Readmans keep coming as very busy people

For many reasons, the name of Readman has been running through my thoughts a lot lately.
Having just celebrated our centennial year in 2003, we are always impressed by incidents concerning popular names of the local past, Readman being prominent among them.
Many will still think about Bob Readman, our first fire chief, and his descendants. Fewer will know that Bob’s only brothers are, “Cap” Readman, was also our first town police chief.
The name for me, though, ties into my own family’s first stay in Fort Frances when Readman was the name of our landlord.
We lived on Third Street East for about five years while Evelyn Readman, the eldest daughter of “Cap,” visited my mother monthly to collect our $5 a month rent. Evelyn was a very sociable visitor, sitting on our kitchen table while she gossiped with us.
I became friendly with Bob Readman later when I visited the former town hall on my news beat. We played a lot of cribbage in his old fire hall, sometimes with truckers who would stop to have their loads weighed on the town scales there.
Of course, I knew Harry Readman, Cap’s youngest, before Harry joined the forestry, then accepted a transfer to Atikokan as a game warden. And there was “Bo” Readman, Bob’s son, who handled lumber for the North American store before he moved to Mine Centre.
And, of course, there were May and June Readman, sisters of Bo, who helped look after us when I went up the lake to Lost or Last Island with the Wolf Cubs and Boy Scouts.
That was the summer before the Vandettis moved to Mine Centre and I was only eight.
And here comes one part in this story that sort of turns me on: I found out years later that the spot where my family lived in a one-room log cabin, a mile south of that once-attractive railroad village, is exactly the same place where Harold Dennis established his handsome gas station and grocery.
And wouldn’t you know it, Harold had married a Readman, sister of Bo who wasn’t long in joining her there.
The Dennis family now includes three sons who have helped look after the business, especially now since Harold has been struck by Parkinson’s.
And so the saga of the Readmans marches along, coinciding surprisingly with the story of my own career in two locations. And this sort of thing can keep me wondering—besides providing material for this week’s column.
So I met Dennis’ parents over lunch one day and discovered that “Cap” Readman, whom I knew had been well-acquainted with our lakes and waterways as a boatman years and years ago, also had been our chief of police before the times of Louis Camirand and Chief Berry and storied Syd Wall.
Something else I remembered from years ago was that Bob and “Cap” Readman, who were tall and distinguished-looking men, had occupied tall homes facing each other at the river end of Portage Avenue where they raised several children each, mostly girls.
Now the papermill has expanded there.
There’s probably much more I could remember about this founding family, but I’ll leave this to others to remember for me. Readers come in handy that way and frequently!
(So, Don Hammond of the Harbourage remembers that Jim and Chuck Hammond both married Readmans, too. No, Don is not related, surprisingly).
• • •
Finally, I remembered to buy Neil McQuarrie’s “Fort Frances” book after finding it with my good friends, Blair and Doug Anderson, in Betty’s store, which is displaying enough books to stock a library. So I’ll have to go there again.
I’ve started collecting locally-written books and hope to find one or two I left at my old farm.
• • • A very belated apology to all the hospital nurses left out of last week’s column of appreciation, but it should be shouted loud and clear that while they cannot attend to everything, our nurses are the backbone of the hospital system.
Around a dozen times every day, they come to the patient’s bedside with their pills, blood tests, and blood pressure tests, changing dressings, and supervising your health care generally.
Theirs is a life-saving routine we could not live long without.
Now that I have been receiving such excellent care here, I am happy to report that my eldest granddaughter will be graduating next year at Ottawa as a registered nurse.
• • •
We all should be pulling for two old friends in hospital—teacher Bob Fryer and Mike (Mark Sr.) Kowalchuk, who were fighting strokes gamely when I left hospital, and showing progress.
Bob, a retired high school teacher retired, and Mike, a former papermill supervisor, were formerly very active. Mike once was a town councillor.
• • •
Bob Sletmoen reports the bugs in his potato patch have needed a lot of spraying to be kept under control this summer while further west, on the edge of town, that large riverside corn patch seen every summer is being missed this year because our leading gardener, Joe Vanderhorst, could not sell much corn last year.
Mind you, Joe is popular for all his flower pots hanging on poles and along our highway going westward, where our visitors are very impressed.
• • •
Someone has wondered which is our oldest home in Fort Frances? I’d guess it would be located beside the upper river? Any ideas?
• • •
Among our more memorable characters of yore was an elderly but still active Scott Street resident, one Mr. Breckon, who walked winter and summer on two peg legs which once were mistaken as parts of a wheelbarrow.
He lived next to our lamented Royal Theatre.
Another odd fact from long ago was a sign that hung above Mowat Avenue to sell both spectacles and false teeth by the same doctor!
• • •
I got my memory of the Andrusco musicians revived by Nick, youngest of the three original brothers here from the Ukraine. Walter, the eldest, fathered Billy, Leda, and Julie. Then Emil had Gene, Michael, and Allan.
Singer Nick said his songster daughters were Ruthie, also pianist, and Marina at Bemidji.
• • •
Okay, there’s no need to come waving money at me for this suggestion which I was given at the hospital: To avoid constipation, make sure to eat salads at supper time!

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