Now and Then: Fresh memories of past Flin Flon food

The recent demise of the Hong Kong Restaurant building dusted off a few personal recollections of that once-popular Main Street location and stirred up memories of other now long-gone eating establishments.

More recent Flin Flonners will recall the Hong Kong as a favoured sit-down and takeout location. Us ‘olders’ will herald back to when Milt’s Sweet Shop was located there and reigned as THE spot for lunches, Coke floats*, sodas and confections.

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Milt Young was one of many entrepreneurs who sought some small degree of fame and perhaps a bit of fortune in Flin Flon’s early rough and tumble days.

The Sweet Shop was well-named as Milt’s also offered home-made chocolates and Mrs. Frageau’s famous cinnamon buns and chocolate cake. 

Uptown kids (myself included) would trade a few pennies or exchange an empty Coca-Cola* bottle for a bag of candy. A 1940s nickel at the main floor counter would get you a chocolate bar.

Back in the day… Flin Flon’s boom economy of the 1950s, with a population of some 12,000 souls, resulted in a busy restaurant trade.

A mid-1950s tour of eating spots would start at the top of the north Main Street hill where the HBM&S/Company Cafeteria served a full range of snacks and meals – including their popular family Christmas dinners.

Wandering down the hill you would find the Flin Flon Hotel Restaurant and the nearby Northern Café. Across the street was Jack Freedman’s famous Fall In that offered great milk shakes and ice cream sandwiches. An added bonus was to navigate the ups-and-downs of ‘the floor that moved with the muskeg.’

Down the way was the Golden Gate Café with an incredible menu including my childhood favorite (can you believe it?) liver and onions. For a time, the 24-hour day mine shifts saw the Northern and Golden Gate being open around the clock.

The Royal Hotel had a popular restaurant and soda bar and only a few steps away you could go for those cinnamon buns at Milt’s. Ray Hicken (later of KFC fame) went from shoe repair to operating the famous Dog House at Hapnot and Third Avenue.

The Dog House soon became the ‘hot spot’ for the teen crowd. Belated credit to Ray’s patience when the post-Teen Canteen crowd invaded on a Saturday night.

The early ’50s introduced the newly opened Co-op coffee bar that soon became a popular spot for shoppers to take a break. The Elks Hall on Church Street operated restaurant for a short time and meals were served the Legion on Hapnot Street.

Seasonally and perennially, Jennie Woods would welcome you to her canteen at the uptown Rink in the winter or the sandy-floor-from-little-bare-feet canteen at Phantom Lake in the summer.

Of course, no food tour would be complete without a shout to the Gateway Drive Inn’s foot-long hot dog that still reigns supreme in the Flin Flon memory bank. Yum! Say no more!

And a tip of the hat to good ’ol Johnny’s Confectionary, Birchview’s claim to fame as the favoured spot for a gab over coffee.

Oh yeah! Remember the Dutch Mill on Beaver Lake Road?

I don’t know about you, but I’m both hungry and full at the same time. What a feast of memories! See you at the Dog House!

P.S. Do you recall the little French fry stand that was located at the bottom of the 100 Stairs? Load on the salt, vinegar and ketchup!

*Indeed, it would be a Coke float. And only Coca-Cola product bottles could be exchanged for candy as Milt Young also owned the Coca-Cola franchise and naturally excluded competing beverages. The Coke plant was located in the back of Sam Young’s (Milt’s father) Auction Rooms located a few doors north of Dembinsky’s Men’s Wear.

Our Church Street gang enjoyed dropping in from time to time to watch the ‘little-bottling-apparatus-that-could’ wheeze and gasp away in a clatter and bang of production. If there were just a couple of kids, Milt would often offer a free Coke - to share, of course. The thrill of a lifetime for a scruffy Uptown kid. If a bunch of kids wandered in, Milt would offer an friendly hello and a knowing but welcoming smile. Fair enough!

Vincent Murphy-Dodds is a former Flin Flon resident now living in Regina. His column appears the first Wednesday of the month. Your comments on his column are welcomed. Contact vincent.murphy@sasktel.net.

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