Swedes say ‘skoal’ for toasts!

I consider myself lucky to have known so many European immigrants here from several countries and I’ll start this week with the Scandinavians (or make that merely the Swedes because the Norwegians, Danes, and Finlanders were scattered among them across the east end to the town limits and the upper river).
They filled in largely east of the most forgotten but vast Shevlin-Clarke lumber yards and I enjoyed meeting their sons, such as Raymond Dolk and Ray Carlson, along with so many others while attending Robert Moore School.
These were children of the bushmen, sawmillers, and builders who fit into our district conditions as if they were still back at home.
With our paper mill and two large sawmills depending on woodsmen, the Swedes, as we called most of them, took charge or we could not have managed our natural resources so well.
Now the Swedes were all sons of someone or another such as the Pearsons, the Carlsons, the Andersons, the Ericksons, Johnsons, and Olsons, and we found them all to be all enjoyable, wholesome people with a lively sense of humour.
While some others stood around, these immigrants made themselves much at home with all the hand tools. Soon our community boasted many new homes and clearings after their arrival.
They all appreciated being handed axes, saws, hammers, and shovels long before our fuel-burning machines arrived.
So we grew up together and went into the Second World War side by side. And afterwards, I sat with Eric Gustafson in a post-war classroom where we readied for college.
His brother, Ralph, was in my high school class while an older brother, the late Mel Newman, managed Newman’s Ford garage. Their sister married Einar Gustafson, who ran such a still-popular store, and she did not need to make a name change there.
I could go on and on with happy memories of those happy people. For instance, how I played guitar to accompany Melvin Bylund on his Hawaiian guitar while we entertained in the Moose Lodge across the river, which held many Swedes.
Minnesota seemed to have become their second home and it was no surprise that one of our part-time employers, the paper mill construction contractor Paul Lawrence, who came from Minneapolis, hired several Swedes to work on our mill.
Leif Willar and Fred Erickson were among his foremen while Ole Orwick spent a hot summer keeping melted tar simmering for the mill’s complete re-roofing job—and blistered his face badly while at it.
Another Ole, Wickstrom this time, had his wife driving in stock car races at Emo.
I don’t remember many Swedes accepting downtown jobs although, as at Einar’s and Ericson’s grocery stores, they became great goers! Ericson’s store was popular around the east end although located in the west end of McIrvine.
Eric never missed nightly deliveries—just as Einar’s does today.
Ericson also operated Eric’s Lund, his beautiful garden spot on the creek running behind his store. There he kept waterfowl that attracted many visitors, including American tourists.
He also kept a register for their visits.
As we think about our Swedes’ many achievements, it’s necessary to recall their feats as woodsmen and here the names of Eli Johnson and Eric Pearson and their sons come up from their contracting years when, without the Swedes and their forest skills, our industrial efforts might look much more slim today!
They supplied the logs for two large sawmills as well as our paper mill!
My father, although an Italian, was on good terms with many of them through his own years on construction. He frequently entertained such as Eric Pearson and Pete Johnson, among our greatest producers of pulpwood.
There was a friendly lady named Selma Anderson who operated a boarding and rooming house called the “Mayflower” for lumberjacks—in the east end, of course.
Rostes also was a busy business among other east-enders.
The Swedes, hopefully, will always be here with their industrious but fun-loving ways, and our town will certainly never regret that!
Then there was Big Harry Christiansen, a great builder who once offered my father a job at the height of the Depression years.
But my dad needed work boots to start with, so Harry cut off the toes of his own boots, which would have been much too large for my dad, who thanked Harry and wore them anyway with toes tacked down!
Yes, the Swedes were generous also!
• • •
Bert Oliver, the Second World War veteran who went back to Holland regularly ever since those bad years, will be missing his fourth return this year.
But he can find consolation in the fact his local paintings are now hanging in our museum for everyone to enjoy.
• • •
While most of our roadsides no longer are having the brush cleared back in this district, it’s a different story to the west, where brushing is keeping the roads safer in that respect all the way from Sprague to Winnipeg.
• • •
Passports look to be getting back into style again, but we always used them during the Second World War years to be allowed across the bridge here.
For many, they fit in well with the Ontario liquor permits also being carried.
• • •
Bad Vermilion Lake guards the gold known to lie hidden deep in the surrounding rocks, as proved by the presence of several abandoned mines.
Those mines once paid off well enough to support probably at least 100 miners and their families around Mine Centre.
That much employment or more was provided in the 1930s by a series of lakeside mines, including the Golden Star and Paccito’s mines on Bad Vermilion Lake and Foley mine on Shoal Lake, all south of Mine Centre village and railroad.
These also lost importance there when the highway to Atikokan replaced passenger travel by rail.
• • •
How long has it been since the last circus or carnival arrived here? The carnivals formerly visited our Victoria ballpark on Sixth Street probably once every summer while circuses sometimes used the Flinders fields long before they become what we call “Hamburger Alley” and the new high school area.
Hopefully, the travelling shows will remember to work Fort Frances into their schedules again this summer. With the Sixth Street School now up for sale, that property may hold carnivals again.

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