Our old town has been changing!

Anyone who grew up here as I did, but has not been back recently, owes us a visit for a fresh look around today—maybe before our community changes beyond recognition!
Touring the town almost completely and daily this winter can make even me believe it’s no longer the place I have known right along. Our changes keep happening on quite a large scale.
This can make you wonder, considering the hitherto lack of fresh industry while our old paper mill appears in trouble!
Let’s start where we came in—at the railroad station. There the passenger trains don’t run anymore and the long brick CNR building is almost a derelict, although heated and used for other offices and meetings.
If you attended our old high school, it’s another shame! Half-destroyed and with only the west end still intact, this alone might make you cry!
There definitely are improvements you’ll see, such as all the new apartment buildings, a big condominium, and trailer parks east and west—housing unknown here a score of years ago.
There are now a few more schools, although Sixth Street School is up for sale along with the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church—both brick buildings and not the only impressive places waiting for new owners.
Residentially, we have gained—both in quantity and price-wise—and you cannot find, in any direction, all the aged homes we left behind. Scores of dwellings are for sale in every issue of the Times and at much higher prices recently.
Our town probably is still in transition. There are not so many newcomers lately but many regular families seem determined to hang on (possibly pending a papermill announcement). The car industry may not be the only plants hurting today.
And even our international bridge, built by the border papermill company so many years ago, is expected to obtain fresh ownership—like our Fort Frances Clinic.
However, the grocery business is booming. Huge Wal-Mart is a recent example and lately Loblaws announced plans for possibly coming to the west end highway, as well. And while Safeway still is serving us well downtown on old Scott Street, we have lost Shop-Easy to Emo.
Our total population seems to have stabilized, which comes as a surprise considering numerous other changes and the regular construction of new schools, including Confederation College—popular for learning computers—adjacent to the large new high school in the west end.
Highway restaurants have multiplied and the hamburger spots now are getting much of the eating action whereas even the Rainy Lake Hotel has joined our movie theatres in retirement.
Our valiant old “RL” fell on evil days and became a question mark as to future use while four other downtown hotels also closed years ago.
Yes, evolution caught up to Scott Street, as well as our churches and schools!
This is a different era and next we will await the spaceships for our airport—or will they come to Rainy Lake? There the tourists still love us and our bush pilots, despite the recent loss of Rusty Myers and Vern Jones who served us so well.
As for future workplaces, our farm district may never recover from the loss of beef cattle sales since U.S. President George W. Bush cut us off that rural income.
But hope springs eternal among farmers, who now expect to establish their own abattoir. Our people still like to eat and despite President Bush, our beef always was the best.
• • •
Still going down Memory Lane, I checked with a former high school student of my generation to recall our teachers’ names. And Olive Eisenhower (Ward) did better than I could.
She gave me some of the following: Gruzleski (science), Penny Player and Alice Morrison (English), Jim Terry, and the Misses Fishleigh, Lawson, and Durnin (math). I had Terry for shop also.
• • •
Every time I forget to mention “Nutty” and his antics for a couple of columns, up he pops in more trouble and this time, tagging along behind him, there is a cute little chipmunk!
It’s obvious Nutty is not being faithful to the squirrel wife with him last time we met.
I warned him to stick to the straight and narrow, too, if he wanted that movie career we discussed earlier. But Nutty simply won’t listen!
No more toast for him!
• • •
Why not put our most famous people first? For instance, with Mario Lemieux retiring from hockey, and no better known name in all of Canada, the timing was right for Mario to become prime minister!
But no, we elect a comparative unknown merely because he heads one of five political parties in the running (when actually only two are needed).
Anyone who knows Canada’s passion for hockey as the greatest thing we’ve got going must think we’re a trifle loco!
Why, despite his name, we’re still not sure whether our new leader is actually musical. Maybe his name relates to the small “juice harp” most of us learned while kids.
Let’s hear him play a harp of some kind, or show us his own hockey skill.
Think this thing over again with retired Mario now free to lead us, if willing. He is among the best we’ve got and the whole world knows it. Either him or Gretzky!
• • •
Lydia Ferguson had her daughters visiting from Thunder Bay and one of them mentioned she had taken her children, including a son, back to view the DelZotto family home in Italy.
• • •
I recently stopped to shake hands was Rick Ricard, hatless and with his formerly black hair now white as snow.
Rick was one of the scoring greats of our old Allan Cup Canadians and had just returned from watching his son coach a game at Red Lake Falls.
• • •
My late wife, Emily (nee Shortreed), whose mother was a McRae and a cousin of the McLeods, north of Barwick, also was a cousin of Mrs. Cates, a McLeod, as I learned.
Mrs. Cates is a former Bank of Commerce clerk. Her relatives were always referred to as “the McRae-McLeods.”
• • •
For conversation on many topics, my neighbour, Margaret Solomon, would be unchallenged. As a poetess with a great vocabulary, she holds audiences very well and has found a following in our apartment.
Originally from Stratton, she was educated in a school car when trains once provided a portable classroom and teacher for children east of Mine Centre.

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