Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Old Cars, A Great Find, Go Karts, and Some Surprises in Our Home Towns of Fort William and Port Arthur

   We'll start off this post in Kam Motors used car lot in about 1939.  Here is my father Jonnie Cano in the front trying to look cool sitting on the fender of a who knows what, with a couple of co-workers taking a break from filling oil bottles or replacing a windshield on an old Chevy or Oldsmobile.  It looks to be a mild winter day.
   The "Kam Motors" proof is the portion of the sign in red and shown close up after.  Obviously the houses are no longer there as that whole area to the lane way ended up being a car lot in the day.
I always say it, but it is a reminder to click on every photo once or twice to enlarge.

Here's an old circa 1950 Kam Motors brochure showing where the lettering was at the top of the building front, and a fairly current photo of the same building on Leith St. today.

We've talked about Dinty's many times in the past on this blog site and of course you know by now if you are a reader of this blog how Gordie Crompton came to use the word Dinty's.
Below we have more to add to the story beginning with Dinty's Sea View Motel....The Sea View still exists as shown in the following photo but not called Dinty's.

We talked about how Gordie was offered a neon sign from a sign company left over from an unpaid customer.  It didn't have Gordie's name on it but had the word "Dinty's" on it and he ended up taking it, then obviously making some of his future business ventures called Dinty's.
Below is a photo of #57 Jalopy Stock Car built by the Provincial Paper Mill who actually hired a guy named Barry Kettering to drive it.....pay attention now because many of HR&J's stories are inter-twined.  The race car is parked on Cumberland St., right in front of the first Dinty's (red square around the sign).....and you know later that Gordie ran a few KFC's (Kentucky Fried Chicken) places after the Dinty's ones finally closed.
Today's KFC is two properties just to the left of the original one.  When you do research you have to look hard at old photos....the backgrounds tell many other stories.
There are two different photos here to see the original neon Dinty's sign.  The person standing and the kid in the car are unknown.  If anyone recognizes them, please let me know.


Here you can read Dinty's very well....
 In this photo...car U2 with well known American driver Dean Harrington in the foreground, Dinty's is the building on the left with the upright facade, and the building on the right was a McEwen Husky Fuel depot then.  That building still exists today and the original Dinty's is now an empty lot.

This is how the property looks today...the empty lot was Dinty's and as previosly noted, the KFC is two properties to the north of the original.
.....the building on the right was Ron Wilson's Lakehead Speed and Custom shop in the 1960s.

Here's a truly historic then and now.  The then photo of course are those great jalopy stock cars that we write about from the 1950's kicking up dirt along the backstretch of the old CLE racetrack.(I can name them all.)  Behind the race cars is a tall fence to keep out freebee onlookers.  Behind that is the old bus turn around between Fort William and Port Arthur remembering at one time one would have to change buses to go to Port Arthur or back to Fort William.....
At that same time the Electric brill buses existed which powered themselves from the overhead trolley lines.
The bottom photo is taken basically in the same location as the one above it.....that corner of the CLE grounds of course is paved now and is to the east of the now damaged golf dome....all at the corner of Northern Ave and Fort William Road.

Here is some 1950's memorabilia from the Lakehead Stock Car Club days(human and other..LOL)...The handsome guy on the left is Merv Dove and if you remember, he ran the famous white #31 Maple Leaf Service car in the 1950's, was more than once or twice voted The Most Gentlemanly Driver at the CLE and later became one of the top flagmen at Riverview Raceways....A guy that could jump higher than a car while waving the checkered flag.  Merv is wearing his original jacket from the day...and to the right is a closeup of the Lakehead Stock Car Club logo and a closeup of Merv's crest.

Below are samples of the club cards from the actual Lakehead Stock Car Racing Association from 1957...the white card being the driver's card and the red being the pit crew's card.  The first card is circa 1953 and actually called the event a Jalopy Race.  The light blue one is from 1963 and was likely one of the last racing cards from the CLE days.

GO KARTS....those little 4 wheel powerhouses that started something which was considered a fad in the late 1950s and has continued over time to be an important tool in race car driver training.
Well, yes we did have go karts in those days and yours truly had one too...already written about in this blog, but most people don't remember guys racing them in the Sears parking lot in the day.  Parking lot racing ended with businesses having to kick everyone off their property because of insurance issues....they didn't want the liability of someone getting seriously hurt and making a claim against the businesses or company's that had large paved parking areas.  After that, specific Go Kart tracks had to be built designed for their type of racing and had to carry some serious liability insurance.  The last parking lot organized racing was in the late 1970's at K-Mart on Arthur St.

I don't know the source of these following photos, but they are truly incredible.  In the Go Kart below is none other than Ross "Pappy" Fowler well known in the 1950's for his #10 Jalopy Stock Car and racing at the old CLE grounds.  These photos were all taken at the Intercity Plaza parking lot in the early 1960's.  Most of the faces I don't recognize, so if you know anyone else in the photos please let me know.
Ross "Pappy" Fowler #10 CLE

I don't know for sure but it looks like it could be Barry Kettering on the far left....he used to wear that type of hat.  Here the photo faces north and you can see the northern end of the Intercity Plaza property showing the bank and the life insurance company....to the left would have been Loblaws Grocery Store where I worked in high school.

My son Darren at K-Mart 1980
Pappy Fowler here again....and also the south end of the plaza...

The last part of this post is a memory of Red Top Cabs.  I've had a large door decal around my house for years and here it is along side one of their business cards

Here is where Red Top Cabs was in the day on Simpson Street......Hope you enjoyed this post and always remember you can make comments....it's easier than you think.  Thanks for watching....Dave

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Need for Preservation....Some Favourites, and Some Then and Now Pictures from our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario....

Well....Finally back at the Blog pages..  I've been spending too much time on my face book page when I should be spending the time here.  This post is long overdue but you race car guys will have to wait for more vintage racing photos and stories, as this one is pure local history.
I am starting off here with a couple of my most favourite photographs of downtown Fort William even before my day(photo source unknown).  They are both taken circa 1930 by the vehicles in it.  The first one, facing west on Victoria Ave is taken just before the May St. intersection where the Model "A" Ford sedan is making a turn to head north on May St..  The second one is taken a block west on Victoria Ave.  Making a comparison in the second photo to today is sad because as we know, Victoriaville takes up most of the street, and with rumors of its demise....we are still waiting.
This is a fairly long post as I have been working on a few things separately but I'm just going to put them all together into one.....and as usual be sure to click on all photos to enlarge them and if you get a + sign...click once more for x-large.

White's Drug Store is just past the Cigars sign on the right...the intersection in 1930 is May and Victoria...

The intersection coming up is Victoria and Brodie...the Victoria Hotel is on the left and this all would be Victoriaville now.

By printing this following collage we would hopefully encourage the city to preserve a very historic building that apparently is coming up for demolition ..... Jan Starr wrote this comment last month.  The property in question is located on the old Ogilvie Elevator property, as shown in one of the photos below....Click on to read...

Only stickers now appear to let you know where your vehicle was purchased, but in the middle to near the end of the 20th century, very cool little metal pieces of advertising were added to your car when you purchased it....and to mount some, holes were actually drilled in your vehicle to do so.  The following pieces some of which I have in my own collection and some photos were donated by Boris Krystompol to add a few more to the local list.
The original location of the dealers is shown with the trunk advertising.

Hillman Sales and Service was originally located on the corner of Edward and Gore Sts. in Westfort

                                                            Twin Port was a Studebaker Dealer and located on the corner of May and Bethune Street in Fort William near the original Spicer's Tire Service and Kam Motors Depot.

One of the Jessiman Motors locations on 730 Memorial is where Parts Source and a flooring store is today......I wish Boris would sell me these to add to my collection... LOL.

Gibson Motors was where the Power Centre is today.....and that whole area was always called "Intercity".....which we all knew meant somewhere between Fort William and Port Arthur...

The last one is Port Arthur Motors which was located where Tony and Adams is today on the corner of Pearl and Court Street.  The Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealerships, Port Arthur Motors  and Kam Motors Ltd., were both originally owned by Hubert Badanai Sr...... later to become one dealership on Memorial Ave.

 NEXT - remembering Al's Wonderland.  Albert Massaro was not only a very well known stock car driver in the 1950's and 1960's but was quite the entrepreneur, business man, hockey coach etc etc.  I had the privilege of knowing Al in the day, and did some work for him when he had his Al's Wonderland.  I painted this sign for him as well as built many of his picnic tables for him and also painted and lettered many of the Go-Karts he had at his place....so here's the sign I did and glad I had photographed it just when I finished it....who knows where it is today.  The present day picture beside it is courtesy Google Earth and still reveals the spot where Al had his Go Kart track and his last "Wonderland"... we sure miss Al and all the good work he did for hockey, racing and everything else he was involved in.  RIP Albert Massaro.

NEXT - We have some then and now photos.....The first is The Thunder Bay Co-op building which still exists to this day proving that great structures can be re-purposed over and over for a much cheaper cost than ripping them down and re-building....and also preserving local history....

 I had seen this C.P. Drug store pill box sticker and at a glance didn't know that it was a local piece until I took a closer look to reveal the actual address where it was right across from the CPR station on 419 Syndicate Ave...in the building we now know as "The Arcade" building.

The next then and now is Wanson's Lumber on 277 John Street.  It is interesting to note that the original building on the left in the first photo is still being used today, and apparently some of the original office building is still in use as well.

This Fort William photo showing two Brill buses, one a gas powered and the other an electric powered trolley is quite interesting.  Of course we all know the Chapple buildings...the large one in the middle and just a bit of the home store on the left of the late 1940's photo. When you enlarge the photo, you can make out the word Hurtig just above the bus in the centre of the photo.  Hurtig Furriers owned the corner building until the early 1950's when the property was purchased by Heintzman's, which was mainly a music store, but also sold some furniture, radios, early tv sets and of course records.  Heintzman's had booths where you could take your record into a booth and listen to it before you bought it.

When you view this old photo, it's hard to believe its the same building.... "The Victoria Block" as in the photo below it.  The "then" photo is of Walkers Dry Goods all decked out for the Christmas Season in the early part of the 20th century.  The facade was changed drastically through the years and modernization pretty much diminished the desire to even go inside....however I do remember Walkers Department Store in the 1950's when at Christmas time they would have their windows all decked out in the current toy trend and had an American Flyer model railroad layout in the basement that would bring shouts of glee to any child, and likely empty pockets to many fathers wanting to please their kids.
The Victoria Block now houses Barbie's Bargains which I believe is still there.

WOW...the CPR station after over 100 years still looks pretty much the same.  The first photo is likely taken in the very early 1900's.  I remember riding my bike there as a kid and seeing the model of the big lake ship which is now housed at our museum, and punching out a disk about the size of a toonie on a machine with your name and address on it for a dime.....oh...and having to pay a dime to use the toilets...so one of us would get voted in to crawl under, use it then hold the door open for your friends to continue to use it....LOL...great fun...
We watched the trains come in from destinations east and west and dreamed of traveling by steam train to some of those unknown places.....It's great to see that beautiful building stand the test of time.

Awe....the Embassy Grill....Sundays after church heading to the Embassy with your family to have coffee or chocolate milk and toast.....things like that were a rare treat when I was a child...but the memory lives on today, as the building still exists as the Amethyst Gift Centre...and as it says on the newspaper ad "next to the Odeon Theatre"..... great memories...

I know I've posted this before but the memories of hanging out at Ray Charles Texaco in my teens and twenties is still quite strong....When Ray and Charlie were there, they embraced all us teens, letting us use tools, have small credit accounts and we would reciprocate by cleaning up after ourselves and respect our other friends that hung out there....it was awsome times.  The photo is of my own '55 Chevy sedan delivery and on the trailer behind me was Ken Pawluk's Camaro Late Model... we were heading to Riverview for a test run.... Roger Rickards and I are slowly working on a great story about the service station history of this spot...which will be coming up soon.

This is the last part of this post and not so much a then and now but just a "THEN".....I was truly a huge Roy Rogers fan and the wonderful childhood memories of those times are still with me, as my saved so many things for us(bless her heart).  I still have my Post Cereal Roy Rogers button set because many of the buttons I collected as a kid were pinning to an old beanie, and were saved in my bottom drawer of my dresser from when I was a kid to the present day......I will have to get rid of this stuff eventually...but for now I can still enjoy them and write about them.......
Thanks to everyone for being patient with my posts....I still have a lot to write about.  I'm getting older and slowing down a bit....but if us local history buffs don't preserve the memories, no one will!