Last Island had it all in another hot summer

“It’s right in my will!” tall Michael Pierce, the well-known retired postie, told me one day lately in Safeway.

“And nobody better go removing the old cook shack on Last Island because my ashes will be buried underneath the red pine tree next to it!” he added.

Michael was responding to a query I had received from out of town. It concerned the possibility of moving that cook shack for sentimental reasons. It also referred to my own distant past in the Boy Scouts, who used Last Island many years ago.

I once had been enrolled in the Wolf Cubs—the junior arm of the Scouts with Jack Keenahan in charge.

This was before Jack also got the memorable Drum and Bugle Corps going, and a hockey team and whatever else needed looking after for the energetic young bunch in the Anglican church. As post office caretaker, of course, he would need more to keep him busy!

About all I could describe today for you would be the trauma that set in every Saturday night in our Scout camp when we had to line up for our weekly dose of castor oil!

This was in a summer at least as hot as it’s been this year. We were so glad in those days, when very few fathers had boats of their own on Rainy Lake, that we could go by barge from the Crowe Avenue dock singing “Found a Peanut Last Night” (in its many verses) all the way to the nearby island.

I remember the late George Calder as one of our better young singers.

Supervisors on this jaunt into the Great Unknown would include the Murray and Tierney brothers, and Frank Keenahan, Jack’s son, who were all troop leaders with some idea of what they were doing in looking after us young fry.

They all could swim and paddle canoes and, first thing you know, I was doing the same things, or at least trying.

We Cubs got our first look at turtles and snakes gliding on the water and I couldn’t get over how the snakes seemed so bright with phosphorous—a sight I have never witnessed since.

Then I think about how well we could sleep in tents and on wooden floors because the end of the day had us young Cubs of eight or nine all tuckered out.

This never-forgotten experience ranks among my top memories, along with how good the food always tasted in the fresh air.

Our church minister was in camp and white-haired Rev. H.V. Maltbry always seemed busy. But the Calder girls, George’s older sisters, more or less presided for kitchen and laundry duties and made friends with us for life.

Now, I don’t recall the cook shack referred to recently and which Michael wants to keep—and can because the camp on Last Island now belongs to his family. But a bunch of other memories crowd it out when I try to remember.

I’m thinking about the Westergurd family that we visited by boat one day and also the bad hornet sting I received by venturing into an old cabin boat tied up at their dock (and how that sting became swollen so fast and hurt like the dickens, but even that didn’t matter much because we were preoccupied with enjoying life).

I still don’t know whether our parents had to pay anything for our outing, but I doubt it was costly. Whenever I was in town for years afterwards, I would try and visit the Keenahans and once I brought her a young bush rabbit that she seemed to welcome into the post office basement.

In the depth of the hard times those days, when there frequently was no more to be had than a dime for a movie, our entertainment had been handled by experts that summer and anyone looking back today would have to agree.

Strange what a former eight-year-old can dream up when another hot summer like this one comes along.

Then old Last Island beckons again!

Les Howarth still possesses the photos taken by his father, Cecil, that should be preserved for Fort Frances’ centennial year in 2003—and I hope to take them off his hands soon at Rocky Inlet Road.
Cecil’s work belongs in our history and goes back many years.

The letter writer who complained last week there are no Fort Frances T-shirts available here as souvenirs should meet our Pam Hawley, the museum curator, who has brought in just such a supply.

Trevor Hands at the Sorting Gap Marina store also has acquired some of her shirts for sale. They carry the centennial message for the town’s celebration next year: “A Century of Prosperity and Promise, 1903 to 2003.”

Parked in Safeway’s air-conditioned front end and in good position to hello its customers after they pay at the tills, it’s surprising the information becoming available once the weight business is off their minds.

One such customer, complaining that tap water doesn’t taste right these hot days until after he boils it, wonders whether I am still sticking to well water on the farm. I tell him town water is okay for me yet.

Then Frank Dumeney of Red Gut Bay, who attended Mine Centre school with me, arrives with his jolly wife and extends me a coffee invitation up there. When Joe Bliss, also from Mine Centre, arrives soon after, I mention that Frank is looking very thin nowadays and Joe suggests maybe Florida doesn’t agree with Frank.

And in come church singers Jerry Guimond and wife, Jackie, who say much of their church singing nowadays is done in Thunder Bay.

Now you should know that Safeway manager Mike Scott is said to bear quite a strong resemblance to famed country singer Garth Brooks and he is even hailed as Garth occasionally—although I have never heard him sing, even in churches!

We all know Harry Bell as a man of varied accomplishments, not merely as a regular star of the local bass derby, but teaching a dog to drive may be somewhat unusual—even for an old cop like Harry.

As the story goes, Harry’s dog got their vehicle across the road and down into the river across from the Harbourage last week merely by moving the gear shift into reverse.

Harry had left the engine running to provide air conditioning for his big black pet while he was in the store.