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Saturday, May 12, 2018

My Mom arrived in Fort William, November 1927.

May 12, 2018. 

My Uncle Andy arrived in Canada a few years before my mom. My mom arrived in Fort William at the beginning of Winter, 1927. My Uncle Andy took her across the railway tracks, to a clothing store in the East End, at that time it was called the "Coal Docks". The ships delivered the coal at the waterfront. Mom told me Uncle Andy bought her a coat and boots, Slovakia is a warm country, she had no idea what she got herself into. Fortunately roughly 2,000 Slovak's lived in the East End of Fort William. They all took good care of my mom. Years later, a Slovak couple introduced her to my dad, a widower. My dad died, July 23, 1941. 

1944, Christmas morning, my brother John, 14 years old, me, 10 years old, and my sister Monica, almost 9 years old, walked to St. Patrick's Church. We got to the corner of Simpson Street and Victoria Ave, Bank of Montreal, we could smell smoke. Soon as we hit Victoria Ave, we saw that the Avenue Hotel was gone, it was just smouldering. A few days later the City build a huge fence all around the lot. Johnny sang the song that was popular at that time.  "Don't Fence Me In".

When my Mom arrive in Fort William, she started working at the Avenue Hotel, washing the wooden floors, on her hands and knees. She eventually worked her way up to helping in the kitchen. Here she learned to cook Canadian food, later she would combine it with her Slovak cooking. Mom was an excellent cook. My dad told my mom, he was so sorry he hadn't met her when he was a young man. He never owned a house until he married my mom. 
I loved my dad, I still miss him. He died when I was 6 1/2 years old. Whatever my dad was, good or bad, to me he was the best. 

The Avenue Hotel, 320 Victoria Ave(Later to become the Odeon Theatre).

The first picture shown here on the left was the original Avenue hotel, (photo circa 1890...not too many buildings to be seen from the corner of Victoria Ave and Simpson St then). The second  photo show the Avenue hotel built in 1894, immediately after fire destroyed its predecessor of the same name on the same property. The Avenue Hotel was right in the centre of Fort Willam;s business district and was the towns premier accommodation. When it was new it was described as "among the best appointed houses of the Province" with 40 rooms (later expanded to 70), beautiful oak finishings throughout out and it's own dray service to and from the station and the docks. Its cuisine was amoung it's major attractions (with even it's own bakery in the basement), and it's bar was said to be the longest in town. Even after bigger and more luxurious where constructed, the Avenue maintained it's popularity as the choice of touring Vaudeville actors performing at nearby theatres. One of the early hotel's features was a pet bear who was very fond of sweets and was well supplied by his many admirers. The Avenue was victim of several fires, the last coming in 1944, the it burned to the ground.   

The hotel was actually located on the corner of Victoria Ave, called McVicar Street, at that time. Today Simpson Street goes right through most of the buildings shown on the far left of the photo below

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