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Memory Lane: Readers share their memories of vanished Creighton Mine

The Inco company town once sported thriving businesses and friendly neighbours, but changing times saw the miner shutter the town in the 1980s

 

Located about 20 kilometres west of Sudbury, the once-vibrant company town of Creighton Mine was bulldozed in the late 1980s when Inco Ltd., decided it could no longer afford to be in the real estate business.

Creighton Mine was the last company-owned town in Ontario. Only memories remain. 

Last month, Sudbury.com invited former Creighton residents to share their memories.

Many responded with comments about the spirit of community bred in Creighton and the friendliness of their neighbours.

"It was so special for me to read the (Aug, 31)  article on Creighton Mine,” wrote Joe Drago, a retired educator and community leader. "I’m very proud our family spent the early years of our lives in Creighton Mine.

"We lived in my uncle’s building above the barber shop. My uncle was the barber, Tony Aiello. My aunt was my mother’s sister.  My love of sports is a result of the way we participated in the community. Sports were such an essential part of our daily living.” 

Drago's father was the projectionist at the theatre in Creighton. The family moved when he was offered a job as projectionist at the Capitol Theatre in Sudbury.

Drago has maintained friendships with many former Creightonites. 

An annual town reunion has been held since 1989 although plans for 2020 and 2021 were cancelled because of COVID-19.

There is an album of photos of the first Creighton Reunion hosted on the City of Greater Sudbury's Museums' Flickr page.

Barry Kuczm was only four when his family moved from Creighton to Sudbury, but he still has good memories.

"Thank you for such a nostalgic article on the history of Creighton Mines and bringing back memories from so long ago," he wrote.

"My aunt Sophie had the beauty salon between the post office and barber shop for many years. We frequently returned to Creighton to go to Meatbird Lake, help my aunt during busy times of the year, or go blueberry picking with my grandmother."

Kuczm learned how to drive in the large empty parking lot across from his aunt's beauty salon.

"I often envy the friendships my family had with neighbours. They still kept in touch for many years even though they had moved away from Creighton. To them, Sudbury was just a satellite of Creighton."

Marie Jowitt of Winnipeg remembered visiting her grandparents when she was a child and one particular occasion when the she got stuck playing on the rocks. 

"My grandparents, Frank and Claudine O’Connor, lived in the last house before the dump and the mine. In the mid-1960s, my brother and I used to go play on the rocks near the water by the mine.  I climbed down some rocks and couldn’t get back up,” she recalled.

"My brother went to grandma’s and told her I was lost. She called my grandfather at the mine and said I was missing.  They closed the mine and had all the miners come look for me. I remember everyone telling me how lucky I was. I also remember feeling really special that everyone was looking for me."

Betty Bardswich, now a freelancer for the Manitoulin Expositor, was born in Denver, Colorado, a few years after her parents and older siblings moved from Creighton.

"I never knew why my dad wanted to leave Creighton … I don’t remember my dad talking very much about that community except to tell us how outstanding the local badminton players were. 

"People must have been devastated when Inco razed the community including the houses, churches and schools.

"I lived for many years in Onaping when I was young, so I imagine I would have loved Creighton. I love living in small towns, and after retirement from Inco, my husband and I moved to Mindemoya on Manitoulin Island."

Innisfii author Ann Burke writes at a desk made from a pew taken from a Crieghton church.

The author of “The Seventh Shot” worked as a journalist in Walden and Sudbury in the late 1980s and has memories of visiting the mine to cover a story about Inco's underground pine seedling nursery.

She met a group of retired miners who made furniture from remnants of the town's buildings.

"This is how I come to be sitting at a desk made from pine pews that once lined a church, demolished along with other buildings,” she said.

"When I arrived at the mine site, I was struck by how moon-like the area around the mine appeared and found it hard to believe that the busy town of Creighton, recently razed, had ever existed. It was less than a ghost town; it was practically non-existent.

"The surface of my Creighton Mine desk bears witness to a hundred ideas and notes impaired upon the soft pine surface over these many years."

Debbie and Allan Knaut were married in 1978 in Lively and had their wedding reception at the community centre in Creighton. 

"The Mine Mill Ladies auxilliary put on the dinner — roast turkey with all the trimmings for $3.75 per person. We had over 300 people to dinner. What a wonderful group of ladies," they remembered.

"We loved the old town wooden sidewalks. We had a lot of people up from Toronto as guests and they were gobsmacked at the wonderful venue and dinner."

Karen Fera Taggart wrote to correct a detail. "Read your interesting article on Creighton. You mention Celestini’s, but the correct name of the grocery store was Fera and Celestini."

Former Creightonites can keep in touch on Facebook by visiting the page You Know You're from Creighton When.

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer. She is a former editor of Northern Life and Sudbury Living magazine, and has a special interest in local history. Memory Lane is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.