They are among us again!

This is the time of year we can expect to find them among us—not only the fishermen—but all of the other celebrities. In mid-summer here, look for local airplane docks to swarm with famous folk who seem mostly friendly and glad to meet you.
When John Myers of McDonald’s, son of our legendary bush pilot, Rusty, was asked this week about the source of some phone calls his dad’s office by the lake would be getting right now, he had to laugh because a regular percentage comes from the White House!
Arriving here might be former U.S. Vice-President Walter Mondale. Long ago, “Fritz” became a familiar face in these parts—and never reluctant to shake hands as I can testify personally.
As a presidential candidate, Mondale would step out of the Rainy Lake Hotel, hands outstretched and headed for another lake visit. This would be with the popular Duluth radio station owner, Fran Beffera, a popular winter bonspieler here.
Depending on whether Mondale was campaigning that year, they could also be bringing in numerous bodyguards. A local pilot once counted around 30 such companions surrounding their fishing camp!
Aside from the politicians, we also would be hosting professional athletes by the teamful, including no less than the Harlem Globetrotters.
At Rainy Lake Airways one morning, I met Meadowlark Arkin flashing a great grin in such a tall group that it seemed like standing in a circle of houses. Team manager Abe Saperstein courteously introduced his human sky-scrapers.
Then we were invited to turn around and meet a different type of multi-millionaire, an older man who recently put his name on two big inventions.
This visitor had issued the hula hoop, which was catching on everywhere among young and not-so-young funsters. And simultaneously almost, he gave us the aerosol can, which probably made him just as much money.
Yet he seemed completely captivated by everything right here.
All this was occurring one morning at Rainy Lake Airways, being run then by Vern Jones before he eventually bought into Holiday Inns.
Every pilot here then could awe you with his passengers’ names, and one of the best-known survivors would be my old schoolmate, Bud Mallory, who established his own Canadian Airways company here before heading west.
Bud and wife, Rosemary, are expected back for a visit soon, according to his son, Capt. Robbie, who still comes and goes here as pilot with Bearskin Airways.
I believe Robbie has mentioned that, having sold real estate across the far west, they intend to settle around Rosemary’s home in Wisconsin—and maybe keep horses again.
• • •
Becoming ever more attractive right along, the pleasant Harbourage cafe by the upper river may not be closing for the winters again, although the host, Don Hammond, says his off-season is speculative.
For now and until all the tourists and fishermen wave goodbye, local guests all hope he hangs on longer this year. They have grown fond of the good service and scenery out there, especially with the aircraft landings just across the road and the tower and lift bridge across the bay.
• • •
At the other end of town, it’s been entertaining to watch Kerry Flinders, who enjoys his cigarettes, coping with the new local ban against smoking in our eateries. Some say they never saw Kerry, the A&W operator, outdoors before.
The ban immediately introduced a new picnic table outside there “just for shade and fresh air.”
Our smokers are all becoming more resourceful!
• • •
Discussions of this kind will lead inevitably back to the pre-coffee days at Duffy’s well-remembered old tearoom, which stood about where the Royal Bank became located when the town seemed to need the more than two old banks.
It was once the habit of the ladies of this community to break off their housekeeping chores by mid-morning in order to quaff tea downtown while catching up on the news and bargains.
This quaint tradition expired with the war years when they were kept fully employed at more serious duties. Mother Duffy had at least two grown-up children return for high school reunions, but our Cecil and Sonny Duffy never knew them.
• • •
Now that we go deeper into the past with our big Centennial year close upon us, it behooves those of us querying events of the long ago to meet descendants of pioneer families, many of whom mingled freely with our local natives.
For instance Eddy George Jr., has a 94-year-old granny with an excellent memory. So we hit on such topics as the fact there was indeed a red brick yard on the lower river. It produced many thousands of bricks for our early schools, homes, hotels, public buildings like the old town hall and courthouse–and some even were shipped down river to other emerging communities. This was in the 1880’s, Ed discovered.
• • •
Now I can tell you that my own bame will never make the history books after last week’s letter to the editor complaining about this column not getting the facts straight on flood losses around North Branch. For that, I may as well apologize here and now.
But in about half-a-century of peddling a variety of semi-truths and possible falsehoods, never have I been accused of not telling the stories I picked up to the best of my limited ability.
Just consider that if Byrtle Kovachenko and I had not put our heads together at that time, who knows how long it might have taken to relate all those North Branch troubles to the outside world?
As a pair of old farmers mulling it all over, I’m sure we did more good than harm because we were first to notify everyone. The outside world had never before heard about that sad situation.
And if we got some names out of place, the total effect could not have been harmful as if it had been entirely ignored.
Let’s hope the worst weather has now come and gone, and our disaster assistance will be adequate for all concerned. Just try and keep us better informed, regardless of whether or not the telephones go down again or the roads are wrecked again.
There’s always some way to get word out. The rest of us need to know!

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