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Larry Hebert's Story

I have many happy memories of the Parks system in Fort William for a number of reasons. First was the parks softball league we had. Every park had a team and a coach. Our coach at Vickers Park was Gary Polonsky and he was great with us kids. Our Supervisor was Sharon Gartrell (Dorota).

We played in the west or south league against Tarbutt, Heath, and Wayland Park. Heath Park had Sylvia Kayser (DePiero) as a Supervisor and the first year I played, Donna Gilhooly was a supervisor at Tarbutt and after that was the Head supervisor of all supervisors. Of course she went on to a long and distinguished career in the Parks and Recreation area holding several different management positions. The teams in the east or north league consisted of Minnesota, Dease and Pacific ( now Charry Park). One year we had an allstar game, south against north, at Chapples fastball park. My brother and I both got to play from Vickers and I remember Ralph Stewart on our team, and Sargon Kubyar was the star of the north team.

Later I got a job in our centennial year working at Chippewa, and that was the year that because of Canada’s birthday we put a number of rides up that were bought from a park in Winnipeg. Gene Britton and Frank Banning were my supervisors and his sons Keith, also a student, and Steve, a full time worker, were there also.

We needed to get the rides ready for July 1 because that is where the Canada Day celebrations took place for Fort William. I was assigned to the Tilt-a-Whirl and on Canada day worked from 8am to 12 midnight (great cheque for a student that week) as we had tremendous crowds. The roller coaster was still being tested in the morning as the public did not come out until noon. That night we had a rain storm for about half an hour and we could not get the brakes to work on the slippery track so we had to throw dirt on the roller coaster tracks near where it loads and unloads passengers  to stop it.

Met many people out there I still see today. Iain Angus, of course, whose mom ran the tourist trailer park out there, his brother, the Phillips boys, Bert Storm who was a full time employee. Later in my life I met Frank Banning’s daughter Gloria as she married my wife’s cousin Don.

I was transferred into the shop on Arthur and Selkirk midway thru July, as most of the work was done at Chippewa. There Yuke Tatebe and Rollie Perrier were my supervisors. I met Joe Rollason as he was the head of the Conservatory and of course always got to see Rob McCormick who was the overall manager. Frank Banning would occasionally come into town as well.

I was put on the grass cutting crew that went around to various parks and sure got to know the City. After a time the full time employee at Vickers left and I was sent over there for the rest of the summer to cut the grass and maintain the park. Got to know a lot of great kids there who I still see today along with many of the Supervisors. My job included checking the park flower bed lights at night a few times a week so my girlfriend (now wife) and I would drive around the park while going somewhere on a date and check the lights. She never fails to remind me of that. I also had to go grease the Fountain at Paterson Park on Sunday morning as well as clean paper and stuff out of the water. Again, a nice bonus for a student. I also got to go back to Chippewa on Sundays and run the tilt- a- whirl as the park stayed open into September then and the rides being new were pretty popular.

My funniest story from then was I was cutting the grass one day when a gentleman from Brunswick Avenue just to the west of Vickers Park came to see me. He was Art Widnall, one of the architects of the great parks and recreation system in Fort William, and he asked me if I would be a pall bearer at his brother’s funeral the next day. I said I did not know him but I would ask my supervisor. He said do not worry I have already talked to everyone I had to and you will get the afternoon off with pay. He said he liked my work ethic, and sure enough within half an hour Yuke came by and told me to take tomorrow afternoon off with pay. It had been arranged. His brother was not well known and had very few friends so I did what I was asked. It was a nice service, and Art thanked me profusely for my help. I said no problem. My friends really gave me the gears as they said are you running a rent-a-pallbearer service.

Still enjoy seeing some of the neighbours from Vickers Park such as Mrs. Kane who is likely in her 90s now and Dr. McKee and his kids. I also see Mrs Kane’s family that are in town. Her son Andrew, who was only 5 back then, would come to the Park every day and tell me what Mr. Dress Up did that morning.  

What great memories and friendships from my parks experiences. I had Vickers as my summer job until I left in early August for a full time job and to get married.