Saturday, April 16, 2016

More Legendary CLE Racing Stories from our hometowns of Fort William and Port Arthur.....

This post starts with a Then and Now picture so as to imagine where the 1/2 mile dirt track named the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition race track (Lakehead Stock Car Club) was actually located.  The golf dome was built just inside of what we used to call turn 2 of the track, and Silver City movie theatre is located smack dab where the grandstand used to be.  Many of the perimeter out buildings still exist today, however the major change was the re-routing of the river to incorporate the newer floodway.  We lost the walking bridge to where the CLE midway used to be, as well as much of the property on the north side of the river which was eventually sold to the intercity mall area.  #1 - Dorothy Dove building.  #2 - CLE Auditorium building.  #3 - CLE Coliseum building.  #4 - Judges Stand.  #5 - Grandstand.  #6 - The Original CLE Midway area.  #7 - The Original Walking Bridge to the midway.  #8 - Fort William and Port Arthur Transit turn around terminal.
Top photo thanks to Richard Huston.  Click once or twice on all photos to enlarge.

Once you get the idea then we can proceed with a great story remembered by my friend and proof reader Alan Yahn...but first, a little more history thanks to Tom Dow.  If this superb picture below of a very young Tom Dow on the left and Barry Kettering on the right could speak...they would likely be discussing plans to race their "bug's" as Tom Dow would call them at the Murillo track back in the early 1950's, and maybe make some plans to make some cash as well.  Tom told the story about bringing their bugs to Murillo to race....and...they would pay participants cash money to come and race their cars...some actually driven daily on the street.  They would charge spectators one buck (which was high for the day) to watch.  Tom said they couldn't believe that at the end of a race day they would have collected many cardboard boxes full of dollar bills.  They did have their first meet at Murillo in the 50's but soon headed to a much larger and better track at the CLE.  It wasn't the first time that cars raced at the CLE.  The famed King's Special being one...

Barry and Tom became great friends, as Tom initially worked with his brother at Dow's Auto Electric on May St. before starting his own electroplating business on Vicker's street near the Fort William Gardens, and Barry initially worked for Thornes-Sargent (shown here on Violet Street), an Automotive Service Centre just across the laneway behind Dows.  The property is a present day parking lot since a fire in the 1950's destroyed Thornes-Sargent.  This recent extremely rare photo find (Thanks to Russ Wanzuk's photo album collection) although a double exposure, nicely shows where Thornes Sargent was on Violet Street.  The long building at the end of Violet Street was Northern Engineering.  It's now a parking lot too.  This is the first and only photo I have ever seen of Thornes-Sargent Motor Service.

This is how the Thornes Sargent property looks today.....from May St. you can now look all the way over to the old James Murphy Coal Company building on Simpson St.

The story continues and gets a little better.....Alan Yahn remembers that Bud Heidrick of Bud's One Stop Service, sponsor of the famed silver #47 car and future employer of Barry Kettering had stated to Barry that he had to stop rolling his '37 Ford over.  To assist Barry in accomplishing this, Bud had a pair of roller skates welded to the top of his race car and promised to remove them when Barry completed the feat to stay on all four tires...No more rollovers.  History has proven that he did that and much much more.

closeup of the photo above

Below is the front and back photo of the original Dow's Auto Electric (still there today at 112 N. May St.) which was across from the old Times Journal building.  Dow's Auto Electric moved to 785 Memorial Ave by the late 1950's, and Tom Dow had started his Chrome (Electroplating) business at 327 N. Vicker's St.
Barry and his brother Glen would work for Bud's then have their own Husky Service Station across from the CPR station on Syndicate Ave.  Sometimes it is extremely difficult to put certain people in certain service stations during the booming automotive service days of the 1950's and 1960's, as mechanics and service station owners moved around quite a bit.
Front at 112 N. May St.
Rear of 112 N' May St

If you look at the rear of 112 N. May St above, you can see a blocked in entrance where vehicles would enter and be attended to.  The two photos below are of Tom Dow and his brother working on their #2 car nicknamed "Nipper"...from the comic strip of the day in the shop shown above.

This last Then and Now was originally posted to my facebook page, and shows another photo of Barry Kettering's many race cars (thanks Al) parked at Bud's Service in the 1950's.  The actual service station building still exists today As Dave Knight Optical on the corner of McKellar St. and Victoria Ave.  McKellar St. was originally called John St. before amalgamation of the twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur into Thunder Bay in 1970.  
We hope you enjoyed another episode from the Hot Rod and Jalopy days in our home town.

As you all know Barry Kettering passed away many years ago from an unfortunate racing accident, however Tom Dow is still with us to help us all remember those wonderful days at the old CLE race track....and Barry's legacy lives on......

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

School Days at St. Mary's RC School..... 1950's in our home towns of Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario.......

I've been waiting for some time to do this post, but a photo of the original St. Mary's School had eluded me for quite some time.  Thanks to facebook friend Keiran Patrick, I now have a photo of the original school.  This building was originally built as an army barracks for the WWI years and also was used during the WWII era as well.  There were two buildings built, one set further back on the eastern end of the property and was later used as St. Mary's School (not sure the exact year), and the other building closer to the Selkirk and Victoria corner was an "old folks" home as we called it then named The Fort William Manor.  The red markings on the current overhead photo below shows the approximate position of the two buildings.  St. Mary's built a newer school in the early 1960's on the same property and removed the two old barracks buildings.  When St. Mary's finally closed, the building was vacant for a few years and later became (and still is) The Nu-Wave School of Hair Design.

Here is the Google Maps photo showing approximately where the two old buildings were.  Victoria Ave. runs along the bottom and Selkirk St. runs up and down along the right side of the photo.

This class photo is from the 1952/53 School year.  It is grade 2 and 3.  I actually remember lining up for these pictures.  Most of my years in St. Mary's were double grade classes, and if you were in the lower grade and a little on the ball, you could pick up some extra learning from the advanced side of the classroom.  As noted in the photo yours truly is the second from the left on the top row.  If you click on this photo and all the others, you can zoom in and see that I had a couple of front teeth missing.....likely because I was such a sweet tooth and still am.   However, it was the typical age to begin to grow our adult teen....and as the year progressed most kids had a few front teeth missing. As noted in the names, Bill Hay, the 6th kid from the left in the front row, lives right across the street from me many of us didn't end up too far from each other over 60 years later here in our home town we now call Thunder Bay.

The Fun with Dick and Jane books were typical readers in the first 6 of our elementary school years.  
As you know I try to add an old car or vehicle of some sort to each of my blog posts and this one is no exception.  Here you see Baby Sally driving her cute little green pedal car(her being a little older in the third pane at the top with a bit newer one) in a few of the pictures in this collage.  Dick, Jane and Sally's parents had a typical looking late 1940's vehicle to drive as you remember what their pet's names were????  Answer at the bottom of this post.  Click on all photos to enlarge them. I would never admit this was my Grade 3 report card but as you can see the name was removed to protect the innocent..... We had two teachers that year, Mrs. Connolly and Mrs. Begin.  All my grade school teachers were great, especially Mrs. Begin as you will read about as you scroll way down below.


This next picture is our grades 5 and 6 class.  In that particular year, I was in the senior class and had to listen to all the lessons all over again that I had done the year before.   In this picture, I was the handsome guy third from the right in the back row.  I always seemed to be in the back row....guess it was my height.  If you are in any of these photos, please make comments to this blog post or at least on my facebook page.  Also, if you know anyone in this photo that isn't named, let me know and we can add them.  Mrs. Marigold was also an excellent teacher.

In those days there was no such thing as Junior High went to the same elementary school from grades 1-8.  This is our grade 7 and 8 class and I do recall when these pictures came back that Mrs. Marigold was so upset because she didn't remember to remove here feathered hat.....we teased her about that all year.  Yours truly at the back again just to the right of Mrs. Marigold with the halo around his head....LOL.  Again in Grade 8, I was in the senior class and had to listen to Grade 7 stuff all year.
Look how low the classrooms were....In the 6th grade, I could touch the ceiling, and the lighting was very limited.  In today's standards, it was not a very healthy environment for learning, but we did fine.

Here's a clipping from our Field Day after graduating from the 8th grade in 1958.  My dad took the day off work to volunteer for this.
Unlike today with the fancy graduation from grade 6 and then again from grade 8, we attended all years at the same school and had a nice field day at the end of the 8th grade school year, and for the whole school as well.

As mentioned above, one of my favourite teachers was Thelma Begin.  The most incredible thing about her is that she had a wooden leg....YES a REAL WOODEN leg.  She would even take it off and show it to us.  There was a monthly publication from "The Fraternity of the Wooden Leg" called "Courage".
The article in "Courage" is a must read to see how important this wonderful lady was to us, and co-incidentally she was also my good friend Roger Rickard's aunt.  I write about Roger's cool Christmases in these blog pages.  Click once or twice on all these to be able to read them.

All Roman Catholic Schools in Fort William and Port Arthur were always connected to a Parish, and St. Mary's was part and parcel of St. Patrick's Church and Cathedral.  St. Pat's was and is located on the South/West corner of Archibald and Donald St.  Here's the then and now photo of this corner.  As you scroll down, you will see why these pictures were added.

Nearing the end of our Grade 1 year, we celebrated our First Holy Communion with our sister school St. Stanislaus which was located on Miles St. east.  That building still exists today.  It's too bad we don't have all the names so, if you are here, let me know.  Yours truly again in the back row 2nd from the left.....I was a chunky monkey until about mid year in grade 2....LOL.  
Funny but for whatever reason a have a great recollection to this day of posing for these photos.  It's odd that we remember stuff like that but can't remember what we had for dinner yesterday....LOL again.

The little girls even got their chance.....they all looked like little brides with the veils.....all adorable.  It was different times from today but great times to remember.  Help us to fill in some blanks.

REMEMBER AND ENJOY...................................

A final thank you to all the wonderful teachers who put up with us kids in those days and for all the people who took such wonderful photos for us to remember our roots.  Thanks once more to Keiran Patrick for his photo of the original St. Mary's building.      thanks, Dave
PS....answer from the Dick and Jane question      SPOT AND PUFF.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The 1962 GRAND OPENING of Blake's Texaco, 147 W. Arthur St., at Brown St., in our home town of Fort William, Ontario.....

It's very rare that quality photographs and great subject matter turn up at the same time especially after 54 years.  They have shown up on facebook pages before in the Thunder Bay Memories pages, however I felt the need to expand on them somewhat, so with a sincere THANK YOU to Elizabeth and Al Dixon for letting Hot Rods and Jalopies use these wonderful photos, I will do just that.
The large black and white pictures are the original ones, and you can click once or twice on each photo and all graphic pieces to enlarge them.....also this is one of the largest posts I have done for quite some time, so be patient, read it all, and tell your friends.  Thanks D.

As they would say in the ever popular hot rod cult movie American Graffiti...
"Where were you in '62"

In this first photo of the Blake's Texaco grand opening, we see firstly Blake Landversitch owner/operator in the Texaco Uniform, then to his left in the majorette uniform, our photo donor Elizabeth Dixon's sister Linda....the other majorette is unknown and cutting the ribbon is none other than my old boss Alderman Bill Spicer of Spicer's Tire Service days....more on Bill next.

Bill Spicer was a well known Alderman in Fort William for 16 years and was a Hydro Commissioner for 15 years.  He devoted many years of his life to the city of Fort William.  Bill passed away on May 2, 2004 at the ripe old age of 100 years.
I had the privilege to work for Bill in the early 1960's as an inventory clerk at Spicer's Tire Service.  He was a very fair and likable person to work for, and the entire Spicer family was always helpful, teaching a young guy the ropes.

The second and third photos are shown together here with the square dancers having a great time attracting spectators to Blake's Grand Opening....

Here is how Blake's Texaco looked from Arthur Street (at 147 W. Arthur).  It was a typical Texaco Service Station design for the 50's and 60's era and stood exactly where the Petro Can station stands today.  Recognizable vehicles in the photo are a 1959 and 1960 Chevrolet as well as a 1960 Dodge off to the right of the station.  People were fueling up and starting to gather for the attendance prizes and free entertainment. 
Don't forget to click on all these pictures to enlarge them....
1959 Chevrolet
1960 Chevrolet

1960 Dodge
The Petro Can today where Blakes stood in 1962

In photo #5 you can still see the 1959 and 1960 Chevrolets, all the folks waiting for the prizes and many other memories you might recognize.  In the mid to late 1950's most of the gas pumps had glass or glass and metal advertising globes on the top such as the 3 pumps together shown in the photo below, but the particular pumps at Blakes had the globes removed.  Many of the globes were broken, vandalized or stolen in the day, so Texaco and many of the other stations opted to remove them and replace them with a metal plate over the opening.  This solved many problems for the stations and also made the collectible value of the original globes skyrocket in value over time.  Tire and oil stands and racks with advertising were used then and have also become very collectible as well. 

The striped building off to the right is the Spud's Burger Major Building.  My sister-in-law worked there in the early years and is still known to have had the best burgers in The Lakehead cities of Fort William and Port Arthur.

The most well known manufacturers of pumps in that era were Wayne, Gilbarco, Tokheim and Bennett.  The particular pumps shown above on the pump islands at Blake's were the Bennett Pumps.  Their most recognizable attribute was the spear shaped emblem on the top as well as a horizontal viewing window.  The regular (Fire Chief) gas pump was all red and the premium (Sky Chief) pump was all silver.  They both had very beautiful porcelain advertising signs and again very collectible today.                   The pump on the right is actually a Bennett with the original style globe with incorrect colours of white and red and does not have the correct porcelain sign below.

The pumps here I believe are also Bennett pumps but a bit later version than the Blake's Texaco pumps.  They have a solid stainless steel strip near the top, and the "Regular" Fire Chief ones have a little glass window stating "Fire Chief".
....and don't forget the air powered rubber hose that ran across the concrete that would "Ding-Ding" when a car ran over it to annouce the arrival of a new customer.

Photo #6 is also full of some great memories, starting with the "Spud's Burger Major" sign in the distance, as well as another service station, a B/A and by a local 1962 phone book was called Wood's B/A.  There was also a number of interesting road signs which we will touch on later.
In the foreground is a Firestone tire rack and on the island a Texaco oil rack.
The cars are...firstly on the left, a 1953 Chevrolet Belair with small fender skirts.  Behind him is a 1951 Plymouth and on the right is a 1951 Chevrolet.

The tire that you see in the picture stands on a rack much like the one here, and the white square that you see on the side of the Fire Chief gas pump is a sign that states that the fuel contained lead shown enlarged here.                                                         

1953 Chevrolet Belair with skirts

1951 Chevrolet

1951 Plymouth....a little beat up....could be the actual one :-)

Photo #7 was likely taken from the roof of Blake's Texaco.  It shows the south side of W. Arthur Street the pumps, many interesting cars and a few other things that we will see.
The '59 and '60 Chevy's are at the pumps, another couple of Plymouths or Dodge's, a foreign car at the curb as well as nice 1961 Chevrolet Sport Sedan and on the other side of the street a very nice also nearly new 1961 Chevrolet Station Wagon.
1961 Chevrolet not a Sport Sedan but a 4-door Hardtop.

1961 Chevrolet Wagon

You can see this item in the picture above beside the Sky Chief pump.  It is a battery service box with two syringes, similar to a meat baster.  It had a compartment for distilled water to add to your battery and another compartment to hold a voltage meter both shown below. 
Autolite Battery Service Box

Enlarge to see a close-up of the nice porcelain pu

Taken yesterday showing two homes now in the empty lot across from Blake's Texaco in the 1962 picture.  Also, there is no curbing in the original picture...basically just a ditch.

Photos #8 & #9 show the crowd getting larger and larger, patiently waiting to see who won all the attendance prizes at Blake's Texaco Grand Opening.....

In photo #10 Blake Landversitch (owner/operator) is shown on the left with a Texaco representative rolling the drum for the prizes with the unknown female attendant.  It was a little difficult but I managed to add a nice little Texaco star to the photo.

Here is Blake again cut from the photo above with enlarged colour photos of what the oil cans looked like in 1962.



If Blake was wearing his hat it would look like this.  The next insert is a list of prizes given away at Blake's Grand Opening and who sponsored them.

Attendance prize list

Don Adams (Get Smart) is a Texaco Dealer.  LOLOLOL  Click on the centre.

Photo #11 has a couple of nice 1957 Ford's in it as well as a '59 Chevrolet again and an old (maybe Fargo pickup), but the best angle for the ultra rare Spuds Burger Major sign is this picture enlarged below.  I have never seen a photo before with the Spud's sign in it, and in this post we have two.
You are also looking east down Arthur Street near the Arthur and Edward intersection, and if you squint you can see the Safeway sign and the B/A sign at "Wood's".

1957 Ford 2-door post

1957 Ford 4-door sedan

Here I added a few coloured signs to the fairly good cut from the above photo.

Marfak was Texaco's Grease

Now the Matchbooks for Blake's Texaco and Spud's Burger Major

Blake's Texaco and all Texaco dealers for that matter had the most beautiful and colourful advertising and promotional items well remembered by us are a on to enlarge.
Great magazine ads

Every young gear-head's dream.
I remember these paper Fire Chief hats
Texaco Bank

Toy snap plane

Photo #12 is a group photo likely taken in 1962 as well and the only known Texaco Dealers are shown in the caption of the photo.
Blake Landversitch is third from right at the top.  Tom Jarrett is in the front left of centre with the mustache.  Tom's Texaco was on 219 N. May St., next to the old Customs building.  
One more addition from Jim MacLean - front row 2nd from left is Frank Halabecki from Frank's Texaco which was on Brock and Ford Street in Westfort.  (Thanks Jim and Roger)
If you know anyone else please message me, Dave Cano on my facebook page.

Here is a list of the Texaco Dealers from a 1962 Lakehead Telephone Directory....maybe this my help you to remember the faces above.

The last photo #13 is of a kids baseball team that I believe was sponsored by Blake's as well.  If you know anyone in this group please let me know....Thank You

"Registered Rest Rooms"  was a program started by Texaco in 1939 to ensure that restroom facilities at all Texaco stations north and south of the border maintained a standard level of cleanliness to the motoring public.  The company actually hired a staff of inspectors who travelled all over the country to ensure that restrooms were up to standard.  This program was copied later by most other oil companies and continued at Texaco until the energy crisis in the 1970's.

Finally we have this most incredible then and now comparison to Texaco stations back in the 30's until the present day.  The top photo has been colourized from an original black and white photo.