Situated near one of Canada's most picturesque areas, Lake of the Woods, Kenora Tower/ERU (Enroute Radar Unit) had an interesting history in Central region. The tower was built in 1957 to assist itinerent traffic, mostly American aircraft flying into "Sunset Country". However the tower only stayed
open for several months. Kenora ERU opened in July 1960 and operated until ATC services were relocated to Winnipeg ACC in April 1992. The Kenora AASR1 radar was decommissioned and a new ISSR radar site was located at Dryden Ontario, 60nm east of Kenora. While a few controllers chose to retire in Kenora, most of the ATC staff were relocated to Winnipeg in the spring of 1992. Today the area is provided air traffic services by QK FSS and WG ACC.
Al Chance writes; "The tower was about eight feet square inside. The small sliding window in the right of the photo was the only window that opened. This was to enable firing of flares if needed. Very little concern about employee comfort."
Al Chance writes:
"Kenora Tower opened in the spring of 1957 and closed that same year in October. We painted the tower ourselves and I put the name on it. Previously it was just unpainted wood and plywood. Before we got radios up there, the Air Radio station (now of course FSS) would relay to the pilots our control instructions, which we gave them over the phone. Then the pilots were told to watch for a light on final - a battery operated light gun powered by our car batteries which we had to remove from our cars and take up the ladder to the tower cab with us at the start of each shift!
One day a visiting American pilot lined up with the wrong end of the runway when I had a departing aircraft in postion at the correct end. I gave the inbound a red light, but he landed anyway. Fortunately the departing flight saw the red light I gave him and held his postion. I called Air Radio on the phone and told them to put the arriving pilot on the line to me as soon as he came in.
He soon called and I asked him, in quite angry terms, why he landed when I was giving him a red light. He replied that he could not find the tower. I told him it was the wooden building near the intersection of the hard surface and the grass runways.
He said, "Oh, I thought that was the shithouse". I couldn't argue, and thanked him for the good laugh.
Then we telexed Winnipeg to get the tower painted. They sent a few gallons of white and International orange paint and some brushes, the result is in the picture."
"I can confirm al's Kenora story about the painting of the tower, although as the tower chief I have a couple of different memories. The tower was commissioned (really) on June 1,1957 and decommissioned in mid November. Now about getting that paint out of the cheapskates in central region...
I relayed Al's story with a request to have the tower painted by a painter or airport maintenance. This is when I first was introduced to that wonderful thing called a budget. Region's initial response, no budget, no money, no paint job. I could not believe this and I reacted not too wisely - hey I was only 21. Anyway, the short version is we received several cans of paint and Al and I painted and painted and painted, with Alec painting the name of the airport (KENORA) and the fact that it indeed was an (AIRPORT CONTROL TOWER).
There are actually quite a few KENORA stories such as setting a pig on fire on the runway, the bear in the control tower office, the arrival of a T-Bird, the arrival of a Mosquito, the attempt to close the tower earlier than region wanted; etc., but those can be told another day."
Ed Romanik Sr.
Malcolm "Duke" Dewar
Dale "Stinky" Stinson
Oct 15 - Kenora Radar Evaluation commenced
Jul 17 1400z - Kenora Radar NOTAM'd operational
Aug 6 - Toilet became operational
Oct 23 - TC851, DC-8 service YZ-WG commenced
2nd tour for Malcolm "Duke" Dewar
Ted Fudge Sr.
Sept 15 - Midnight shift cancelled this date
2nd tour for Bruce McEwan
3rd tour for Malcolm "Duke" Dewar
Bill 'Snuffy" Molloy
Jack Murphy departs for Saudi Arabia
Tom Heinrichs writes:
When I arrived in 1967, the QK ERU had seven controllers. We worked overlapping shifts so that we could cover the busiest hours with two people. This meant working alone through the late evening, when traffic was "slow". In theory, no problem. However, air traffic has a way of building up occasionally, regardless of expectations, and if relief was really, really required, this could create a problem.
Brian West, the Unit Chief, brought this problem to the attention of Region, and they responded immediately. In the entrepreneurial way we had come to expect from Central Region, they provided the perfect solution, a microphone with an expandable cord which could reach all the way to the John, located in the back corner of the building.
Oct 31 - Shell airport building burnt down
May 28 - Tom Freestone locked in building due to platform floating at the door due to heavy rain
"#1 - Plane Talk - Kenora Branch
The smallest known branch of ATC is again planning its usual BIG event. Need we say more?
For the uninitiated we refer of course to the second annual Fish Derby, held in the heart of North America in the beautiful Lake of the Woods vacation wonderland. A land abounding with fish and wildlife, where visitors have been known to land 15 pound pickeral; to catch a 170 pound sturgeon trolling with a daredevil lure and 20 pound test line; to land 41 pounds of battling pike in the 1965 season. However, do not let one of our poorer years discourage you; the big ones are still around and in great fighting form after their year of rest. The local guides predict a beautiful year.
Would you believe that all this will be available to YOU in Kenora on June 18? A day on the lake will be followed by supper and free lodging. Lunches, refreshments, and the usual comraderie is also available. In addition, rare and exotic prizes will be awarded to deserving sportsmen, and to the individuals who boast the larges fish (any species) and the largest pickerel.
So all you believers reserve your holidays now, and plan your trip to the land of the peaceful Ojibway for a day of fishing splendor. The Derby is open to anyone associated with ATC, and more good news, SD has kindly offered to be the official fish cleaner.
"#2 - Plane Talk - Kenora Branch
First of all let us say thank you to all the fellows who attended our fish derby in June. It was a real pleasure hosting such an event, even though fht fishermen at our unit were somewhat humiliated by the fact that none of us ended up in the prizes. Cash prizes went to Bert Puls of the Centre, and Ben Oakden from Lakehead Terminal, for turning in the best fish.
For those who enquired, we decided not to sponsor a fall derby for several reasons, but mainly because of the unpredicable weather we have been experiencing, and because the fishing has been rather poop since August. You may rest assured, however, that you will be invited back again next spring to pit your skills against the local pros.
Ted Fudge departed our unit in June to take up a position "down home" at Goose Bay Centre. It was a brief but tearful parting, as we lined the station platform, waving farewell with codfish and singing a chorus of "Squid Jiggin' Grounds" in A minor.
For those of you who have worked here previously, we also said goodbye to Al Funnel, a local radar technician who is now OIC at The Pas radio, and Jim Colehouse, airport mechanic, who was transferred to Lakehead.
In a recent letter from Jack Murphy, we learned that he has just completed a tour of the Middle East, making stops in Iraq, Egypt, and one unexpected stopover at Amman, Jordan, when the DC-7 he was riding lost an engine. He says that the weather is beginning to cool off a bit, but the temperature still climbs to over 100 most days. He is quite anxious to get back on good old Canadian soil once again.
Feb 26 - 1st Air Canada B747 transitted our area
Sept 2 - Don Messer visited our unit
Sept 14 - Dollar 6, T33, crashes on Kenora airfield
Jan 17 - ATC strike commences
Sept 6 - Doerksen reports a lightning strike in the compound
Apr 11 - Moved to our present building from the old tin shack where inside temperature 96 degrees
Tom Freestone leaves for Ottawa
August 7-9 - ATC strike
JR "Bob" Wonnacott
Ted Fudge Jr. (24 years after his Dad)
Prior to the establishment of Town of Kenora in 1905, the whole area situated on the northeastern
shore of Lake of the Woods was known as "Waszush Unigum" or "Portage of the Muskrats". In the early 1800's the Hudson's Bay
Company established a post on the river near the town. Trappers from all over the region would bring their furs here to be
shipped to the East. The French and English fur traders continued the use of the name and with a few linguistic changes,
the area became known as Rat Portage.
Rat Portage was no more than a small community with hodgepodge rows of shanties lining the shoreline. Soon it became known as the "Roughest Town in Canada" due to it's transient population that flooded into the area to look for work on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. This was soon followed by the Gold Rush which brought even more people into the area/community seeking their fortune, and just have a good old time. Now add the sometimes comical boundary dispute between Ontario and Manitoba with Rat Portage literally right in the middle.
This territorial dispute must have been interesting during the early 1880's with both Provinces having local jails which were at times filled with each others constables. In 1884, after Manitoba claimed Kenora as its territory, the Privy Council in England settled the dispute in favor of Ontario. This became official in 1889.
Dissatisfaction with the name of Rat Portage had been expressed by the residents of the town over the years, but apparently it took a final push from industry to initiate the change. The Maple Leaf Flour Company, established in 1905, had reportedly refused to build there because they didnít want the word "rat" on their flour bags. So the new name was formed by combining the first two letters of KEewatin, a sister town; NOrman, an adjacent village; and RAt Portage.