.
The face of our community changes with time and my trip down memory lane has conjured up as much joy as heartbreak. This is only to be expected after me hanging around through much of the 100 years we celebrated this past year.
But there’s much more good to be said about our Fort Frances experience. Even if it’s only by recalling the dark sides of our history that we can fully appreciate the remainder.
This seems today to be going ahead as wonderfully generous as always!
I’ve lived here long enough to continue to be amazed at our town’s progress and those years when our East End around the arena and beyond were filled with lumber piles, and there was no “Hamburger Alley” and other businesses at all in the west end.
And if you were building with bricks, and that was for most of our public buildings, why that was intended to see them last forever—and how these are gradually disappearing in usefulness, at least.
The CNR station is only a ghost of its busy times before the highway opened to the east. The old town hall has been replaced while my old high school is presently being torn apart.
The inevitability of change is showing up everywhere you can turn, but with it there comes satisfaction and even happiness. For instance, the return of my newly-married daughter and her husband from Sioux City, Iowa occurred just this Christmas.
It was truly a Christmas designed in Heaven when the snow shovelling ended and the streets and sidewalks mostly bare, and the shoppers moving in such great numbers that our merchants had to express appreciation.
There were flaws in our shopping system, however, in that the curbs along the store sidewalks still were clogged with snowbanks and slush, although I hope the looked-for accidents there did not happen.
But can’t either the storekeepers or the town, with its big budget, look after those curbs?
I’m sure the oldsters of the community would prefer more interest in their safety! The curbs were much safer across the river along the Falls stores.
Also, is it necessary for the town snowplows to keep on blocking the private driveways?
Despite all such remarks, I’d guess we never had a better celebration season, especially considering all those disasters of nature occurring in other parts of the world.
No, I have not decided to move to California! Especially after all the Christmas feasting we can practise here.

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