100th Anniversary of the Discovery of the Flin Flon Deposit
People in the new town of Flin Flon were unashamedly community minded. They came from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they had one thing in common — they were in the north, living a new life while hard times had fallen most of the country during the Great Depression. A large group of mostly young families with diverse backgrounds and careers were thrown together in the Northern Manitoba wilderness, and they made out of the town of Flin Flon what was needed.
The town had a deep talent pool. Some said it was because much of the staffing for the mine was done during the depression, when men were willing to accept work that varied from their usual roles. Some said that the company had a policy of favouring candidates who could bring something extra to the town: if Flin Flon needed a ballet teacher or golf pro, for example, a role in the mine was given to someone with this talent.
HBM&S always played a lead role in community life. One of its chief concerns was encouraging employees and their families to remain in Flin Flon for years. So, the company invested heavily in the town’s culture, community events, and such leisure spots as Phantom Lake.
Tradesmen, heavy equipment, and materials were often supplied to the town to support local community projects.
Thanks to this support, in a short time, Flin Flon had a covered skating and hockey arena, curling rinks, and a large community hall. A former mess hall later became a “Jubilee Hall” with a hardwood floor that would be the envy of many other cities and towns. This building provided space for a camera club, a community library, a fully outfitted workshop for hobbyists, and rooms for the rehearsal and presentation of many artistic productions. During the Second World War, the reserve army trained in the Community Hall when the weather was too cold outside.
HBM&S’s backing was instrumental in the evolution of the isolated town, which eventually gave birth to a Memorial Cup winning hockey team, a renowned figure skating club, and a pipe band recognized throughout the country.
For a small town, Flin Flon has bred an inordinate number of men who made it to the top-tier of the hockey world in the National Hockey League (NHL). Residents attribute their skill development to the quality of the town’s own hockey team, The Bombers.
While the Philadelphia Flyers’ Bobby Clarke is the most famous NHL player to come out of Flin Flon, other notable hockey stars include Gerry Hart, and Ken Baumgartner.
Source: Excerpted and edited from interviews with Doug Evans
In Flin Flon’s early days there was neither a functional municipal council nor a formal school board.
Nevertheless, recognizing the importance of education, mine workers and their families set up informal schools in abandoned buildings and church basements. A de facto school board was formed by qualified educators who were working at the mine. In order to fund the schools, volunteer teachers met periodically to assess their needs and then canvassed local businesses with a brown paper bag, collecting money to keep the schools open.
The school system benefitted from the generosity of the mining company. Flin Flon attracted excellent teachers who tended to stay on year after year. Schools were soon well-outfitted, and school construction kept up with the demands of the town’s booming population.
Stories of Flin Flon’s well-loved teachers survive today. Residents recall a dedicated shop teacher who nurtured any child’s passion for building things. Others worked with the children to construct a diving helmet, complete with air pump, with which they managed to descend to a depth of forty feet. (You can imagine their pride when HBM&S borrowed the helmet to repair an underwater valve in the reservoir.) The three-room Hapnot School employed one of the town’s most beloved teachers — Ruth Betts. She taught generations of Flin Flon children and had a school named in her honour.
Main School was another school notable for its proximity to the mine and the occasional afternoons that saw the teachers and students put on their outdoor clothes and march up to Hill Street where they safely waited out the open pit blasts at the mine.
Source: Excerpts from interviews with Doug Evans
“Flin Flon was a remarkable model for a town; people would come up from Winnipeg and talk about their visit to Flin Flon because everyone here was happy and they had money; they found prosperity at a time when that wasn’t happening elsewhere.”
- Frank Fieber