Thursday, October 28, 2010

Push Mobiles, Go Karts and a 1950's Surviver...

As a kid, anything with 2 or 4 wheels was the most important thing on my mind......girls, school, sports and music lessons took a second place to toy cars, push mobiles, and anything motorized.

In these pictures, its always yours truly pushing the vehicles as I was probably the most lanky and long legged kid on the block.
My driver in the first picture is none other than Bill(Billy) French of Airlane Hotel fame....Bill and I lived near each other and this picture was taken on Cuthbertson Place near Vickers Park and near Bill's house in about 1955.
The second picture was featured once before on this blog but deserves a re-run. I am still the pusher, but my driver is Joe(Joey) Cooper, and the picture was taken behind our home on Arthur Street here in Fort William in 1958....note the much more sophisticated steering, and better quality wheels and tires. NEXT - "The Survivor"

This first picture here taken in 1953 shows Jim and Paul Finlay behind their home with their push mobile(Jim is the pusher and a friend from our bottle collectors club) built from orange crates and sporting the famed Barry Kettering #47. The second picture is how it looks in colour today after 57 years, preciously saved by Jim and now belongs to my hot rod pal Al Yahn. Jim donated his car to Al for safe keeping, and Jim, you couldn't have placed it in better hands, except maybe mine...LOL!!

Here is Ron(Ronnie) Limbrick driver and Donnell Woods pusher....the two photos were taken on June 18, 1950 and were titled "After the Races". The car was prepared for the first annual Fort William Kinsmen Club pushmobile race as shown in the newspaper clipping. Ron and Donnell finished third overall. Ron is a long time friend of mine and an incredibly talented full size hot rod builder.
Click on the newspaper clipping and scroll down to read the bottom.

This donated photo is of an unknown father and son with their very early push mobile. Note the license plate reads 1928 and the rear tire cover says "New Chrysler, Sol Rothschild Port Arthur Ontario". Sol Rothschild Ltd was the Chrysler dealership here back in the late 1920's.
The next photo is of my son Darren in the push mobile painted up like his dad's Pontiac stock car from the late 1960's and his Dodge Charger stock car from the 1970's. The photo was taken in our back yard in about 1975.

I never did get credit for this 1958 one....LOL, but I had built this car for Grant and Joey(yup..the same Joe Cooper that was my driver in the photo further up..) with Joey's help so that Grant McIntosh(younger brother of Lyn McIntosh of local car racing fame), and Joe Cooper could both finish first in their class. Also notice Albert Massaro of CLE stock car jockey fame from the 1950's and 1960's. Albert had always supported kids in general and kids in any kind of sports!
Where was I on this memorable day? Even though I had built the car, I had just started a new job at Spicer's Tire Service and had to work all fun for me for sure!!...but was very happy to see the boys take firsts.
As a footnote, notice the little blip on the bottom left hand corner of the clipping which totally dates this event....."Oswald Seen as Assassin".
NEXT - Motorized Go Karts.............Read the Story first.....

Go Karting was one of the most exciting things to happen to any kid in the early 1960's, and I was no exception. My parents took myself and a few of my friends to Duluth in the early summer of 1958. Up near Miller Hill Mall there was a Go-Kart Track and a Trampoline Park. One ride on a Kart was enough to get me excited enough to bug the hell out of my dad to build one.
My father and I had built our kart at Kam Motors....It had air tires in the rear, rack and pinion steering from a car jack and a brand new "Clinton" engine with direct drive.
My friends and I had an incredible amount of fun with this little vehicle and it filled in as a motor vehicle until I was 16 and even after I had my driver's license. I actually chased a bus down Franklin Street with it and quickly hid it away when cops had spotted some kid driving a little kart on a main street. All my friends covered up for me very well.

This first picture is of myself and my Go-Kart...home made....taken in about September 1958.
The next picture is a b&w of my son Darren taken in about 1980 sitting in our Kart...factory made, at the K-Mart Parking lot where we both raced the same Kart in the kids and adult classes. It was great fun for awhile until go-kart racing ended here.....The Kart was sold and I continued to build full size hot rods.

These last two photos are of my son taken at the K-Mart parking lot on west Arthur Street in 1980...He was only 8 years old at the time.
These were great years....the apprentice years of a life-long gear-head that I wouldn't trade for anything...hope you enjoyed these and thanks for looking, Dave
Click on photos to enlarge!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The West Hotel Fire.......

Having done a post on the West Hotel back in July 2009(click here then come back )and saying that it hadn't been consumed by fire as yet, little did I know that on last Thursday Oct. 21 2010 it would burn down.

Here is a picture of the West Hotel taken in 1913, just 5 years after Henry Ford produced his first automobile. The West was very renowned in its day as were many hotels along Simpson Street and Victoria Ave, catering mainly to the Railroad traffic coming and going from Fort William. Here on Simpson street the West's rates were reasonable at between $1.50 and $2.00 a night. The attached building to the left in the black & white photo was called The Palace and looks like it could have been a theatre of sorts. The next colour photo(thanks to the Scalzo those Brill Bus photos) was taken in the fall of 1969. This photo vividly shows the West Hotel Sign, The James Murphy Coal Company sign and on the left of the photo is a small sign that likely says Army, Navy and Air Force(ANAF) Hall which would be in the same place as The Palace was in the b&w photo.
This photo was taken just two summers ago and the building was still in operation then. The city says that both the West Hotel building and the ANAF building had been empty for some time.
It was quite a sight to see at about 8:00 am on Thursday the 21st of October, as my friend Al Yahn woke me up to say that the West was burning and that maybe I should get down there to take some photos. Thanks Al!
Here are some great ladder truck photos as well as the last of the West burning and the ANAF building had spectacular flames pouring out the top. I did take a bit of video but for some reason, blogger won't let me load them.
Many Icons of the past have gone to fires through the years, and its sad to see....I guess its the quickest way to have them levelled. This picture on the left shows a much faded James Murphy Coal Company sign on the next building over. This same picture is also taken in the same spot as the Brill Bus photo above.
These last two photos show the last of the old West Hotel smouldering away and in this last photo, just a facade of itself left. I guess the next one down will be the Empire Hotel just north of this one. The rubble in the foreground of these last photos is the debris still left over from the building that burned down in the winter months, Club 777, which was at least as old as this building and was originally the J. & T.M. Piper Hardware Store.
Click on photos to enlarge!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Lake Theatre, Simpson Street, Fort William Ontario.

Memories abound...... seeing these photos of the original Lake Theatre which was at 608 Simpson Street here in Fort William, Ontario. Frank Sabatini, cousin of my friend Al Pomanti was the manager here in the early 1950's. My both pairs of grand-parents lived near here at the time and I spent many a Saturday Matinee in the 1950's going to the "Lake" with my aunt or uncle.

This was a Famous Players Theatre and I could use some of my theatre tickets here just the same as at the Capitol or the Royal on Victoria Ave. Remember getting and giving theatre ticket booklets for birthdays or Christmas gifts? They were the best gifts I remember receiving.
The building still stands today at the same address and is now the Fort William Prosvita Hall.

Like I mentioned above, it was only a few blocks from my grandparents and even at 8 years old, you could venture down Simpson Street all by yourself and not worry about tripping over a drunk or two, and you might even venture down to the end of Simpson Street to Charry's Corner for an Orange Crush and a handful of black balls. You get a gold star if you remember what black balls were....
On close scrutiny of the marquis on the very first picture(it is a bit fuzzy) and doing some research, I determined that the two films playing on this 1947 day was "Tarzan and the Huntress" with Johnny Weissmuller, and "Wake Up and Dream" with June Haver and John Payne.

Johnny Weissmuller (born Johann Peter Weibmuller; June 2, 1904 - January 20, 1984) was an Austro-Hungarian-born American swimmer and actor. Weissmuller was one of the world's best swimmers in the 1920's, winning five Olympic gold medals and one bronze medal. He won fifty-two US National Championships and set sixty-seven world records. After his swimming career, he became the sixth actor to portray "Tarzan" in films, a role he played in twelve motion pictures. Dozens of other actors have also played Tarzan, but Weissmuller is by far the best known. His character's distinctive "Tarzan" yell is still often used in films today....and heeere's Johnny showing some skin with one of his sidekicks Cheetah! All these films were known for their provacative costumes on "Tarzan" as well as his female counterparts.
Here is what two of the Lobby Cards for "Tarzan and the Huntress" looked like as you strolled into the lobby of the "Lake". If you want to view the first 10 minutes of this "Tarzan" film just as you would have seen it at the "Lake Theatre", click here SORRY...THIS MOVIE IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE
The next film on the marquis is "Wake Up and Dream". This film is known for its release of a new song called "Give Me the Simple Life".
June Haver (June 10, 1926 - July 4, 2005) was an American film actress. She is most well known as a popular star of 20th Century-Fox musicals in the late 1940's, most notably The Dolly Sisters, with Betty Grable. She is also often linked to her second husband, actor Fred MacMurray who starred in the 1950's television series "My Three Sons".
Well known actor of the day was John Payne (May 28, 1912 - December 6, 1989). He was an American film actor who is mainly remembered as a singer in 20th Century-Fox musical films, as well as his leading role in "Miracle on 34th Street". If you want to hear John sing "Give Me the Simple Life" on Youtube, click here
The next photo is a lobby card for "Wake Up and Dream". Most of these were considered "B" films but in their day and with the start of the "Technicolour" process were great entertainment for family and for kids.
Much thanks to my friend Brad Ager former Thunder Bay-ite who now lives in Southern Ontario for sending me the two black and white photos of the Lake Theatre. They had conjured up some great memories and a chance to do a little research.
Click on photos to enlarge!