Thanks for the memories Mayor Bert Holmes

Well, now that all the shouting and hollering has died away, here’s congratulations to all elected town councillors and school board trustees—and also to those who tried but missed and won’t have to be bothered this term.
Now we’ve settled back down to business, let’s get our priorities right, among them our growing traffic problems as the over-crowding worsens daily.
About half-a-century ago, our old mayor, Bert (B.V.) Holmes, came up with the answer—only nobody listened. Fort Frances needs a bypass route across the north side of town, he insisted, and this was at a time when, although he could foresee the solution unlike others today, few of his council colleagues could believe they would ever find the money!
The town had started to grow again now that the Great Depression had finally left us with the Second War, and councils gradually recovered the spirits to get certain things looked after.
Bert befriended me one time when I could not have gone to cover the firsts Allan Cup finals in Owen Sound because, as a free-lance reporter, I lacked the cash.
Bert wanted me down there, partially to meet his old friend, the shipbuilder Colin Russell, who had moved his workmen from here with him and the Fort folk were happy to see us among them again, Colin especially, because he had applied to put the first senior hockey finals in Maple Leaf Garden—and with his financial clout would have had us in there but a circus intervened.
Bert was a Miramichi, N.B. man, which implies there would be a fresh idea from him whenever needed and as our hockey crowds grew here in traffic volumes, out came his bypass plan!
“We’ll open it between the east and west railroad crossings for better safety and let them drive past the town. We’ll keep our streets cleared for those big trucks and so many tourist drivers—and with provincial help, the town won’t have to go broke doing it.”
He wanted to see the new route start in Crozier and return it to Highway 11 east of the old Mathieu sawmill crossing!
Well! There never was a more unpopular plan, and your merchants would raise even stronger objections today to see all that traffic avoiding their stores!
And who pays the bulk of your taxes today, they asked even then.
A good friend, Danny Johnson at his jewellery store, vowed that if the main highway left Scott street, well so would he.
Useless to say, the pulpwood truckers rarely parked to enter the stores, but they went along there anyway—and still do!
Bert later went down in subsequent elections with heavy opposition from the two Joes, Parker and Livingstone, and there has rarely been a peep uttered about his bypass idea ever since—and maybe never again will be.
This has not been the first town to try something different, you know, but I’ll bet our old Bert would have more up his sleeve to insist on his route, especially now that our big new businesses seem much more attracted to the west end of town!
• • •
As for the school board, more education is probably needed there also if it insists on giving away big brick schools for one dollar apiece, which was the fate of our old high school!
And if a replacement building is ever needed instead of giant Robert Moore School, the high school precedent might indicate a price of half-a-dollar because this is a considerably older building.
Of course, much will depend on what the present owners get for the high school bricks!
You know, there are countries around the world that might send in its army to restore better judgement on these deals. Instead of being quietly ignored, school boards demonstrating such irresponsible behaviour might be punished.
Of course, this being such a civilized country, Canada will just go along building new schools to be torn down and thrown away!
There is one factor not fully appreciated in electing school board trustees and that could involve tests on their personal schooling. Unless they have received a minimum of, say, 10 years’ education, are they the people we want running our schools?
Not everyone is gifted with sufficient natural intelligence!
• • •
It’s great to find the newly-renamed Red Dog Inn doing business again as the Adventure Inn and giving us another good-looking cafeteria where I ate there on opening day Friday.
This was a Chinese special while my companion appreciated a roast beef dinner. The tables again under the watchful eye of Tracy Badiuk (Armstrong) as head waitress.
• • •
I’ll be thinking of Bill Boyd for snow-shovelling when he’s needed because there’s a job I’d rather leave up to someone else, and I’m being told Bill is available.
I dealt on a small snowblower as soon as the snow stopped, of course, but snow will be back over and over and I won’t want to handle it too often myself.
My snow removal has become a one-handed job while I’m still on a cane.
• • •
The war years being recalled in connection with Remembrance Day last week also reminded us of our old train service, when the only bus we had would just take you to Kenora to catch the CPR. Passenger planes weren’t even thought about here yet.
On our CNR trains, you wasted a night’s sleep to board about 2 a.m. in order to make Fort William (now Thunder Bay) and connect with Toronto, where most of us were headed for training. And that trip would require two full nights and a day!
There was a local passenger service that ran only in this district. This was a daytime run, quite economical and popular, although it stopped every few miles and became known as our “blueberry picker.”
I can imagine that “local,” as we usually called it, might become popular again. But CN can keep its overnighter, which got everyone cranky. It carried our troops away while parents waited in the cold nights to wave their good-byes.
• • •
It was great to see Jimmy Alton’s photos—both in his wartime air force uniform and today (almost 60 years later). Side by side, those photos would make great keepsakes for his friends, and Jim was always very friendly.
I remember him well in kindergarten when we started at Robert Moore along with such people as Gordon McTaggart, John Madill, Billy Berklund, James Freeman, Doreen Cameron, Don McLeod, and Ruth Skriff while our first teacher, Miss Penwarden, was beginning us down the path of learning.
Incidentally, Jim’s father, whose name I believe was Fred, saw service at the International Bridge here for many years as a Customs officer. He had lost an arm in World War One.
I also remember Jim’s older brother, whom we called “Buddy.” And we hope Jim’s son is recovering!

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