From the miscellaneous drawer - Civility is among the missing

An opportunity to be useful.
Working as I do, I’m aware of the importance of that statement to life.
To be useful - to seize upon a problem and work or volunteer to resolve it.
Is that what our immigrant ancestors did? Is that what we as a nation have more need of now?
Who is stepping up? Who is recognizing the needs of the present and the potential of the future?
Not the “this is mine” and I have the money to sue to get it my way.
No, many who live here are those who are still aware of their roots: the trials in the original settlement here. Whose forebearers met un-imagined challenges, risking everything to create their better world, their understanding of American life.
Among the lessons learned was that of civility. There were a mix of people here, people with varying backgrounds, different languages, with varying potentials and varying needs.


East of Ely - Electric Heroes of Border Country

Life can be interesting at the end of the road, especially when the power goes out. This happened a few weeks ago after a storm front passed over and left us disconnected for thirty-six hours. Thankfully our small generator enabled us to continue working from our remote location with our refrigerator running.
Folks around us have learned to cope despite the frustration of waiting for the electric to come back to life, checking the power Co-op’s outage web page on the hour and then trying to fathom why it’s us who always seem have the short end of the power pole.
Yet we keep calm and bear it, while none us, except for a few disgruntled tourists, would think to complain about the power restorers working day and night, risking their necks to fix dropped lines and fried transformers.


Hook and Bullet Club by Nick wognum - Windshield time

There was plenty of windshield time this past weekend.
First Steve Groteboer and I took off Friday afternoon to pick up one of Roger Skraba’s clients in Crane Lake. We arrived right around the time we were told and couldn’t find our party. In fact, we didn’t find hardly anyone.
Figuring he would show up sooner or later we stopped at Voyagaire Lodge for a burger. Sure enough, as soon as we placed our order, Darryl Scott’s jet boat came zooming down the lake. Well, they had to unload the boat so we ate our lunch.
Bill Parsons had just finished his 29th guided canoe trip, 28 of them with Yatahey. “I’ve spent nearly half a year in my lifetime on trips up here,” said the 74-year-old.
We packed my rig full of empty coolers and packs before heading down to Ely via the Echo Trail. While Eric Sherman was able to snap a great photo of a moose and two calves by Ed Shave Lake, we saw deer and turtles.


From the miscellaneous drawer - Ooops

It isn’t just youth which makes mistakes, the elderly are guilty too.
There are things we should do (de-clutter, renew prescriptions, write letters and birthday cards) and don’t...
Probably worse are the things we do do, and shouldn’t.
For instance... a long-time friend of 53 years came to visit last week. As young moms we vacationed in Ely with our (now 50 year old) children.
Why not go back to the spot we so enjoyed in the early 1970s? Sure, sounds like fun. It could be interesting to see the old place...
“Boy, the road has certainly become bumpier than remembered... here’s the turn off. Oooh, looks like a few trees are down.
“Well, there’s no turning back. Good thing this is an old Jeep,” I say silently to myself.
My friend Sharon is not quite clutching the door handle, but she is checking her seat belt.


East of Ely - The Manitou Boogie, Part Three

This is the final chapter of my trip to Frank Befera’s cabin that took place a quarter century ago. So far the other two columns covered the trip up to Manitou Lake, the Befera Cabin camp and the secret wall of fine liquor, both of which you can still read on the Ely Echo website. Now it’s onto the second day and a cloudless morning of fishing.
The seven of us took off early in three boats with a plan to rendezvous for shore lunch at an island campsite five miles to the west of the cabin.
I was with Frank’s son, Tim who had been given specific orders to arrive on time and with at least four trout. I understood why Frank had done this the instant Tim informed me we would first spend a couple of hours on his favorite smallmouth lake a short portage off of the east end of Manitou Lake.


East of Ely - The Manitou Boogie, Part Two

Last week I began a three part series about taking a trip to Frank Befera’s cabin on Manitou Lake in northwest Ontario, and for those of you who may not have read Part One, the column can be accessed via the Ely Echo website. I left off at the moment we arrived at the island retreat after describing what appeared to be an ordinary northern lake camp, yet the kind of place you fell in love with the instant your feet hit the ground.
The main cabin was low and wide with a large kitchen, two small bedrooms, a six-bed bunkroom and a small vestibule that held a propane-powered refrigerator. Outside stood a large outhouse and a boathouse built to keep at least five boats running on demand. Nothing fancy but it was obvious that this was the kind of camp that fishermen dream of.


Column: Native Son - NATASHA

When I moved to San Francisco in 1965 I had three job interviews lined up.
I arrived on Thursday night and accepted the second job offer on Friday. I stayed the weekend with a friend I knew from college who moved to San Francisco a year before I did. He had already found me a furnished studio apartment on Nob Hill, walking distance from the financial district.
My introduction to San Francisco couldn’t have been better. I met a wonderful and personable girl, Natasha, who was working at the firm that just hired me. When I introduced myself and heard her accent, I said to her “Are you Slovenian?” and she replied “No, Croation.”
We’ve been friends for fifty three years! We worked in the stock brokerage business our entire careers but not at the same firm. My family met Natasha and her husband Bill who has since passed away. Natasha was the oldest and only child in her family born in Croatia. She speaks the language fluently.


East of Ely - The Manitou Boogie, Part One

In 1993, I was invited to spend three days at Frank Befera’s cabin on Manitou Lake north of Fort Frances, Ontario. Some of you might have known Frank, a World War II veteran who served with the 5307th Composite Unit deployed in Burma, aka Merrill’s Marauders, where he was battlefield promoted from corporal to captain. I came to understand just why that happened after getting to know Frank better that week.
Frank Befera was one of those Iron Range larger-than-life icons with sharp predator eyes that could scare the bejesus out of a three hundred pound miner. He made his fortune in broadcasting after the war, and became best friends with Walter Mondale along the way.


From the miscellaneous drawer - Phone books

City phone books. The older ones trace the progression and regression of a community. Most people toss them when they are replaced. Now with so many folks switching to cell phones, keeping old phone books allows one to stay in touch with those who only have land lines. I’ve kept a few.



In April of 1932—eighty-six years ago—Ely lost four prominent men in an airplane crash near Duluth. One week prior to that the same pilot and one passenger crashed a plane on Finn Hill near Chandler Location. On that occasion both Herbert Kurvinen and “Dutch” Fuller walked away only somewhat injured although one would have never known it by the totally wrecked plane.
Theron “Dutch” Fuller, Herbert Kurvinen, Toivo “Toby” Somero, and Matt “Bill” Somero all perished instantly when the later flight crashed. The four, all close friends, were on their way to Detroit to the National Aircraft Exposition. The plane was loaded with about 50 pounds of printed material advertising Ely area resorts.
The plane took off from the ice on Shagawa Lake amidst a throng of local residents who came to wish them well.


Subscribe to RSS - Columnists