| In Search of Joe Tower
(change opening) Before I ever considered asking my girlfriend Kim to marry me I had a lingering fascination with an old tv show from my childhood. This show called "The Forest Rangers" aired on the CBC in the 1960's and I watched it on reruns throughout the 70's and 80's when I was growing up. Not only did the show capture my imagination, but it always left me bewildered. I couldn't accept that this show, which took place in a mythical town somewhere in Northern Ontario, could have been filmed so close to home. It was shot at Toronto International Studios in Kleinburg, Ontario just north of Toronto.
The show was based on the lives of a group of junior forest rangers who fight fires, rescue people and thwart villains while living in a northern never-never land without parental supervison and where the only rule was conservation.
My interest really began began in 1989 when YTV began airing the show on daily afternoons. I developed a keen interest in filming locations as a result of my love for the show and when I learned the show was shot at Kleinburg I had to visit the old set.
When I finally got there in the summer of that year I thought the scenery would be instantly recognizable, but to my dismay, I couldn't put what I had seen on tv together with what I witnessed on the grounds that day. The only thing that made sense were the rotting remains of what seemed to be the junior forest rangers' old fort. The change that had taken place between the 1960's and then was drastic.
Many years later I learned that indeed I had been standing right on the very site where Chub, Kathy, Mike, Gaby, Zeke, Ted and Pete had played in their big, old Hudson's Bay Fort.
Over the next ten years my fascination with the show lie dormant until I bought my first computer and discovered the internet. After I typed in "Forest Rangers" under a websearch, the only things that popped up were sites that scarecely had any indepth information about the show and more often than not were full of misinformation.
Friends of mine, Michelle Ferguson and Kevin McAvoy, had done a personal websites on Geocities and had tried to convince me to do one of my own. When I saw the lack of information on my favourite tv show I then knew I would have to take them up on it. Maybe this way I could also draw up the courage to call the ex-ranger actors and ask about the filming locations that had always been a niggle in the back of my head.
After collecting information from the CBC Library, I had enough content to start the website process- a long process it turns out, for all those computer illiterates like myself. My journey into the webbuilding world brought new meaning to the term 'back to the drawing board.'
I wanted to have a site that not only detailed the series with a clean presentation but I also wanted to use the site as a vehicle to find the exact filming locations used in the senes from the 104 episodes produced.
After a years hard work, the plugging away had finally paid off. The site looked awesome, I had been in touch with the grown-up stars from the show, I had received many heartwarming emails and guestbook sign-ins from fans of the show the world over (the show was aired in over 40 nations) and best of all, I had gotten to the bottom of the exact filming locations used on the show.
They had filmed quite a few other places besides Kleinburg it turned out, such as Temagami, the Madawaska River at Whitney, Mary Lake at King City, and Muskoka. I had pretty much gotten all the answers I had set out to find, that is, all but one.
In the winter of 1965 the whole crew went up to stay at the Muskoka Sands Inn in Gravenhurst for two weeks to shoot five episodes. In two of these, there was a fire tower used. In the episode "Hole in the Ice"' the kids climb this tower and watch as a man is put through a hole in the ice in the middle of the lake by three men. Incidentally, he had been killed accidentaly in a card game gone awry. They decided to get rid of the body so no clues would lead authorities to conclude murder.
In the second episode called "Finnigan's Dog" a poacher climbs and hides in that same fire tower, and the show's star, Indian guide Joe Two Rivers, (played by Michael Zenon) is shown in some up-close shots, advancing toward and climbing half way up this very tower.
I wanted very badly to know where this fire tower was located. I had recontacted the surviving actors and crew and not one of them knew where this tower stood nor even had an inkling in their memories of it. I had contacted everyone I possibly could, that is, accept the most obvious- Michael Zenon.
"Well," I said to myself, "why not call Michael up? Or even better, why not start a new website?" My "Forest Rangers" site was a smash and as I learned, there were other fire tower sites out there in webland. Immediately I opened up geocities and started in with my first working title- "Ontario's Fire Tower Lookouts: Dedicated to Preserving Their History." This started in early March of 2002.
No website of this type would be complete without photos and such. Luckily, I had a fellow "Forest Rangers" fan, Robert Eno, who was into collecting old Ontario Dept. of Lands and Forests info. on fire towers. He was astonished and quite thrilled at the start of my new project and promptly supplied me with photos and a great map that showed all the tower sites from 1963 (three hundred and twenty to be exact.) Then I started contacting the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and other folks around our fair province.
The site was started for one purpose only- to find this tower from the "Forest Rangers", but I could see where the site would lead me to- a whole new obssession. I knew if I shared this with anyone, some would ponder, "Boy that Clayton sure has some bizarre, quirky interests."
Soon photos of old towers were coming in to me within a week of starting the site. Most of them showed towers with octagonal cupolas, painted white. Hmm, it seemed the one I was searching for shouldn't be hard to find because it had a red and square cupola.
The crew filmed the fire tower episodes when they were staying at The Muskoka Sands Inn in Gravenhurst. It made sense then to assume that they would have used the closest tower possible for filming at. As luck would have it, according to the 1963 map, there was a tower just east of Gravenhurst. "This must be it," I thought. "My obssession can come to an end just as soon as it got started."
I e-mailed people from the town and finally the library got back to me with the contact info. for the towerman who ran this tower in Draper Township. Immediately I phoned Walter Allen, the towerman, to see if this was the tower. I saved this question for last, "Walter, was the Draper tower square or octagonal?" "Octagonal," he replied to my disappointment. "Do you know of any square ones?" I asked. The only ones he knew of were in Dorset and Parry Sound and these weren't fire towers but, rather, modern lookouts that replaced the old fire towers. I thought to myself, "Why would they not have used this tower?" It became apparent to me that I was in for a long, hard search. In Ontario's fire tower heyday there were 320 manned towers spread over about 400,000 sq. miles.
Only two weeks into my new project, I received an e-mail from the most important contact I could ever hope to find- Gary Long, who was a local historian in Muskokan circles. Gary had heard of my project through someone I had contacted by e-mail a few days prior. He told me of his interest in fire towers and about an article he had written about them in a local paper. He also told me of a tower in Stisted Township. that had a square cupola and of which he would send me a photo from his archives.
Though the photo proved not to be the tower in question, it was the start of a friendly relationship that continues to this day.
I told Gary of my quest and he was intrigued and more than willing to lend his services. Gary's vast array of knowledge in the field of Ontario's geography is next to none and had made my search ten times easier than it would have been had we not met. His father was an ex-ranger who just happened to have taken photos of towers in the Parry Sound Forest District, the same district which Gravenhurst was once part of. If anyone could help find this tower it would be Gary.
Gary asked his dad about a possible square and red cupola tower to no avail, for you see, all the towers in the Parry Sound Forest District (PSFD) were almost all octagonal and painted white with red trim.
Gary suggested I send some still photos from my tv screen because that may help to pinpoint a location. I took his advice and sent him the stills. After he received themi he quickly picked up that there were lots of bare maple trees in the frameshots and no pine trees at all surrounding the tower. It also looked like a 100 foot model and not the shorter 80 foot type.. This narrowed our search down considerably. He informed me that the chance of finding that many maple and hardwood trees together diminishes immensely once you go north of North Bay, Ont., and that our search should only inlude any towers from North Bay southward.
We both agreed that it would have been a tower with easy winter highway access for the filming crew to get to, and not too far north; but then again with "The Forest Rangers" anything was possible. The show's film crew had used a rapids scene shot at the Madawaska River in Whitney, Ont in 1964 when they could have used some other rapids much closer to Toronto.
This was when I got a 1960's photo of the old Temagami Tower on Caribou Mountain. This tower was almost an exact match except for the lack of those darn maple trees. Well if the tower wasn't in the PSFD then maybe it was in the North Bay Forest District which extended north to Temagami from North Bay in the 1960's. Gary thought the same thing. I also told him that by judging the still photos of the tower off the tv screen I could tell it was on a flat plateau. This was when he told me that he once lived in North Bay and that there was a 100 ft. tower marked off on the 1963 map in Widdifield Township which is on the outskirts of the city. By judging on his topo map he had of that area, the Widdifield Tower was on a plateau. This could be our tower perhaps?
Some more important news came to me over the internet. The Ontario Archives in Toronto had old photos of towers. "Great! Now I could get some old photos for my site and perhaps even a photo that may prove to be the tower in question."
When I got there I was greeted by a young man who brought me boxes and boxes full of old Dept. of Lands and Forests photos which contained fire tower sub-folders. I carefully sifted my way through them and chose a few that caught my eye and thought would look nice on my site, but none matched up with my tower. Then as chance would have it, I happened upon and old black and white photo of Widdifield Tower. It was quickly ruled out as a candidate for this tower because, behold, the cupola was octagonal. This fact, plus the 401 traffic on the way home, was a real downer. Anyway, I had accomplished one thing, and that was that the PSFD was ruled out as a possible district for what Gary and I were now labelling the "Joe Tower" (after Michael Zenon's character on "The Forest Rangers", Joe Two Rivers.) There was a box of photos from the PSFD that showed every tower and the only square ones in that district were at Go Home Lake and Stisted Township. The latter had already been ruled out as a "Joe Tower" possibility and the Go Home Lake Tower was just too darn short.
I concluded soon after, that there were only five possible districts the Joe Tower (JT) could have been located in. These being the North Bay, Sudbury, Tweed, Lindsay and Pembroke Forest Districts.
I was leaning my search heavily now in the Lindsay and Tweed Districts. Random e-mails to people from that area led me to an ex-ranger and prominent member of the Tweed Town Council named Doug Mumford. I told him of my quest and gave a description of JT. He proceeded to e-mail me back with news that the only square tower was once in Tweed itself, and that all the rest were octagonal. I had also learned two more invaluable threads from him: 1) in the 1960's some forest districts started painting an international orange colour on their tower cupolas, and 2) that he recalled seeing some of these in the Temagami area where many film crews shot forestry film footage. Hmm, instead of heading south of North Bay in my JT search, I was now looking north of there again.
I decided to contact any MNR employee from the Temagami area to see if anyone had a photo of a JT match. Then a photo came in that had me joyfully smiling for the night. A Mr. Hap Wilson sent me a shot of the Maple Mountain fire tower that not only matched JT exactly with it's 100 ft. base, it's international orange paint (reddish from a distance), it's radio and lightning rod positioning, but also it's square cupola and it's plateau-like surroundings. Even the name "Maple Mountain" had me convinced that it must have at one time been covered in maples, even though the only trees I could see were a long ways away and seemed like spruce.
At this point Gary and I had determined that JT was an 100 footer because we both figured tower heights by the number of metal brace spacings each tower had. By looking at all the photos on my site and with knowledge of which towers were 80 or 100 feet in height, we concuded that 100 foot towers had anywhere from 12 to 14 spacings and 80 foot towers had 9 to 11.
Although I was sure that Mpale Mountain Tower was JT, Gary replied to my find, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this can't be Joe Tower. It is just too far north and tall maple trees don't grow that high up on a high hill, not to mention that this tower was far too remote to use on any tv show from the 1960's."
I didn't know what to think butI was sure of one thing now though- whoever built Maple Mountain Tower's cupola also built JT. The similarities were uncanny.
Back to the drawing board once again.
During the summer of 2002 I had drawn a great deal of resources and incoming photos were at a stand still. This would mean that now instead I would have to make planned trips to possible JT locations in the near future. But first I continued to pursue phone contacts to ex-rangers still living in the Temagami area. One such soul was a Mr. Frank Cannon. A kind, approachable man though he was, he couldn't recall any square towers and said they were all octagonal. Even though I told him of the Maple Mountain picture, he insisted there were no square towers to the best of his knowledge.
(INSERT call to M Zenon.)
It was around this time in August that my fiance Kim and I had our yearly holiday up at her cousins cottage in Wilberforce. I spent one day touring the old locations of fire towers there. First I went to the village of Haliburton to find where the Dysart fire tower once stood. Gary had given me a topo map that showed two possible locations. I asked at the Municipal office and library to see if any locals knew which spot it was. It was an interesting situation, for nobody had a clue, not even an older lady who had resided there all her life. "I'd have to be crazy to remember that!" she exclaimed. I left there quite enraged.
As I was driving out of town east up Highway 118, I looked in the direction where one of the spots was marked on the topo and could not believe my eyes. There was the very tower barely peeping through the tops of the tall maple trees! The tower was right there overlooking the town below and yet no one seemed to know what this metal structure was. This may have had something to do withe fact that the cupola had been removed and it was now used as some sort of radio tower.
It took me a while but I finally found the road that lead right up to it. A gate surrounded the base which was unlocked and the entire ladder remained. Usually the MNR cut off the bottom 20 feet for safety purposes. It could've been a JT possibility were it not for the fact that I had seen a photo of it at the Ontario Archives.The Dysart Tower once had an octagonal cupola.
I left here to go climb Greens Mountain where I ran into a bunch of jeepsters. This was the high hill where the old Gooderham Tower once loomed.
Next I was on my way to fing the old Cardiff Tower, however, my directions were only from memory of a map I had seen a week before. I ran into an oldtimer down a MNR access road who told me that the Cardiff Tower used to have a square cupola. Maybe this was it, as it wasn't far from Gravenhurst, but I was too tired to continue without an exact location, which he could not provide; plus the roads were unfit for my poor Saturn. This was my third fire tower excursion of the year. In the spring, Gary and I had done an excursion to the old Muskoka tower sites and a month later my friend Gord came with me to check out the tower sites in the Tweed area.
About a month later, after inquiring about a photo and location of the old Bancroft fire tower, I had made two new important contacts. I was searching in this part of the province now because Gary and I had started work on a new page linked to my site that mapped the exact locations of every old tower (still erect or not) we knew of from North Bay and Sudbury down to Lake Ontario. Gary did the brunt of this work on his own computer (this map from my point of view is our pride and joy) and we were still looking for the exact location of the Bancroft Tower.
Doug Mumford then came back into the picture as he confirmed a new oddity- there were two 100 ft. towers in Bancroft at two different times in it's history. This threw me for a loop and got me side-tracked for a time. Now I was putting all of my energies into getting to the bottom of these two towers (pardon the pun). And why not since there was no reason not to expect that either one could have proven to be JT.
This was when I came into contact with an ex-forest ranger from these parts named Henry Taylor, who was a ninety-eight year old with some valuable facts to share. He ran three towers in his tenure which began in the 1920's. He mentioned, over his son's e-mail, that the Bancroft Tower was indeed a 100 footer and had a square cupola. "This has got to be it!!" I assumed to myself, "but what about the Cardiff Tower?" This is where my second contact came in to play. His name was Mac Langley and his son ran the Cardiff Tower in the 1960's. He assured me this tower at Cardiff was definitely octagonal because he recalled climbing it once. "There we go," I thought, " if JT wasn't in the NBFD and almost every other tower south of North Bay had now been ruled out by myself and Gary, then JT had to be one of these two Bancroft Towers. It made the most sense and the crew from "The Forest Rangers" would not have had far to travel from Gravenhurst to get here. It was only an hours drive along Hwy. 118 and Hwy. 121. Gary sent me the two Bancroft Tower spots marked on topographic map. Both were of easy access as well.
Mac and his grandson told me of another tower that started another mini-obsession. This being the old Faraday Tower on Monck Rd. that had been dismantled and removed in the 1920's to Bancroft; but that's a whole other story.
My friend Gord Morrison, who has now become an avid fire tower hunter as well, and I looked forward to our Sept. 28th, 2002 trip to find the two Bancroft Towers old footings and surroundings. It couldn't have worked out better in the planning, as we were allowed to stay at his mother's place near Apsley, Ont. His aunt and cousin were staying over that same weekend, whom he hadn't seen for years.
I was feeling lucky. My mind said that there was a 50% chance that one of these two tower sites could prove to be where JT once stood.
We got to Bancroft at twelve noon in the pouring rain, armed with camera, topo maps, and my tower hunting safety toys- a can of mace and a dog dazer. I had run into dogs before on my first tower trek in the spring and had been bitten by a dog that summer at my place of work. You can never be too safe!
The first site we went to was the easier of the two to get to, even for a film crew in the 1960's. It was right off the hwy. just north of Bancroft on their famous bluff called the "Eagle's Nest." What a view and what a drag! Not JT, no way! So down we went back through town over the east side and up the Clark Lake Rd. to the hill where the modern radio tower is perched. Now this was a bumpy ride and my car's sides were getting a bit of a scrape job in the ascent. This hill was a possibility! "Let's see. The maples are high enough and in enough abundance, but let's see," I mumbled to Gord as we make the final turn at the summit, " Nope this ain't it." There was too much of a slope on either side of this hill, and it wasn't much of a plateau." It was more like a high sloping hill and we also saw that the towerman's bunkhouse remains were located right underneath of where the metal frame structure of the old tower once stood. "There was no bunkhouse under JT I can tell you that!"
We spent the rest of the weekend visiting Gord's family and tower hunting at other locations.
"Well neither tower at Bancroft was Joe Tower so let's try to get together for a final trip this year up in the North Bay and Sudbury area and give it one last shot. If we don't find JT in either of these two areas then I am going to conclude that It never was and that It only existed in a "Forest Rangers" Never-neverland," I wrote in my e-mail to Gary.
Looking at our trusty 1963 map, I had developed a route plan that would take us past our ten highest potential JT's. These being the Garrow Tower, Mattawan Tower, Thistle Twer, Lyman Tower, Widdifield Tower, Lauder Tower, some in the old Sudbury Forest District and finally the Latchford Tower. All were 100 footers except for the last one which was only an 80 footer and I which had a strange feeling about, even if we both felt JT was more than likely an 100 footer.
Gary and I once more agreed that the tower had to have been one that was easily accessible in the winter of 1965. This was why I decided to take three of the towers off of our trip plan list. Lauder, Garrow and Mattawan were just too far off the beat and track to have been candidates. It would have made the trek more of a hassle too. Now the trip was more straight-forward and would save us travelling further east than need be.
"I think you're gonna find our JT is the Widdifield Tower," Gary wrote me once again. "So much matches up with JT, such as the similar plateau topography you had mentioned. My topo map shows that it wasn't a high steep hill as well, and maple trees would certainly grow well here. Best of all, the accessability was perfect and the road is named "Tower Road" which should be well maintained and is just on the outskirts of North Bay itself, by the airport." I replied by reminding him that I agreed totally with his assumptions, but that he must recall the old photo I had seen of it at the Ontario Archives with it's octagonal cupola. Gary was persistent.
The date was approaching for our trek on Oct. 18/2002. I rescheduled my holidays at work to get the whole week off. Gary's acceptance of Widdifield Tower as the highest possibility for JT and my 50% perception that he may be correct lead me to take new initiative in the area of phone calls. "If only I could find one ex- Dept. of Lands and Forests employee who could confirm my suspicion that not only did the Widdifield Tower (WT) have a square cupola but also that it had been re-erected as a 100 footer on the same spot where an 80 footer had been." This would explain how a tower with a square cupola could come to be when prior to it's being there there was a tower with an octagonal cupola. If I could prove this, then the WT would move into the number one position for JT candidacy. I was sure of that, and now I believed it strongly.
I didn't have any info. on the WT in regards to it's height when I saw the photo of it at the Archives but I did know that the picture was taken in 1953, and that there were hydro lines overhead of it. This certainly didn't match up with JT. If JT was WT then two things had to be true: 1) they had to have taken down the tower after 1953 and put up a new 100 footer in it's place, with a square cupola and 2) the hydro lines had to have been removed over out of the path of the new tower. (Of course there were other things that had to match , but I have mentioned these earlier and will bring them up again.) I could accept the latter, but why on earth would they remove one tower and put up another in it's place? Towers were first built in the 1920's in all districts and in the PSFD they lasted in good condition right until the 1960's. Some towers built in the 1930's actually survive in fair shape to this day, in fact. Before we left on our trip I would have to get this conundrum settled.
I knew that in Ontario the tower detection system had been decommissioned in about 1964 or so, when aerial detection took over; though some towers remained active until around 1973? when the system was permanently done away with. The first person I contacted was Hap Wilson who knew the Temagami area well. Temagami was part of the NBFD. His responce to my inquiry was that he had recalled that newer 100 footers were put up in the area replacing old ones the year prior to disbanding the system, which caused taxpayers grave concern. This was my first lead in the right direction.
I then decided to call friendly Frank Cannon again. He was in his 70's and once ran the Cynthia Tower on Ferguson's Mountain on Lake Temagami for a time. After our chat, I was left bewildered once more. Frank was quite certain still that no square cupola towers ever covered the Temagami area landscape, but he did say that some were indeed removed in the 1950's and replaced by newer models. This confirmed what Hap had said also and maybe then these newer 100 foot models had sqaure cupolas on them. I could not accept Frank's memory that there wern't any square cupola towers though, as I had seen more modern shots of both the Maple Mountain and Caribou Mountain Towers. Both were square. And yet, without Frank I would not have made my next four contacts. He had to think of the name of the old radio installer who had done all the work on every tower in the NBFD. Finally it came to him- Randy Macdonell.
I looked up Randy in the book and called him the next night. If there was anyone who could tell me the shape of the later 100 foot towers cupolas it was him I thought. Heck, he was probably the only one who had ever had the pleasure to work in every tower in the district in the 1960's. Unfortunately I was wrong; he, like Randy, could only picture octagonal cupolas on towers.
Randy told me of a time when he erected a cross in memory of five who died in a helicopter crash at Maple Mountain. According to Hap Wilson, this happened in 1982 and they couldn't find the crash for two days. Bears had also dragged the bodies away. Five weeks later another crash occurred. This time a rookie pilot from Lakeland Airways crashed his Beaver airplane, with three fisherrmen aboard, on the lee side of the mountain while foolishly trying to get a closer look at the terrain. Earlier in its history, a towerman drowned at the nearby lake. The former local Indians had named this mountain "Chee bay jing" which I was told means 'place where the soul spirit dwells.' Interesting!
Thankfully, Randy did lead me to three new important contacts, which I called that same night. My phone bill would be a little more that month than I had ever paid at any time.
First I called one of the new contacts, Bob Smith, who was also an ex-ranger from the NBFD. He helped build the 100 footers which according to him, in 1958 Garrow Twp. was the first of these erected, being made of heavy steel. These heavier and taller models replaced the older 80 foot light steel, guy wired type. Of course I asked him the main question about cupola shapes and he too answered back that they were all octagonal. Now I truly believed that I would never get the answer that I sought after so vehemently. I thanked him for his time and made my next phone call to a Harold Smith (no relation). Little did I know that my luck tide was about to change.
Harold was another welcoming voice who was easily likeable and loved to chat about stories of days gone by. He told me a tale of the building of that same Garrow Tower and of the other one in Mattawan Twp. Apparently these were real buggers to erect because the hills were on such an incline that they had to use ropes to get themselves up them. They used a chopper from the USA to drop the building supplies. "Do you recall any square cupolas or international orange paint used on these cupolas Harold?" I queried with a deep breath. "Yes I do." he returned. "Yes! Finally an ex-ranger who recalls what I felt must be true," I thought." He recalled that Lyman Twp.Tower was square and so was the Island Lake Tower (an alterrnate name for Thistle Tower.). "What about Widdifield Tower?" I returned. "I believe it was square too, but don't quote me on that," Harold told me. There it was; now I was more certain than ever that WT was the one I was after. "You should call Ted Kennedy. He was our cupola carpenter in the NBFD and he would know for sure," Harold exclaimed. This was too good to be true. Ted was my final contact and what a contact he was. Talk about saving the best for last. Soon I would be chatting with the man I was 99% sure of was the very one who cut, sawed and designed the cupola from JT itself. Thanks Harold!!!
(Remember how I had said earlier that whoever had built Maple Mountain Tower's cupola most surely have built JT.) I found this retired carpenter's phone number on a Canada 411 search in North Bay. Ted Kennedy was another great guy to talk to. Ted's father was once the chief ranger in the NBFD. He also told me about the hard climbs to build Mattawan Tower with Harold and the others. In 1959, I think he said it was, they had put up the whole 100 foot steel base and were then working on completing the cupola at Mattawan, which Ted designed. Ted was quite foolhardy, and you had to be to clamber around on those flimsy steel beams a hundred feet in the air. He wasn't using his safety belt either. When they were putting up one of the side walls, a great wind came up and almost blew him to his certain death on the ground below. The side wall almost went down with him too, but luckily one of the workers grabbed him just in time. From that day forward he wore the belt.
Harold had told me a half hour before that he thought WT was square, so immediately after I explained the main reason I was calling, I asked Ted if he had any recollection of square cupola towers. The first thing that came out of his mouth was, "I am fairly sure that Widdifield Tower was one of these. I built square cupolas because they offered more room for the towerman to manoeuver." The tone of my voice now changed even more cheerful as the conversation went on. Here it was, confirmation that JT was probably WT; though none of my North Bay contacts recalled the "Forest Rangers" scene being filmed there, I was now 90% sure JT was found.
"Ted," I asked, " is it possible that you built Maple Mountain's cupola too, because I have seen a photo of it and it matches the "Forest Rangers" tower exactly?" "There is a good chance of that, though I was never there the day they erected that tower," he spoke.
"This "Forest Rangers" tower was also painted an international orange colour," I told him. He replied, " That makes sense considering the North Bay Airport was very close to it nearby," he agreed. International orange colour is a precautionary sign to airplanes to be wary.
It was also divulged that this was the head reporting tower for the entire southern part of the district. If the crew from the "Forest Rangers" were looking for a tower to use, this would have been the first one the North Bay Dept. of Lands and Forests Office would have suggested. He then confirmed also that I was lucky because WT still stood and was now used as a communications tower; only the cupola had been removed. It was too good to be true. Could I really have found my Holy Grail of fire towers. I knew that when Gary and I made it up to North Bay within a week, that by just looking at the tower from the proper angle would give it away as JT.
Gary and I were prepared for the assault.
I awoke at five a.m., on the nineteenth of October 2002, to the sound of loud raindrops on the rooftop and then prepared to make the trek up to Gary's home in Huntsville, Ont. He was hopeful I would be there to pick him up by 9 a.m. The rain was relentless until the sun arose, and it remained sporadic for the remainder of the day.
I arrived on time and got to meet his wife for the first time. I assured her that I would bring her husband home safely in one piece and it was agreed upon that we would take turns driving. The route plan was now as follows: Huntsville to North Bay up Hwy 11 (WT), north to Tilden Lake (Lyman Tower), north to Marten River (Island Lake Tower), south to Field, west to Markstay (Loughrin Tower) and west again on into Sudbury to crash for the night at any hotel we could find.The rest from there would be a mere formality we figured and could decide which other tower sites to search depending on how we felt at the time.
The rain continued to change from a little drizzle to a downpour and back-and-forth all the way up Hwy. 11. I certainly did not want to find the tower I was looking for, for the past year-and-a-half, in rain-drenched woods. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as we got to North Bay the rain ceased. This could be a sign. I was really getting nervous, expecting the worst and desperately hoping for the best. Now we were heading east out of town and a bit south through an area of homes on the outskirts of the city, towards the airport and 'Tower Road.'
"Wow!" I thought to myself. "This sure doesn't seem like fire tower territory. The area is too well populated with homes." But there it was on the right side- 'Tower Road.' "This has got to be one of the most popular street names in all of rural Ontario," Gary informed me.
We headed down this well kept road not exactly sure of what to expect, but we were armed only with what Gary had seen on his topo map and what I had seen on my tv screen. As I had stated earlier, Gary used to live here in the early 1980's but never managed to venture down this road on his bike, his most often used form of travelling to-and-fro.
Finally, as we headed down a slight valley, we caught a glimpse of the top of a tower which then quickly faded behind the treeline. Now we were heading back up the other side of this valley straight through the trees and up to the top of the WT hill. Our anticipation grew steadily as my car made its way up the incline.
Gary and I both knew that in order for this to be JT five things had to be in place to fit the pattern: 1) tall maple trees must cover the top of the hill with no pine trees present 2) the top of the hill had to be on a level plateau, not a high tip-top hill with steep sides 3) the hydro lines, which we could see as we drove on the side, could not obscure the tower view from afar 4) the ladder on the tower had to be situated precisely on the right side from our vantage point and lastly 5) there had to be enough room around the tower base for a snowplow to manoeuver so it could have pushed snow into a pile on that same right side. All details that were shown in the camera eye shots from that "Forest Rangers" episode in the winter of 1965.
We were now approaching the final bend before which the tower would come into clear view. The trees were mostly all maples; so far so good. There it was! The top 50 feet of the tower could be seen over the yellowing maple leaves. We were indeed on a plateau, the hydro lines were off to one side of the road and we could see a good tunaround area to the right side of the base.. "Now let's see... Is the ladder on the right side?" I said to Gary as we gazed intently between the trees. "Yes it is!" All of our time and energies had paid off. We had finally found Joe Tower.
(add more elloborate ending with other towers visited and more of WT site)