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Documentary on city’s first mayor developed through Reel Memories Project

The documentary Saul Laskin: Man and Politician was recently released and is part of the Reel Memories of the Lakehead Newsreel Digitization Project

THUNDER BAY - With hundreds of hours of news footage spanning more than two decades, historians and filmmakers are reaching back into the past with new technologies to tell the stories of the region, including a documentary on the city’s first mayor.

The Thunder Bay Museum, in partnership with ShebaFilms Ltd. and Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple, is continuing to work at digitizing more than 20 years of archival news footage donated by Fraser Dougall as part of its Reel Memories of the Lakehead Newsreel Digitization Project.

“This project has really taken off, to scan in all the archival footage from Dougall Media,” said Scott Bradley, executive director of the Thunder Bay Museum.

“It is stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day since the 1950s and 1960s when it was originally shot. It has offered us this great window into the history of Thunder Bay.”

The footage spans from 1958 to 1978 and includes newscasts, interviews, and stories of notable events.

The goal of the project is to digitally scan all of the footage that was originally shot on 16mm film.

During the project, filmmakers Ron Harpelle and Kelly Saxberg of ShebaFilms, suggested footage of Saul Laskin, Thunder Bay’s first mayor, be used for a documentary.

The documentary, Saul Laskin: Man and Politician, is based on a lecture given by Peter Raffo at the Thunder Bay Museum last September and archival footage from the Reel Memories project.

“I couldn’t be more happy with how that documentary turned out,” Bradley said. “Dr. Raffo is such a great speaker. It goes so perfectly with all the footage and archival images that were added in. It’s just perfect.”

“To see him in motion, to see his words that haven’t been heard aloud since the 1970s, it’s been amazing.”

Saul Laskin was elected as the first mayor of Thunder Bay following the amalgamation of Fort William and Port Arthur.

“It’s always great to highlight and study a person that was so dynamic. They had so much drive for their goal,” Bradley said.

“That makes him truly a fascinating figure. He had this vision for what Port Arthur and Fort William could be and he drove so hard for it and had to do so many different things to do it. It’s fascinating to watch that story and to imagine what kind of wherewithal it would take from a person to achieve a goal like that that would seem impossible otherwise.”

The Reel Memories project has received additional funding from the Thunder Bay Community Foundation, which will be used to create a series of 20 short documentaries based on the archival footage.

The Thunder Bay Museum will be reaching out to the public in the hopes of identifying people and events in the footage being digitized.

To donate to the project or to view Saul Laskin: Man and Politician, visit the Thunder Bay Museum website.  

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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