Articles

LAKEHEAD TWINS

Don’t talk about Fort William and Port Arthur as a single unit or they’ll run you out of town. Look at Charlie Cox. Might have been mayor of both places if he hadn’t used that naughty word “amalgamation”

TRENT FRAYNE September 15 1952
Articles

LAKEHEAD TWINS

Don’t talk about Fort William and Port Arthur as a single unit or they’ll run you out of town. Look at Charlie Cox. Might have been mayor of both places if he hadn’t used that naughty word “amalgamation”

TRENT FRAYNE September 15 1952

LAKEHEAD TWINS

TRENT FRAYNE

ALDEN R. RUNNING, a twenty-two-year-old clerk in the Royal Bank of Canada in Fort William, returned to his office just before noon on the morning of Oct. 23, 1911. He knew that the only other employee in the bank at that hour was the teller. Wearing no mask he pointed a revolver at the teller, told him to hand over the money and stuffed forty-eight hundred dollars into his pockets.

Three hours later the police caught up with Running as he lay on his back on a bed in a downtown hotel room, staring at the ceiling. He told the police he'd taken the money because he wanted to get married. When thev asked him why he hadn't tried to get away, Running, later sentenced to twentv-five months in prison, stared hopelessly back at them. "It didn't occur to me until it was too late,” he said. "There was no place to get away to.”

That was the last time, that morning forty-one years ago, that a bank was robbed in either of Canada’s twin Lakehead cities, Port .Arthur and Fort William. And .Alden i . Running expressed a good deal of the character of the Lakehead when he pointed out that "there was no place to get away to." The isolation of the Lakehead helps explain the rivalry of the two cities there is no one else to get mad at : it helps explain their intense pride being remote from the rest of Canada, thev strive to prove remoteness no handicap : and it possibly helps explain why the Lakehead has turned out no writers, artists or musicians of national consequence. Isolation makes the founding of universities, art. music or ballet schools financially impractical: native students must travel hundreds of miles to find them.

The Lakehead cities on the main line of the CPR are nearly five hundred miles east of Winnipeg, more than eight hundred miles northwest of Toronto, more than nine hundred miles west of Montreal and three hundred and seventy-five miles northwest of Minneapolis. The nearest citv of reasonable size is Duluth. Minn., two hundred miles south. Sixty-seven thousand people live at the Lakehead, thirty-five thousand of them at Fort William.

But isolation also gives these Canadians of Finnish, Italian, Ukrainian and Anglo-Saxon extraction who comprise the population much that is advantageous. A man can finish his work of an afternoon, jump into his car and be hunting and fishing in a matter of minutes. The world's largest speckled trout, fourteen and a half pounds, was caught in the Lake Nipigon countrv. seventy miles north, by the late Dr. J. W. Cook and lake trout weighing as much as forty-five pounds have been hooked by lake fishermen. Recently at Port Arthur a moose came ambling out of the woods and trotted down Port Arthur’s main street. There are deer and ducks to be hunted in season and there is never a night, after the hottest days, that it isn’t more comfortable to sleep under a blanket.

Since the vast majority of the twenty-five thousand people employed at the Lakehead are engaged in basic industries, employment is reasonably constant. Halfway across the continent, the Lakehead serves the east and the west. Lake freighters take ^ million tons of coal there a year and carry away grain and iron ore—also measured in the millions. The twenty-six majestic terminal elevators are perhaps the most famous man-made landmarks for steamer and railway travelers. The vast forests to the north make the Lakehead one of the largest pulp and paper producing areas in Canada. One of the paper machines owned by the Great Lakes Paper Co. rolls newsprint that is better than twenty-five feet in width, the world’s second largest. The rivers and lakes with their hundreds of waterfalls and rapids

Port Arthur

Don’t talk about Fort William and Port Arthur as a single unit or they’ll run you out of town. Look at Charlie Cox. Might have been mayor of both places if he hadn’t used that naughty word “amalgamation”

provide cheap electrical power which at eight tenths of a cent a kilowatthour ranks among the lowest anywhere. By comparison, Winnipeg, regarded as inexpensive, has a rate of three and one third cents for the first five kilowatt-hours and one cent for the balance.

Isolation helps explain why, year after year, the Lakehead turns out expert hockey players. Football frenzy has never gripped the Lakehead, for the closest professional team is almost five hundred miles away at Winnipeg. So youngsters concentrate six months of the year on hockey. Lakehead immortals like Phat Wilson, the Hacquoil brothers, Hughie O’Leary, Lome Chabot, Tommy Cook, Bill Brydge and Danny Cox have been succeeded by a long list of current National Hockey Leaguers like Glen Skov, Rudy Migay and Alex Delvecchio of the world champion Detroit Red Wings; the old Flying Fort line of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gus Bodnar, Gaye Stewart and Bud Poile; and Edgar Laprade, Danny Lewicki and Dave Creighton.

Physically, the cities are dissimilar. Port Arthur is built on a hill, with its residential area spread widely over the well-treed rolling landscape. On the crest of the hill lies a park—called, naturally, Hillcrest Park—whose concrete embankment provides î panoramic view of the city below and, nineteen miles southeast, of the so-called Sleeping Giant, a peninsula rising fourteen hundred feet above Lake Superior to turn Thunder Bay into the greatest natural harbor on the Great Lakes.

Fort William, lying four miles southwest of Port Arthur, is not a lake city at all, but actually is located on the Kaministikwia River, with its elevators and warehouses fronting on the “Kam.” Fort William, built on the flat, is proud of its sixty-two industries ranging from brooms and brewing to airplanes and diesel buses.

Aggressive Fort William claims its service clubs frequently have to take over the unsold tickets of any undertaking from the Port Arthur members in order to get rid of them. Wilf Goodman, editor of the Times-Journal in Fort William, once told an interviewer: “I

think of Fort William as having the spirit of the new west and Port Arthur as being more representative of the established east.” Port Arthur, whose News-Chronicle refers to it as “the capital of northwestern Ontario” because it is the site of many provincial government buildings, merely calls Fort William “the frog pond,” because of its location on the river.

Fort William has a group calling itself the Aurora Group which from time to time calls upon the public to demand that northwestern Ontario become an eleventh province named Aurora stretching from Sault Ste. Marie to the Manitoba border. E. E. Johnson, multimillionaire timber magnate, and Alderman J. J. Spooner frequently have their names linked with this proposal which apparently is taken seriously by no one except the Aurora Group.

Outsiders, who frequently regard Fort William and Port Arthur as one community, sometimes suggest amalgamation hut it is a hard word to the two rivals. It was once noted by a visitor that the two cities were Siamese twins, joined at the ribs, but each insistent on living its own life. There are two city-operated bus lines and each goes into the other’s territor}'. There also is duplication of police and tire departments, water and power commissions. Of the service clubs, only the Kiwanis is intercity and the luncheons are carefully alternated between the two cities. Neither of the newspapers pushes its circulation in the other centre.

Dividing the two cities is a thin ribbon of water called the Neebin River which is smack in the middle of a four-mile stretch of no man’s land between the two. A visitor wouldn’t Continued on page 68

Continued on page 68

Fort William

Lakehead Twins

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19

know he was crossing the boundary except for an archway erected by Port Arthur. Entering Port Arthur from 1 Fort William ithe names are never abbreviated *, a sign on the archwayreads: Welcome to Port Arthur. Going the other way, it says: Many a Happy Return (in large lettersi to Port Arthur in much smaller letters*.

Dividing the two communities, as well, is the natural rivalry of most sister cities. If a national company is known to be contemplating opening a branch in the district each tries to acquire it. Each has its own particular strong point and each praises that one while minimizing the value of the other's. Port Arthur loves its hills and homes, Fort William its industry and aggressiveness. One time a visitor to Port Arthur, aware that the Canadian ski championships once had been held on Fort William's Mount McKay, happened to remark that snow conditions must be ideal there. “I really couldn't say,” commented the Port Arthur native coolly, “we always ski at Mount Baldy.” Thus, even nature is not above reproach.

In this kind of rivalry, then, there is little chance of amalgamation, although one time the bombastic mayor of Port Arthur, Charles Wynanns Cox (“Call me Charlie: people who call me Mr. Cox never vote for me”! actually ran for mayor of Fort William on a platform favoring amalgamation. He was defeated, but narrowly, and those who supported him insist he could have won easily had he not uttered that dread word. “No other man, alive or dead, could ever come closer than Charlie Cox to effecting a union,” Mayor Cox. who frequently refers to himself in the third person, reflected modestly the other day. “Great economy would have swept the cities at the head of the great inland seas."

Columnist Jack Scott once wrote in the Vancouver Sun after an interview with the mayor: “In the Canadian

garden of good grey politicians whose watchword is caution, Charlie Cox, of Port Arthur, whose watchword is Charlie Cox, is a rare flower.” Rare, indeed! Cox. now a timber contractor who owns a two-tone Cadillac, a blue Buick and a pale-blue Lincoln and lives in „ three-bathroomed mansion on a beautifully landscaped comer lot up on Port Arthur's “hill," is the most controversial figure at the Lakehead. He was elected mayor fifteen consecutive years, lost in 1948 but was elected member of the Ontario Legislature for Fort William. In the last provincial election in 1951 he lost his seat but right away was returned as mayor of Port Arthur. A few days after his election last December he was on the front pages of most Canadian newspapers again: unmarked ballots were found fluttering down Cumberland

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I S'.reet and up bad: . idys and a feverish investigation followed.

“If 1 hadn’t been involved nothing much would have been said about it,” Cox relates, “but because it was me the implication was strong that I had 'fixed' the election with phony ballots." Eventually it was found that the printer who printed the ballots bad run off some sample copies and then had dumped them into bis garbage container. When the garbage got knocked over the ballots blew all over town.

Cox. through the Forties, was not popular with the Port Arthur newspaper. Prior to one of his campaigns he said he hoped the News - Chronicle would oppose him so he'd be sure to win. Tlie paper’s editor. O. F. Young, refused thereafter to print Cox's name, referring to him only as "the mayor." Young, asked about this some years later, banged his fist on his desk and shouted: “That man s name hasn't

appeared in the News-Chronicle in five years and it never will as long as I have anything to say about it.'' He relented only once. Cox was fined thirty-five dollars for careless driving and his name was duly recorded in the news columns. Since the purchase of the News-Chronicle a year ago byRoy Thomson. Canada's most ardent collector of newspapers, the policy has been altered Now. Cox gets as much printer's ink as anybody.

Cox can be an arresting view. I visited him recently in the two cluttered upstairs rooms that serve as his timber business headquarters and mayor's office, and found him kneeling over a large warren containing fifteen golden hamsters. He was feeding lettuce to the animals, one of whom was strolling endlessly along a squeaking treadmill. A huge plant, resembling a small palm tree, spread its branches low over the warren. From time to time people would stroll into the office and out again, apparently only to pass the time of day. ('ox would introduce them to me, rarely mentioning immune and getting it wrong when he did. Twice he mentioned that “he’s gonna write a story about the Lakehead” and each time lie drew a laugh when he added: “He'll write up Charlie Cox if he WTites up the two cities, that's for sure. What else is there to write about?” The mayor was wearing his hat a turned-up fedora, royal-blue shirt, red. navy-blue and black twisted tie and badly creased brown gabardine trousers. At one point a collie dog strolled in. 'Hi Lassie." remarked the mayor, “shake hands with Mr. Fraser" The dog did. too.

Cox is not popular with aldermen, schoolteachers and civic employees, partly because lie decries the duplication of utilities in the two cities. He ! calls city clerks “tenderfoots" and schoolteachers “powder puffs." He is blind in his left eye and his left cheek is disfigured, both the result of an acid burn. A schoolteacher inflicted the damage thirteen years ago for reasons never quite clear. I nder his turned-up fedora. Cox has a robust I growth of steel-grey hair Two years I ago a reporter wrote that he was sixty-eight years old. "I'm nowhere near it.'' Cox says indignantly He is of medium height, with a flat hard-looking body that reflects a life of farmer, cowboy, railroader and woodsman.

The mayor of Fort William Hubert Radanai. is the complete antithesis of lus rambunctious counterpart. ( ox. Quiet-spoken and reserved, the trim black-haired mayor never has been involved in such turmoil as surrounds Port Arthur's chief executive. He is a successful businessman who runs the Buick dealership at the Lakehead. On the surface, at least, there is no rivalry between him and Cox In fact, the

rivalry between the cities nowadays is nothing like the bitter thing it was, say, sixty years ago when the newspapers hurled editorial bricks almost

The rivalry began to assert itself in the lS90s. ten years after the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed. At that time the CPR's terminal point at the Lakehead was Port Arthur and the town council, noting the railway had paid no taxes, demanded them. When they weren't forthcoming the council seized a locomotive in the railway yards and impounded it. This so infuriated Sir William Van Home, president of the railway, who had been general manager of railway construction at the Lakehead. that he declared he'd live to see grass grow on Cumberland Street before he'd spend any more of his company's money at Port Arthur. The terminal was thereupon moved to Fort William, although Port Arthur still retained the business of small independent lines. -Amalgamation of these all across Canada resulted in a second transcontinental line, operated by the government and named, in Dec. 191S. the Canadian National Railways. Port Arthur became the CNR's Lakehead divisional point, or headquarters, although it was located nearly a hundred miles south of the main line.

At the turn of the century Port Arthur asked provincial permission to annex property south of its border that would take in the mouth of the Kam River. Fort William battled the proposal and the Times-Joumal called it "a cheeky demand from a cheeky neighbor." When the sanction was refused a nameless Port Arthur councilor was quoted as saying: "We are

fortunate. The territory is a dismal swamp fit only for a dwelling place for frogs and snakes.” Fort William had no higher regard for Port Arthur land. The Times-Joumal ran this joke of the

First capitalist: Well, how is Port Arthur's credit?

Second capitalist: Looking up. look-

1A week later, during which first capitalist has invested in Port Arthur

First capitalist: What did you mean telling me that Pon Arthur credit was looking 00°

Second capitalist: Mean0 Why. I meant just what I sate — it's looking up. It's flat on its back and can't look

Today most of the intercity rivalry is of a commercial nature. Each city makes strong bids for new industry and each shows a steady increase in the gross value of manufactured products. Of seventy-four million dollars' worth of business in the latter category. Fort William did forty-six million. This growth is in excess of the Ontario average.

Although Fort William was incorporated as a city only sixty years ago. it actually is close to one hundred and eighty years older than Port Arthur. A trading post was established in 167S on the bank of the Mission River by Daniel Greysolon Sieur de DeLhut, after whom Duluth was named. In 1717 Robertel La Noue rebuilt the fort on the Kam River but it was given up Ln 175S when the French concentrated on the defense of eastern Canada. It was rebuilt again in 179S by Roderick McKenzie who moved northward from Minnesota. The Northwest Fur Trading Company acquired it in 1S03 and called it the New Fon. Several years later, it was named Fort William, after William McGillivray. governor of the Northwest companv.

After the merger between the Northwest and Hudson's Bay Companv in 1S21 Fort William fell on poor times

because the HBC took its trade via Hudson Bay and Lake Winnipeg and built the famous Norway House as its headquarters on the northern tip of Lake Winnipeg. In 1S67. after Confederation. purchase of the HBC’s rights was negotiated in London so that the government of LTpper and Lower Canada could open the western prairies to settlement. The HBC retained certain acreage around its posts, including Fort William so the government decided to have an independent settlement at the Lakehead and the slopes on the north shore of Thunder Bay were chosen for this village in 1857. It was called, merely, the Depot and the man put in charge of the settlement by the government was Robert McVicar. retired after years of service with the HBC. Today in Port Arthur there is a McVicar Street, a McVicar Creek and the McVicar Flats. In 1869 the settlement became known as the Station when Simon J. Dawson began construction of the Dawson Road over which thousands of immigrants traveled to the west.

V olseley's expeditionary force camped at the Station in 1S70 en route to Fort Garry now Winnipegto suppress the Red River Rebellion and he named the spot Prince Arthur's Landing in honor of Prince Arthur, the seventh child of Queen Victoria. Later, Prince Arthur became governor-general of Canada. When the CPR began construction along Lake Superior William Van Home, the general manager, decided in 1884 to find a more suitable name for the railway station. He called it Port Arthur to preserve the memory of Prince Arthur and to honor his close friend. Chester Alan Arthur, the twenty-first president of the United States. Thus. Port Arthur's name honors an American president and a British prince.

J. P. Bertrand, former chairman of the Lakehead Historical Society, recalls that when first he settled in Port Arthur fifty years ago "men of deep culture and imposing personalities' ' w-ere the community leaders. In Fort \V llham he recalls the names of the McKellars. the McIntyres, the Manions. the Vickers and the McNaughtons. In Port Arthur were the Marks, the \\ ileys. the Clavets. the Nicholsons, the Emersons and the Becks. As the west opened and the east continued to grow more industrialized the Lakehead became more isolated, he recalls, and gradually people from Finland. Italy and the Ukraine worked hard to establish themselves in their new home at Fort William and Port Arthur.

Today, the Lakehead has a stolid, reasonably conservative character, with sons of former emigrants, who arrived penniless, now in a good position in business and the professions. Close to the two cities there is considerable commercial gardening and dairying and beyond lies the limitless potential of the great forests and mining fields.

Port Arthur's uninhibited mayor. Charlie Cox. was talking about the Lakehead and its possible future growth one time and somebody asked him how he'd come to settle there. "Why, I dunno. really," he replied thoughtfully. "Is there some other place?" ir

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