Rediscovering Thunder Bay’s Nostalgic Charm: A Journey Through Time


THUNDER BAY – LIVING – In the hustle and bustle of modern life, where every moment seems to be rushing by, the importance of nostalgia cannot be overstated. Nostalgia has a unique way of transporting us to a time when things were simpler, and life moved at a more leisurely pace. In Thunder Bay, a city rich in history and culture, there are countless treasures from the past that people fondly reminisce about.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and explore some of the things in Thunder Bay that evoke a sense of longing for days gone by.

For Grade 13 students back in the day, at Hammarskjold and Hillcrest it was “Cresting” at the Crest hotel on Red River Road. It was located right where the Wendy’s is located today.

The Crest on Red River Road
The Crest on Red River Road

Iconic Red River Road

The Thunder Bay Waterfront District has undergone significant transformations over the years. Do you remember shopping at Eatons? Touring Keskus Mall, the many stores. Going to Kresge’s on the corner of Red River Road and Court Street for fries and gravy?

Back in the day there was a lot of different shops in the downtown. Lovelady’s Camera Shop on 10 South Cumberland offered cameras, and darkroom supplies. Today it is mostly photoshop and digital images.

Once it was a 36 exposure roll of Kodachrome for about $10 and once you carefully shot those pictures you put your precious roll of film into the envelope supplied and mailed it off and awaited it coming back in a box of slides.

Goods & Co has replaced Keskus and the iconic Eatons. Max Pawn is where the Kresge’s once stood.

Bay Street and The Hoito

In the era of big-box stores and online shopping, the small, family-owned businesses along Bay Street hold a special place in the hearts of Thunder Bay residents. From charming boutiques to cozy diners, these establishments were not just places to shop or eat but integral parts of the community. The lose of the Scandinavia House, and the terrible fire that destroyed The Hoito has left a void that many feel, yearning for the days of personalized service and familiar faces.

The Hoito, a Finnish-Canadian restaurant in Thunder Bay, was a beloved landmark that has stood the test of time.  The nostalgia associated with such iconic establishments adds to Thunder Bay’s cultural tapestry.

Remember Lakehead Photo? On Bay Street Lakehead Photo offered Olympus and Canon cameras as well as a myriad of photo supplies. Thunder Bay once was home to many locally owned camera shops. There was the Film Factory in Grandview Mall where countless rolls of film were processed. There was Lorne’s Cameras and Fishing Tackle where Lorne Allard combined his favourite hobbies. Today visit Fisherman’s Park at the mouth of the Current River to see some of his legacy.

Prismatic Photo in the Intercity was a hot spot for local photogs. So was Primary Colour Lab on Cumberland Street.

Downtown F-Dub

For many today, downtown Fort William is a mere shadow of its former self. From exciting nightclubs, vibrant shops, Chapples Department Store as a downtown anchor, and the movie theatres, F-Dub is a far quieter place today.

In this seven year old video, has much changed? The potential is still there, all that is needed is vision and leadership and participation.

While most blame the current state of downtown Fort William on Victoriaville, perhaps it is also worth considering our own shopping and dining habits too?

In a world that is constantly evolving, Thunder Bay holds onto its nostalgic roots, providing its residents with a connection to the past. The yearning for the simplicity of bygone days is a sentiment shared by many, as they cherish the memories of iconic places, community events, and timeless traditions. While Thunder Bay continues to embrace progress, the echoes of the past resonate in the hearts of those who hold onto the city’s nostalgic charm.

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