Springing Forward

Image courtesy of Bayview Magazine

On March 13 of 2022, we preformed the semi-annual ritual we both love and hate. We changed our clocks an hour. Hopefully, you changed all the clocks in the house ahead one hour to make them Daylight Savings Time. And you hit the sack an hour earlier as well to catch up on that hour of sleep you lost, right? You may ask yourself what all this fuss and bother is over one hour? Can’t we keep the same time all year round? Maybe Saskatchewan has a better idea. In that province, they don’t actually change the time from Standard to Daylight Savings. They just change the name. However, back in the early 1900s, changing the clocks an hour was a big deal. As it turns out, we may have to shoulder some of the blame for the change.

DST comes to town

Image courtesy of Thunder Bay Historical Museum

The first country to introduce Daylight Savings Time is thought to be Germany in 1916. Canada inaugurated DST in 1918. But Port Arthur and Fort William (now Thunder Bay) had gone their own way years before. The two cities first started making the Spring time shift back in 1908. It all came about when John Hewitson, a prominent Port Arthur businessman, wanted to have an extra hour of summer sun to enjoy. He petitioned both city councils. Back then, Port Arthur and Fort William were on Central Time. Hewitson suggested they adjust the clocks ahead one hour to Eastern Time in the summer months and switch back in the fall. He maintained the extra hour of daylight would bolster recreational activities. Both the cities agreed. On May 1 of 1908 they changed the clocks and sprang ahead. But it had to be made official. Two years later, the Province of Ontario allowed the twin cities to permanently stay on Eastern Time. This meant that sunset would occur in Thunder Bay a full hour later than in Toronto in the summer months. During the winter, the daylight would only be about 30 extra minutes. However, every extra minute of sun counts at that time of year. That’s good for evening people like Hewitson. As far as the Englishman William Willet was concerned, an hour of summer daylight was wasted every morning. He was a morning person. Willet proposed in 1914, that clocks should be set ahead one hour in the spring to take advantage of the early sunrise. Then set them back in the autumn when the sun rises later in the morning. In his case, he cited Fort William’s and Port Arthur’s change to DST. This it created a problem for Fort William and Port Arthur. Willet’s proposal would make a two hour change for the Lakehead. Even though changing to Eastern time was well received by the twin cities, there were some issues along the way. One thing is of note here. Daylight Savings Time in Thunder Bay did not turn out to be quite what WilliamWillet had envisaged, but the end result was the same.

Double DST

During World War II, Daylight Savings Time was instated by the federal government to save money. The twin cities expected to find themselves once more on double DST. The cities protested. Fort William voted to not reset the clocks pending a change back to Central Standard Time. The Port Arthur Shipyards complained as well. They said that the two hour shift would slow down the production of warships, due to the absence of sunlight at the beginning of each workday. A compromise was reached with Fort William and Port Arthur. They agreeing to keep DST until the end of the war years. During the 1965 election, Daylight Saving Time came to the fore again. Plebiscites in both cities produced different results. Port Arthur voted in favour of going on DST and Fort William did not. Since confusion and chaos might erupt if the two cities were on different times, Port Arthur agreed to do nothing. Once again, the cities were out of sync with Ontario and the rest of the country. In 1970, the new city of Thunder Bay, at the request of Air Canada, agreed to participate in DST for a trial period of three years. In 1972, another plebiscite gave an overwhelming endorsement to the continuation of Daylight Savings Time. After 62 years, the issue of changing our clocks was finally laid to rest. Or was it?

This longstanding issue can still be heard. Should we stop changing our clocks twice a year? Do we just use one time, or two? If we adopt to go with only one, which time should it be? Should we go back on Central Time, or stay on Eastern? It’s a timely issue, to say the least. And a matter that will be debated for years.

I would like to thank the following for their help in writing this article:

Thunder Bay Historical Museum

City of Thunder Bay

Brian G. Spare is a local author, freelance copywriter and editor who is a regular contributor to Bayview magazine. Contact him at bgspare@gmail.com.

*Previously published in Bayview Magazine*

Remembering Memory Lodge

Image courtesy of Maryann Baarts-Matson

by Brian G. Spare

In 1935, Larry Baarts immigrated from his native Holland to Canada settling in what was then Fort William, Ontario. What appealed to him most were the wide open spaces of this region. Along with his pleasant disposition, he brought his hard work ethic, too. Larry had learned the diamond business in Holland and continued his craft in the Lakehead. He starting Memory Diamonds Ltd. in 1945. Larry also owned the Adanac Hotel where he met his wife to be, Ann, a local woman who was working there at the time. Ann had the same hard work ethic as Larry. The two of them purchased the St. Louis Hotel that Ann ran as a fine hotel until they sold it in 1970.

A jewel begins

Larry and Ann Baarts bought land on Pine Bay and built a 4 mile (6.4 km) road, Memory Road, to it from Hwy 61 in the 1950s. After the road was completed, Larry and Ann built Memory Lodge (named after Memory Diamonds Limited). They constructed the 20 acre resort in the shape of a polished diamond. The facility initially was to be used to entertain diamond dealers. It became a honeymoon spot for people who purchased a Memory Diamond. Eventually, by 1957, it was open to anyone wanting to stay in the motel, or just come to visit for a while. The motel section had 15 units all overlooking Pine Bay. The fully staffed lodge could accommodate up to 100 persons in the main dining room. The Twilight Lounge could seat 35 people. The lounge had a fireplace, overstuffed easy chairs, a games area and a colour TV. The best part of the Twilight Lounge was the gorgeous view of Pine Bay and the wonderful picturesque sunsets. The lodge was also an ideal place for meetings in a tourist setting. Beside the lodge, were four separate cottages each with two bedrooms, a dining area, a kitchen, a four-piece bath and a large picture window with an excellent view of Pine Bay. On the resort’s grounds outdoors were a miniature golf course, a shuffle board and a children’s play ground.

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Street Cars – The Electric Street Railway

Image courtesy of Thunder Bay Historical Museum
A Look Into Thunder Bay’s Transportation Past

by Brian G. Spare

Things can change a lot over a century including our public transportation system. In the 1880s the silver boom ended leaving Port Arthur without its economic power house. Things got worse when the Canadian Pacific Railway chose Fort William for it terminus and its grain elevators were being built there too. People employed by the CPR who chose to remain living in Port Arthur would need a means of getting to work. Seeing the business and population of their town vanishing, the citizens of Port Arthur decided to build an urban street railway line that would link the Port Arthur business district to the CPR yards in Fort William six miles away.

Continue reading “Street Cars – The Electric Street Railway”

Keeping the Drive Alive

Image by Glen St. Onge of Stock Car Heritage
100 Years of Stock Car Racing in Thunder Bay

by Brian G. Spare

There has been stock car racing in Thunder Bay for nearly as long as there has have been motorized vehicles here. The earliest recorded race was in September, 1914. It was held as an event in the West Algoma Agricultural Fair at the CLE race track. The 100th anniversary of stock car racing in the Lakehead was celebrated last year at the Duke Hunt Museum in Rosslyn.

Most exhibition grounds had a track for racing horses. After the horses, daring young men would take over the track and race their cars on the same track as the horses. Thus dirt track car racing was born. Right from dirt track racing’s beginning up through the 1930s, the race cars were open speedsters which were little more than buckboards with engines. Drivers and pit crews worked in machine shops and garages modifying engines to make them lighter and more powerful and engineered the suspension to make the cars more maneuverable. They had one goal in mind which was to be faster than the competition. The racing cars were built from the ground up from stock parts and hence called stock cars designed for speed with little concern for safety. The purse was often topped up by fistfuls of money waved in the air challenging the spectators and racers to match the wager.

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Jack Masters

Image by Alan Dickson
A man of our times

by Brian G. Spare

When I went to Jack Masters’ home for our interview, I was welcomed in by him and his wife Kay. Jack and I spoke for two hours solid and we could have gone for another two. He had many stories and insights to tell me, only some of which I have room to tell you.

Jack (John) Masters is a lifelong resident of Thunder Bay except for six years in Beardmore (1936-42). He married his wife Kay Whatley on September 4, 1953 and they raised four children, Susan, Diane, Gerald and Scott. Over the years Jack has watched Thunder Bay change and grow from a perspective few of us get to see.

Jack was General Manager of CKPR/CHFD TV. His broadcasting career started in radio (1952-60) and television (1960-76). I best remember him hosting the “Around Town” part of the news hour. He then became a manager for a General Insurance Agency. In 1980 Jack entered Federal politics and was elected to a term as Liberal MP for Thunder Bay-Nipigon. His parliamentary career saw him appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau as Parliamentary Secretary under two different ministers. In 1984 he ran successfully as Mayor serving two terms as Mayor of Thunder Bay (1984-91). After his terms as Mayor, he was Marketing and Sales Manager for a large condominium project.

Image courtesy of Jack Masters

Jack shared with me his insights gleaned from his experiences. “My years in broadcasting made me a global citizen,” Jack said. Being in federal politics showed him that you have to look at the big picture. The most satisfying work for Jack Masters though, was his two terms as Mayor. “I worked with some very good people,” he reminisced. What he liked most about being Mayor was working to unify the city, encouraging civic pride and improving the image of Thunder Bay.

Treat people with respect … always listen.

Jack Masters’ spoke with me about his views for success in public office. “The best way to get along with people,” he said, “is to treat them respect. They will respect you in return. Always take the time to listen to everybody and make them feel that they count. Take the time to go and see people where they live and work.”

He added that, as an elected official, visit all departments and facilities. Although it’s nice to construct new buildings and roads, never forget to maintain what you already have. Once you fall behind with maintenance, it is very hard to catch up. Constantly look for ways to streamline city planning and doing business.

“It is essential to have a good city council and a good administration. The system doesn’t work unless you have both parts working collectively to come up with a plan and follow it.”

Thunder Bay … a world player.

I asked Jack for his thoughts on what he sees for Thunder Bay’s future. He started by saying that Thunder Bay is no longer a backwards little town but a world player. City council and administration know this and work ambitiously together with this in mind. They are very conscious that Thunder Bay is the hub of Northwestern Ontario and that our prosperity benefits all of the Northwest, and we must play a leadership role in this region’s development. Jack sees the city pushing in the right direction although he can’t agree with all council does. “In the big picture, they do a good job,” he said.

As Thunder Bay grows, it is becoming more culturally diverse. Jack sees this as a good thing. “We must always be conscious of all cultures,” he said. With a developing mining sector, medical school, university, college, abundant natural resources and a good way of life Jack asks, “What don’t we have?”

A people person

Jack Masters is a family man at heart and describes himself as a “people person”. He has lived a full life and he lives life to its fullest. At age 81 he shows no signs of slowing down. When he isn’t enthusiastically involved in family activities, you can find him riding his bike along his eight mile route of the neighbourhood, playing hockey Sunday mornings with the CKPR Red Eyes, or his Tuesday and Thursday hockey group at the First Nation’s rink.

60 years

On September 4th of next year Jack and Kay will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. It’s a milestone few of us achieve and a testament to their commitment to each other, their family and life itself. I know I speak for everyone in congratulating Jack and Kay and wishing them many more years of happiness together.

As I see it, with the world at our doorstep, Thunder Bay is poised for a bright future. We can rightfully take our place as a leader in our region, our country and as a player on the world stage. These are exciting times for our city.

Thank you to Jack and Kay Masters for their time and hospitality in assisting me with this article.

Brian G. Spare is a local author and freelance copywriter and editor who is a regular contributor to Bayview magazine. Contact him at https://BrianGSpare.com

*Previously published in Bayview Magazine*

Thunder Bay International Airport

Image courtesy of Thunder Bay International Airport
The remarkable history of the Thunder Bay International Airport

by Brian G. Spare

Did you know the place where Thunder Bay International Airport is now isn’t the original location? I didn’t until writing this article. In June 1929 Bishopsfield (named after Billy Bishop WWI flying ace) became the Lakehead’s first airport and the sixteenth in Canada as a result of the efforts of the City of Fort William and the Fort William Aero Club. Located just north of Rosslyn Road and Twin City Crossroads in Neebing Township, it quickly became the hub of aviation enthusiasts.

Canada’s first woman aviation engineer

As WWII approached, Canadian Car & Foundry (now Bombardier) was contracted by the British military to build Hawker Hurricanes for the Royal Air Force. Elsie Gregory MacGill, Canada‘s first woman Aviation Engineer and possibly the first woman anywhere to design an aircraft (the Maple Leaf II), was hired as chief engineer at Canadian Car, something unheard of in the 1930s. In her tenure at Can Car (1939-1943) Elsie MacGill oversaw the manufacture of 1451 Hurricanes representing 10% of all the Hawker Hurricanes built during WWII. After the Hawker Hurricanes, Can Car was contracted by the US military to manufacture Helldiver dive bombers for the navy. It was an aircraft designed and redesigned as it was being built. In all Can Car made 894 Helldivers. How did all those planes get from the Can Car plant to Europe or the US? They were trucked six kilometres down the road from the plant to Bishopsfield where they were each flight tested and flown out.

Commercial travel … airport moved

After WWII, aviation interests turned to commercial travel. As flying became an increasingly popular way to travel the airport grew and a larger site was needed. CD Howe Minister for Transportation, better known for putting the grain elevators in the Lakehead, was instrumental in getting the airport moved to its present location at the crossroads of Arthur St. and HWY 61. In July 1953 the first terminal building opened at Fort William Airport. It was later renamed Lakehead airport. Demand for air travel steadily increased and the terminal was expanded in 1964. And as air travel continued to increase and the airport would grow with it. A new larger terminal was built in 1978 being renamed the Thunder Bay airport January 10, 1970. It was replaced by the current 3x larger user-friendly terminal July 10, 1994 just in time for the 1995 World Nordic Championships.

Thunder Bay International Airport Authority

The federal government handed over operations of the airport to the Thunder Bay International Airport Authority (TBIAA), a private not-for-profit corporation, September 1, 1997. The TBIAA negotiated a 60 year lease to run the Airport and each year it has seen continued growth with the Airport working at an operating surplus. In 2011, Airport activity was calculated at $586 million total GDP, a growth of 15% since 2008, receiving 720,000 passengers and supporting 5000 jobs. Its success is due to TBIAA’s unique business model which includes three for-profit companies and the Board and management team’s constant view to the future. A new hotel will be constructed on Airport property, and after four years in the making, an 8.9 MW $30 million solar power plant was built on Airport land. As well the TBIAA is always looking to increase the efficiency of operations and improve customer service.

You can’t have a future without a past.

Image courtesy of Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Centre

The Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Centre (NOAHC) was commissioned September 3, 2008 as a regional centre for Northwestern Ontario based in Thunder Bay to preserve and celebrate the diverse history of aviation in the Northwest. It is maintaining our aviation past through the collection and preservation of the stories of pilots, airlines and aviation workers, its artifacts, and stories of people and events that make NWO’s aviation history unique. The centre’s goal is to provide visitors with both the history and interactive displays giving them hands-on experience of the thrill of flight. It travels through our region giving presentations and workshops as well. If you have a story you would like to share, or donate aviation memorabilia to the centre, volunteer or become a member please contact NOAHC president Jim Milne at 623-3522, email noahc@tbaytel.net or visit www.noahc.org.

Just as the TBIAA is working hard to ensure a bright future for our airport, the NOAHC is preserving an aviation past we can all be proud of.

Thank you to the following for their help with this article:

Thunder Bay International Airport Authority

Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Centre

Thunder Bay Historical Museum

Thunder Bay Public Library

Brian G. Spare is a local author and freelance copywriter who is a regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Contact him at https://BrianGSpare.com

*Previously published in Bayview Magazine*

Christmas Traditions

Image by Bayview Magazine

by Brian G. Spare

Christmas is fast approaching once more, and with it comes all the rituals, social gatherings, food and traditions that make up this time of year. I don’t know of any other holiday season that is so steeped in tradition, or is as cherished as Christmas. No matter how modern it may become, Christmas will always be synonymous with age-old traditions. Our Christmas celebrations are a rich tapestry embroidered with the many cultures and customs brought here by European explorers, merchants, and immigrants. They built homes, had families and created memories that would establish communities and support future generations. Part of the legacy they left to us was their customs, dishes, songs and stories that would make up the Christmas season. German immigrants brought the Christmas tree, the Advent wreath and gingerbread houses. Carolling and plum pudding came with British, Irish and Slavic settlers. The Scottish brought us shortbread and with the French came the nativity scene. Dutch, German and Scandinavian immigrants brought us Santa Claus.

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Christmas Concerts

Image courtesy of Thunder Bay Historical Museum
A Community Tradition Through the Years

By Brian G. Spare

The fur trade in the 1800s brought with it prospectors to Northwestern Ontario searching for mineral wealth. Foresters were attracted here by the vast abundance of trees. Many of them stayed to carve out a place to live from the wilderness. However, the biggest influx of people to colonize this “neck of the woods” came with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway through this area during the 1880s. In an effort to populate this land, the federal government offered 160 acres of mainly rugged, forested, terrain for free to anyone who would come and homestead on it. But this free land came with requirements. The homesteaders had to live on it for at least two years, clear their land to build a house, a field to grow crops, keep live stock, and together with neighbouring homesteaders, build a community. Each homesteader had to clear two acres of land every year using an axe and bucksaw to fell trees and horses to pull out stumps and drag trees away. Only when 16 acres had been cleared, were they given deed to the land.

A New Life

Many people from all over Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland came here to homestead in search of a new life. Homesteaders built their homes from the trees they cleared and the land fed them with plentiful game and fish. The homesteaders from the area would build a church, a meeting hall, a store and hence a community. When the community grew, leaders were elected. In time, children were born, and when they became school age, a school was built, a teacher hired and a school board appointed. Just as buildings had to be constructed, roads needed to be built to connect communities. Usually about 15 of the men would make one to two miles of road a year.

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Dinners of Christmas Past

Image courtesy of Thunder Bay Historical Museum
A History of Our Festive Feasts

by Brian G. Spare

The Yuletide season will soon be upon us once again and with it comes all the rituals, social gatherings, traditions and food that make up this time of year. I don’t know of any other holiday season that is so steeped in traditions, or is as cherished as Christmas. No matter how modern it becomes, Christmas will always be synonymous with family, friends and festivities. For many, Christmas dinner is the staple for festive meals. Namely, roast turkey with all the trimmings. But this was not always the case. Not much more than a century ago, roast goose was the fare. Think of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Our fur trading pioneer ancestors

For our fur trading pioneer ancestors in the 18th and 19th centuries, turkey was not always available, but there was no shortage of substitutes. A favourite was the Passenger Pigeon, now extinct, which once darkened the sky in great flocks. Almost any animal would do, though, from moose to venison and squirrel to lynx. Another possibility was roast beaver with the tail being a dainty treat. Another delicacy was dried moose nose called mouffle. Fish and vegetables had a place on the festive table too. Of course, there was plum pudding for dessert made from imported flour and currants. When the currants were in short supply, Saskatoon berries were a good stand in. And all of this was washed down with a lot of liquor in the great halls of the forts. Those Christmas feasts were not only to celebrate the season, but also a time to forget, for a while, the very real threat of starvation which haunted the minds of those who lived in the isolated forts during the long, bitter harshness of the winter months.

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The Chapples Christmas Show

Images courtesy of Wil Beck
For 50 years the remarkable spectacle was produced by committed voluteers

by Brian G. Spare

Christmas is a magical time for children. On the first Saturday morning of December, for two one hour shows, the kids of the Lakehead both young and old were treated to the magical excitement of the Chapples Christmas Show. In 1916, Chapples held its first annual Christmas Show at the Orpheum theatre. The Show moved to the newly constructed Fort William Gardens in December, 1951.

Beginning in September, a fairy tale theme was chosen for that year’s Christmas Show. Wil Beck, the display manager for Chapples, and his team started to design and build a set for the Show based on the theme. He made a big boot for “The Old Woman in a Shoe,” igloos for “Jack Frost,” a castle, a big fireplace for the show’s finale, and a 32 x 32 foot stage with five steps up to it to place at centre ice for the dancers. Everything had to be made off-site at the old Loblaws building in prefab sections so it could be transported to the Gardens and put together quickly for the Show.

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