Community reflects on losses, developments

On Feb. 14, 1963, the community mourned the loss of J.M. “Mel” Newman, who had arrived in Fort Frances in 1934 and became an important member of the community.
He served as the 16th mayor of Fort Frances beginning in 1957, and his two terms included some important developments—the Portage Avenue subway, the sewage treatment survey, establishment of an industrial site, and the change to Bell telephone service.
Mr. Newman also served two terms in the provincial legislature beginning in 1945.
He also noted for his contributions to the Victory Loan campaign, Salvation Army, La Verendrye Hospital, Fort Frances High School, Knox United Church, Kiwanis Club, Masons, and Shrine Club.
As a businessman, Mr. Newman had learned the garage trade from his father. He arrived in Fort Frances as manager for the Tyne Motor Company and succeeded as Ford dealer in 1939.
The Mel Newman Motors (later Voyageur Ford) site on Mowat Avenue has now been the location of construction over the past months.
On April 3, 1963, Mando opened its new office building on Third Street West. The building was constructed on the site of Hudson Hill, and was noted as “a striking contrast with previous facilities for some 65 employees.”
The 16,400 sq. ft. facility boasted a steel frame and brick veneer.
In March of that year, the Fort Frances Times announced it would now publish on Wednesdays. Thursday had been the day of publication since the summer of 1894 when the paper was known as the Rainy Lake Herald.
The chang came at the request of advertisers as shopping habits were changing (Friday was replacing Saturday as the main shopping day for families).
Disaster struck in December, 1963 when fire razed the Knox Presbyterian Church, the 37-year-old brick building at the corner of Church and Victoria. Built for $19,464 in 1927, the loss was estimated to be $60,000.
The church was rebuilt incorporating the original front and rear walls that were left standing. In 1965, the congregation decided to re-dedicate the edifice as St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.
Also that month, the community was awaiting the arrival of CBC TV. Some 2,695 residents of Rainy River District had petitioned for the establishment of television facilities.
A national microwave system had been put into operation and the delivery of service to this area was planned. This was put on hold, however, as the government adopted an austerity programming resulting in cutbacks.
Back on track by June, 1964, citizens were urged to get outside antenna, and avoid the rabbit-ears type. Local businesses promoted sales so everyone was prepared for CBC TV.
For the new viewing pleasure, Eaton’s Viking portable 19” TV sets were available at a low cost of $169.00
Memories of watching the first television? Information on early mayors, churches, businesses, and families also are still being accepted at the museum for the Centennial History Scrapbook.
The Centennial Celebration Advisory Committee needs your input to make 2003 a year to remember.