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Trains, golf, hospitals, and day care made headlines


As the countdown to the 2003 centennial continues, let’s take a look at a variety of the happenings in 1977. The year proved to be an active one with the development of recreation, medical services, and the loss of some business and gain of others.

In early January, the Acres on Highway 11 east of Fort Frances was destroyed by fire. It was noted the lack of water and freezing temperatures hampered the work of the Fort Frances Fire Department.

Meanwhile, the Pacific 66 gas station and Bill MacDonald Motors garage were demolished to make way for a new parking lot for O-M employees.

The “Newest Fort businessman is also the youngest” was noted when Bob Thomson took over the Dairy Queen operation from his father (age will not be mentioned!) Plans included the landscaping and parking lot paving for the new store that recently had moved from the Pither’s Point spot.

The Lermans shared memories of 50 years of business as they closed their store, with George Mylenchuk stepping in to follow the successful formula of Alex and David under the name of Georgie’s.

The closing of DelZotto’s store was noted as Nona Emma DelZotto retired after 31 years in business. She recalled arriving on Sixth Street before it had a road, telephone, or electric lights.

The DelZotto’s store was noted as one of a series of small neighbourhood grocery stores that graced our town.

Perhaps in related news, Safeway opened its new store at its present location. The Armit and Scott Street site was the third location of the store since its opening here in 1929.

The opening of the newly-renovated Toronto Dominion Bank changed the appearance of the original building after 63 years of operation in Fort Frances.

By April, the new chronic wing at La Verendrye Hospital was underway. At that time, it was noted as the costliest building project undertaken for public use in Fort Frances. At a cost of $4,255,000, 37 chronic beds were added to the 38-year-old hospital.

A modern manor on Sixth Street, featuring 35 units for senior citizens, officially opened that fall. At the other end of the age spectrum, the Wee Folks Day Care began operating under the auspices of the Native Friendship Centre out of the Calvary Tabernacle Church basement in the summer.

By the end of the year, a move to the Polish Friendly Alliance Society provided more space.

And the museum board was busy planning renovations to 259 Scott St. as town council gave approval for use of the old Legion building.

The Fort Frances High School was the site of staff changes as W.B. Book and L.D. Farago were noted as retiring centenarians with a combined retirement factor of 202 years (years of service plus age).

Ralph Whetstone also retired as high school music teacher and as a memento of his years dedicated to the school band, a trophy is now presented in his name to outstanding music students.

The new golf course was undertaking a membership drive to support the new $680,000 course and modern clubhouse. The 18-hole course replaced the former nine-hole one leased on Point Park property originally started in 1926.

The first all-woman firefighting team in Ontario was formed in Fort Frances. Kim Bruyere, Patti Sawchick, Pat Groom, and Val Bruyere were hired by the MNR to fight forest fires here that summer (wage $5.63 an hour plus overtime).

Not to be out done, O-M hired its first all-woman logging crew composed of Nancy Phillips, Lynn Germain, Janet Fisher, and Anita Hahkala.

A new traffic light graced the corner of Second and Third Street at Central Avenue. The public utilities hooked up the system to improve the traffic movement at this hazardous corner.

The Manitou access road was on its way towards completion with 32 km remaining to join the 150-km route between Fort Frances and Dryden. As travel changed, the CNR announced the last of passenger trains in the district in July.

We invite you to submit your story to the Centennial Community Scrapbook being compiled by the Fort Frances Centennial Book Committee. Let us know about those corner stores, travelling on Highway 502, or early golfing.

The Centennial Celebration Committee continues to plan for our town’s celebration in 2003. We are gathering 100 ideas for celebrating—how about celebrating the early businesses, sales, and prices?

Your input is needed to make this community event one to remember! Assist the committee in event planning, promotions, and fundraising.

Contact the Fort Frances Museum at 274-7891 for more information.

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