Thursday, April 29, 2010

When Bill Holland came to Fort William Ontario circa 1952...

When Bill Holland came to Fort William in about 1952, just as jalopy racing was just starting at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition track, many of the local drivers at the time had high hopes of going to Indianapolis one day...and many of the racers here had the moxie for it, but most didn't have the financial resources, sponsors, or the time.
Bill Holland(born Dec. 18 1907, died May 19, 1984) - Bill was an American race car driver from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1949. On Nov. 14, 1951, Holland was suspended from AAA Indy Car Racing for one year after competing in a three lap Lion's Charity Race at Opa Locka, Florida, being part of an older NASCAR event. During this hiatus, Bill came here to Fort William to race and wow the fans. The AAA has a strict rule forbidding its drivers to participate in any race other than its own. This was later changed and that rule no longer exists as other drivers like A. J. Foyt has done so by driving NASCAR as an Indy Car regular. Bill Holland won the first ever automobile race at Selinsgrove Speedway in Pennsylvania on July 20. 1946.

These pictures were taken here in Fort William at the CLE track in about 1952. It was rare that such talent would come to entertain the locals in those days. A number of other Indy type cars came out to this event as well. Thanks to Brian Pero for the loan of these two photos.

A 1948 photo of Bill and his car taken one year before he won at Indy.

A great colour shot of Holland in the #2 car and his team mate Mauri Rose in the #3 car.....Mauri went on to be a rare 3 - time winner at Indy, but he never came here to Fort William. Their major sponsor was Blue Crown Spark Plugs. Check out the second photo from the top of this post to see Blue Crown Spark Plugs printed on his car. Next is the program cover for the year Bill won at Indy.

Here is a Blue Crown Spark Plug advertising box and a photo of Bill taken a year later in 1950. Johnny Parsons won the race and Bill and Mauri came second and third.

This is a photo of Bill on the Rutland Fair program from Vermont in 1949. On the program was also a photo of Ward Beam's auto daredevils. The last photo here shows what Bill's Indy Car looks like today...also a good read.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of Indy history as a piece of our own dirt track racing history here in Fort William and Port Arthur.
Click on most photos to enlarge!

Monday, April 26, 2010

More Simpson Street Commercial Property from way back when....

I am very lucky to have the Wally Young and Scalzo collection of brill bus photos to help date many of the businesses around the Lakehead cities of Fort William and Port Arthur. This post is divided into 3 parts, the first one dedicated to the East End Service Station which is actually still at the same intersection at Simpson St. and Pacific Ave. at the base of the East End overpass which spans all the railroad tracks east of Simpson street.

The red arrow here shows East End Service as an Esso station in 1969 and the very unique blotter at the right(you remember blotters?...that's what you used to blot up the wet ink from using actual pen and ink...before ball point pens.) The blotter is from 1949 and shows quite a bit of information throughout the US and Canada regarding people population, automobile population, # of commercial vehicles etc etc. A very interesting read.

This next photo shows Simpson Street in about the same place as the Brill Bus photo above, the arrow pointing to where East End Service is today...just behind the clump of trees. The last photo here is of East End Service showing the East End overpass. Note that there are no gas pumps here now. The last photo below shows where it is on a map of the Simpson Pacific Ave area.

The second part to this post shows the corner Simpson and Bethune Streets.

Simpson and Bethune St. was a very busy place in 1913. Here is L. W. Goodall's Bakery "pastry specialties". An unusual combination being a bakery and a billiard hall...but here it is. The next(coloured) photo is how the building looked on the north side in 1970 with a very vivid Coca Cola sign and Mario's Custom Tailors next door.

This is how the building looks today only being used as an apartment block. The first picture shows the same angle as the Coca Cola photo above and also shows where Mario's Tailors was. The second photo shows the full corner of Simpson and Bethune.

Finally, thanks to the Scalzo collection is another Brill bus just north of the Simpson and Victoria Ave intersection. The first 1969 photo shows how much more vivid the James Murphy Coal company sign was then compared to now. Further down the street you can see how one would be forced down Victoria ave as Simson curves to the right. Today this street cuts right through the buildings at the end. The last photo taken just recently shows the faded James Murphy Coal Co sign of the past. Our city shows many signs like this of times past.
Click on photos to enlarge!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More Early Fort William and Port Arthur....

Here's a few more then and nows in the fair cities of Fort William and Port Arthur Ontario.

This wonderful Brill Bus photo was taken on the most eastern end of Bay Street in Port Arthur. The well known Vi's Tavern(now closed) is shown just above the bus. In the first photo the street noticeably curves to the left and turns into Cumberland street in front of Johnson Esso service at 199 Bay street. In the photo to the right, Bay street runs right through where Johnson Esso was. That street is now Water Street.....hope this makes sense to you locals. The photo on the left was taken in September 1969 and the one on the right taken this past January. (Thanks to the Scalzo collection for the Brill photo.)

This City Cartage and Dray photo was taken at 219 Hardisty Street in Fort William in 1913. It is incredible that the building still exists in one form or another to this day. Beside the old photo is a view of the Davidson and Smith Elevator which is shown in a number of photos of the first CPR Station on Hardisty Street. Hardisty St. was an incredible hub of activity in the later 1800's and early 1900's due to the fact that the rail yards are just adjacent to this street.

Another 1913 photo is that of the Dowswell Block, the home of The Dowswell Sheet Metal Co. As noted in the old ad, it is at the Corner of Ford and Brock Sts. in west Fort William. This building has housed many businesses through the years, the last being the M.A.S.H. Sewing Centre. It is directly across Ford Street from the new George Jeffrey Children's Centre.
Click on the photos to enlarge!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

TAX TIME - The Dreaded(but beautiful) Income Tax Building in Fort William Ontario...

This first photo was actually taken in 1939 in Harlingen Texas, but it reflects(literally) the old days, old cars and a time during the depression.(Thanks to for the photo). The next photo above(taken in about 1935) is our present day Canada Revenue Agency building located at 130 S. Syndicate Ave. across from the Victoriaville Parkade. It was built in 1935 and designed by T. W. Fuller. It was Fort William's second Post Office at one time. I worked in this building in the late 1960's and early 1970's when it was The Unemployment Insurance Commission. The building was also shared by Canada Manpower, a Canadian employment agency.
Here's a photo taken in front of the same building in about 1940 as soldiers march along Syndicate Ave towards what is now Victoriaville Mall. The photo to the right is another parade taken a little earlier than the one on the left in approximately the same place. The tax building is at the far right with a number of business to its left. The building to its direct left was lost to a fire later on and was never replaced. Today that spot is part of the parking there.

Another shot of 130 S. Syndicate Ave.(thanks Roger) was taken in the 1940's. By the time it was taken the building to the left of it was gone and replaced by a little white structure as you can see on the far left. The last photo here shows how our city had blocked off Syndicate Ave., to build Victoriaville and all but completely obliterated the view of one of the most beautiful buildings in Fort William. I know!!...typical complaints about Victoriaville, but it never should have been built in the first place and its time to bulldoze it down. Most will agree with me.
Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cruisin' The Dub has finally come to Thunder Bay....Check out the local A&W History right here!!

I received an E-mail yesterday from A&W Memorial Ave. owner/operator Lawrence Deswiage to let us know that Cruisin' the Dub will start here in Thunder Bay on Friday, May 28, 2010 from 7PM til 9PM until Sept. 3rd, with great old music playing and nightly prizes for Cruisin' the Dub merchandise. Also starting in July they will be having Car Hop Days - serving to the cars, just like the 50's. These will be on Tuesday's 11:30 to 1:30 and Saturday nights from 5 til 7or8PM, depending on weather. There will be 8 available car hop spots.
Lawrence also graciously forwarded a number of vintage photos for us to look at here!....This post is a little long but very much worth the view.

Here's where it will be held.....526 Memorial Avenue in Thunder Bay!
Next...the old 10th Ave address and vintage photos...

This is how the 10th Avenue address looked last summer and next is how it looked when it opened in late 1957.

This is an up close look at the last photo and next we have The Rodney Brown Band in front of the A&W and also in front of a cool old VW Van. I believe these musical attractions were for their "Grand Opening".
Here's an April 9th 2010 post script to the Rodney Brown band photo. Bob Riddell, blog friend, follower and former CKPR TV staffer sent me an email today to add to this photo. Bob says, "I attended elementary school with the three guys in the front row. Tom Cruickshank(drums), Tom Kelly(vocals and guitar) and Morley Mitchell on banjo. Tom C. the drummer would later play for The Jarvis Street Revue of Flamingo Club fame....also nice to see my old friend Gerry Isherwood...he was a lot of fun to be around." Thanks Bob...much appreciated, D.

Local Sweetheart and International Country Music Star Myrna Lorrie(holding the guitar)is also playing in front of our first A&W accompanied by an unknown(if you know who that is, let me know). I am the proud owner of the old autographed photo that you see above in the group of photos. Myrna was and still is a great local country music star that has done quite well for herself through the years. I had also attended grade 9 at Selkirk High with her brother John. If you click on the above picture group, you can read a little about Myrna's musical career.

Here are a couple of photos of Gerry Isherwood, well liked and well known CKPR television and radio personality. The first picture is Gerry with two other VW guys and the next is Gerry guzzling down a pint of that great A&W root beer in front of that huge old CKPR TV camera with the first A&W manager and a car hop....Check out The Mug, The Jug, The Carton, The Burgers, and the old black!

A scene we all remember well was parking on Friday nights with your honey at the A&W. Also there are some samples of coupons that the restaurant gave out through the years.
One of the other things I do remember is that on occasion a local band or two would come out and play live, perched on the top of the A&W building.
Do you recognize your car in the night photo??

This is a photo taken a few years after the first A&W opened on 10th Ave. It is the Cumberland Street A&W then and now it is a little drive in called Chachi's

Finally, we have a couple of, what Lawrence called, training menus. Check out the prices back in 1957.....oh! to have those prices today....we can only dream. Thanks again to Lawrence for getting the Cruise to Thunder Bay and for letting us use the great vintage photos.
Sooooo Guys and Dolls, cruise your Hot Rod, Custom Car, Muscle Car, Sports Car or Rat Rod down to the A&W on 526 Memorial Avenue on May 28th and all summer long for those great tasting A&W burgers, fries and the famous A&W Root Beer.......see you at the Dub! .....Dave
as usual, click on all photos to enlarge...some will need 2 clicks!