Paul shared his great sense of humour

Paul Kielczewski usually was one step ahead of everyone with his information. However, he also enjoyed a sense of humour—second to none—and regularly this was the despair of the rest of his Rainy Lake family.
He was first on his feet in his father’s bunkhouse at Rat River, about 40 miles east of here, as we heard the old steamboat bump the nearby dock and Paul exclaim “It’s the Tuskaroara!”
The early morning visitor is his half-brother, Orrie, with his unique conveyance that was destined later for Alaska. Paul calls the boat by a mythical old name because his brother, Alton, reads a lot.
Paul is the middle son of his father, Frank’s second family. All of the Kielczewskis were among my favourite people.
That steamboat will be wrecked eventually in the Ranier rapids here, then repaired and loaded on a train for the west coast and eventually reach Alaska—an odyssey well described in a book written by Orrie’s daughter.
Paul is standing on another morning out on the dock when the RCMP boat arrives, bringing two officers who want to know whether he has seen or heard heard anything about a pair of natives allegedly murdered somewhere around the lake.
They became rather agitated with Paul’s casual answer, which was “Sure, the old man is keeping them on ice!”
The Mounties jumped up the hill to investigate and started throwing sawdust around in the ice house which every commercial fisherman owns! If they had known Paul better, they might not have become so excited because he thrived on his own imagination!
When he was hired by the Fort Frances fish house at one turn of his colourful career, he invited me to accompany him while visiting the commercial fishermen on both sides of the lake.
At one American fishing camp, Paul told me he hated to enter that bay because this fisherman was known as a whiskey maker—and made a habit of dumping his used or spent “mash” into the lake.
“If there’s anything I hate,” Paul told me, “it’s a bay full of drunken ducks flopping around in front of the boat.”
Still an American himself, Paul was born below the border and served with the U.S. Seabees during the Second World War up in Alaska.
His two brothers, Alton and the younger, Allan, who writes good letters to the Times editor, were both Canadians and trying their best to get along with their prankster brother.
One evening, Paul decided to take me for a boat ride around the American shoreline. We were using a small outboard motor that he had “borrowed” from Alton— one that Alton would not allow anyone to touch.
Because I was their guest, Alton did not show me his displeasure but Paul caught the full blast when he brought back the story that Alton’s pride and joy had slipped off our boat and been lost in the lake.
It was Paul who introduced me to the Lessards, brothers Butch and Bud of Ranier, Mn., where he visited regularly and practised boxing with them in a backyard ring.
Paul was known to be good with his fists, something his father, Frank, would mention, having been a Wisconsin lawman in his own youth.
Butch Lessard was a well-known border scrapper in our day and later managed the Ranier liquor store. We would meet him occasionally along a series of old lumberjack taverns known as “Slabtown” on our hikes out to Ranier.
Sometimes the Lessards would pick us up because they had cars and knew us through Paul, and sometimes they also would help defend us if other Americans interfered with our visits.
Paul continued his merry ways on both sides of the border. Eventually, he married twice and helped raise a total of 12 children. He would breeze into my home for a card game with my parents and cards were always a favourite pastime for evenings up the lake, where I might while away the hunting season because his parents always made everyone feel so much at home.
And those were among the happiest days of my life—the saddest being whenever a Kielczewski death occurred. And now only Allan remains of that great family and the word on his health is not encouraging.
I cannot remember Paul’s ending but a daughter says it was in the 1980s. But his fun still lives on—and not merely for me.
Because his father owned a small cabin boat, the “Greyhound,” and had started into the tourist business when he came to Canada, makes me believe that Paul, with his popular ways, could have become a successful figure in tourism.
He was never cut out for the lonely life of a fur trapper like his brothers, but business never appealed to him, either.
When he eventually left the lakes behind and took steady work as a U.S. truck driver, I’m sure his coffee breaks would be memorable because Paul was first and foremost a people person full of enjoyable conversation.
His was truly the wonderful, carefree spirit of Rainy Lake—and all of his legendary number of friends could probably never be counted.
• • •
Books on the Second World War, such as “D-Day,” are becoming popular at this late stage, there being so many readers around who can’t remember those years themselves.
And we have a new writer in our midst, an RCAF veteran himself whose uncle was a member of our biggest-scoring Canadian Air Force wing—the 126 Spitfire Wing. He kept a daily record of his war service years.
Now the nephew, Russ Killett, intends to publish those memoirs and the result should be a best-seller. He lost one uncle in war service but the writer, Bill Pennington, served five years—mostly on combat duty—and had experiences that haunted him.
• • •
Popular Harry Skinner was another RCAF veteran, I believe, and his close friends included Ole Hallikas, whose stories of our old town I used to enjoy.
There was the one story about some of our former Shevlin Clark sawmill workers who once coaxed a horse upstairs to visit a sick friend in the “Green Onion” rooming house, next to White Pine Inn.
But then they found the horse could not be coaxed to descend and needed a hole cut in the floor and block and tackle rigged to lower it.
Ole’s folks kept a steam bath on Scott Street for years when these were popular with our Scandinavian bush and sawmill workers.
• • •
Get Bert Oliver going on his memories and he brings up his singing career when he joined a group of fellows warbling for worthy causes! They helped raise money once for the Emo Curling Club (remember “Old Black Joe?”)

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