Now and Then: Flin Flon, by any other name

Names make a difference! For example, what if Elvis had been named Orville? What if the Beatles had been called The Hair Heads? What if Hitler’s real name was Schnitzel? The name matters and it is abundantly obvious that none of the above would have gained such high degrees of fame with their “what if” names. Ever heard of the singer Arnold Dorsey? It was when Arnold changed his name to “Englebert Humperdinck” that his fame and fortune soared!

Further to names, there are all kinds of unique, interesting and even humorous community names in Canada. Take the Quebec names Chibougima, Chicoutimi or St. Louis de Ha Ha! for example. How about those Newfoundland towns Come By Chance and Tickle Cove? And Wawa, Ont. Even closer to home are the Saskatchewan ticklers of Climax, Eyebrow and even good old Moose Jaw.

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But, for all those unusual names, there is not one hamlet, village, town or city in Canada that can match our dear ol’ Flin Flon for originality, charm and even alliterative qualities. Not to mention the marvellous back story that forms the uniqueness of our hometown appellation.

What claims to fame can be made by other mining towns with names such as Sydney, Thompson, Timmins, Trail, Esterhazy, Sudbury (okay, they’ve got a big nickel but who cares?) and Uranium City (that’s original!)?

Which brings me to the question that enters my addled mind from time to time. What if?

What if Tom Creighton had not read the story of the Sunless City? What if he had not thought to refer back to the story of Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin when suggesting a name for the ore discovery? What if the cycle of events that led to Flin Flon finally being declared as the official name for this bushed-out clearing on the Pre-Cambrian rocks had been interrupted by some zealous name-claimer or bestowed a moniker to honour some nebulous aspect of the locality.

What if, for instance, the mine site had been named after mine president R. H. Channing rather than relegating his name to a small settlement on the edge of Schist Lake. What if the powers-that-be named the site after Tom Creighton? Why not? Or “Let’s call the town Mansask or Saskman to reflect its shared border location.” How about Zinc City? Or Rocky Town? Or Slasulsmosewbo? (In tribute to slag, sulfur smoke and sewer boxes.)

Aren’t we glad that “Flin Flon” reigned supreme in the name choice? What notoriety would be created if there was no Flintabbatey Flonatin story? No fame. Just another town. No Flip Flop. No Nolf Nilf. No Fling Flang or other fun plays on the name.

What kind of statue would Al Capp have designed for a town named Mansask? Who would want to have their picture taken with a representation of a bar of zinc?

No, we Flin Flonners lucked out and thus an isolated rough-and-tumble town on the rocks became world-famous! Flin Flon shows up all over the place. Newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television recognition too.

Tell someone that you are from Flin Flon and what happens? I have presented and performed to many thousands of people over the span of my existence and often refer to my hometown and ask the audience if they have heard of Flin Flon. Yes, they have. And I ask how many have visited Flin Flon. Yes, many have! Or they have family living there. Or they went to university with some one from…or…just so many connections to our northern notoriety.

Sure, there has been a lot of zinc, copper, gold and other base metals shipped out on that rail line along the lakes. Our best export though has been the young people who went “away,” as they say in the Maritimes, to seek their fame and fortune. Everyone of these souls – and those who came to work for a short or long term – and those who came to visit and took away a car load of fond memories and maybe some fool’s gold – all stand proud to be ambassadors of this town and place they still call home. No matter the distance.

They are the people who can say and spell Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin. Flin Flonners. From Flin Flon. There’s no place like it and we are proud!

© Copyright Flin Flon Reminder

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