Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interesting Fort William Fires - Then and Now....

It's always interesting to find out why an empty lot was between two larger structures for no apparent reason. Usually it was because there was a fire there at some time or another and the building was never rebuilt. Occasionally a photo surfaces to fill in the blanks. This next one is no exception and the other two fires will bring back a few memories.
Also, I always try to incorporate an old car or two into the local history posts. Read below the photos for the information and click on each photo to enlarge.

Here is the Canton Cafe which was located at 309 E. Victoria Ave near Simpson Street. In the today photo, the arrow points to the exact spot, right next to Fresh Air Experience and I believe they use it as a parking lot. The nose of a 1937 Ford makes the photo more interesting and easier to date. Apparently the fire took place in 1939 and the building was never rebuilt.

The 1957 or '58 Plymouth is shown in front of The Fitzsimmons Fruit Company at the end of Leith Street at 147 Hardisty Street in Fort William. I remember this one well, as it was just down from Kam Motors Ltd, where my dad worked. The fire was in 1959. We were both watching it from the 2nd floor lunch room at Kam Motors which was in the next block west of the fire. Even with the winter cold and the lunch room windows, you could still feel the heat from the fire. Interestingly the roof burned out first, which made the fire burn upwards and not heating the brick structure enough to collapse. The brick structure was saved to rebuild again from the inside...the building still exists to this day as seen in the coloured photo, however I'm not sure who owns it now.

Graham's Allbest Products Ltd, better known at Batters Storage and Distribution Ltd was on the corner of Vickers St and 1001 Donald Street. What I remember most was the amount of times that the warehouse was broken into in the 1950's and 60's. With a great variety of items they distributed from there, cigarettes seemed to be the item that most burglars were after. Reading about the Canadian National Railroad and the Fort William Gardens posts in this blog, the CN spur went right by Batters with a siding for them as well. This picture however was after the tracks had been removed. The fire took place in 1958. The building was eventually demolished and Versa Care Centre was built, which is a long term care provider, much needed as all us baby boomers get older.
Keep your comments coming....Thanks D

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I WANT ONE!!...not a hot rod but still very cool....

Ok...At the risk of being chastised for repeating myself, and with all the email response, I am forced to repeat George Rogers Isetta photos from "A true "Canadian Graffiti" story(2 posts down) with a little run-down on the little beauty and with my old friend Meyer Toole's research, had come up with most of the missing names from the will see below....but FIRST....

....The Isetta was one of the most successful micro cars produced in the post WW II years, a time when cheap, short-distance transportation was most needed. Although the design originated in Italy, it was built in a number of different countries including Spain, Belgium, France, Brazil, Germany, and the United Kingdom(England). Because of its egg shape and bubble-like windows, it became known as a bubble car - a name later given to other similar vehicles.
The car's origins were with the Italian firm of ISO SpA. In the early 1950's ISO SpA was building refrigerators, motor scooters and small three-wheeled trucks. ISO's owner Renzo Rivolta(no relation to John Tre(Revolta) :-) :-) had decided he would like to build a small car for the masses, and by 1952 with the help of his engineers had designed a very compact car that used their scooter engine and named it Isetta - an Italian diminutive meaning little ISO. It is said that the sylists had arrived at the design of the Isetta by taking two scooters, placing them close together, adding a refrigerator and shaping the result like a teardrop in the wind.
The little Isetta was released to the public in late 1953. The 4-part brochure below has all the details and specs you will need to know.
BMW had began talking with Rivolta in mid - 1954 and bought not just a license but the complete Isetta body tooling as well. Rivolta didn't stop with licensing the Isetta to BMW....he negotiated similar deals with companies in France and Brazil. After constructing some 1000 units, production of the Italian built cars ceased in 1955, although ISO continued to build the Isetta in Spain until 1958.....It is thought that some 4,000 were built there.
There you have it!....A little ISETTA history.......NEXT - Names and repeat photos!

Ok!....thanks again Meyer and are the names left to right. 1 - Jim Zaphe, 2 - ??, 3 - Ted Lake, 4 - Richard Smith, 5 - could this be George Melnik(or Melnyk)??, 6 - Eddie Corbett, 7 - Colin Fredrickson, 8 - George Rogers, 9 - Doug McKessock, 10 - Meyer says he knows but still digging it out of his memory.
NOTE: The grease gun in an Ontario 4 quart fruit basket beside the car on the curb..!
Wow - ten guys in an Isetta just outside Fort William Collegiate in 1960...I think we only got seven into my VW!
Love the simple way to park(above right). Now the Brochure!!....

I think it has the modern "Smart Car" beat to bits...., and of all the things a guy like myself wants to accomplish in his lifetime, "I want to own an Isetta, or at least drive one!" Do you have one I can try out?....LOL :-)
Click on all to enlarge!

The T. Eaton Company grocery store in Fort William..then and now.

The T. Eaton Co. Limited grew to become a retail and social institution in Canada, with stores across the country, buying offices across the globe, and a catalogue that found itself in the homes of most Canadians. Eaton's was well known for its customer service, as expressed in its long-standing slogan "Goods Satisfactory or Money Refunded." A rapidly changing economic and retail environment in the late 20th century proved difficult for Eaton's, and the chain went bankrupt in 1999.
Eaton's grocery stores were part of their operation but the one I remember was actually on Syndicate Avenue next to Chapple's home store and across from the Unemployment office on 130 S. Syndiate Ave. The following photo which was taken much before that was located at about 416 E. Victoria Avenue.....I always enjoy the old automobiles in the photos, which help to date them all.

Eaton's opened its foodstore in Fort William in 1929, later to become "Eaton's Foodateria" in the same building with the new "Art Deco" look. Interestingly you can see the buildings on the other side of the street reflected in Eaton's window.....right to left in the reflection is Walkers Dept. Store, the Commerce Bank building(facade still standing today) and on the far left was the Royal Theatre.
The colour photo on the right is the present day building used by the Academy of Learning. In the left photo, the man standing in front of the store is Dr. A. D. Stewart. He is standing below the medical offices(above Eaton's) of Stewart, Jack Cook, Gillespie and Robert Bowl, as well as dentist Jack Langtry. The newspaper photo originally came from William Abercrombie, former manager of Eaton's Syndicate Ave.

Here is Eatons Foodateria after the new store front featuring modernistic lettering and black and white tiling was added. After opening in 1929, the store continued operations at the Victoria Ave. location until October 21, 1948, where it re-opened on South Syndicate Ave as previously mentioned. This photograph was most likely taken in Novermber of 1939, when Eaton's announced the new modern appearance of their storefront. In 1939 city residents could purchase prime rib roast from the Foodateria for twenty-two cents a pound, and have their purchases delivered free of charge, as long as the total order came to two dollars or more. The present day photo of the building and it's use is on the right.
NEXT - Eaton's Foodateria store ad in a March 20, 1940 local Times Journal newspaper...exactly 70 years ago today.
Click to enlarge this ad as well as all the other photos(you will have to scroll the ad up to see it all). It's still hard to believe the items were this reasonable at any time. Thanks for looking........Dave

Friday, March 12, 2010

A true "Canadian Graffiti" story..(Where were you in '62)...

Here are two very interesting guys formerly of Fort William, Bob Cross(a former "Road Gent") with his '40 Ford and George Rogers with his '48 Chevy. The photos were taken in 1962 and 1960. They both follow this blog and I had no idea they knew each other until Bob sent me the following short but very sweet old 8mm film clip of a very cool Olds Rocket powered '28/29 red Ford Roadster with a '32 grill. This started an incredible story because George had sent me the same clip a couple of months ago. Click on the video just below.
Bob said that the owner of the car, about 5 or so years older than he, was a fellow who's last name was Slobodzian who had two brothers and a '57 Ford. Their father let Bob use the family garage and welding equipment so he could work on his '40 Ford. Bob also said, "I did do a little work on the roadster, I can't remember what, but we experimented with painting with a vacuum cleaner(blower end) and a spray gun." Bob didn't say how successful it was however.
The boys borrowed the car for a weekend....sooo Bob Cross is the driver and riding shotgun is George Rogers. Now....the video clip of the roadster is taken by a fellow named Larry Pugh at his home a little way out Arthur Street(Hwy 17) in Fort William. Small co-incidence is that my friend Volker Lehmann lives on that property today in a new home he had built there a few years back. The roadster backs out of the property and heads east down Hwy17 towards Fort William.
Here is the on the arrow to view. Next is a better photo of George's Chevy with full moons!
NEXT - More connected stories.....It gets better yet!!
The garage where Bob mentions working on the roadster is near the corner of Vickers, Weigand and River Ave(River Ave is now Rosedale Ave since the cities amalgamated in 1970 to become Thunder Bay). Thanks to my friend Allan Yahn, he has determined that the spot that the garage was located is circled. The slab is still there with a BFI container on top.
Connecting stories abound with these two guys as Bob related the following story to me(that's why the Millionaire photo is above): "At the Millionaire Drive In they held a hamburger eating contest. I ate 12 hamburgers, but another guy ate 13, so I came in second, but he threw-up, so I should have won. Maybe if my mother hadn't made me eat a salad before hand, I might have eaten more. I did get in our school yearbook as "hamburger bob"......It was a long time ago."
NEXT - More stories.....
Here is a photo of the 8mm film maker Larry Pugh with his very red '33 Plymouth coupe, nicely chopped and powered by a hot Mercury taken in 1961 on the same property the film was taken.
The next photo is a picture of George Rogers 1952 Ford Victoria with distinctive Mercury side trim and cool mauve paint(actually 1960 Ford Iridiscent Orchid Grey).
A NEW STORY added later today...George emailed me today to ad another little saga to our stories here. "Looking at all the pictures brought back a memory to me of one long ago summer night when Bob borrowed a torch(from Slobodzian I'd bet) to repair the rusted floor in my '52 Victoria. We went north of Slobodzian's to a field where a '50 Dodge(maybe a Plymouth) was abandoned. Bob cut out a section of the roof. We did a little trimming and welded in a new driver's side floor for the Ford, and a fine job it was! The next day Bob informed me that later that night the Fire Department had been summoned to put out a mysterious fire in the donor car!" Thanks for the update George...
George Rogers titled these photos "Lunch Hour Shenanigans at FWCI". FWCI stood for Fort William Collegiate Institute. "Institute" was such a harsh word..why didn't they just say High School?
Now...All these guys piled into the Isetta, you know....kinda like the phone booth stacking they did back in the 1940's. The owner of the Isetta is Ted Lake who is third from the left and George is third from the right........Are you in this photo???
The final fairly recent picture is of George and as he states almost 50 years after the above photos......Holy crap still look pretty good after all these years.
Be sure to see the video and click on all the photos to enlarge!!
Special thanks to Bob and George for these wonderful photos and stories of our teen years. I'm sure everyone our age has great stories such as these.....BUT the only thing missing is the Girls.....where are the girls??
Thanks again guys and also thanks to Larry Pugh for taking the 8mm Volker for filling me in on who he purchased his house from, to Allan for detailed information as usual, and last but not least to Dave Corbett(George's cousin) who lives here in Thunder Bay for making the original connection to George.
We have "Canadian Graffiti" too!
Bob now lives in Parksville B. C. on Vancouver Island and George now lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Woodside Brothers Foundry, and a very nice Model "A" Coupe!

My search to find photos of Woodside Brothers Iron Foundry brought me to my friend Dennis Winko(who occasionally writes great articles and supplies wonderful photos for this blog). These Woodside photos with his yellow Model "A" Ford were taken in 1993 when the building still existed. The blue Model "A" Ford in the next photo is the same car as it looks today.
Woodside Brother's Iron Foundry Company of Port Arthur began as the Port Arthur Iron Works in 1883. It was operated by the four Woodside brothers, John, Jim, Tom and William. The plant had the first electric power plant in Port Arthur in 1884, and produced a wide variety of goods over the years such as grain samplers, sewer castings(seen below), an oat hulling machine, stoves, shipbuilding castings, and forestry, sawmill, and railway equipment. At it's peak in the 1930's and 1940's, the plant employed 22 men. It closed in the late 1980's and the last building was torn down in 1997 after a fire.

Dennis' car shown here beside the building is just east of the tracks and just south of Marina Park. The address in a 1958 Fort William and Port Arthur phone book reads: Woodside Machinist and Fdry. Co., 173 Manitou St., phone 4-1451.
They can be proud to say that the foundry operated for nearly 100 years.
The brothers had the distinction of generating the first electricity here in 1888. They were approached by Mr. George Dorman, an electrical engineer from England, who convinced them that with only a few modifications, a steam engine Mr. Woodside had built for use on a power boat could be used to generate electricity. He was right and before long, the brothers' foundry was lit up at night and was the talk of the town.
A local newspaper wrote: "At 750 revolutions to the minute a brilliant steady flame was maintained on a 20 c.p. 50 volt lamp, and though the sun was shining brightly, the electric light cast shadows here and there across that part of the shop....The machine was the first of its kind manufactured and set up between Toronto and Winnipeg."

- So successful was the trial that soon Mr. Caleb Shera(store operator) demanded that power be extended to his dry goods store. When they ran out of copper wire while drawing the line between the foundry and the store, clothesline wire was used instead. Shera's business boomed making him the envy of all other merchants. Soon the whole town had to have electricity too.
The photo on the left is a sewer grate, which is one of hundreds still in use today over the entire city. The photo on the right is a medallion which I found at a yard sale last summer(I had never seen one before) which is quite a bit larger than a quarter or penny.
Click on photos to enlarge!
Thanks again to Dennis Winko for the great photos(maybe you should paint it yellow again Dennis...LOL), and thank you to our museum for the information....Dave

Monday, March 1, 2010

TEST PATTERN.....a then and now.....and local newspaper ad's from the 1950's...

Here we have the test pattern that was very commonly seen when we turned on our old "DUMONT" TV set back in the 1950's before daily programming would start. So adjust your set and proceed to the following before and after as well as a number of old newspaper ads from Fort William and Port Arthur.........How many will you remember?.......are you too young or too old? WOW, I don't even remember ALL of them....

Here we have an original ad from the T&M Grill and the today's coloured photo shows 145 Simpson St on the corner of Leith & Simpson where it was and is now General Appliance Centre. The restaurant was owned by the Syroid family, parents of Mrs. Petlow who was part owner of the Millionaire Drive In shown further down in my blog.

Here are Fort William and Port Arthur Commercial pages that could be seen in a number of brochures advertising our fair cities as a wonderful place to visit and as a vacation destination.

Here are two that I am honest to say I don't remember, the Cabin Village Motel and the Boston Tourist cottages. All I know is that I was here during the 1950's when most of these ad's appeared in the newspapers.

These were probably the most popular Jewellery stores here in the Lakehead cities.

The City Tourist Court was near downtown Fort William and the Current River Park Motel and Cabin resort was just up on the knoll behind Current River Park. You can see a post on the Casino Dance Hall in Current River Park also a post in this Blog.
Here is a ticket to the Fort William Hi-Y Snow Flake Formal with Howard Humby and His Orchestra playing in 1957. I was a little young to go to dances then, but I do remember Howard's orchestra. The next ad here is Wishart's "Fashion Craft" ...which as noted before was where I held my first "real" job.....Mr. Wishart was a very nice person to work for.

Lacey's Taxi was one of the best of many Taxi businesses here in the twin cities. This Road Gents Car Club card was also shown before but note where they had their the Emergency Measures Organization Building on Waterloo St. which is long gone now and was on the south/east corner of the "Friendship Gardens" in Fort William. The Northern Ontario Timing Association(the club I belonged to) also held their meetings at the EMO building.

Another tourist lodge and Scollies Locker Service......Scollies was at this address on Catherine Street long before the ice cream parlour on Waterloo Street. I remember my dad buying a side of beef from them and storing the bulk of it there.

Last but not least is another of many taxi companies.....their ad showing mileages around the district. Finally the Totem Tourist Court.....which was also a mobile home park where friends of ours had actually lived some time ago. When you came into Fort William from the USA, the tourists would have to pass this place, which did very well in its day. It was directly across Highway 61 from the turn off to Mount Mckay Ski Area.
Hope you enjoyed this little bunch of advertising memories.....How many can you remember?
Click on each to enlarge!