Paul Leclair, Ambassadors Corps, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce welcomed people arriving to The Essar Centre’s VIP Suite for the Sault Ste. Marie Walk of Fame Ceremony. Family members, (some travelling from southern ontario) friends, municipal councillors and community members were in attendance to celebrate the 2015 Inductees (posthumously), Helen Arvonen and James Watson Curran.
With an official proclamation, and ring of the bell, the Ceremony opened with Duane Moleni, Manager of Queenstown BIA. “This is an important way of building civic pride, and Sault Ste. Marie has a long and proud history of leaders in their respective field.” he said.
Municipal Councillor Matthew Shoemaker offered congratulations from Mayor Provenzano, and the Corporation of The City of Sault Ste. Marie. “Both recipients (for the 2015 Walk of Fame Award) had reach beyond their community borders, and have had significant achievements elsewhere. Both recipients used their success to give back to their community.”
Penny Perrier, member of the Walk of Fame Committee, presented Suzanne Farrell, James W. Currans’ granddaughter with the Walk of Fame award. “James Curran was committed to developing a very vibrant community, and because of him, we have a poem written by Rudyard Kipling on the Cenotaph.” The Cenotaph was inscribed with Kiplings’ poem in 1925. Unveiled in 1924, the Sault Ste. Marie Cenotaph is a war memorial located on the north side of Queen Street East in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, in front of the Sault Ste. Marie District Courthouse, another heritage property in Sault Ste. Marie.
“James Curran was so well known and respected, and can essentially be credited for putting Sault ste Marie ‘on the map’. I’ve known a lot of the Curran family for most of my life, and I was honoured to be asked to be a little part of this celebration.”
Suzanne Farrell shared, “My grandfather (James W. Curran) was born in Ireland, the third of twelve children. They had moved from Ireland, landed in Montreal, and moved on to Toronto, where his father John, started a dry goods store. After receiving a land grant in Orillia the family moved again., Shortly after he was in Orillia, he started a newsletter, which later became the ‘Orillia Packet & Times’. His career in journalism really started there. He covered wars, including the Boer War. Eventually, his health prohibited him from travelling as a journalist, and while on his way out west by train, he stopped in Sault Ste. Marie. Jim, as he was known, by family and friends, found the picturesque surroundings to be the place he wanted to live.” James Curran & his brother John purchased the Sault Courier in 1901, eventually becoming known as the Sault Star in 1912.
“He published several books, especially about history. ‘Here is my land’ published in 1939, explores a possible route by the Vikings through the Arctic Ocean down James Bay and Hudson’s Bay, into the Great Lakes. My grandfather has a collection of Viking artifacts, and many acknowledgements & credits for his writings.”
One of James Currans missions was to convince the provincial government of the day, to bring a paved highway to points east and northwest of the city of Sault Ste. Marie.
James Curran lived 11 years after a stroke in 1941 left him paralyzed on his left side, passing away at the age of 86 in 1952. The Curran family sold the Sault Star in 1975 to Southam Press Ltd.
Councillor Steve Butland introduced inductee Helen Arvonen. “She remains an author of some re-noun. She may not be a household name in Sault Ste, Marie, yet, but across the world, demand for Helen’s books, at one time, outsold the supply of her books. It’s time we re-discover Helen’s books”.
Helen Arvonen’s daughter Theone Collins, shared “My mother was born in Thessalon, and her father worked for different mines and the railroad companies. He was a camp cook, my grandmother was a seamstress, and they floated along with different logging camps and places with the railroad.” In a story involving sheer strength of character and fortitude, Theone told the story of how her grandfather, born in Glennie Michigan, walked all the way to Blind River to look for work. It would be shortly after that, when destiny intervened and brought her grandparents together.
“One summer, when my mother was nine years old, they were up in Grace Mines, Michipicoten. With nothing to do in the train cars, as Helen’s father was making food for the miners camp, my mother was handed pencil and paper by her father, who encouraged her to ‘go and start writing stories’.” No time for boredom, with a father who was also a correspondent for the Sault Star. “My grandfather wrote articles, poems, music even, which I came across last night.” Now that is cool.
“My mom lived in the Sault, and her stories incorporated all of the different places in Algoma District, sharing things like ‘The village of Sault Ste. Marie’, and ‘by the St. Mary’s Rapids’. She incorporated northern Ontario into much of her writing.”
In the 1940’s, Helen Arvonen was published in the genre of science fiction writing. She was widely published in Fantasy Magazine, Crime Magazines, and later wrote stories about Vampires, including ‘Red wine of Rapture’ & ‘Witches of Brimstone Hill’. Theone is the heroine in Helen Arvonens’ first book.
Helen reflects fondly on memories of “finding mom’s notes all over the place. She would write a story idea on a piece of paper, and I’m still finding those notes today.” Theone’s collection of her mother’s papers and documents even include a few rejection letters, as well as correspondence that was primarily with her literary agency in New York. “Mom always had books on the go, scripts on the go.”
The university of Oregon has a literary archive collection, called ‘Women in Society” found in the U of Oregon library, and Helen Arvonen is part of that collection.” – Arvonen, Helen. (b. 1918). Papers. 1947-1973. 7 ft.
Helen Arvonen is a Canadian-born author, now living in Sault Ste. Marie. The papers consist of manuscripts of two novels and five short stories. There are also 35 letters from Edith Margolis of the Lenninger Literary Agency.’ (https://library.uoregon.edu/speccoll/guides/women/author.html)
“Mom was not self-published, her works were purchased by some of the big publishing companies of the time, including Tower Books, Ace Books. The Two Mrs. Carrols’ was a screenplay originally, starring Humphrey Bogart. My mom was asked to write the book, and when ‘The Two Mrs. Carrols was re-released as a movie in the 1960’s, my mom’s book came out at the same time.”
“Mom did a lot of research, and at times, I was the subject for her research. She would practise on me in order to contextualize & work through a scene.” After Helen was widowed, she did become re-married, and rather than a wedding ring, she asked for a typewriter (1960). “It was an Underwood manual typewriter which eventually wore out sometime in the 1980’s. Mom was a three fingered typist.”
Helen Arvonen was also a script writer at CJIC Radio and Television in the late 1950’s, working with Grace Pitt, George Jonescu and Rita Tuckett. Helen wrote all the commercials. She was published in the French and Dutch languages, writing 15 novels, and did write under a pseudonym from time to time. Her published works were sought after in the British Isles, France and Denmark. Helen Arvonen died in 1992.
Saultonline congratulates the families of the 2015 Walk of Fame inductees, Helen Arvonen and James Watson Curran. Each of them has left a legacy, and an incredible body of work for us to discover. A body of work that is still being remembered and shared today.