Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thunder Bay Co-op, The Bear, The Bottles, Horse and Buggies and Divco's....thanks to Niels Maclam!

It was with great pleasure that we met Niels(yes that is the correct spelling) and Chris Maclam while on vacation this past winter.  When we got home we had a great conversation about old photos and what came up was a story about a couple of photos from Minnesota Dragways in Coon Rapids, Minnesota.   The two pictures included Niels’ 69 Camaro and were taken in 1971.  These pictures will appear in a later blog post.......which led to the following.............

Co-op Building as it stands today
with remnants of the past! 
AND...........while talking about old pictures in general it so happens that Niels is the grandson of Niels C.(Chris) Hanson who was manager of the Thunder Bay Co-op Dairy from the early 1930’s until the late 1960’s(except for a couple of years).  The Co-op dairy was located on the corner of Secord and Queen Street right behind the present day Tim Horton’s on North Memorial Ave.   Niels had some incredible photos to share with me as you will see.

Love the old snub-nose Divco trucks
to the left of this staff photo.....if you
know anyone in this picture,
please let me know by email.
A 1936 Ford Coupe and a late 1940's
Pontiac parked out front - look closely
in the green square behind the horse
wagon, is a model "A" Ford Coupe.
Niels C. Hanson(more favourably known Chris Hanson) was hired by Thunder Bay Co-op in the early 1930’s as superintendent and by 1932 he was its manager, and with his reorganizational talents slowly got the dairy back to prosperity it once had known.
When you enlarge this you can read "Universal Auto Parts"
on a sign in the distance...Universal was on Fort William Road
Chris Hanson’s first brain child was the first ever "Iced Milk Rink" built in the winter of 1939 using surplus skim milk from the dairy and implemented by Helen Hietanen on behalf of the dairy.  It was located on the east side of Memorial Ave., between Queen and Lisgar Street.  The Milk Rink was featured in news articles and broadcasts across Canada and the USA and was also on “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”.  The rink was so popular that it re-opened in 1940 as well.
Bottles from my collection
Approximate present day site of the
Milk Rink!

Co-op purchased the milk delivery business from Fred Scollie in Fort William, with stables built on Southern Ave in Fort William, and in 1947 a new barn and garage was completed at the Secord and Queen property.  Chris Hanson’s second brain child was the milk bottle shaped building at the Lakehead Exhibition Grounds, and from here the dairy sold milk and ice cream during fair week.  I remember you could buy half a brick of ice cream for 10 or 15 cents.  The well-known logo “Meet me at the Bottle” was printed at the top.  The bottle building became the meeting place during fair week  for friends or if you lost your children or whoever.  A similar smaller bottle was built on top of the dairy plant with the well known Co-op label on it as well.
No one really knows who the bear or trainer was in these photos with the bear.....probably just someone who was entertaining at the CLE with a trained bear.  Does anyone know who the sales person is?  Niels, these are incredible shots!
Click on all of these pictures(some twice for super size)to enlarge them!

This is a closeup of the inside of the
Co-op Bottle Building showing all the
5 cent prices!
A few more Co-op
items from my collection

With all the modernization completed by the late 1950’s, Chris retired and had offered his expertise elsewhere, but in about 1964 with board of directors in disagreement over the way the dairy was being operated, Chris Hanson returned to try to help out again, however new government rules and regulations governing proper storage for milk products, many farmers chose to close their own businesses rather than go into debt.  By March of 1969 Thunder Bay Co-op was sold to Palm Dairies and the staff went to work for Palm.  Niels Chris Hanson officially retired in 1970.
 Many Thanks to Niels Maclam for his own story and photos and also to Wayne Pettit and Dave Maclean for letting me use much of the above data from their very informative “Milk Bottles & Dairies of Thunder Bay and Area 1906-2003” available for purchase at the Thunder Bay Museum.
Be sure to click on all photos once then twice for super size to view best!


Anonymous said...

My dad, John Swoluk is the ninth person from the right and started with Co Op when they still used horses. Palm Dairies bought Co Op and he worked for them until his retirement. Always had big containers of ice cream at our house!

Dave Cano said...

Thank you for your comments....always welcome. Dave