Herb Houck’s creation
I’d hate to believe all newspaper people are “characters,” but that description certainly would fit old Herb Houck, the long-ago publisher of The Daily Reminder here!
Herb had various ways of catching attention for his tiny mimeographed sheet he put out next door to the Legion (now the Fort Frances Museum), whose membership probably were among Herb’s foremost subscribers. Because there were days when he might have you believe another war was being waged when one of his best-remembered headlines read, “Ten Thousand Killed!”
But this was merely one of Herb’s sallies into humour because fatalities probably did occur in a hotel fire here, where it was generally suspected that many insects might have died!
He also could tease the readers’ imagination with such stuff as hinting about love affairs going on after dark in parked cars on certain streets! “Whose high-heeled shoes were seen sticking out of a car window late Tuesday night!”
Of course, some of these purported incidents might lead to threats of revenge! After one town council meeting written up by Herb, it’s said some council members actually carried a rope into his office and threatened to hang him!
But would you believe this fellow was very popular as a vocalist, especially for one nostalgic old song, “I Wonder How the Old Folks are at Home.”
Nick Andrusco remembered Herb always being demanded for this number out at the Emo fairs (Nick was a popular singer, too, and said Herb sang as sweet as any woman).
But the Daily Reminder was Herb’s main claim to fame and he had readers waiting at their doors for its delivery. Apparently it handled items you would never think of finding anywhere else!
Our weekly Times finally decided to bring out its Daily Bulletin for a more straightforward view of events. Herb’s sheet then went into the hands of a likeable and musical family man named John Dronyk, who hired several local young people.
The Daily Reminder eventually moved on to Kenora, but Herb’s memory still lives on in certain coffee circles. And those present, probably well over 80 years of age, are quite likely to bring out his stories whenever the conversation goes stale!
• • •
Allan Kielczewski got the bad news for me that the book on Orrie Kielczewski’s family trip north on the Pacific coast and experiences in Alaska is no longer available!
It had sold right out before he inquired for me. However, there has been talk of turning it into a movie!
• • •
This is the fifth year that Bob Hamilton’s popular ski hill by the town landfill has been spoiled by lack of snow, he reports. Bob certainly has known a lot of expense during his long wait for the right kind of winter!
I had attended high school with his father, Croal, who starred in our old Drum and Bugle Corps in past years.
Croal and some of his fellow musicians, notably John Fadyk, ended their parading here years ago although Bob’s mother, Joy, still comes here from the west coast.
• • •
Violet Eisenhower, who was a Ward, recalls that she sat behind me in high school during French classes, yet I don’t believe we’ve had occasion to even say hello ever since!
But her brother, Stan, the decorated war pilot who also sat behind me in an English class, I believe, is a founding member of our coffee group mornings at McDonald’s!
• • •
I talked to a young waitress and learned I knew both her great-grandfathers, and this becomes quite a shock. These gentlemen were George Pidlubny on her father’s side and Harold Pearon, her mother’s grandad.
George once owned the Fort Frances Hotel here while Harold was our head game warden. I would meet both almost daily and this seems not all that long ago!
• • •
Speaking of waitresses, I must name a pair who continue to serve us all probably better then we deserve. Both young mothers, Sheila Sobkowicz and Marg McPherson insist you don’t leave The Harbourage dissatisfied!
And even at its busiest, if one cannot come to work any day, her partner will go ahead without complaint to serve up to all 75 diners! Sometimes owner Don Hammond, who has a talent for picking the best help available, will stroll among his tables himself to help out.
Now Don is receiving sympathy over the loss of his wife, Gladys, on Remembrance Day.
• • •
I questioned their cousin, John Sokil, and learned that all my old friends in the Fichuk family of Third Street East are now deceased!
The CN subway was installed next to their former home, where they kept cows and chickens and my popular cat, who went to their barn to have kittens! (everyone and everything ate well at the Fichuks, and me, too, occasionally).
You see, I chummed with their twin sons, Peter and Bill, and they taught me to ride their black, double-barred bikes with the baskets used to deliver milk around town it the ’30s. Later, they moved north of the railroad but we moved away also.
Their father, John, was the papermill blacksmith and as in the poem, “A Mighty Man was He.” Mrs. Fichuk was a leader in their nearby church, St. George’s Ukrainian Orthodox.
The twins had a younger brother who was killed while working at a railroad job, and there were also three sisters. The first time I met the twins, they urged me to accompany them to Sunday school.
This was in St. John’s Anglican Church basement more than 70 years ago, but that church building remained unchanged to this day and became a favourite meeting place for my generation, especially after it adopted the Boy Scouts under Mr. and Mrs. Jack Keenahan—those wonderful leaders and trainers of community youth!
Well, of course, with the Second War coming along and changing everyone’s interests, the old friendships also slipped away and I did not realize that grand old Fichuk family had vanished!
• • •
While we were all rejoicing over this terrific November weather, with the sun still shining like September, I ventured to ask a young native if he thought we were indeed getting Indian summer—only just later than usual?
His answer was that an old lady said when the last leaves leave the trees, that’s the time of Indian summer. Another woman was very skeptical of that suggestion.
So I still don’t have any answers for sure. All know is nobody refuses it!
• • •
Another young native came along with a small son and an oxygen tank.
He told me about shooting one of the four deer on a truck outside McDonald’s and that his deer had unmatched antlers—one horn being merely a long spike.
Herb Houck’s creation