Why not restore, re-open the ‘RL’?

While our Scott Street committee studies ideas for revitalizing our main street, I’d suggest starting at the Rainy Lake Hotel first. The old “RL” made so much of the downtown pupular—and not merely because of its beer parlour.
This happens to be the fifth downtown hotel to be closed in fairly recent years, so that doesn’t say much for beer parlour success stories.
But look at the “RL” from other angles, such as its formerly prominent balcony for speech days above Scott, as well as its popular ballroom in quite recent years. That ballroom featured Saturday night dances and gave local orchestra,s including those of Don Law and Norm Fagerdahl, opportunities to entertain all winter long!
Can you remember the ballroom also providing free Christmas meals with our former papermill manager, Fred MacKellar, and associates as our hosts! Everyone went there while other places merely awaited their turns.
But go back further to the days when the Gray family of Kenora sent one son, Carl, to operate the “RL” with style and elegance possibly never to be repeated. And also sent a bus daily from their home hotel, the Kenricia. Of course, tourists enjoyed that extra service.
Later, when Carl Gray’s brother died, his mother called him back home to operate the Kenricia. But while he ran the “RL,” he managed to install a top staff, including chef Matt Grynol, who also became a town councilor, and Gus Hendricks as head bar waiter.
When they were not longer able, the Fort Frances Hotel chef, Matt Rogoza, came to the “R”L while Gus was followed by his cousin, Otto. Both giants, Gus and Otto had been bush camp operators.
Unfortunately, those people could not continue forever. When Carl sold his interest here, there came a series of short-term owners, including George Walmsley from Winnipeg and the likable Domanski brothers, who grew up here before moving to Thunder Bay where their family owned a previous hotel.
And eventually in came Larry Syrovy from Czechoslovakia, under whose watch the “RL” came to be closed down. When I ran an earlier column concerning his need for investors, one of his cleaning ladies phoned in protest, informing me that she and others had not been paid for three months.!
So that’s where the good old “RL,” which never before did anything to harm this town, but undoubtedly helped build our tourist trade, stands today, without an owner or operators, just looking back on its glory days which may never return.
Very centrally located and full of good memories, our old queen of hospitality is almost begging out loud for the right people to take charge again and return her to the royal place she held in our hearts for many years.
I’m sure our community owes her respectability again, and town council—having millions to invest in other ways—should back the “RL” as among its greatest gestures.
Well constructed and basically sound, there likely is nothing one week of thorough scrubbing won’t fix! This is our last and only downtown hotel where once there were five!
The “RL,” for all its misfortunes recently, years ago won our respect and proved its need more than most other business places here. And maybe its glorious past is still smiling on us—awaiting an invitation to return.
After all, that old lady simply cannot be ignored. She is, and always will be, our community centerpiece.
Fully as popular as her nearby namesake for many years, Rainy Lake remains a beloved name below the border as well as locally.
• • •
Talk going around has dear old Robert Moore School under consideration for replacement. Some of us seniors, though, might wonder why it stayed there throughout the time of our tyrant principal, F.H. Huffman.
He earned my mother’s approval by helping me develop a better attitude. But then, his wife came from the same region down east as my mother, down near Kingston, Ont.
Incidentally, a cousin from there has been writing a book about our family, tracing my maternal grandparents back to Kentucky. That’s probably true because my mother’s brother made mountain music and great moonshine, everyone agreed, while calling it merely “shine” or “white lightning.”
My father came from southern Italy, where he learned about making different kinds of wine. But having already met my mother’s relatives, I’ve been planning to see Italy because my father’s kinfolk write about an estate I could inherit as the only living survivor of a Campobasso province family.
I can imagine that taxes there, as here, might wipe out that inheritance before I arrive there, though. However, I’m starting to investigate through the Italian consulate.
Lacking the ability to speak Italian, though, is discouraging.
• • •
Several American authors have begun to write a book together inside five days, TV news reports. Well, Margaret Solomon, a neighbour, and learning how fast she can read books, maybe they could have invited her help.
Margaret has gone through my locally-written books in about the same time.
I loaned her both “Allan Cup” and “Fort Frances” by Neil McQuarrie, as well as “Connections” by a Devlin homesteader and “Mountain Pilots,” also by a Devlin man, James Andrews, who came here from Colorado where the pilots went after uranium.
While I can read and write as rapidly as many, Margaret is now out of local books.
I don’t intend to go into the book-writing business myself, although I have been urged to take a crack at it. I have the best of excuses: I’m too lazy!

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