Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Empire and The West Hotels....Simpson St.

Another THEN & NOW - The Empire "Fort William's leading hotel" ..a quote from an earlier ad from 1913 had read. I suppose it was the leading hotel then, but as certain areas of the city deteriorate, its great to see what it once was and sadly what its become. The obvious grandeur showed through in those early years, however its pretty incredible that these two buildings stood the test of time and without fires as so many Simpson Street and Victoria Ave buildings went. The new photos were taken July 12th this year 2009. Sorry the b&w photos aren't super crisp. Wanna go for a beer?.....NOT. Love those Brass Ford "T" tourings in front of the west, and the expensive rates back then! click on

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky - The Hot Rod Road Race...

.......Everybody loved watching the Nelsons on their black & white TV in the '50's. They were hokey. They were ridiculous. They were dimwitted. They were featherbrained. They were asinine......but we loved them all the same. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet show launched one of the most interesting and inspiring careers in the music business at that time. Their son Rick(Ricky when he was younger)was quite the teen idol but had the greatest opportunity to show himself off to the public on their weekly television show. Their family was much like most of ours back then but lent a type of innocence to the family and family values that we can even learn from today.
This is one of my favourite programs due to the fact that it has a very cool hot rod in it and a vintage model "T" touring. It is presented in 4 parts through youtube so you can see the whole episode, and also includes the KODAK advertising of the time.
........sooo click on each of the 4 above then come back and click on the others in order. ENJOY!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Car #54 Where Are You?.....

"Oooh, oooh", this first picture is a bit tongue in cheek but the real Car #54 is next in this post. The TV show "Car 54" if you remember, with these two clowns was in the late 50's and started not too long after the local favourite #54 driven by Wally Prokosh and Sammy Myronuk came to the fairgrounds track. Thanks to Jack Rea, lifelong friend of Charlie Miller(you can read a bit about Charlie an an earlier post) we are all able to enjoy these great photos of Car #54.

Dirt flying in the #2 corner (The gate corner) at the CLE track!
These two photos of the Model "A" were taken on the Abitibi Mill grounds, and the cars in the background in the parking lot defines the era when they were taken.
The back of this picture reads - 1954 Mercury 256 cu. in. #10 Pappy Fowler and the #54 Wally Prokosh car were the first overhead valve V8 motors used at the Exhibition track in 1954.
The back of this picture reads - Won track championship in 1955 with a 292 Ford Engine...300 cu. in. was the limit then.
The back of this group picture reads - Abitibi employees stock car(this is the second car - first was a model "A" Ford driven by Wally Prokosh). Abitibi had these cars between 1954 and 1956. The '34 Ford won the championship in 1955 at the Fort William fairgrounds track with Sammy Myronuk behind the wheel. Only 2 cars were built. The first(model "A") had an overhead valve mercury motor(same as Pappy Fowler) in 1954 - 255 cu. in. Wally blew it up in 1955 and was replaced with a 292 cu. in. Mercury motor. Sam Myronuk occasionally drove the car and Sam is pictured to the right.
Left to right in this group photo is: Mill Manager Jerry Carey, Al Cruickshank, Art Gray, Dick Bamford, and Casey McCallum and Sammy Myronuk.

Abitibi Mill Manager Jerry Carey....
These last two photos were taken at the CLE racetrack in about 1955. The last photo on the right shows them lining up for time trials. Car #54 is last,then further up you can see the Barry Kettering #47 car and ahead of him the #87 Tony Massaro car.
Thanks again to Jack Rea for loaning us the photos.....Dave ...Click on to enlarge

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Original A&W comes to Fort William and Port Arthur 1958

Having an A&W Drive-In in Fort William and Port Arthur(now Thunder Bay, Ontario) was like a dream come true to us cruisers of the time because we had a place to hang out with our cars and be with our friends. The Millionaire was OK for awhile but to have an A&, that was cool. I remember going to Minneapolis with my parents before I started to drive and what a treat it was to get one of those Frosty Mugs of Root Beer and a burger and fries. When the Teen Burger came out in 1961, I was totally in love with it and still am to this day. No burger I have yet tasted has been quite like a Teen Burger.
The first A&W here was built on the corner of 10th Ave. and Memorial Ave. near the Intercity area(halfway point between Fort William and Port Arthur). It is now a combination business, one called "The Salon on 10th" and the other called "The Sushi Bowl" restaurant. Where "The Salon on 10th" is now, was the parking lot. For awhile it was called The Welcome Restaurant. I also remember during the summer there would occasionally be a band playing on a Saturday night on the roof.
The other ones that came later were Cumberland Street presently Chachi's, Southern and May Streets presently the Dairy Queen, and finally Arthur Street in Fort William, presently The Metro grocery store(A&P).
The current three are on Arthur Street near Shoppers Drugs, Memorial Ave., and Intercity Mall....none of these are old locations.
Even though I don't have an actual picture of the original drive-in, it looked very much like the one in the B&W photo.
The menu above shows the typical 1963 prices(I left it as a larger scan so you can see the prices and the fact that it shows the original address as well). DO YOU REMEMBER? on to enlarge!

May Street and Southern...from The Royal Fort to the DQ

More memories abound with this group of photos from an important corner of our cruisin' hot rod days. Do you remember the Royal Fort Tourist Camp on the corner of Southern and May Street? If you do you must be at least 60 years old. My friend Ron Limbrick lived there with his mom and dad back in the 50's. His dad was alderman Hubert Limbrick. Ron lived on the above property and played with '32 Fords, Austins and what have you, at a very young age(well he looked like he was 10 years old when he was 16).
The Royal Fort Tourist Camp property was purchased by Mike and Jennie Petlow, who were the owners of the popular Columbia Grill at the time and was soon to construct one of the first 50's drive-in restaurants in Fort William on the same property, called the Millionaire Drive Inn. I don't have a photo of the drive inn,(now I do...thanks Gary) but I do own one of their mugs as shown in the photo above. I have great memories as a teenager at the Millionaire as my future wife Rosemary and I had entered a dance-a-thon contest in high school which began at the drive-in and ended up at the CLE Coliseum. We never did win or even come close but it was my best memory of the Millionaire.
The next company to take over the property was the A&W. I believe it was the second A&W here at the lakehead. I will talk about the very first A&W in the next post.
The building was left vacant for quite a few years after the A&W closed(My friend Clarence Merko and I always thought it would be great to open up a new business there but never did. Finally the place was completely retrofitted into what is presently the Dairy Queen. Don't forget that May Street used to actually be Highway 17, right on the Trans Canada Highway, and long before the expressway was built.
My friend Ron says that he met his first love way back on the property near the river and near a culvert......yes!!!...but it was his '32 Ford Coupe. I may add more to this post later.
Click on all to enlarge.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Syndicate and Victoria Ave....under glass!

Now....This one may be difficult. These pictures show the corner of Syndicate and Victoria Ave in Fort William(now Thunder Bay) Ontario. This is considered the southern entrance of Victoriaville...remember?...where our fair city blocked off a major street intersection to build an unpopular shopping mall!!! The top two photos show the older Chapples Department Store building(once called the Grain Exchange building), and the Chapples home store which was built much later after the older building. This was the major corner of commerce in downtown Fort William.
The bottom left photo is taken from almost the same place as the postcard top left photo, and if you look closely at the top left of the new photo the only thing you can see in it that is familiar is the very top of the Chapples Department Store building.....most of the buildings are actually inside Victoriaville.
If you were the mayor back then would you have wasted tax payers dollars on this conglomeration....oh yes, there wasn't enough parking, so they built a multi level parkade mostly in the middle of the street too. The last photo on the bottom right shows the parkade from a further distance away. This mess also shrouds the beautiful federal government building on the right of the last photo at 130 S. Syndicate Ave. At least the feds didn't ruin the facade of their building. Sadly enough, Victoriaville could have been a wonderful place with quaint shops and boutiques, but it has become only a skeleton of its formal self with poor its not working, tear it down and avoid the high maintenance costs.
Victoriaville....ah yes...I could say much more!....but I will end with that!....sorry to ramble on!
In closing and on the lighter side...don't you love all the old shoe-box Fords in the top left postcard photo and one more b&w shot of our wonderful electric powered Brill buses? Oh....for the old days.
Click pics to enlarge.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Streetcar, A Model "A" Ford and the Pagota

These before and after pictures are for those from Port Arthur that feel a bit neglected. The Streetcar photo on the left(an incredibly clear and crisp photo for its time) was taken in July 1941 a few years before I was born and the right photo was just taken a few days ago July 2009. I never knew until I had seen the left photo that F.W. Woolworth was ever that far down Red River Rd. This is the intersection of Red River Road(formerly Arthur St) and Cumberland Street, in what was known as Port Arthur Ontario(now Thunder Bay). The Pagoda shown in the left photo was slightly higher up the street and more visible, but the new photo barely shows it behind a clump of trees down the street. The Pagoda top read "Tourist Information" in those days. Both photos vividly show the Prince Arthur Hotel which was wonderful in its day and refurbished to nearly its old standards just recently. Off in the distance and out in Lake Superior is the never changing head of the Sleeping Giant, a huge peninsula of land the juts out into Lake Superior to form what is called Thunder Bay, in the shape of a massive sleeping giant. There a many tales of lore about The Sleeping Giant which I will touch on later. Thanks for looking......Dave

Victoria Avenue and May Street.....

Here is a great before and after picture set. The left photo was taken about 1940 and the one on the right taken July 2009. The b&w photo shows the hustle bustle on the S/E corner of May St and Victoria Ave in Fort William(now the south core area of Thunder Bay). Gas buses were already in competition with rail streetcars in 1940 as seen by the bus beside the old Royal Bank building. In the background of both pictures you can see the famous Royal Edward Hotel(now low rental housing called the Royal Edward arms). Kings and Queens of England stayed in the Royal Suite there. Things don't always get better with time. I always try to get a few good old jalopies in the picture. Thanks for lookin' and click on....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Do You Know This Building?....

These colour photos were taken on July 12th 2009.

Yes, It's the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition Coliseum building that has been around for quite some time. It is directly across from the Golf Dome(which would be situated right in the middle of our old dirt track on the fairgrounds), and also puts Silver City pretty much right in the middle of the great old wooden grandstand.
This was considered the gate turn(turn 2) on the track. Behind the race cars is where the gate was opened to let all the cars, pit crew and track officials into the pits(infield).
If you study the pictures you could probably go and stand right where Al Massaro's car was....right in the middle of the parking lot of the Golf Dome.
I am still working on who some of these guys were but in the left b&w photo #79 is unknown, #22 is unknown and #88 was the well known Albert Massaro with a 1937 Ford Coupe. In the right b&w photo is #24 unknown, #88 Albert Massaro with a 1934 Ford Coupe, his brother #87 Tony Massaro with another '33 or '34 Ford Coupe, and finally the D & K Special #10 driven by Don Marsh. This number was also used by Pappy Fowler in those days. These b&w photos are from the mid 1950's.
Some of these incredible drivers are not with us anymore but live on in infamy because someone had the foresight to save these great photos.
Landmarks such as the Coliseum are still around to give us an idea of the location of other things. Thank you to all who have preserved these photos.
Oh yes, and thank those stock car jockeys for destroying hundreds of those all steel early '30's Ford Coupes and Sedans....that's why they are scarce and very valuable today(who would ever guess!)........Dave.
Always click on photos to enlarge

Monday, July 13, 2009

Metropolitan Stores Grand Opening....

Fort William folks will well remember the original Metropolitan Stores on the north-west corner of Victoria Ave and Brodie streets. The left one is the grand opening of the store back in circa 1934, and the right photo was taken July 12, 2009. It was a Saan store for a number of years since Victoriaville was opened and lately has become a Bargain Shop. The structure is still very much intact. Of course many times its been said that building Victoriaville started the demise of the Fort William downtown district, but it's interesting to see how things do change through 75 years of commerce.....and not necessarily for the better. To the left of the b&w photo is the Fashion Craft Store which later became Woolworth's five and dime store. Note the old 30's car to the right of the black and white photo. Click photo to enlarge

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Early East Victoria Avenue Now and Then....

Here's a new slant on the eastern end of Victoria Ave(Our primary cruising strip in the 50's and 60's here in Fort William(now Thunder Bay). You Port Arthurites will get your chance, as I have some great shots of that end of town as well. On the top photos you are looking west down Victoria Ave in about 1938 where Victoria and Simpson streets meet, except now, Simpson St., goes from right to left at the bottom of the photo right through the buildings on the left, which of course are long gone. You also see up the left side of then photo, the Avenue Hotel and after it burned down, the Odeon Theatre was built on its site, now a pawn shop, how sad!

The bottom photos are basically a reverse of the top ones taken on Victoria Ave facing east, but in about 1910. The dead giveaway is the Canadian Bank of Commerce building on the left of which just the facade is there today as it totally burned a couple of years ago but some very smart person managed to maintain the facade of the beautiful building to admire to this day. Hopefully someone will build something behind it some time. Also in the right photo further down on the left is the St. Louis Hotel which was totally demolished last year. Also notice the lack of motorized vehicles as there were probably very few if any at the time. Far down to the end of Victoria Ave is the huge Elevator "B". It was long gone by the time I was born. Apparently you can still see some of the old wood foundation if you are brave enough to cross the tracks there. It's great to go down Victoria Ave today and visualize how it might have been back then and since then as many of the structures did manage to survive urban renewal or what I call urban destruction. Last but not least I want to know who has all those cool '30's cars stored out in the country somewhere.....great hot rod or jalopy material!!
Added July 13, 2009...are current photos taken in the same spot as the oldies on July 12, 2009. No busy downtown Fort William anymore!! Send comments for any questions. Click on photos to enlarge.