Highway 17 as it runs between Schreiber, Ontario and the cliffs associated with this portion of Lake Superior. (Credit: User P199 at Wiki Commons)
Schreiber is a town of approximately 900 people on the most northerly point on Lake Superior, about 2 and a half hours east of Thunder Bay.
Schreiber is known for being a railroad stop, its having an above-average perecntage of its population from Italian origin, being the home of scrappy Olympic boxer Dominic Filane, and for being the home of northern Ontario’s answer to Dean Martin, the apparently larger-than-life Cosimo Filane and his family.
The town was originally founded as Isbister’s Landing in the 1880s. It served as a railway camp and supply depot where Great Lakes ships could unload cargo for the Canadian Pacific Railways.
In the 1940s, Schreiber was the site of one of four work camps where Japanese-Canadians were interred during WWII. The federal government, which forcibly relocated Japanese families during the war, forced young men out to the Schreiber area to build portions of the TransCanada Highway between Schreiber and Jackfish.
Schreiber, Ontario, in town off Highway 17. (Credit: User P199 at Wiki Commons.)
Interestingly, Schreiber is unique for its exceedingly high Italian population – I read online that at one point, more than half of the town’s residents traced their roots back to a single town in Calabria. One resident immigrated to Canada from southern Italy in 1905, and his letters of successful employment and good fortune with the railway attracted family members, friends, and fellow townsfolk from Siderno, Italy. Today, nearly all remaining citizens of Italian descent can trace their heritage back to that first guy. There’s a short documentary on the town and its Italian origins available on the web.
Schreiber is nestled between majestic Lake Superior and the rocky rises of the Canadian Shield. Even driving past on Highway 17, Schreiber’s surroundings are particularly scenic (in my opinion.)
Tourism opportunities include hiking, snowmobiling, trainspotting, and swimming at the local beach on Lake Superior. There’s a Junior A hockey team called the Schreiber Diesels. Schreiber also hosts some community festivals: Heritage Days in July, Superior Classiscs Drag Racing in August, and the Peel Off Carnival in February.
Lake Superior beach at Schreiber
In terms of services, Schreiber has a gas stations, a foodmart, four churches, a boxing gym, and a library, among the many other general services you would find in a small town. I’m not sure what kind of fast food is available, but there is a KFC Express in town. Diners include the Voyageur Restaurant, Villa Bianca, Rosie and Josie’s Restaurant, and Jimmy Shell’s Chip Stand. There are six motels in town, two of which are operated by the family of decorated Canadian boxer Domenic Filane. Click here for an old pre-Olympic TV profile of Domenic Filane. (Pronounced fill-ane? Wow Italian last names sure lose their zip when they get anglicized.)
Up for some entertainment? Well, you’re in luck. You can do no worse than stopping in at Filane’s Entertainment Centre and Fallen Rock Motel to hear to sweet voice of local crooner Cosimo Filane. Cosimo is not only a musician but also an author (a book on minor hockey titled You Can’t Win Them All – Don Cherry says he found it “highly entertaining…I really enjoyed the book. Tells behind the scenes of coaching minor hockey. Blue enjoyed it too.” I had always pegged Blue as an avid reader…), and runs a family-based business that supplies baby needs and sportswear and gasoline and spring water and embroidery and hockey camps and food and dining and accommodations and entertainment and music and boxing lessons and a youtube channel.
It seems he has five albums of song from the great American song book. It’s almost as if his album titles aptly mirror stages in his career – from Small Town Boy they progress through This is It!; then Love Me the Way That I Am; then I’m Gonna Try it Again!; to Forget About It.
I got this from Filane’s multi-faceted website and I had to post this here. Why? Well, I’m part Italian. And I love northern Ontario. So this makes my head want to explode in joy and pride and awesomeness. It just doesn’t get more northern Ontario Italian than this. Honestly, I’m impressed. Good for him. (And because Cosimo in his younger days looks like my old boss, who still scared the **** out of me.)
Can’t make it to Schreiber? Then you need not worry, Cosimo is a 21st century songsmith with albums available online, care of the Filane’s link at the top of this page. Heck, take a listen to one of his tracks right now — click here for streaming audio.
In all seriousness, it’s pretty impressive that Schreiber’s Filanes have been so successful. Just another cool story from a northern Ontario town.