I am a history nut. I believe we are at the leading edge of history as it unfolds, sort of like rolling out a carpet, and everything that has gone before has an impact on what is to come.  If you disagree, if you believe that history has nothing to tell us, those old guys were so dumb they didn’t even know how to use an iPhone, you probably don’t need to read any further.

The more I study, the more our present period resembles the period before the First World War. The American Civil war was some 60 year before, followed by a period of great prosperity and peace, the ‘Pax Britannica’, the mighty British Empire policing the entire world. Then the worldwide economy started to falter, Queen Victoria died and the Empire started to fade, small wars popped up here and there.  There was a general feeling of unease.  Some pundits, noting that over history major wars seem to come along every 60 years or so, suggested things were beginning to unravel and a war was in the offing.  The smart leadership were saying “Don’t be silly, history has nothing to teach us oh-so-modern folks, those old guys were so dumb they didn’t even have motor cars or even trains”.  Good times, roll on.

The trouble then and now is that rosy outlook –  all our problems can be solved by our smart leadership –  is based on a couple of faulty assumptions.  First, that people are born totally virtuous, and all evil is imparted by society, so that we smart modern leaders can build a perfect society of perfectly virtuous citizens, and utopia will prevail.  The second is that wealth is something that is just there, and if some are poor it is because others have taken more than their share.

Our history shows these assumptions are faulty. We are after all animals, born with all kinds of urges and instincts and none of the utopian experiments in history have worked. Wealth is not ‘just there’, it is created by the work and brains and creativity of people striving to better their condition.

So as our society now and before WW1 rolls further and further down a path based on these faulty assumptions, and as our world policeman, (Great Britain then, America now) loses its ability to dominate and control, war seems the inevitable result. A small spark precipitated WW1, the most deadly conflict in history to that point.  It has been more than 60 years since WW2 (which was arguably just an extension of WW1).

The final stage before war, then and now, is ‘otherness’; building on and emphasizing what are really petty differences between us. It is so much easier to blame and attack others if we see them as different, not of us, ‘other’.  Focus on differences however inconsequential in order to build animosity and bad feelings.  One example is the astonishing world-wide rise of anti-Semitism.

Our modern society seems to be to be on a downhill rush to otherness instead of common humanity in so many ways. We speak of ‘tolerance’, which means “you stink, but I can hold my nose”, when what is needed is “acceptance” as fellow human beings and equal citizens.  Unless that mindset changes from ‘otherness’ to ‘togetherness’, war seems inevitable.

Apologies for being so depressing. Have a good day.

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A page from Willie Brant’s diary — Dull showery day, Joe and I are playing crib while we do a bit of quality control on some chocolatey Italian liqueur his daughter left behind after her last visit.  Conversation is getting a bit blurred.

So I says “Let me get this straight. Are you saying the Carbon Worriers are split up into a big fight over some new technology to make gasoline from air?”  Joe says “Yup.  It’s your deal”.

I go on “Seems somebody is working on a factory which takes carbon dioxide out of the air, and uses solar or wind energy to make it into gasoline, and the Enthusiasts think this is a great development?” Joe repeats “Yup.  It’s your deal.”

“And the Extremists are saying that is no good, because it would take away the incentive to change your lifestyle and use less gasoline?” Joe just looks at me, guess he is tired of saying ‘Yup’

“And the more Moderate-minded are saying this is no good, you could drive an electric car five or ten times as far on the solar energy as you could on gasoline made from it, so it is wasteful?”

Joe sits up a bit straighter, and goes “I can see you are right up on step on this, maybe I shouldn’t have told you about it. Do you have a point?”

“Sure” says I. “I have a point, after running this through my mind these last few hands, which might be why you got so far ahead of me, I smell a skunk.”  I started to shuffle the cards and went on to ask if he remembers old Bob Miller, the upholsterer who lived next to the old Thunderbird?  Bob’s English was still so bad after 50 years in Canada folks couldn’t understand what he said, so he got ignored a bit, but I thought he was a really smart guy.  Anyway, I remember him telling me that he was a trucker before the war, I think in White Russia or Belarus.  No gasoline in wartime, so he converted his trucks to run on wood chips.  Put a stove on the truck which burned the wood without enough air in a really smoky fire, ran the smoke through the engine instead of gasoline, the thing actually ran that way!  Even with Bob’s low-tech arrangement!

I finished with “So here is my answer to the gasoline factory idea, and it will make all those groups happy. It will take CO2 out of the air, so you don’t have to feel guilty about driving, but it will be a bit of work and inconvenience so you still have to put yourself out a bit to save the planet.  And it will not waste any of that solar energy you collected at great expense!”

Joe took a swig of the chocolate, then looking a bit confused, I think I lost him somewhere there, he asked “You said an answer – did I miss something?”

“Oh, yes, I guess so; my point is we already have lots of solar collectors busy taking C02 out of the air, and making it into a fuel almost as convenient as gasoline to run our little cars on! The collector is called a tree, and the fuel is called wood chips!”   For once Joe was speechless.

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The ‘sea turtle’ business reminds me of some of the remarkable examples of a superior photograph having far-reaching effects. An obvious one would be some 40 years ago, the little girl, clothes all blown away, running toward the camera with all the horrors of war on her crying face.  Shown endlessly, and a big factor in the ending of the Viet Nam war; of course it will be many years before we can sort out whether that was a good thing in ending American meddling in the east, or a bad thing in enabling the rise of the Chinese Empire.

Before that, back in the 30’s we had the Hindenburg, remember, the airship from Europe that burnt up on landing at New York. Airships – float in the air like a regular ship floats on water, ought to be more comfortable and safe than a conventional aircraft.  If something goes wrong, if floats around while you fix it, as opposed to a regular airplane falling out of the sky and killing everybody on board.  Unfortunately there was a MovieTone News reporter there, and with his spectacular footage of a big fireball, and appallingly horrified commentary, shown in every movie theatre for months, nobody was ever going to fly in one of those again.  Destroyed the whole airship idea even though the fire was above the passengers and there was virtually no loss of life.  Or maybe didn’t kill the idea, just set it back a hundred years, I can still visualize 5000 passenger solar powered cruise airships floating around our planet, what a vacation that would be!

And who can forget the nicely groomed little boy lying on a beach, purporting to be a middle-eastern refugee drowned on his way to Greece, an excellent photo which went viral and helped change the face of Europe.

More recently we saw the endlessly repeated photo of the lost little girl, apparently separated from her family by president Trump personally, who presumably has nothing better to do, as if.

Then there is our own northern Ontario example of photographic chicanery. Remember back in the 60’s, a shot of the front of our Mill from across the river, a small pipe sticking out of the riverbank and a stream of liquid running out of it while a voice interminably intones ‘mercury, mercury’.  This clip endlessly repeated over a period of years by our CBC and many others.  That pipe was a parking lot drain, and the liquid coming out of it rain water, and that makes it a good metaphor for the whole mercury three ring circus which had and is still having such a negative effect on all our lives.

It is fairly obvious now that this program to vilify our mill and our town was initially to prevent the proposed big new paper mill in Ear Falls. It succeeded, aided tremendously by that excellent photo.

The power of a well-shot photograph.


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Remember the fable of the Farmer and the Donkey? No?, OK, I will refresh your memory.

An old farmer and his young son load up the donkey with stuff to sell in town, and hit the road. The first critic they meet scoffs “look at those lazy bums, the donkey loaded to the ears, and they carry nothing”, so the farmer and his son transferred the load to their own backs.  Next critic “how silly, those people carry the load and the donkey does nothing, surely that young kid could ride”.  So the load is transferred to the dad, and the boy mounts the donkey.  Next critic “look at the selfish kid, riding while his dad walks and carries the load”.  So the dad, load and all, climbs on the poor donkey with the son.  Next critic “how cruel, those brutes could as well carry the donkey as burden the poor creature like that”.  So as they arrive in town, the boy is carrying the load, and the father is carrying the donkey.  Needless to say, they are a laughing stock.

Next chapter — Imagine you are hearing the Investor-Owner of a modern farm, preaching to the Superintendent/Manager in charge of operating that farm.

“Your feed-mixing department isn’t doing a very good job of mixing feed; the cat says there isn’t enough catnip in his ration”

“The dog says the cat isn’t doing a very good job, he saw three mice in the barn”

“Those cows should be better trained; they need to do a much neater job of eating the grass off that pasture”

“Maybe we need to do something about all those male animals letting it all hang out, so to speak, in public view”

“Those cow plops all over the place are unsightly and pollute the air, maybe we ought to look into putting diapers on the cows”

And so on, yata yata yata. The investor-owner badgers Staff by passing on uninformed criticism, and Staff ends up carrying the donkey, and maybe the farm goes broke.  Much better if the investor/owner was doing his own job, working on forward planning, setting goals, finding better marketing arrangements, cooperation with other farmers, experimenting with new crops, or just stayed out of the way.

Next chapter — Municipalities are too often like that farmer, in that everybody is a critic who is sure they know more about everything than municipal employees do. Classic example, “Look at that, there is one guy down in the hole working, and six guys standing around watching.” They don’t try to determine what is really going on, just criticize.  One guy is the safety man, mandated to be there by the province; one is the machine operator, stretching his legs waiting till he has to start digging again; one is the foreman, waiting to go for the parts or material needed once the problem is uncovered, one might be from the gas company or hydro or cable, just checking their stuff is OK, and two more are snoopy members of the public, holding up the job by engaging the workers in conversation.

More criticisms, “Streets should be wide enough to park on both sides without interfering with traffic”, or “Streets should be much narrower, don’t want and can’t afford all that extra pavement”

“Streets should be finished with a curb and storm sewers so we don’t have those unsightly roadside ditches in a residential neighbourhood” or “A simple road with a ditch on each side is all we really need”

“Instead of patching those potholes, they ought to repave the whole street” or “Why don’t they use the same construction as freeways, they take all that traffic for many years without getting potholes”

“In this day and age, all those unsightly telephone and hydro wires should be underground” or “We should not have any stop signs in residential areas, drivers are supposed to know who has the right-of-way”

And so on, opposing opinions on the same subject, ideas contrary to government regulations or technical realities, and so on. Of course citizens do notice things and come up with usable ideas, and the municipality must always listen, but they must be able to tell good sense from silliness.  Unfortunately sometimes silly criticisms get acted on.

Next chapter — In the Village Model of municipal government councillors are involved in day to day management as there is little or no municipal Staff.  It works because the individual councillors being directly involved in daily affairs know silly criticism when they see it. But as a municipality gets bigger, specialized Staff is needed to manage things, especially in today’s over-regulated world.  At some stage of growth a community needs to migrate to the City Model, where Councils job is leadership, forward plan, set budgets, goals, priorities and direction; relate to other governments; ‘market’ the community to others.  Leave daily Management to the Managers.

But too often, as municipalities grow, the Village Model persists and councillors still involve themselves in day to day management, but being too remote from the action they too often do not recognize uninformed, even silly criticism. Just like the farm example above, they make silly decisions comparable to putting diapers on the cows; they pile on unwarranted criticism and make their staff ‘carry the donkey’.  I have seen many examples in our town and others in my 60 years or so of municipal work.

I am very optimistic that we now have a senior Staff of Dryden people, whose home and heart is here, and that we are seeing some forward thinking by Council. We need to encourage that leadership and vision. That makes it important we look seriously at what our candidates are saying, and that we all get out and vote.  We need to pay attention as to whether each candidate is focussed on the big picture, where are we going, rather than on details like diapers on the cows.  Focussed on planning the course the ship should follow, rather than steering by looking in the rear view mirror.  Focussed on the big picture, rather than micro-managing the crew.  We need leadership, not nostalgia.

Last chapter — Here are some thoughts about voting strategically, once you have decided who you want to be part of leading your city these next four years. If there are only one or a few individuals you really want to get elected, vote only for those individuals.  You do not have to vote for six, and voting only your favourites will give your vote more power (six times as much, if you only vote your favourite!).  Conversely, if there is one or a few you especially do not want to be elected, vote for 6 others to maximize your vote against that one.   But the real pitch is, get informed, and vote!!

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Winter time, Monday morning, line dancing at the Go-Getters. Rick Olson is there, waiting for Susan, one of our group. He is chatting over coffee with guys from the carpenters shop.  It is very unusual to hear any of the coffee chatter over our music, but I thought I heard the word ‘Holidaire’, which made me think of flying, which reminded that Rick’s dad Harold was a pilot and long-time member of the Flying Club.

I had been working on putting together a story about one of our more colourful citizens and most famous pilots, Joe Amodeo, rhymes with rodeo, not Amodeus. I beetled right over to see if Rick could tell me anything about Joe, and struck pay dirt.  Teenager Rick had actually worked for Joe at Holidaire, Joe’s Red Lake operation, for a couple of summers and knew a whole lot.

Rick told me his dad Harold had grown up at the village around the Uchi Lake Mine, about 40 miles northeast of Ear Falls. This was started in the 20’s, and finally got into production in the late 30’s.  It was expanded in 1942, only to be shut down in 1943, apparently on the orders of the Canadian government as gold-mining was not considered an essential activity and the manpower was needed for the war effort.  The village consisted of housing for some 300 families, a hotel, stores, bank, barber shop, and received regular air service from Winnipeg as there was no seriously usable road.  Teenage Harold was delivery boy for the Winnipeg Free Press, and Rick has a picture of Harold meeting the regular flight from Winnipeg to collect his newspapers.

Government edict shutting down non-essential industry might make sense in a city, but seems excessively harsh in a community where there is only one economic driver and it actually displaced a whole population, turning people’s home into a ghost town. I wonder what compensation the storekeeper or hotelkeeper got for government-caused loss of their life’s savings.  The somewhat vandalized but still mostly intact mine and village stood for decades, a holiday destination for some of its old-timers.

The Uchi Lake site was destroyed, I think in the 90’s, along with Gold Rock and many more abandoned mine sites. Prime example, the South Bay mine near Uchi operated from 1971 till 1982, with a modern comfortable village for the miners, with retail shops and a Community Center containing a hockey rink, year-round swimming pool, curling ice, accessed by an all-weather road. The miners trailers were arranged along fully serviced streets, resembling the trailer parks in which so many of us spend winters in Arizona.  Perfect for a summer retreat (or even a minimum security prison), it too was destroyed in that sweep, an outstanding example of vandalism and waste.

Blame Ron Brown and his book ‘Ghost Towns of Ontario’ for this – he made a very compelling case for turning Gold Rock into a national-scale Historical Park. Before a ground-swell of support for such an idea could develop, the government bulldozed all these sites flat.  Too bad, there are ‘ghost town’ Historical Parks out west nowhere near as impressive as Gold Rock or Uchi Lake or South Bay would have been.

Back on subject, Harold ended up in the Air Force where he learned to fly. Apparently flying for the Air Force did not earn you a civilian Pilots Licence, and Harold got his from Drydenaire, Joe Amodeo’s Flying school, shortly after he arrived in Dryden, about 1959.  Harold was an enthusiastic private flyer, and his Taylorcraft could often be seen in the skies over Dryden for the next few decades; Rick reports he has that still serviceable aircraft and it is for sale.


My classmate Bob Curtis and I came to work in Dryden after we graduated as engineers in 1961. He and his cousin George Lever decided they would take flying lessons, and I was persuaded to go along too.  We attended Drydenaire, where Joe Amodeo along with Trevor Northcott led us through the less fun part of flying, the classroom stuff, at his base on Wabigoon Lake.  We did all our flight training on Wabigoon Lake, ski’s that winter, and floats the next summer; I have never flown an aircraft on wheels.

Navigating might have been the less successful part of Joe’s classroom training. Before you get a licence, you do a solo cross-country flight to prove your navigating skills.  The circuit was Dryden-Fort Frances-Kenora and home; we were advised to just go down the Manitou lakes, from the south end you will see the smoke of the Fort Frances mill; travel north-west from Fort Frances, staying east of Lake of the Woods till you see the smoke of the Kenora mill, and follow the railway tracks west from Kenora till you see the Dryden mill smoke.  At least one student pilot got onto the wrong railway tracks and ended up in Sioux Lookout!

Flash back; you are a kid, riding in the car, with your arm out the window like a wing. Hold your hand flat, then rotate it and it will be pushed up (or down) by the air, and you are surprised how forcefully even in a slow-moving car.  This is called Lift.  Keep rotating, and your hand is pushed up even more forcefully until you reach a point where it is not lifted at all, just pushed back by the wind, with a bit of buffeting.  If your hand was a wing, that point where Lift disappears and is replaced by buffeting is called the ‘stall’ point.

Joe would take us up early in our training, to familiarize us with the controls and the feel – many of us had never been up in a light plane. A key part of successful flying is recognizing when the aircraft is about to ‘stall’, and Joe would demonstrate by putting the aircraft into an ‘incipient spin’.  If you stall and lose all lift, the aircraft will fall out of the sky, usually going into a spin which is just what it sounds like, and you need to know when that is about to happen and what to do or you will add to the list of casualties.

Joe’s ‘incipient spin’ involved drastically dropping one wing, the aircraft falls away, your body rises up against your seatbelt, and if you upchuck you might not be pilot material. Sort of a test, to weed out those who might not be serious or shouldn’t be there.  I didn’t get high marks on that test, but persevered and we all passed and got our private pilot’s licence, which allowed us to fly, but not for pay.  Bob and George moved out west in the next few years, and both made flying a part of their lives, but beyond some sightseeing flights I did not.

Drydenaire staff at that time included George Amodeo, Joe’s brother, as general factotum, and Trevor Northcott, an excellent pilot and instructor. Trevor went on to commercial aviation and ended up an international airline pilot; in later life, George became a musician of some note


Joe Amodeo was one of those larger than life, charismatic figures who seem to dominate any room he happens to be in. A Toronto native, he was a WW2 military pilot, and probably trainer as well; after the war he did some bush flying around northern Manitoba and our beautiful northwest.  He married Dryden girl Brenda Berrey, and determined that a flight training school at Dryden would be in his future.

In the 50’s the Northcott farm (originally pioneered by Beattie brothers) extended on the east side of Van Horne Avenue from the top of the hospital hill all the way to and even into Wabigoon Lake, east of Government dock. Trevor Northcott was an enthusiastic young pilot, and he perhaps along with others developed a landing strip on the waterfront, running northeast from near the present Government dock.  Before that, in the 40’s, local flyers were able to fly wheeled aircraft from a grass strip which ran north and a bit east from about where Husky Oil is now; that was the corner of a dairy farm owned by Jim Hatch, patriarch of the Hatch family, who liked the idea of flying and went out of his way to help.

Getting back to Northcott’s farm, Trevor and Joe arranged for Joe to acquire a favourable property on the lake, and this became Drydenaire, Joes flying school and air base. Claybanks Road was extended to it from Van Horne Ave, and the site is now a bed and breakfast.

There was a real demand for a training base. Reliable personal snowmobiles for recreation access to wilderness were still in the future.  A small aircraft on floats or skis opened up the whole country to recreation use, along with small-scale commercial uses such as prospecting or minnow harvesting, and was a very attractive idea.  Quite a number of Dryden folks learned to fly at Drydenaire; it was a busy little school for a while.

We flew on floats in summer, and skis in winter.   As soon as the ice was safe in fall, a runway would be marked by a row of little spruce trees stuck in the snow on Wabigoon Lake, east of the paper mill’s ice road to Contact Bay.  Most of the wood used by the mill in those days came from limits south of Wabigoon Lake, the wood being harvested in winter and piled on the lake ice at several landings, including Contact Bay. Big booms were towed down the lake to the mill all summer.  Logs which had escaped a boom and floated free on the lake were a hazard to boats for decades, and still are to a small degree as sunken logs get legs and come up.  They were a real hazard to aircraft; on at least one occasion an aircraft struck a floating log on landing, and was pretty much wrecked.  There would be some downtime in spring, after the ice became too thin to land on, and in fall waiting for the ice to be thick enough to land on.


There were some Dryden lads who went to world war 2 and came back pilots, ‘Doc’ Ernewein being the outstanding example. These along with Joe had faced the trials of war and had flown warplanes capable of much more extreme maneuvers than our light recreational planes.  They would push the limits and this perhaps created a more cavalier attitude to safety than might be acceptable now.

Ray Fread’s excellent book “From Pickle Lake to Paradise” graphically documents this wild wild west aspect of early bush flying, and how government regulation has improved things. Perhaps excessive regulation, it has made recreational flying too expensive for the masses.  Local author, fun book, read it.

Our aircraft back in the 60’s were very basic machines, generally for local use. They had minimal instrumentation; I remember the gas gauge on the Aeronca Champ we flew was a cork in the gas tank, which was right under the windshield like a Ford Model A, with a wire sticking up through the gas cap.  The more wire sticking up, the more gas you had.  They had no radio, and no navigation gear.  But they were quite adequate for local flying and much more economical to own and operate than aircraft meeting today’s standards.

A popular trick was to ‘buzz’ somebody; cut back the engine and coast down as though landing behind whoever will be your victim, and he will not be aware you are there until the last second, when you crack the throttle wide open just over his head and the sudden noise scares the bejiggers out of him.  Old ice fishermen might recall such incidents.  I recall a young Roy Swanson set out to ‘buzz’ Ron Weare, travelling down the ice road in his jeep.  Unfortunately, Roy misjudged and a ski struck the top of the jeep, Ron’s first inkling something was happening was a thump on the roof followed by an aircraft summersaulting down the ice road in front of him!  Miraculously, nobody got seriously hurt!

Then there was the time Joe thought he would scare the class in session at his airbase by buzzing the building with the Cessna 180 he was bringing back from a commercial trip. Of course the students all came out to see him land, and saw that he had got a bit low on the buzz job; there was grass from the bank behind the building on the skis.  The joke was on Joe!

There are no brakes on skis, and I recall an incident where the wind came up from the east while a fairly green pilot was out, when he came in he misread the windsock, and landed toward the west as usual, but the wind was behind him. The wind kept him skimming along on his ski’s, past the end of the strip laid out on the lake, all the way past government dock, up and over the ice road and the big snow banks on each side, and on down toward the west arm before he got stopped.  He had to sheepishly taxi back to the base, bouncing the aircraft over those snowbanks, and the nickname ‘Downwind Bob’ followed him the rest of his flying career.

Anyway I am sure there is an endless supply of stories like this at the Dryden Flying Club, next will be more like history.


When I ask local flyers questions about local flying history, sooner or later they refer me to their unofficial historian, Bob Ernewein. He is one of our most colourful flying characters, with a lifetime connection to local flying and with a lifetime career in flying light planes.   I am indebted to Bob for much of the historical information behind these ‘flying’ columns.

Joe Amodeo’s Drydenaire business grew through the 60’s to include charter work as well as flight training, and within a few years Joe opened a parallel business called Holidaire in Red Lake. That did very well and in a few years the tail came to wag the dog, and in 1969 Joe sold his ‘Drydenaire’ business and air base to Roy Swanson, one of his star student pilots, and Roy re-christened it ‘Swanair’.

Holidaire did well, Rick Olson reports working there as a dock boy for some of his teenage years, and it was a busy, growing business. But after a few years, Joe sold it and moved to Winnipeg to take advantage of a larger opportunity still, and progressed from there to a venture in Vancouver, where he lived out the rest of his life.  The Dryden Flying Club held a big fly-in celebration of Joe’s life, and his ashes were buried in Dryden cemetery.

Drydenaire’s first class of budding pilots started in fall, 1959, and historian Bob as a teenager took lessons leading to his private pilot’s licence the next year, starting in fall 1960. He got his commercial licence, and went into bush flying for Swanair.  He says Swanair operated a flight training school until about 1974, and ran a successful charter business for many years from the Wabigoon Lake base.    Bob credits Roy Swanson with pioneering the aerial fire spotting protocol used by MNR, and this was carried on by successor companies and perhaps still is.

In 1988, Roy Swanson sold the Drydenaire business and the equipment but not the air base to Bob     Huitikka, who integrated it into his own charter and outfitting business called Wilderness Air.  It had been operating from his base near Vermilion Bay for some years, and still operates as a busy and successful float and ski plane operation.

Following our historian Bob Ernewein’s career, he flew for each of Swanair and Wilderness Air for some years.  Also Boreal Air, which operated from the Dryden waterfront catering to his friends Bob and Shirley Korzinski who operated Green Island Lodge on Upper Manitou Lake.  For a while he was Chief Pilot of two operations, Boreal Air and Keyamawun Air which operated from Deer Lake as part of a Lodge operation.  After more interesting adventures including some time in California he ended his career flying Turbo Beavers for MNR for 14 years, retiring in 2015.


The Dryden Flying Club was chartered in 1955 and incorporated in 1958, one of the folks deserving credit for its creation is its first President, Trevor Northcott. The first Board of Directors were Trevor along with Chuck Wintle; Rudy Strutt; Don Wheatley; Randy Dennie; Pat Skillen and Ron Rutter. Some early members include Henry Johnson, Ed Kusnick, Roy and Alf Orvis, Gord Hansen, Reg Crigger,  Keith Rutter, Cyril Lobreau, Clayton Bailey, Charlie Waller, along with those mentioned in previous columns,  Clare and George and Bob Ernewein, Harold Olson and Roy Swanson.

With apologies to anyone I miss, and in no particular order, others who have played a big part in the history of the club include current President Martin Lappage; past President Bob Bunney; Brian England, Peter Burns, Lorne Crawford, Gord Hall, Ray Fread. I was privileged to attend a meeting this summer and was very impressed with the very dedicated and amiable club we now have.

One of the club’s main issues was the need for a better landing strip so wheeled aircraft could land at Dryden.  They determined that a town-owned site on highway 502 would be suitable and the town agreed to this use of the property.  Dryden Paper Company and some smaller entities notably heavy equipment contractor Henry Johnson provided a lot of help and the club established a grass strip suitable for landing light aircraft, opening in the late 50’s.  They built a clubhouse (1958) and acquired an aircraft for members use.

In the mid 60’s Transair announced they were starting a scheduled air service from Winnipeg to Kenora to Sioux Lookout to Thunder Bay and the notion was advanced that if the Flying Club base were improved Transair might also land at Dryden. With some initiative from the Rotary Club the Town started a process to build an airport suitable for larger aircraft.  They concluded that it would be better to build a separate airport at a larger site, and the result is the modern airport we still use.  It opened in 1969, and the runway was paved in 1970, and Transair did indeed add us to their schedule.

Also about 1970 personal snowmobiles became enormously popular, and this made winter flying less attractive. All this made the 70’s a time of change for the club. Their clubhouse and airplane were seriously damaged in the big windstorm of ’73, and they abandoned their Highway 502 base.  (The property still belonged to the town, and a few years later it was selected as the site of the landfill needed to replace the old burning dump.) The club established their own water base just up the lake from Drydenaire with an aircraft stationed there, also stationed an aircraft at the new airport, both to be available for rent to its members, but not a huge success.

Finally, in the late seventies they were able to reorganize themselves. They acquired their present property on the west side of the river and developed their present sea-plane/ski-plane base, a lot like Joe’s original Drydenaire base.  One club aircraft (available by the hour to qualified members) and seven member’s aircraft operate from there on skis and floats.

The club is now stable and an important part of the Dryden scene, even though there is nowhere near as much private flying as in the 1960’s heyday. It is among the oldest continuously operating Flying Clubs in North America, and the only one in our glorious northwest.




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Why is this of interest to you? Because this history impacts our area more than most; we are small farms, and this history of destroying small farms’ chickens and eggs business is our history.  Not to mention impacting the quality of food on your plate.

Glenn Black is the hero of this latest (2013) chapter, coming up with really embarrassing numbers which highlight how government and big companies have taken control of chickens and eggs, to the immense profit of a few companies. All while shutting out small or just beginning farmers, and destroying the traditional family farm which was the founding backbone of our country. (Does anyone suppose big companies might support/bribe any of our political parties?).

Let me explain. When most of us lived on small farms, producing our own food, chickens and eggs were a good option by which a starting farmer could raise some cash without a large capital investment. I was about 9 when my dad made a deal with Vernon’s store, he would raise a few hundred spring roosters, and deliver them in the fall, in customer-ready condition.  In those days, that meant the innards were still in, if you know what I mean, and the head and feet (well-scrubbed) still on, so the buyer would know she got a healthy rooster, not a tough old hen.  Chicken was a local product.  As was eggs, many a family farm derived much of their cash income from delivering farm-fresh eggs directly to customers, or to retailers.

These local small farms were animal-based, the fields raised feed for the animals, and the animals produced manure for the fields, no chemicals of any kind needed. They were sustainable, the fields got better with time, and being small, erosion and pollution were unheard of.  Additionally, your entire food dollar stayed in the community, an economic advantage.  These farms were brutally forced out of business by government regulation in favour of large corporations elsewhere in the province.

Here are some stats from Glenn that apply to meat chicken (the situation on eggs might be even worse). A basic marketing board quota which would allow a new farmer to get into raising meat chickens costs $1 million, and that is just the quota, the right to keep chickens, then you need a million dollar barn, sewer and water services, and so on.  After this multi-million dollar investment, you at the bottom of a pecking order which savagely disadvantages you, you are up against giants.  Not surprisingly, there are not very many new chicken farmers.

Very small flocks are allowed without quota, and the board is quite aggressive about enforcing these restrictions, to protect those million-dollar investments. Even though the 13 000 small flocks in Ontario only produce 0.1% of the chicken, while the 142 largest flocks produce 63%.  These are large corporate entities, generally owned by giant feed companies which have a stranglehold on feed supply and therefore a quasi-monopoly.

Other provinces allow producers to have 2000 birds without a quota, which is enough to be a worthwhile addition to a small farm. Ontario only allows 300 meat birds (or 99 laying hens), which is almost silly, too small to be considered a business.  Black has been lobbying for the same treatment for small farmers as the other provinces allow, and in the process has uncovered some scuzzy practices which is embarrassing the Province.  In the meantime, the Federal gov’t has floated a trial balloon proposal to reinforce the marketing boards, which would destroy the base even the other provinces allow.  One hopes the Trump initiatives might be of help.

One small example of the benefits of access to chicken and eggs from small flocks would be this. ‘Free range’ in a small flock means the birds are outdoors as much as they wish, in fences to keep them safe from predators, eating vegetation and bugs as they find them, exercised and healthy.  ‘Free Range’ in the commercial operators lexicon means a veranda on the side of a 50 000-bird barn, big enough that each bird could see the outdoors (but not touch the ground) as much as 10 minutes a day.  Another  example would be that market boards store eggs in times of high production to cover times of lower production, which is a benefit in terms of eggs always being available.  Stored ‘first-in, first-out’, which means marketing board eggs have always been in storage at least several months(!) before they come to your supermarket!

So if you are having trouble finding naturally grown, locally grown chicken or eggs, and find them expensive, there might be an explanation in all this. In the meantime, we all need to cheer for Mr. Black. (Information for this column comes from Small Farms Canada magazine, Nov/Dec 2013 issue.)

All this is from 2013. What brings it to the fore is that since 2013 Ontario was embarrassed to find that there wasn’t enough quota to supply all the chicken we eat.  Because of lobbying from small farmers, no doubt Mr. Black’s activities have something to do with it; the door was opened to small producers.  Ontario and the Chicken Farmers of Ontario came to an agreement which seems to indicate the 300 might become 600, or even 3000 birds, still a flock small enough to be managed using natural feed and methods.

Sadly, they were less than sincere; a regime was put in place too complicated too expensive, and with too short a time line for any new entrants. So, they closed the door and said ‘see, there isn’t anybody out there’. and gave additional quota to existing giant operations instead of creating something useful.  No doubt what they wanted to do in the first place, it was all smoke and mirrors to shut we Northerners up.

There is an irony here, in that chicken and eggs in our northwestern Ontario stores all come from outside the province, so enforcing quota’s here does nothing to protect Ontario growers.

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“Welcome to Joe Klutz’s Funeral and Pizza parlor automated phone system. If you know the extension number of the person you wish to speak to, enter it now.  For Joe’s executive office and washroom, press one, if Joe is not there he might be in the mortuary, press two,  or he might be in the kitchen press 3, to order a pizza press 4, to arrange pickup of a corpse press 5, if you are using a rotary phone, hold the line and Joe will answer your call”

Are you kidding! It’s not like Joe needs an automated system, like he might otherwise be swamped with so many phone calls he will not be able to function, and callers will become frustrated with the long waiting times.

We are seeing ‘automated phone system’ everywhere, even in one or two person operations. They seem particularly popular with government bureaucracies, “if you want to talk to our dog control person, press one, or our cat control person press 2, or all other animal complaints press 3 and so on”.  Even worse, these systems are badly designed; do we really need to hang on while we are told ‘if you know the number of the extension you are seeking, enter it now’?  Maybe we could figure that out for ourselves?  And does anybody this side of Bangla Desh still use a rotary phone?

Well-managed private enterprise businesses understand that such a system is an insult to the client or customers, it says loud and clear “we do not really care at all about you or your issue, we are in charge, not the customer or the client”. Of course bureaucracies, government or otherwise have already decided that we the sheep do not matter; they see it as a mark of status in the organization to have an ‘automated phone system’, and status is what is important, not actually getting the job done.

We see this kind of focus on enhancing the bureaucracy everywhere. For example, does it really make sense for the government to advertise ‘oh, your bank deposits are insured by the government, aren’t we nice!”  Or the liquor store to give you Air Miles, it’s not like you are going somewhere else for your booze if they didn’t!

Here’s a hot flash, it would be less insulting and more personal if instead of an ‘automated phone system’ you just give each bureaucrat his own phone line, and let him answer it himself, with a ‘leave a message’ alternate. And maybe bureaucrats ought to pay for useless perks like ‘automated phone system’ out of their own pocket.

Might be a first step toward ‘serve the customer, forget about status or who is important’. OK, I suppose that is a dream, but sure glad I got this off my chest.

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