BY TORY TRONRUD
THE FINAL DAY of Port Arthur’s three-day festival in 1934, marking the 50th anniversary of the community’s incorporation, was spectacular. Everyone thought the immense parade that had begun the celebrations two days before could never be topped, but on each successive day the crowds got larger and larger, culminating on July 4th when well over 7,000 people came out to watch the fireworks.
That day began with a regatta program performed by the Port Arthur Rowing Club and viewed by thousands as this picture attests. This was followed by a wide array of musical entertainment presented from a large platform mounted in front of the Prince Arthur HotelÊ and sponsored by the Port Arthur Rotary Club.
Overseen by master of ceremonies, W. J. (Bill) Aitkens (the manager of the Brewer’s Warehouse in Port Arthur), the activities began with selections by the Lake Superior Regimental Band, a catchy song and tap dance by Miss Sydney Summer of Winnipeg, and a comic step dance given by Frankie Lloyd, who was known locally as the inimitable “black devil.”
Then, in celebration of ethnic diversity, came a Wreath Dance by Ukrainian school girls from the Prosvita Society followed by three more dance performances. The Slovakian dance Czamak was done by John Dowhos, there was an Italian dance entitled La Spanola, and a sword dance was done by four Ukrainian boys.
As the day went on, act after act appeared on the main stage including a toe tap dance by Ivy Lloyd, a song and dance by Dorothy Wright, a jazz toe dance by Marjorie Aitkens, and songs and dances by June Walker, Ivy Lloyd and Marjorie Aitkens, all pupils of Miss Sylvia Horn; Bert McCormack accompanied the performers on the piano.
As darkness came, a fireworks display was begun on the waterfront. It started with a “mild flurry of rockets and star showers,” but became increasingly vivid and spectacular, ending withÊ three screens bearing the characters ‘1884,’ ‘Progress’ and ‘1934’ emblazoned across the sky. Newspaper accounts called this “a veritable barrage of pyrotechnic grandeur.”
But that wasn’t all. When the fireworks ended the real party began as Ernie Valley’s Old Time Fiddlers, and the Lyceum Ambassadors took turns playing old time square dance music and modern dance tunes in an area they called Pagoda Square. Hundreds danced the night away.
There had never been a party quite like this.
Looking Back is written weekly by one of various writers for the Thunder Bay Museum. For further information visit the museum at 425 Donald St. E., or view its website at www.thunderbaymuseum.com.