Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1960 MacDonald Brier Fort William, and Port Arthur, now Thunder Bay, Ontario...short must see film at the end!!

Thanks to my brother Corey for requesting this post and suggesting the great film below. Also before we start, YES there will be more jalopy and hot rod stuff coming up soon! The above photo was taken on the corner of May Street and Miles Street. The corner building(south/west corner) housed my friend Des' dad's barber shop....and finally dig those big white-wall tires on the float...very cool!
Wondering where the Curling Rock at the front of the Fort William Gardens came from?
Well wonder no more as it all started way back in 1960 when Fort William and Port Arthur hosted the MacDonald Brier Tankard, emblematic of Canadian men's curling supremacy.
A parade started off this national championship from the event headquarters at the Royal Edward Hotel and ending at the Fort William Gardens on March 7, 1960(believe it or not, there was not a drop of snow on the ground as you can see from the photo above).
One of the most impressive floats in the parade was entered by the Fort William Curling and Athletic Club which carried eleven individuals, and a curling rock reported to weigh well over 3000 pounds.
The rock had been built at the former Canada Car plant in Fort William(now Thunder Bay), and after the parade it was moved off the float and placed in front of the Fort William Gardens, welcoming the over 26,000 spectators who attended the Brier that week.
After the championships the curling rock became the property of the Westfort Kiwanis Club whose president was a strong curling supporter. A decision was made to display the now famous rock at the Totem Tourist Court on the old highway 17 near Mount McKay to let tourists know about the importance of curling to the Lakehead community.
The rock remained at the Totem until work began to re-route highway 17 which would actually draw traffic away from the monument. Not wanting the rock to lose its significance as a tourist attraction, members of the Northwestern Ontario Curling Association took up the challenge of having it returned to its place of origin. So with the permission of the City of Thunder Bay, it returned to its present resting place in front of the Fort William Gardens.
Local curlers restored the rock at that time and added an historic element to it by adding the names of curlers from Thunder Bay who had claimed national championships and the winners of national events held here in Thunder Bay.
The rock was officially re-dedicated in 1975(after amalgamation) being christened with a bottle of Chivas Regal by the President of Scotland's Royal Caledonian Curling Club, Mr. Allan Johnston, who was in Thunder Bay at the time.
Since then the famous rock has deteriorated somewhat and could use a 'bout it local curlers!!

Below is an incredible 1960's film(the original was too long to place here....over a half hour long). The beginning of this film is a wonderful 1960 tribute to the Lakehead region, showing the Royal Edward Hotel at its peak of splendour. Highlighting excerpts from the parade is next, showing the above float, many other folks from Fort William, as well as store fronts at the corner of Brodie Street and Victoria Avenue including Kresge's, Metropolitan Stores, Woolworth's, Gerry's Hardware and the Lorna Doone. It also shows the front of the Fort William Gardens and a little of how the interior looked then including a shot of the mayors of Fort William and Port Arthur. The Port Arthur Mayor at the time was Norman Wilson, and the Fort William Mayor was Catherine Seppala. She was my great aunt and sister-in-law of my grand mother. She was a great lady. Click on the little arrow at the bottom left of the picture below to view film!!
If you want to see this complete film or other vintage film of famous curling events in other cities, go to the Canadian Curling Association's website here:
Thanks to the Canadian Curling Association for the local film clip, and also thanks to the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame as well.
Click on all other photos to enlarge!

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