Our own work stoppages were bad!

While that stinking garbage-hauling strike at Toronto has to be considered as bad as it gets in the world of labour relations, especially during this heat wave, we have had our moments when strikes and work stoppages generally have given us bad times in Fort Frances.
A local labour leader, Allan Bedard, quickly jotted down for me the years of a whole series of our papermill strikes which came and went fairly regularly recently—and still gives everyone with those memories some shivers.
Maybe ours were more sanitary than the strike ending now at Toronto, but when an entire community is depending mostly on the same source of income as we are here, strikes can be quite devastating.
Allan’s strike list stretched from 1967 to 1998 and, would you believe, bad as that was, this practically was our complete list of labour strife in our entire history!
There was a bad bush-workers strike in 1936 but Fort Frances otherwise has enjoyed a peaceful existence and disruption of pay cheques cannot be considered a common occurrence here.
Yet even a Safeway store strike, such as has been making the headlines at Thunder Bay, does not begin to compare with those disasters for this small town.
Fort Frances often spent sleepless nights during those intervals and our church-goers were moved to offer prayers. Strikes, putting it briefly, can be just that awful! Constantly mounting inflation does not allow for much absence of pay cheques!
But there was a time far back in the ’30s when it seemed we may have lost everything here and for all time! This fear accompanied the announcement that our papermill company, our main hope for survival, had sunk in the great Depression of the day!
“Backus Bankrupt” screamed the headline on the tiny Daily Reminder sheet that bad day! And even the weather seemed to have turned ugly with storm clouds while the paper was being delivered, I can still remember.
Few may recall that plain little paper but on that day, it came with a thick black border all around the only sheet. And then our shocked residents started wondering.
Answers to their dilemma failed to suggest themselves as everyone hung on best they could until the emergency “relief” lineups began for the municipally-funded pay cheques.
Loss of jobs sent some workmen and their families packing before long, my own father among them.
The strikes coming 30 and 40 years later did not bring as much trauma for the most part. The papermill got going again without as severe loss of population as expected.
There was little comparison with the B.C. story that came along with a former high school teacher here who said a pulp mill at Port Albany had lost 4,000 residents during an 18-month strike. It now stands at 12,000 population, or only two-thirds of its former size.
I’ll digress here to recall our Daily Reminder paper, printed by mimeograph in a downtown storefront. It was published by an oldtimer named Herb Houck. He has faded into the past after also running the lamented Point Park Pavilion. Herb returned to Kenora, then headed west.
Our Daily Bulletin came on the scene soon after as an off-shoot of our weekly Times.
For the record, the strikes listed by Bedard started in 1965, then became spasmodic until 1978. There was another flare-up in 1998. The years 1917 and 1940 also held disturbances.
• • •
A Kenora woman has demanded public warnings about the forest disease blastomycosis. Last year, we were reporting it had attacked the lungs of people as well as dogs here.
A new ailment not readily detected by doctors, it has been mistaken for bronchitis, but it can be fatal. There were 63 cases reported in the Kenora area alone last year.
An authority here is Albert Carrier, who has been treated for more than a year. Other patients are scattered between here and Rainy River.
• • •
Dave Hughes and four others with family histories from the Blackhawk area north of Barwick recently went visiting friends of their families both there and north of Stratton.
These were descendants of a group of Scottish settlers who came here many years ago from Quebec. Three of the local McTaggart brothers, whose mother was among them, also were accompanied by Gordon Ross.
• • •
What size of family does it take to produce a reunion numbering more than 100 immediate relatives? At Sunny Cove, a week ago, the Wards convened and their 10 brothers and sisters could count a family fully that numerous.
The famous Calders had better keep on growing!
• • •
The Circle D Restaurant at Emo had only one kind of pie to offer last week and, having been there frequently before, I didn’t have to wonder why. Their wonderful coconut cream pie still stands alone!
Incidentally, waitress Arlene Bullied is still dealing out that pie!
So in strolls Dan Rose, now retired but well known as a former agricultural rep at Emo. He still spends summers with about half of Emo on Clearwater Lake, which seems summer home enough for everyone around.
You can find Dan behind a good crop of white whiskers nowadays!
• • •
Something here for our hard-working Friends of Animals. What can they do to help preserve this district’s famed skunk population, which is constantly challenging highway traffic, especially since there has been so much rain?
• • •
Local history recalls the search for details of Fort Lac la Pluie, La Verendrye’s old stockage, which was put together authentically the second time at Pither’s Point, according to measurements preserved from the original story.
The size was given in “pieds” or feet, apparently paces instead of anything metric, and this led to some confusion because the old explorer being French would understandably use the Celsius scale.
However, there was nothing of the foregoing bothering the builders of the walls and sharpening of all those stakes needed to surround the old fort safely.
I believe it was Albert Nelson, Barwick area woodsman and carpenter, who looked after all that pointing. He arrived to work with the Paul A. Lawrence crew on mill jobs here.
Also, along with a brother who probably also helped on the fort.

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