Columnists

Fri
14
Apr

Letters from Ely - A Good Hard Slap

A Good Hard Slap<BR><BR>Across the Midwest, the small farms have disappeared. Most of those 180- and 360-acre plots that supported individual families for generations have been sold off to five- or 10,000 acre corporate farms. <BR><BR>Remember those pretty farm homes with their red barns, silos and tire swings? They’re mostly gone, replaced by huge tractors moving in tandem across an empty landscape. <BR><BR>The small towns where the farm kids went to school are quiet now, the schools are empty, the stores are closed and the streets are left to crumble. <BR><BR>A few people, most of them retired farmers, still remain. They choose to live their last years near the land they loved for so long, even though the young people have all left.

Sun
09
Apr

From the miscellaneous drawer

It’s always good to learn something. This week it was study time with the Associated Press Stylebook. That’s the reference we use to arbitrate all sorts of grammar ideas, from punctuation to use of titles.<BR><BR>You have to be a bit nerdy to find the study of ellipsis interesting. It’s a bit embarrassing to learn you have been using them wrong. Shades of Colonel McCormick of the Chicago Tribune - I had been condensing by taking out spaces, much as he did by changing words such as through to the simpler “thru.” It saves space on a newspaper page and space costs big money.<BR><BR>It wasn’t space which was being conserved when Echo editor Bob Cary started writing “Front Page Editorials” in the 1970s. It was because publisher Miles Aakhus wanted his editorial space (Milestones, it was called) untouched by anyone except himself.

Fri
31
Mar

From the miscellaneous drawer Winton

In 1976 we lived at the bend in Shagawa River in Winton. It was a whole new experience for us. We had been suburbanites most of our lives in the Chicago area. Being an Ely suburbanite was different, as if three miles was a world away.<BR><BR>The river was a treasure, season by season. We learned the stories of the river - the child who drowned, the White Bridge on the Ely side and the Red Bridge on the Fernberg side. The old fire house which was set above the river although only the pilings remained. <BR><BR>The river belonged to everyone. There were skating parties in the winter, river skipping on snowmobiles in the spring, cannonball dives off rickety boards in the summer and duck hunters shooting on brisk mornings in the fall. Sometimes people floated down the river on inner tubes, starting at the rapids near County 88. <BR><BR>Winton was the perfect place for us. The neighbors were warm and supportive.

Sun
26
Mar

From the miscellaneous drawer

So my secret’s about to be out. I’ve been with the Echo for 30 of my soon-to-be 70 years. The amazing thing is that I’ve enjoyed or been challenged by almost every one of those years. <BR><BR>I wouldn’t say that about the early part of my working life.<BR><BR>I’ve worked since childhood. When there was a war going on, my brother and I were dad’s in-house labor force for preparing a metal part for manufacture. <BR><BR>During my teenage years there was office work in the factory in Indiana. That was followed by being a waitress at a Maid-Rite in Iowa during college years, a summer camp counselor in Michigan, a nanny and store clerk in California, a couple stints with Mafia-owned record shops in Illinois and later becoming a book buyer <BR><BR>When not working I went to schools or classes in Iowa, Illinois, California and Minnesota.

Mon
20
Mar

From the miscellaneous drawer or the publisher's desk

In 1975 Ely’s big news was that Gibson (now Pamida) was moving to Chapman Street, the Echo was moving from 429 to 2 East Sheridan, the Ely Area Credit Union was moving into a new building at 35 East Chapman, Bill Rom was retiring from Canoe Country Outfitters, a dead body had been found in a car, snowmobiles were being banned in the Boundary Waters and Lincoln School was closing.<BR><BR>A far smaller matter is that it was the first time that articles I wrote appeared in the Ely Echo. Those articles were about Winton Sawmill Days and America’s Bicentennial, local projects at the time.<BR><BR>I wasn’t being paid by the Echo. I brought in the articles hoping that publisher Miles Aakhus would allow them to be printed. And that’s how I met Miles.

Sat
11
Mar

In the front row - Farewells

by Tom Coombe<BR><BR>Echo editor<BR><BR>Some say you’ve made it when all it takes is your first name to be instantly recognized.<BR><BR>In Minnesota, Kirby Puckett had that kind of acclaim. The 10-year-old Little Leaguer or 70-year-old grandma couldn’t identify the Twins’ backup catcher or their late-inning lefty reliever if their lives depended on it, but in the 1980s and 1990s, everyone knew that the Twins revolved around Kirby, the World Series hero, hitter extraordinaire, defensive whiz and future Hall of Famer.<BR><BR>And in Ely sports lore, say the name George and just one person pops to mind. George Marsnik was a splendid athlete in his own right and a coach who was able to mold men of character and championship teams, both at the same time.<BR><BR>Both are gone now, but certainly not forgotten.<BR><BR>Much has already been written and will continue to be written about Kirby, and deservedly so.

Sun
05
Mar

In the front row - A tribute

About 10 years ago, Ely’s high school hockey team made its annual trek to the North Shore for the holiday tournament then hosted by both Silver Bay and Two Harbors.<BR><BR>Tournament organizers organized a spaghetti dinner for the teams to kick off the event and Ken Hupila - then an assistant coach with the Timberwolves - had just sat down to eat when he overhead a conversation between two players from Minneapolis Southwest, which was also entered in the tournament.<BR><BR>The conversation piqued Hupila’s interest because it pertained to Jim Baxter, who had just joined Ely’s coaching staff as a volunteeer after more than 30 years in Minneapolis, the bulk at Southwest.<BR><BR>“Jim had just walked by and the kid behind me turns to the other and said ‘There goes the smartest hockey man I ever saw,’” Hupila recalled Monday night. “He didn’t know who I was and Jim (was out of earshot). This was truly one kid to another.

Sat
25
Feb

In the front row

There’s no doubt that Jerry Chiabotti built the boys basketball program at Bigfork.<BR><BR>The Huskies hadn’t won much of anything before the Soudan native arrived there in the early-1970s, and by the time Chiabotti hung up his whistle and gave up his coaching duties in 1996, the Bigfork program was one of the Northland’s best.<BR><BR>Chiabotti’s legacy includes 408 wins, two state meet appearances and an amazing run of 13 straight Northern Lakes Conference championships.<BR><BR>Fittingly - but much to Chiabotti’s surprise - the gymnasium at Bigfork is now named in his honor.<BR><BR>During an emotional ceremony last Saturday night, the Jerry Chiabotti Gymnasium at Bigfork was officially christened.<BR><BR>Nearly 40 of Chiabotti’s former players returned home for the festivities, which also included an alumni game.<BR><BR>Chiabotti was lured to the gymnasium for the alumni game and an invitation to attend an even

Sun
19
Feb

Letters from Ely - Saturday errands

Owning an older home (or any home in the Ely area) means frequent trips to the hardware store. Not to mention trips to Voyageur Lumber, Pamida, Ben Franklin, Serena's and so on down the list. That "list" is important for reasons we don't think about until it's too late. <BR><BR>As on most Saturday mornings, I parked my car near a favorite coffee shop. This morning I said hello to Kristen and Samantha and enjoyed brief chats with patrons before starting my rounds. It was around 15 degrees outside, the sun was out and a skiff of new snow had fallen last night. Beautiful! Jacked up by a double-skinny in a short cup, I set off with vigor, purpose and a slight twitch.<BR><BR>The Surplus Store is next to the coffee shop, and I asked young Sarah there to help me choose some new snowshoes.

Sat
11
Feb

Baby Boomer echoes

Most Boomers remember the ’60s well. It had to be the decade of things gone awry, one foreign to our folks, but really one that proclaimed a message. <BR><BR>I don’t believe there’s been one generation alive seeing so much turmoil and unrest. Were you supposed to believe war was the way to go? Should you be a dove or a hawk? Should you burn your bra or flee to Canada? <BR><BR>They say lasting impressions of many life altering experiences happen in the very early years of life, and many of us were pre-teens witnessing a decade filled with unexplainable concepts, even ones our parents never witnessed, nor could they come up with logical explanations as of what was going on. <BR><BR>The whole country was on tilt, and luckily we lived up here, signing off to ice fishing, skiing or skating - living in the tundra part of the year. But we still received newspapers and had TV news. We knew the country wasn’t quite right.

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