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.


East of Ely - The night Steve came to town

by David Krikorian


East of Ely - Why you don’t mess with Ely

The other night I posted a sunset picture of downtown Ely on a social website and the response left me speechless. At first glance, the locals who responded typified the residents of any upper Midwestern city. Yet such enthusiasm seemed atypical when you consider that it occurred on the last night of April after a month-long, drag-out fight with the unrelenting beast of winter.
This response also revealed the points of view from two distinct generations: those who grew up during the mining era and those born after.
To paraphrase one of the area’s original characters, there was none of that “kwitchurbeliakin’” response between the generations, as folks revealed an appreciation for the past and current resident’s lives.
In fact, many responders had no time to dwell on the past, but chose to use the post as a forum to discuss a more pressing issue: Ice Out.


From the miscellaneous drawer - by Anne Swenson

Dylan Thomas, in his plea to his aging father, wrote: “Rage, Rage against the dying of the light...”
And that is what I was going to write about this week. But Tuesday, after work, I phoned an old friend and we chattered about her life, her husband and the active, meaningful work she is still doing after 65.
And that evening, I phoned an even older, long-time friend I hadn’t heard from in a while. In her 70s, she too is still working and actively engaged in the management of a Chicago-based firm. We had a lot to talk about - our jobs, friends, families and future.
This is not the world in which we grew up. Would a nuclear disaster, a war, change things? Is that what our world was based upon long ago?
I don’t know.
New statistics are startling - 66 million more men in the world than women? Are there more people on earth than earth can sustain?
And from there the questions become even more revealing for the contemporary world.


East of Ely - About my two pet snowmobiles

Now that the local thermometers have begun to thaw, my oddball mind has decided to focus on a time when I was the proud owner of two snowmobiles. I was never much of an authority on snow machines, but I cared for mine with unusual fondness. Each machine was unique among the range of models developed over time, and designed with a specific purpose, one had speed and the other versatility.
The first snowmobile I owned was a sprinter, a black and gray Yamaha Exciter built in 1978. I’d often tried to imagine how a Japanese piano manufacturer could evolve into a maker of fast snowmobiles, yet with 56 hp the thought was jostled out of me as soon as I pulled the starter cord and revved up its 440 engine, reaching breakneck speeds of forty-five miles-an-hour plus. Yet the one thing that Yamaha never got right was starting in extreme cold, and for that I carried plenty of Liquid Fire® and Heet®.


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