From the miscellaneous drawer by Anne Swenson

The roads, most of them two lane, were bumpy and at times treacherous. It was wartime and army base buses and trucks carried soldiers to their future assignments.
Minnesota wasn’t much better. No carriers of military, but gravel was part of the two-lane road. It was all new to an Illinois child.
Activity in the mine pits around Virginia had no relationship to the rock pits left so far beyond near home.
The man spoke of Lake Vermilion as the place their pastor lived on an island in the summertime. They had chosen his Illinois church in which to be married.
During the gold rush in the area, his sister had stayed with local families while teaching school in the Tower area.
As they progressed toward there journey, they saw glimpses of lakes and resort signs.
Finally the car reached Ely and the road was filled with laden logging trucks on their way to mills. They were so big that it looked like they would be unable to stop suddenly if need be.


Thoughts of, and with, Carefree

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
Pull into the parking lot. Punch the code. Open the door and walk through the dining area. Take a left down the hallway to my grandma Dolly’s door.
For about four months last year, it became a regular and familiar drill.
And it was my first and lasting experience with Ely’s Carefee Living.
Often armed with a strawberry shake for 95-year-old Dolly and sometimes bringing a sundae for her sister-in-law and my great aunt Marcella, stops at the southern-most building in the community’s assisted living complex were part of my routine.
Hollee and the kids would make weekend visits, but during the week I had the responsibility - and now I remember it as a privilege - to spend some quality time as my grandma reached the end of her time with us.


Hook and Bullet Club - The Saxeruds

We’re looking for a little normal right now.
Last weekend we looked at the shack. Former Ely eye doc Mike Saxerud moved out west 16 years ago. He’s been back a few times and on this trip he brought his 17 year-old daughter Lily.
While she may not remember her birth place, she has heard many stories of Ely and wanted to meet those her father talks about.
I was fortunate enough to be on the list. Mike and Lily were only in town for a few days so we tried to make the best of our time together.
Our first task was to get Lily driving a wheeler. She did great, first we stopped by the lake and had the landing to ourselves. Mike and I caught up on life while Lily took to catching a frog on the shoreline.
Mike said Lily won a lottery in the fourth grade when she was one of the students chosen for a classroom in the forest. The school district has a forest where a teacher takes a group of fourth graders out in the woods for real world learning.


Trout Whisperer - Black night

I’m laying here listening to stars; they seem to be awfully quiet again tonight. I think it’s time to get up and finish this. I have a place I will air my mind, let the thoughts bound in daylight, maybe let them loose by sitting in the darkened porch.
In my wicker chair I can feel the slight breeze against my skin; I deep breathe that feeling right into me. I like when the night gives me cool fresh air.
Tonight, this darkness, all this quiet, if I believed in such things, would be like meeting the man in the long black coat. I strike a match, the candle is lit, and it pushes back against those thoughts.
Out there, up there, the tiny silver chips flicker, it’s one of my favorite unsung songs, for me it’s like watching a really good blues song, sung. Now I have only to listen to the music playing in my head.
I can feel it.
I can feel tonight.
It matters.


From the miscellaneous drawer by Anne Swenson

Whether your family is heading for the Boundary Waters or the family cabin, there’s a definite lure to the north of Ely.
Creating a visual memory of canoeing and camping in the BWCA is the new children’s picture book, “One Summer Up North” by John Owens,
The hardcover book is published by the University of Minnesota Press and is $17.99.
It portrays a small family as they travel by canoe through the Boundary Waters. Along the way they see everything from loons to a moose. The woodlands and wildlife are also drawn on the colorful pages.
Most families have fond memories of their cabin visit and the nearby waters for fishing, swimming and blueberry picking.
Not too long ago, Ely’s Rebecca Stouffer illustrated “At the Cabin in the Woods by the Lake Up North” for Raven Productions ($9.95 in softcover, $17.95 in hardcover.


As VCC reopens, welcome back

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
All across the nation a familiar scene is playing out this weekend and next.
College students, some venturing off for the first time and others entering their second year of school or beyond, are packing up their belongings and loading tote crates into vehicles.
Often accompanied by parents and sometimes alone, they’re traveling to college towns, about to embark on nine months of education and life in another community.
Take a look around the next couple of days and there’s a good chance of noticing how this is playing out even in Ely.
It’s move-in weekend at Vermilion Community College, where classes begin this week and students are back on campus for the first time since March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The town will be abuzz with new and returning VCC students and more than a few parents, some experiencing Ely for the first time.


The rich legacy of the White Iron Chain of Lakes

History notes collected by
Paul Schurke, Aug 2020
The 75-mile long Kawishiwi River (Ojibwe name meaning “place of many beaver homes”) tumbles out of the BWCAW & widens to create the five lake chain: Birch-White Iron-Farm-South Farm-Garden. It heads back into the wilderness at Fall Lake to merge with other rivers and reach the Arctic Ocean at Hudson Bay 1,200 miles later.
• The chain of lakes are among 2,000 lakes within 50 miles of Ely. White Iron ranks among Minnesota’s 25 select “Sentinel Lakes” monitored for aquatic health by the DNR and the White Iron Chain of Lakes Association (WICOLA).
• The 35-mile-long lake chain flowage was a rich hunting, fishing and gathering grounds for early residents and today supports over resorts, outfitters, camps, campgrounds, including White Iron Beach, the area’s first resort in 1916.
• At Birch Lake’s River Point Resort & Outfitting, archaeologists in 1982 found a 2,000 year-old Laurel Culture village.


Don’t Play Tennis with the Garden Vegetables…

Next to suffering through Advanced Algebra, being a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I know so much more AFTER my kids have grown up and have families of their own. Life doesn’t let you have any do overs.

The number one job as a parent is to shower these little wonders with love. It started the first time they were placed in my arms. The physical pain to get them here diminished once I looked at their little faces for the first time.

I heard years ago how the human mind has a tendency to forget pain and remember more good memories. I didn’t quite understand that statement then, but as I look back, I get it. I have a good “remembery” (memory) as my oldest said and I choose to focus more on good memories and the funny things my kids said and did.


On Stukel Way, summer nights and legacies

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
Baseball, Ely and summer evenings have been intertwined for generations.
That may now seem matter-of-fact, given the beauty of Veterans Memorial Field and the community’s penchant for hosting baseball tournaments year after year, even in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But it wasn’t always that way, and the ballpark today bears little resemblance to its beginnings in the mid-1950s.
Then Matty Stukel came along.
While Matty had a lot of help along the way, nobody can deny that he was the driving force in putting Ely’s summer baseball program on the map.


Take that, COVID: Ely has its parade

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
Like the entire United States of America, the losses in Ely have piled up for the better part of four months.
Thanks to an invisible virus, we’ve lost businesses and jobs, the last 10 weeks of a school year, and a laundry list of community events, gatherings and festivals.
Our kids also lost their activities and sports and high school seniors had once-in-a-lifetime moments snatched away.
We couldn’t properly salute those who departed and those confined to nursing homes, assisted living or the hospital couldn’t even see their loved ones.
For several weeks, Ely was a virtual ghost town as many worked from home and evening drives and stops for takeout food served as highlights of drab days.
If Ely were a pro sports team, one could say it was in the midst of quite a losing streak.


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