Scott Street celebrates 100 years

Hundreds of people flocked to Scott Street on Saturday to enjoy a slew of activities organized by the local Business Improvement Association in celebration of Scott Street’s 100th birthday.
“It was terrific,” BIA chair Russ Ling said Monday.
“We had beautiful weather, not too hot,” he added, noting people were out on the street from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.
“We’re very happy with the outcome,” remarked Ling, adding BIA co-ordinator Patti Anderson deserved a hand for the work she did in organizing the celebration.
The special 100th birthday ceremony got underway at noon, with music by the Fort Frances Highlanders, followed by Barwick singing sensation Kayla Lauzon singing “O Canada.”
Delegates on hand included Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk, former mayor Glenn Witherspoon, and local MPP Howard Hampton, all of whom shared kind words about the downtown business community.
Mayor Onichuk said local entrepreneurs should be recognized for their “vision and enthusiasm” in ensuring the downtown thrived over the past 100 years.
He also noted town council, the BIA, Chamber of Commerce, and Abitibi-Consolidated currently are working together to see Scott Street revitalized as a place for commerce and tourism.
Witherspoon, who owned a store on Scott Street for nine years, said the business community has seen its struggles over the past 100 years but always managed to persevere.
Knowing “the quality of people on Scott Street,” he added the downtown will still be around in another 100 years.
Hampton said he felt Scott Street always has been a vital part of Fort Frances, and even Rainy River District, adding it’s a credit to the business owners that while other cities like Thunder Bay have seen their downtown core erode, Scott Street has remained vital.
He recalled how Scott Street has many memories attached to it for many people, including himself, adding his mother got her first job at a Scott Street business.
And during his days attending the old Fort Frances High School on First Street East, he used to hang out downtown during his lunch hour.
“I think there’s a lot to celebrate today,” Hampton remarked.
Tom Duchnicki, who retired from McTaggarts in May after working there for almost 46 years, said he loved every day he worked in downtown Fort Frances.
He stressed the “merchants have done an awesome job keeping the street the way it is” over the years.
Bill Gushulak of Fort Frances General Supply emceed the ceremony, along with local museum curator Pam Hawley.
Hawley explained the idea for Scott Street’s centennial can be traced back to June 16, 1905 when the previous centre of commerce in town—on Front Street (now known as Central Avenue)—burned to the ground.
Rumoured to have been started by a lantern that had tipped over at a hardware store, the fire quickly spread to nearby buildings and ultimately caused $20,000 in damage.
Ironically, a newly-purchased steam-operated fire engine sat idle on a railway flat car as the business district burned. A disagreement between town council and the manufacturer was later resolved and the town accepted the fire engine, Hawley added.
After the fire, Scott Street was developed as the new “Main Street” because the high prices being asked for Front Street property led many businesses to rebuild in this location.
In the 100 years since, Scott Street has evolved into a centre for retail and services for the whole community, said Hawley.
Gushulak and Hawley also handed out plaques to local businesses that have been around for at least 25 years to recognize their commitment to Scott Street.
These businesses included B93•FM, Betty’s, Bonnie Blue, Brockie’s Jewellers, Celeste’s, CIBC, Cousineau Brokers, Gagné Pharmacy, Howarth’s Home Centre, Lawrence’s Barber Shop, Lidkea, Elliott and Lidkea, Mario’s Jewellers, McTaggarts, Pharmasave, Prime Cuts, Rainy Lake Hotel, Sight & Sound, and TD Canada Trust.
Gushulak, who also had fond memories of hanging out on Scott Street when he was a teenager, noted the customers who have supported the businesses over the years also should be applauded.
Lauzon then sang “Happy Birthday” to wrap up the ceremony, after which cupcakes and ice cream were served.
The celebration was rounded out with a myriad of activities, including the annual mini-queen pageant, a rummage sale, drummers and dancers from the United Native Friendship Centre, a mini-putt contest, live music by local bands, guided tours of Scott Street, dance demonstrations, sidewalk sales, and children’s activities at the museum.
There also were antique cars on display, food booths, inflatables for kids to enjoy, horse and carriage rides, a fish fry put on by Sunset Country Métis, a Fun in the Sun Bingo, and activities featuring the six FITS queen contestants.
As well, Crime Stoppers volunteers were out selling tickets for the “Great Rubber Duckie River Race” while Kiwanis skate park volunteers sold tickets for their fundraiser raffle.
That draw was made later Saturday, with Rose Bird winning $2,840.