October takes me back to Kettle Falls

For me, early October brings up thoughts of the Kettle Falls Hotel at the eastern end of Rainy Lake, where you might get seasick just walking across the old floor!
Right down to this day, that floor has never been levelled, to my knowledge, because nobody wants to interfere with history!
A small crew of us went there in 1941 to work on the Canadian dam, wheeling gravel and cement bags up the steep hill from the lake—one man on the wheelbarrow handles pushing and a partner pulling with a steel hook.
We emptied the barge we had brought along with the aid of the papermill’s big “Hallett” logging boat.
Some of us soon would be in the current war, but my father, as foreman, managed to put six of us together despite the growing manpower shortage.
Our hotel host was elderly Charlie Williams of International Falls, better known as proprietor of the popular Dutch Room bar, which had slot machines.
Williams’ son, Herb, became the next owner besides running boats for many years as Namakan Lake keeps spilling the waters of Quetico Park through the twin Kettle dams into Rainy Lake.
This continues a beneficial situation for power generation and an inflow of incredible tonnages of water for our many needs that keep this area very wealthy in that regard!
So, we met the neighbouring Langfords, Shorty and his wife, Polly (Kocuiba), who was our hotel waitress and fed us royally. We had some good eating men along on that visit also!
My wheelbarrow partner was well-known strongman Walter A. Checkalo, while the other teams included my chum Eddy (Cuts) Chernaske between the handles with a former boxer, Dave Borger, pulling. Dave was my dad’s neighbour and husband of Francine, who had a popular beauty parlour.
Ed and I were physically fit from a summer at railroad ditching.
The trail to the top of the dam required considerable planking to bridge between the rocks for us, but we finished the job safely to keep on hurrying back to the hotel for Charlie’s great cooking.
The fall weather—like now—could be called salubrious while we moved our wheelbarrows. We left a large pile of sand with a wood heater in it for early spring thawing and started work on patching the dam as well as a new shed for the tools.
Then we welcomed Roy Gillon in his papermill runabout boat to take us home, and we had enjoyed an experience better than any October getaway vacation I have known since.
Who else gets to stay at a historic lake spot for a couple of weeks with pay? The wages from the Paul A. Laurence contracting firm, where I became regularly employed until joining the war effort, were merely icing on the cake!
• • •
Joe Paldio of Pinewood pulled through Friday in his 60th year of trucking. He showed up with his great grin at the A&W, where he will be stopping regularly again.
Joe and his brother were among our more recognizable pulpwood jockies for decades. Now his brother has departed along with so many others who kept the district highways hot.
Joe must be creeping up on Harvey Hart’s long-running record. Harvey was well up in his 80s and still at it!
• • •
Optometrist Bruce Lidkea has pronounced my eyesight 20-20 again and sold me a bagpiper’s cap in the bargain.
This is not the traditional Scottish musicians’ topper but it identifies me as a Fort Frances Highlanders’ fan. That I have been, ever since before our war veterans brought over their bonny brides.
A series of pipe and drum bands entertained here ever since while those brides kept everyone applauding their Highland flings.
Now, Bruce, the band leader, is expecting the town to be turned on by musical workshops starting Oct. 19 in the Masonic Hall. There will be pipers and drummers here from Bemidji, Fargo, and Ely as well as Winnipeg and Thunder Bay.
Sounds like a Celtic celebration all right, and expectations are for a series of workshops all winter.
• • •
A gentleman stopped to shake hands with me the other day as a follower of this column and I learned he spends time with a local troop of air cadets.
I’ll have to watch for them because my own years with the Second World War RCAF were, if not exactly distinguished, at least an education to put it mildly!
This weekly piece in your paper has proved well worth the effort in obtaining appreciation and much more than I had expected.
So keep on reading now that I’ve got my eyes in shape again. And I’ll keep on writing for at least as long as the law allows!
• • •
Bob LeBlanc from Dearlock, near Blackhawk, who is the cattle sales manager every fall at Stratton, is still running more than 60 head where his father helped me out of a ditch one long ago wintry day.
My cattle used to sell well down there and Stratton was where everyone in ranching came together.
• • •
They call him by a nickname, “Rooster,” the young lad who looks after the shopping baskets and odd jobs at Safeway, and I owe him a favour. He said his store sells sunglasses and brought me a pair.
My eyes were streaming and I was grateful! You can always find such thoughtful people all around you.
• • •
Now that district deer hunting is starting up in stages, I wonder again whether our visiting albino is still wandering somewhere down River Road, where it appeared last fall possibly after swimming across the river.
We kept getting reports that the white deer was being spotted as far away as Barwick right into hunting season. He may have been leading a charmed life, which undoubtedly came to an abrupt end.
Hopefully, a pretty pair of twin fawns born nearby this summer will survive to become adults.
• • •
Someone pushed over the A&W’s pole rather artistically and gave it a fancy bend to help attract notice there!
• • •
I’m not sure that the rather expensive-looking narrowing of the upper river beyond the condo will be showing any profit for many years. Whoever decided this was necessary is probably the same manager who is looking after our controversial street repairs.
Hopefully the province will shoulder most of the costs because inflation keeps on knocking the wind out of local taxpayers!
• • •
Teddy Bone reports her horses have been running out of pasture. She says they won’t eat trefoil, which is taking over her fields and, in fact, the whole nearby countryside lately.
Those yellow flowers are pretty and the cattle chew them down, but Teddy has been putting out the hay for her mounts already.
• • •
And aren’t we lucky to be getting so much outdoors work cleaned up this pleasant fall, even if I won’t take credit for improvements continuing at my farm on roofs and sheds.
So, I’m still looking for a buyer, but if it doesn’t sell, why I’ll steal an idea from the late Nick Wepruk of Barwick and raise the price. It worked for him!
Meanwhile, handyman Wayne Maki keeps busy with me!

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