Solving our population decline!

I enjoy listening while our veteran citizens such as Otto Dallman, 88, and Enrico Perin, 89, share the bench just back of the Safeway cash registers.
Other customers stream past, perhaps wondering whether they can still afford to ride home somehow on their own or maybe hitch a ride because eating has become so expensive!
It seems not everyone is ignoring inflation—even if nobody mentions that anymore because it’s getting late for such considerations.
Otto is a former painter, hardware storekeeper, and town councillor who laughs easily and seems to have done well with his pastimes. Enrico is a retired hospital orderly, recently a widower and a long-ago immigrant.
Their families raised, they can appreciate their leisure while Otto discusses having always had wonderful neighbours, especially Italians, a fact that appeals to ’Rico, whose own speech gives off a cheerful Italian flavour.
This conversation reminds me of a recent promise made to Mario Venerus about helping him promote revival of the Italian Club, a popular border institution that has slipped away from us in the past couple of years.
Mario, the last-named president, recommends the Red Dog Inn as the site for a fresh start this spring. He wants all our “spaghetti benders” to phone him at 274-6925 with ideas for a fun time, perhaps including a Thunder Bay band.
Among their accomplishments, you know, Italians are most famous for their appetites and, being half-way Neapolitan myself, I can vouch for that!
That week, incidentally, was being devoted to the Irish and, to some extent, I got into that also by going to a funeral of a lady originally from the Ould Sod. I shook hands with Robinsons, Morkens, and her other Irish kinfolk. Then I learned our district sons of Erin are quite concentrated around Stratton.
Incidentally, the brightest greenery in town that March 17 weekend was the coat flaunted by Deedy Egan, whose husband, Ken, is equally cheerful.
Watch out now because I’m going ethnic on you, and why not? It’s our great mixture of nationalities that built this favoured part of the world and puts our New Atlantis ahead of everywhere else!
But with our blends of the Slavic, Nordic, Latin, and “WASP” races, we all got this far quite well—and our native hosts all around us have found little to complain about!
The basis for this exercise, though, happens to be the population slippage here, according to the latest census. That’s probably because our immigration officers overseas are all asleep at the switch. They are also forgetful of the welcome awaiting the folks they send to us.
Since the Second World War, we have looked after thousands of newcomers, be they refugees, “deepees,” or whatever name they’ll stand for, but we fit them in very well, starting probably with the Hollanders and Swiss, expert dairymen almost to a family.
They filled our farms and met their milk quotas without flinching under the strain, just a beautiful people we are proud to know!
Soon after the Dutch fit into this scene back in the ’50s, we welcomed a trainload of Hungarian freedom fighters, some of whom entered local businesses.
Then, most recently, came the “boat people”—scores of hard-working Vietnamese, followed soon by other Asians from the Philippines and Taiwan.
We tried to make them all feel at home, and they could laugh along with us when a busload of Vietnamese landed at a Devlin church and we watched the men roll up their pants and prepare to plant rice.
They had decided we had sent for them to work in our rice “paddies” and proved quite willing, although soon demonstrating more inclination to run restaurants.
They quickly bought up every available dining spot in the district before departing for Toronto. Many made themselves useful here first while staffing local jobs such as offered by Rainycrest and the Times and other accommodating corners.
But it was immigration that first put Fort Frances on the maps, whether it came from below the border or off the boat. And if a dwindled economy and loss of schools, homes, and churches is to be avoided, there is absolutely no alternative to fresh settlement.
Much more population could come out of local homes, but probably those homes—as in the past—must again be occupied by immigrant families.
For instance, several of the largest district families are of European extraction, from Holland in the case of the plentiful Veldhuisens and Kaeminghs of Emo, for example.
Many more settlers should be coming into our farmlands although larger families would be appreciated here in town also to help defend our schools from the wreckers.
• • •
Walter (Whitey) Christiansen is the eldest and among the friendliest of our Allan Cuppers as they prepare to look back on their half-century of fame and success at their June anniversary.
We meet over coffee and Whitey contributes the quarter I am missing. Then we go at it concerning his fascinating family now spread over half a continent.
Youngest son “Brush,” or Kelvin, is still in Alaska, where he coached college hockey with distinction, his brother, the pro speedster “Huffer,” is still around Duluth, while Keno, the noted minor coach, is here waiting for the next reunion.
Mother Nettie, sister of others of our old hockey stars, forward Willy Toninato and our Allan Cup coach Joe Bolzan, was a popular if unofficial part of the team, too.
My father and their father, both named Tony, were chums for many years.
• • •
The late Morris Crawford was making out Bears Pass to be a death trap while he listed its best-known and recent victims one day. He closed with the statement that I could add his own name soon.
The list—a local “who’s who”—named Bill MacDonald, Jack Gillon, Fred Polenske, Earl Kirk, Ed Fisher, Murray Howarth, Frank Peloquin, and George C.B. Smith, mostly all close friends who came together regularly.
Smith was a commercial fisherman whose body was never found after he drowned. The others were mostly very familiar down-towners.
• • •
Those big truckloads of pulpwood have just about quit rolling past here for this season. The papermill again has filled its storage yard although it’s expected other companies will continue accepting logs before the province ends all hauling for the season to spare its highways.
And what about the town taking a fresh look at the situation while repairing its own roads?

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