Genealogy and History Club historical walks 2017
With the current focus on refugee immigrants into Canada, we have felt that stories about the folks who settled here in the past with similar experiences should be told. These are tales of war, poverty, politics, resources, adventures, disappointments, new beginnings, new friends, and ultimately, fulfilling desires for better lives for their families.
As you read these stories, take a moment to reflect upon what these folks had to deal with and how they managed with the limited resources of the times. If we put ourselves in their shoes would we have done as well? It certainly gives us reason to empathize with the newly arrived refugee immigrants of today.
We can see the immigrant history of our community by walking through our cemeteries and taking note of folks who came from Finland, Sweden, Scotland, Ireland, Yugoslavia, Poland, China, England, Austria, Germany, Philippines to name a few. Today we enjoy the cultural mix that these folks brought to our community – bocce ball, perogies, music, dance, art and craft, strong work ethics… the list goes on!
So as we welcome the newcomers joining us now from war torn countries across the ocean, we look forward to the new life they are giving to Sioux Lookout. We also hope that in the future they will be proud to find themselves in our historical accounts!
John was born in Assano, Italy in 1884 and immigrated to Canada in 1904, travelling to Fort William. In 1909 he moved to Sioux Lookout. He started out working for CNR as a labourer, then a coal contractor – but he dreamed of his own business, and had soon opened his own garage that was located where Madsen Motors now stands. John and his business partner, Police Chief O’Brien, started the first telephone company in Sioux Lookout. They installed the phone lines and poles down Front Street and set up the operator’s building where the Bell building stands today, on the corner of 7th and Front. Their little company brought state of the art technology to this remote northern town and allowed a form of communication that until then was thought to be impossible in such remote locations. The original crank handle phones became a common sight in the stores and residences of Front Street – and folks had phone numbers like twelve or forty-two. They had to ask the operator to connect them to whomever they wanted to speak with.
John Tintinalli was known as “BIG John,” quite simply because he stood well over six feet tall and was as wide as any doorway in town. He was very well kept though and prided himself on his appearance. From his freshly pressed shirt, to his white shoes, right up to the fedora on his head, big John was quite a sight coming down the street. His wife and sons had travelled back to Italy in 1921, but in 1931 his eldest, Oreste moved to Sioux lookout when he was 18 and started working for his Dad. He was followed by Arcangelo, the youngest son, two years later. In 1938 their wife and mother passed away in Italy, and Angelo was sent to Italy to bring back his sisters. Also in 1938 John sold the successful telephone company to Art Schady who in turn, sold it to Bell Canada in 1956. When Oreste joined the service, Angelo took over his job with the phone company until his return. After this Angelo started his own taxi business, which he operated until the time of his death in 1981.
Both Oreste and Angelo were good runners and in the 40’s the now famous 4 mile race between himself and John Michieli took place, starting right on Front Street. There is a great photo of the start of the race in Tracks II. Mr. Micheili said he thought that Oreste probably won that one. But there were many more – some as long as ten miles - and they were always good fun.
Big John and his family are well-remembered figures in Sioux Lookout’s past and John himself was a technological visionary whose dreams of futuristic “contraptions” allowed a whole new era of communication to begin in this small northern town.